Practical and emotion-free proposals to immigration issues are hard to come by these days.
But National Review and The Atlantic writer Reihan Salam has taken up the challenge. In his new book, the son of Bangladeshi immigrants suggests a compromise: an amnesty for long-time undocumented immigrants coupled with a merit-based system that would benefit high-skilled immigrants.
To strike such a deal, progressives and conservatives would have to make hard concessions. The first headache? Selling the idea of an amnesty to conservative Republicans.
“Conservative voters are, for reasons I’m sympathetic to, very resistant to it. They fear it will be the first in a series of amnesties. And that’s why I believe that you really need an amnesty that is coupled with very stringent enforcement, including workplace enforcement and a re-balancing of future immigration flows,” Salam said.
That re-balancing of immigration flows is Salam’s other difficult selling point. The conservative thinker believes we need more skill-based immigration and less based on family ties in the States.
The U.S. currently grants about 1.1 million green cards — or permanent resident visas — every year. About two-thirds of those go to immigrants with family connections in the U.S. And only 12 percent go to immigrants with job offers.
“Really, our system is just not very responsive to the changing needs of our economy and also the changing realities of a stratified society in which people with very low incomes are oftentimes struggling, whereas people with higher incomes tend to be in a better position to support themselves in their families,” Salam said.
But opponents said the point-based system ran counter to the country’s interests and pointed to low-skilled immigrants in past generations who have contributed greatly to our country. Besides, they say, the system would discriminate against non-white immigrants. Salam’s response: Our economy has evolved, and so should our immigration laws.
Salam also wants people to recognize that most advocates of immigration restrictions are not racists.