The lead editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, “A Pro-Growth Reform”, is right on the money. It challenges the GOP House to improve the Senate immigration bill, not kill it. The emphasis in the Senate bill is to provide an eventual path to citizenship for the approximately 11,000,000 illegal immigrants currently in the US. To offset the charge that this is amnesty, the Senate bill greatly increases enforcement by doubling the size of the border patrol, at a cost of $4 billion per year, and increasing the criminal penalties for employers who mistakenly hire an illegal. The Senate bill also increases the quota for skilled workers from the current 65,000 per year limit to 120,000 per year but it only barely increases the annual quotas for construction and agricultural guest workers, which doesn’t nearly meet current needs.
What is needed is less emphasis on eventual citizenship (coupled with stronger enforcement) but rather more emphasis on simply having an adequate supply of both skilled and unskilled legal guest workers. This presents an opportunity for the House of Representatives to produce a better bill.
First of all, raising the quotas for both skilled and unskilled guest workers should be the first priority for the House. An adequate supply of legal guest workers means there will be much less demand for illegals, which, in turn, means less need for the increased enforcement measures of the Senate bill.
Secondly, what immigrant workers need most is legal status rather than a guaranteed path to citizenship. It is the constant risk of deportation and separation from their families which adversely affects their quality of life, rather than the lack of US citizenship.
More immigrants, both skilled and unskilled, will help our economy grow faster and recover more quickly from the Great Recession. We should provide immigrants with the legal status they need to come to our country and succeed and prosper!