Immigration reform – for 2007?

President Bush and a Congress controlled in part or whole by Democrats will most likely collaborate in passing a liberal immigration reform package, with a guest workers program.
Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute writes in the Nov-Dec issue of Foreign Affairss, sizing up the case for immigration reform that is basically pro-immigration. I have excerpted from his article,.
Here is his summary

The United States is far less divided on immigration than the current debate would suggest. An overwhelming majority of Americans want a combination of tougher enforcement and earned citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. Washington’s challenge is to translate this consensus into sound legislation that will start to repair the nation’s broken immigration system.


The anti immigration issue arose out of talk shows. Jacoby thinks that the Republicans are trying to recruit for November as many as possible of the 20% – 25% of voters who are far less tolerant of illegal immigration (or immigration in general) than the mainstream:

In fact, the nation is far less divided on immigration, legal or illegal, than the current debate suggests. In the last six months, virtually every major media outlet has surveyed public attitudes on the issue, and the results have been remarkably consistent. Americans continue to take pride in the United States’ heritage as a nation of immigrants. Many are uneasy about the current influx of foreigners. But an overwhelming majority — between two-thirds and three-quarters in every major poll — would like to see Congress address the problem with a combination of tougher enforcement and earned citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already living and working here.

We are receiving in his estimation about one million new workers legally every year, and another 500,000 illegally. I have already posted estimates of about 350,000 new illegal Hispanic immigrant workers per year. Perhaps Jacoby finds another 150,00 among Asians and Europeans. We are part of a global wave of immigration:

The most important of those new realities is the global integration of labor markets. Today’s immigrant influx — second in volume only to the wave that arrived a hundred years ago — is not some kind of voluntary experiment that Washington could turn off at will, like a faucet. On the contrary, it is the product of changing U.S. demographics, global development, and the increasingly easy international communications that are shrinking the planet for everyone, rich and poor. Between 2002 and 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy is expected to create some 56 million new jobs, half of which will require no more than a high school education. More than 75 million baby boomers will retire in that period. And declining native-born fertility rates will be approaching replacement level. Native-born workers, meanwhile, are becoming more educated with every decade. Arguably the most important statistic for anyone seeking to understand the immigration issue is this: in 1960, half of all American men dropped out of high school to look for unskilled work, whereas less than ten percent do so now.

America needs these largely unskilled workers, for instance in construction (masonry and dry-walling) and in the restaurant field:

The resulting shortfall of unskilled labor — estimated to run to hundreds of thousands of workers a year — is showing up in sector after sector. The construction industry creates some 185,000 jobs annually, and although construction workers now earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, employers in trades such as masonry and dry-walling report that they cannot find enough young Americans to do the work. The prospects for the restaurant business are even bleaker. With 12.5 million workers nationwide, restaurants are the nation’s largest private-sector employer, and their demand for labor is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2005 and 2015. But the native-born work force will grow by only ten percent in that period, and the number of 16- to 24-year-old job seekers — the key demographic for the restaurant trade — will not expand at all. So unless the share of older Americans willing to bus tables and flip hamburgers increases — and in truth, it is decreasing — without immigrants, the restaurant sector will have trouble growing through the next decade.

He argues that (1) illegal immigrant households are very modest users of public services and (2) that they complement, rather than substitute for and compete with, American workers. In doing so they support the increasingly educated American workforce, helping them to be more productive.
He cites North Carolina:

Some of the best efforts to measure the elusive immigrant growth dividend look at states or regions rather than the nation as a whole. A recent report on immigrants in North Carolina — which has one of the fastest-growing foreign-born populations in the country — estimated their contribution to economic expansion and compared it with the more easily measured fiscal consequences. The bottom line: newcomers filled one-third of North Carolina’s new jobs in the past decade, and they were responsible for $9.2 billion in consumer spending and $1.9 billion in saved wages — a total growth dividend of $11 billion, which dwarfed the $61 million (or $102 per native-born taxpayer) that the newcomers cost the state when taxes and services were netted out.

Jacoby sees a three part reform package:

This, then, is the essential architecture of comprehensive reform: more immigrant worker visas, tougher and more effective enforcement, and a one-time transitional measure that allows the illegal immigrants already here to earn their way out of the shadows. Together, these three elements add up to a blueprint, not a policy, and many questions and disagreements remain. But on one thing everyone who shares the vision agrees: all three elements are necessary, and all three must be implemented together if the overhaul is to be successful. Think of them as the three moving parts of a single engine. There is no tradeoff between enforcement and legalization or between enforcement and higher visa limits. On the contrary, just as enforcement is pointless if the law is unrealistic, so even the best crafted of laws will accomplish little if it has no teeth, and neither one will work unless the ground is prepared properly.

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