Friday, May 18, 2007

Sensible immigration reform that irks the xenophobic right

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Although I haven't had time to examine it all that carefully, this looks pretty good: "The Bush administration and a bipartisan group of senators reached agreement yesterday on a sprawling overhaul of the nation's immigration laws that would bring an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants out of society's shadows while stiffening border protections and cracking down on employers of undocumented workers."

Here's what I said last year: "To be sure, something needs to be done about "illegal" (or "undocumented") immigration, but I must say this: Let America's policy towards these immigrants be generous, fair, and flexible. Do not punish them for having chosen to come to America. Offer them an opportunity to settle, legally, for good. If they work, if they pay their taxes, if they accept the American way of life and want to be a part of it, indeed, if they are already American, broadly speaking, be generous to them. They only want to live their lives in Lincoln's last, best hope, in a nation of immigrants that has historically welcomed the tired, the poor, the huddled masses who have yearned for the chance to start anew, to make a better life for themselves and their families. These new Americans want to breathe free. Let them." (An expanded version of that post, "In Search of a Solution to Illegal Immigration," appeared at John Edwards's One America Committee Blog.)

It seems to me that the Senate compromise is, at the very least, a good and impressive start. It "would grant temporary legal status to virtually all illegal immigrants in the country, while allowing them to apply for residence visas and eventual citizenship". In addition, it would provide for "[a] temporary-worker program [that] would allow as many as 400,000 migrants into the country each year," for two years. It's not perfect, but, as Senator Feinstein put it, "[d]on't let the perfect be the enemy of the good". This may very well be as good as it gets.

And the xenophobic right hates it, which must mean it's got something good going for it. Michelle Malkin, one of the leading xenophobes, calls it an "amnesty sellout," "[t]he Bush-Kennedy amnesty". She screams "Amnesty No!" here. Hugh Hewitt is leading a "Stop the GOP Senate Cave-in" campaign. He notes that "[t]he only good news about the bill... is that it will effectively end the McCain campaign," which is what conservative hardliners want. (As is often the case, Ed Morrissey provides a much more sensible conservative response.) For more reaction, mostly from the pissed-off right, head over to Memeorandum, where it's currently the lead item.

Maybe this, more than Iraq, will trigger the conservative crack-up we've all been waiting for.

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