Immigrants — They Get The Job Done September 7, 2023September 7, 2023 Yesterday’s The Daily about the 100,000+ immigrants who’ve flooded New York brought home what a human tragedy / political nightmare this all is and how skillfully the MAGA Republicans are exploiting it. Even before MAGA — way back in 2013 — Republicans blocked bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform. It had passed the Senate 68-32. A wide majority in the House was on board. Obama was eager to sign. (Here is a really good narrative about what it would have achieved; its widespread conservative support; and why the House Republicans blocked it.) Had the Hastert rule not been invoked (named after later-imprisoned Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert), the bill would have become law. None of this is new. Nearly two million Irish arrived in the 1840s to escape starvation (U.S. population at the time: 20 million.) It led to formation of the Know Nothing Party (sound familiar?) — and to violence. Quoting from the previously-recommended The Hard Hat Riot: Nixon, New York City, and the Dawn of the White Working-Class Revolution: In 1850s New York City, nine in ten laborers and seven in ten domestic servants were Irish-born. The majority of the city‘s poorhouse, as in Philadelphia and Boston, were Irish as well.… In 1844 Philadelphia, a Protestant mob killed fourteen. In 1855 Louisville, an anti-Catholic riot murdered at least twenty. Still they came. By 1860, New York City’s, Irish population exceeded Dublin‘s. At least one in four New Yorkers and Bostonians was Irish born. There are those who would say that — bad as we would surely have felt for the starving Irish — we should have let them starve. We can’t solve all the world’s problems. If we allowed open borders (which we clearly do not, and which no elected Democrat advocates), we would be overwhelmed. What made it worse in the 1840s is that the U.S. was mired in a depression that lasted halfway through the decade. And yet they came, were allowed to stay, and the U.S. is arguably the better for it. House speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, both with Irish roots, likely think so. (And don’t forget: there’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama!) It’s in our interest to do more to address the conditions in countries from which people flee, so fewer do. And it’s in our interest to agree on a sensible system of legal immigration — and enforce it. Fareed Zakaria asserts this can be done: Immigration can be fixed. So why aren’t we doing it? In May, it seemed obvious that the United States was going to face an unmanageable border crisis. . . . . . . In fact, as it turned out, there was no crisis. The number of encounters with migrants at the southern border actually dropped by a third [after the COVID rule expired] . . . It seems that the Biden administration’s plan worked. It put in place a series of measures designed to deal with the impending problem, chiefly a stiff penalty for crossing the border illegally (deportation plus a five-year ban on any reentry), coupled with expanding ways to apply for legal asylum in the migrant’s home country. It was a welcome case of well-designed policy making a difference. But this success does not change the fact that the U.S. immigration system is broken. . . . The migration crisis is being exacerbated by politics on both sides. The MAGA right, of course, demonizes migrants and asylum seekers and prefers no solution because a crisis helps it politically. But the far left routinely attacks any sensible measures aimed at curbing the influx as cruel, inhumane and illegal. . . . The laws and rules around asylum must be fixed so that immigration authorities can focus on the small number of genuine asylum seekers while compelling the rest to seek other legal means of entry. At the same time, it’s important to note that the United States is facing a drastic shortfall of labor and must expand legal immigration in many areas for just that reason. We urgently need to attract the world’s best technically skilled people so that they can push forward the information and biotech revolutions that are transforming the economy and life itself. With unemployment rates around 50-year lows, it is obvious that we need more workers in many sectors of the economy, from agriculture to hospitality. If this is done in a legal and orderly manner, Americans will welcome the new workers. Biden has tried to work with Republicans on several issues, and he has even had a few successes. He should propose an immigration bill that is genuinely bipartisan and forces compromises from both sides. It would be one more strong dose of evidence that policy can triumph over populism. Amen.