An Elusive Immigration Compromise

 Cotton-Perdue bill is written for the 35 percent of Americans who want less immigration, which it achieves by creating a points-based system for applications (with points for English proficiency, education, a good job offer, and so on), limiting family-based migration, and cutting the number of legal immigrants we take by roughly half.

.. The case for such cuts runs as follows. We are nearing our historical peak for the foreign-born share of the population, assimilation looks slower than for prior cohorts and may be stalling, growing diversity may be increasing social distrust, and our partisan landscape is increasingly shaped by ethnic patronage and white-identity politics. An immigration slowdown would make assimilation somewhat easier and give American politics time to adjust to the country’s transformation. It would also modestly curb the growth of inequality, reduce some strain on social programs, and offer a slight wage boost to less-educated natives, who are presently in dire socioeconomic straits.

.. Immigration may hurt the wages of high school dropouts, but it offers modest economic benefits to most natives, and obvious benefits to the immigrants themselves.

.. The future of immigration looks more Asian than Latin American. Conservative fears of a disappearing southern border or an ever-expanding Spanish-speaking underclass should be tempered somewhat by these shifts.

.. you can address many of the costs of mass immigration by embracing the new bill’s points system without also making its steep cuts.

.. a system that focused more on skills and education and job prospects would automatically put less pressure on wages at the bottom. It would increase immigration’s economic benefits, and reduce its fiscal costs. And it would presumably bring in a more diverse pool of migrants, making balkanization and self-segregation less likely.

.. mainstream liberalism has gone a little bit insane on immigration, digging into a position that any restrictions are ipso facto racist, and any policy that doesn’t take us closer to open borders is illegitimate and un-American.

.. Liberalism used to recognize the complexities of immigration; now it sees only a borderless utopia waiting, and miscreants and racists standing in the way.


As long as these problems persist — a right marred by bigotry, a liberalism maddened by utopianism — it is hard to imagine a reasonable deal.

But as long as a deal eludes us, the chaotic system we have is well designed to make both derangements that much more powerful, both problems that much worse.