Thursday, September 02, 2004

Immigration Reform and the GOP

The WSJ has a very good editorial today on Bush's immigration proposals. What a shame that it's for subscribers only.

President Bush and the party's growth wing ... believe that the best way to fix our illegal alien problem is to address the underlying causes: the economy's demand for low-skilled labor, the proximity of willing foreign workers in search of a better life and the dearth of legal channels to enter the U.S.

"A growing economy requires a growing number of workers," reads the GOP platform, "and President Bush has proposed a new temporary worker program that applies when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs." Mr. Bush also recognizes that post-9/11 it's important to know who's already here. His proposal would allow undocumented workers "who currently hold jobs to come out of the shadows and participate legally in America's economy."

The President's decision to take on an issue that so divides the party is admirable, not least because he's doing so in the middle of a close re-election race in which base turnout is key to a November victory. He is also thinking long term. Newcomers, especially when they're young, tend to stick to the political allegiances they first make. At the turn of the last century, Republicans made the mistake of signaling that immigrants from Ireland and Italy weren't welcome in the GOP. Asian-Americans in Hawaii after World War II got a similar message. Dispelling such notions can take generations, and Mr. Bush is trying to ensure that his party doesn't have to relearn that lesson with Hispanics.

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The reality is that, aside from the country's immigrant tradition, flexible labor markets help economies grow. Better to concentrate government efforts on expanding America's economic pie, not preventing others from coming here to earn their piece.
How eminently sensible, from the economic, political and national security viewpoints. The battle against illegal immigration is about as winnable as that against drug use, and for the same reasons: when there's a large enough demand for something, the market will find a way to provide it.