Heather Mac Donald, a journalist and fellow at the Manhattan Institute, can count immigration policy among her many areas of expertise. A contributing editor to the think tank's quarterly magazine City Journal and frequent contributor to important places like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, she also focuses on things like homeland security, policing and "racial" profiling, homelessness, education policy and business improvement districts. As details of the immigration reform bill were being fought over in the Senate, I talked to Mac Donald by telephone on Thursday from her home in New York City:
Q: What's good about the Senate immigration bill?
A: I think the idea of moving our immigration system to reward people who bring skills that this country needs and who will improve its economy and its level of education is a very positive step. I have read that the mechanisms of moving in that direction are rather arcane and not at all reliable -- and that it will take perhaps eight years before in fact the system is changed at all from its current family-based rationale -- but I think that is a very useful idea. I think trying to move toward a greater ability to check worker eligibility is also a good idea.
Q: Is there a worst part of this bill that you would point to?
A: The worst part is the overnight amnesty for the 12 million illegals who are here. They merely need to apply and show that they've been in the country before Jan. 1 and provide some effort at proving they are currently working and the government has 24 hours to decide whether they are not eligible by virtue of a criminal background check. I think that is one of the most automatic amnesties that has been proposed in the whole series of so-called reform bills. I think to send the message to the world that, as usual, we are not serious about our immigration laws, and that they don't mean anything -- that if you can get into the country you can expect an amnesty -- will make the idea that we have meaningful borders completely a joke.
Q: What is a sound-bite synopsis of your position on immigration?
A: I think immigration should be to benefit America. It's not a favor that we owe the rest of the world and we should craft immigration policies in ways that will improve our national competitiveness. That means bringing in people who have skills that will help the economy.