Bloomberg View (TNS)
President Donald Trump has done something that has eluded the Republican Party for nearly a decade: He has outlined the possibility of broad immigration reform.
Trump’s immigration framework is far from perfect. But the fact that it is being criticized by the extreme wing of his party should be taken as a sign of hope that we may just have a basis for bipartisan discussion. For this reason, Democrats should treat the proposal with more seriousness (and less derision) than they have to date.
To be sure, there’s plenty wrong with Trump’s framework — his insistence on wasting $25 billion for a wall system, in particular, and the veiled curbs on asylum. But in other ways the plan is an advance. For the Dreamers, anything less than a path to citizenship would be deeply unfair. And, in principle, it makes good economic sense, as Trump proposes, to replace the U.S. emphasis on family reunification with rules addressed to shortages of labor.
Trump’s suggested limitations on family sponsorships echo the recommendations of earlier blue-ribbon commissions and aren’t as harsh as they would have been before travel and telecommunications became more affordable. (A new skills-based system could also grant extra points to those with extended family relationships.) The end of the diversity-visa lottery program is overdue — unless, that is, you’re a believer in citizenship bingo.
A crucial question, though, is how far these changes would affect immigration in the aggregate. It’s one thing to tilt the balance away from family sponsorships to economic criteria, quite another to seek a system that clamps down on legal immigration as a whole — a woefully misguided strategy, especially at a time when American industries and businesses are hungry for qualified workers. The implications of the plan for overall immigration would depend on the numerical caps that the administration would go on to set and exactly how it would handle the backlog of almost 4 million family-sponsored visas.
The administration’s intentions on this score are suspect. Nonetheless, starting from here, a good-faith bipartisan effort could resolve those issues.
It needs to be emphasized that in a half-decent world, the fate of the Dreamers wouldn’t even be up for debate. Sadly, though, it has been. If a pragmatic consensus can be reached on a just resolution of that issue, together with new rules for legal immigration to provide the workers the country needs, it deserves to be embraced. Trump’s proposal just might be a nudge in the right direction.