A Deal on Immigration Is Still Possible, if Both Sides Back Off

The chances passing a sensible immigration bill in this Congress appear to be next to zero. But, as with the endless search for Middle East peace, it’s a cause worth pursuing. And, conceivably, there’s a deal to be had.

The Senate’s comprehensive bill is a monstrosity compared to what an ideal bill would look like, especially calling for spending nearly $50 billion militarizing our border with Mexico to secure the votes of a measly 14 GOP senators.

Mexico is a friendly country, illegal immigration is at a 40-year low and the U.S. border patrol has been doubled and redoubled, but the Senate bill still calls for building a Berlin Wall, patrolling it with drones and re-doubling the border patrol yet again — and still the measure, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will reduce illegal immigration by only a third to a half.

And while they’d be instantly legalized, only half or less of the 11 million residents here illegally would be able to attain U.S. citizenship — after a 13 year wait!

Beyond that, the Senate bill has been declared dead on arrival in the Republican House, whose leaders are determined only to bring measures to a vote which can command a majority of GOP members. With tea party exclusionists holding sway over the GOP conference, this is likely to mean that anything that emerges will be punitive, restrictive and destined for rejection by the Democratic Senate even before it gets to the White House for President Barack Obama’s veto.

And yet, there’s just a chance that scaled-down (but sensible) immigration reform might eke its way through.

For instance, what about this package: Democrats (and some Republicans) realize it’s inhumane and economically mindless to deny citizenship to people brought to the U.S. as children and raised here, the so-called Dreamers. Republicans (and many Democrats) realize it’s economically stupid to limit entry of high-skilled professionals and to educate foreign PhDs in engineering and medical science, then force them to leave when their studies are completed. Both Republicans and Democrats understand that crops are rotting in the fields and that temporary farm workers are needed to pick them, who could return home when their work is done.

So a Dream Act, Skills Visa Act, Agriculture Act combination might just have a chance.

Would Republicans insist that the package had to contain some border security add-on? Probably. Democrats might insist on a speed-up of the legal immigration process.

Such a less-than-comprehensive package would leave adult illegals still in the shadows — a human tragedy — but it would avoid an ideological war over “amnesty” and the need to fortify the Southern border as though Mexico were North Korea.