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Bush and Bolick: Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Article by Matthew Denhart February 1, 2013 //   3 minute read

Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick — two close friends of the Bush Institute — published an Op-Ed in today's Wall Street Journal calling for comprehensive immigration reform. This is a familiar theme for those who attended our immigration conference last December at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Clint Bolick was among the conference's featured speakers, and he urged comprehensive action then too, saying:

It is not enough to deal with the easier problems of, for example, a guest worker program or bringing in STEM workers. That is absolutely critical, but our immigration policy now is 60 years old, based on a 1952 law that has been patched so many times that it simply is utterly incoherent. [...] It appears that after the 2012 election we have that rare, historical moment when Democrats and Republicans may be willing to come together, not just to put another Band-Aid on the issue but to fix it fundamentally, and we need to seize that moment.

In today's WSJ piece, Bush and Bolick make an even stronger case that comprehensive reform is the only way to go. They liken our current immigration system to "a jigsaw puzzle," explaining: "If one or more pieces are out of whack, the puzzle makes no sense. To fix the system, Congress must make sure all the of the pieces fit together, logically and snugly."

This analogy is particularly fitting when one considers how the issue of illegal immigration fits into the broader immigration reform effort. Many people argue that we must have stronger border enforcement before pursuing other immigration reforms — lest reform encourage more illegal immigrants to enter the country. But, the reality is that no matter how much we spend on stricter border enforcement (and spending is already quite high as the charts on pages 81 and 83 of this link indicate), we will continue to have people enter the country illegally until we offer a realistic and legal way for more immigrants to enter the country.

Bush and Bolick rightly point out that our immigration system's preference for family reunification perpetuates "chain migration," leaving few visas and green cards for immigrants wishing to enter the U.S. to work. In fact, only 7% of green cards issued in 2010 were granted for work-based immigration while 73% went for family reunification. Any pro-growth immigration reform must tackle this imbalance directly. The authors make a number of other good points. I won't go into all of them here, but I do encourage you to read their entire WSJ column and to pre-order their forthcoming book, "Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution," available in March from Simon & Schuster.