The 2013 Senate bill, like the failed 2006 and 2007 bills, provides for legalizing illegals, and there's a consensus now that those brought in illegally as children who meet certain conditions ("dreamers") should be legalized.
But it's not clear that the bill's provisions for employer verification will be enough to deter future illegals.
The bill's opponents concentrate their fire by demanding tougher border security. But since 2007, net migration from Mexico to the United States has been zero.
Mexican and other Latin immigrants got burned when housing prices collapsed in 2007-08. They'd been given mortgages on lenient terms, thanks to imprudent government policies.
Their dream of accumulating wealth through ever-rising housing prices has been shattered. We're unlikely to see mass Mexican and Latin migration of the magnitude of 1982-2007 again. The fixation on border security is backward-looking.
A forward-looking immigration policy would focus on encouraging high-skill immigration, as Canada and Australia have done, by reserving slots for those scoring well on their point systems.
With a "new normal" economy that includes many long-term unemployed and sluggish economic growth, we don't need lots more low-skill people admitted through extended family reunification provisions.
The Senate bill goes a little ways in the right direction by expanding H-1B visas sought by high-tech employers. But these tend to tie immigrants to employers who can pay below-market wages.
More openings for high-skill immigrants could trigger one of those surges in immigration that I described in my recent book, "Shaping Our Nation: How Surges of Migration Transformed America and Its Politics."
A nation with sagging job creation and stagnating test scores could use a large infusion of entrepreneurs and engineers. Today's America needs more job creators, not job seekers.
Unfortunately, there is no strong lobbying force for such a forward-looking reform. The politicians once again seem to view the issue through the rearview mirror.
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