Reading this immigration discussion, I’m reminded of the old line about how the difference between a liberal and a moderate is that the liberal says, “Let’s burn down the town,” while the moderate counters with something like, “No, let’s torch three buildings a year over five years.”
Something that is comprehensively bad is not better if it is phased in over time — even stripped of some (but by no means all) of the most offensive parts.
The impulse to do the phase-in lies in the conceit that having some bill, even if it is not as (immediately) bad as it might otherwise have been, is somehow better than having no bill. It is just SOOOO Washington to conclude that the rest of the country measures “progress” by whether congress avoids gridlock and successfully gets legislation done, rather than how bad the legislation is.
The phase-in is also an immense failure of imagination — of the kind conservatives typically criticize liberals over in connection with tax cuts, which liberals always measure in terms of how much of the government’s take will be lost while ignoring the behavior-changing dynamic of tax cuts that, inevitably, results in the treasury’s swelling.
If there is border enforcement and law enforcement against employers, you will not have the same illegal immigration problem three years from now that you have today. The rationale for goodies like “guest worker programs” and the like is purportedly based on immigration conditions that exist in 2006. If those conditions might be markedly different in 2009, why on earth would you, at that point, want to phase in something based on conditions as they were three years before?
Also, John mentioned this Kennedy provision stipulating that localities should not be able to refer alien felons to the feds. That’s insane, and that the Republicans can’t seem to make an issue out of it is mind-boggling. The public may not want all illegals rounded up and expelled (although it surely wants the incentives for illegal immigration reversed so that the tide ebbs). But no one wants criminals here, and the vast majority of people are outraged upon hearing that cities are protecting from deportation immigrants (particularly illegals) who have robbed, stolen, mugged, dealt drugs, etc.
If Republicans effectively communicated that this is what’s in this bill, people would applaud any gridlock that resulted in its demise. If they can’t do that, they don’t deserve to be running the country.