Last year I supported the efforts for "comprehensive immigration reform." I did so because I felt it was necessary to include the sticks in the same bundle as the carrots.
Watching the comprehensive reform bill fail, it struck me that it the comprehensive reform process itself that is the failure. The way Congress goes about bill writing these days is they overload every bill with earmarks and special provisions that they become a convoluted mess that no-one can understand.
The worst part of the comprehensive reform approach is that it puts out nation on a cycle of having to reform the last comprehensive reform every thirty years or so.
The Reagan Amnesty bill was a reform of post war comprehensive packages that favored European immigration.
The problem with the Reagan Amnesty bill was not that it gave amnesty, but that it created an expectation that there would be amnesty with the next comprehensive reform bill. If enough people immigrated without permission, it would be possible to force the US into a new amnesty.
Amnesty in and of itself is not evil. If done correctly, amnesty can restore the rule of law.
The problem with the Reagan Amnesty is that it was made with an expectation that immigration policy would take the form of an amnesty every thirty years or so.
The expectation of future amnesty accelerated the breaking of the law.
With Congress tied in the rut that looks for comprehensive solutions, we've been mired in a rut.
Don't you see? Comprehensive reform fails because the "comprehensive-reform-mindset" is the problem.
The answer to this current problem might be to do something rather simple: Rather than having a comprehensive bill, Congress should face the immigration mess in small deliberate bites. Rather than passing one bill with an immigration quota, temporary worker quota and law enforcement provisions. Congress should pass each provision separately.
Each year, Congress should produce a bill that sets the immigration quota for the year, a bill that sets the temporary worker quota and a bill that updates the law enforcement efforts.
The problem is not the people who want to immigrate to the United States. The problem is that we have a broken political system;
A disciplined effort that addresses the problem each year with clean, deliberate, earmark free bills would do more to solve the problem than any fence or amnesty.
The goal for 2009 should not be to pass a comprehensive reform, but to start a deliberative multiyear effort.