Immigration policy is a complicated issue. Or perhaps one should say immigration policies are complicated, since we have many different immigration laws and practices which interact in complex ways. I’m no expert on those policies, and in fact have adjusted my thinking about elements of them over the years.
But here’s a simple proposal that I think makes sense, that could get bipartisan support, and whose passage into law would be a good thing for the nation, especially at this point in time: Let’s legalize the Dreamers and enhance border security. Period.
This isn’t the moment to try to do more. The political system, especially in the current environment, can’t deal with too many moving parts at once. But the deadline for providing, or failing to provide, a legal status for the Dreamers is approaching. There is a consensus for legalizing them. But everyone also understands that doing so might send a signal abroad to bring kids here illegally, which we don’t want to encourage. So it makes sense to combine acting for the Dreamers with enhancing border security—which is a good idea for other reasons as well.
So let’s do both. Let’s not agonize over the amount of money we spend on border security. Let’s not agonize over whether we call it a wall, whatever that means in practice. If it takes more money than strict cost-benefit analysis would support to get enough legislators on board this deal to make it happen, so be it.
But the point is to get a deal. Such a deal would address two practical problems—that of the Dreamers who are here and of the border that needs to be further secured. It would show that some progress can be made on the issue of immigration. It would be a rebuke to those who have inflamed the issue of immigration and might make our debate on it less poisonous going forward.
If congressional majorities to pass such legislation could be assembled in the next week or in the next few weeks, I don’t believe that party leaders could successfully resist efforts to bring such legislation to the floor. Indeed, if they tried to do so, it might be an occasion for showing the way to breaking a gridlock too often insisted on by leadership or by factions in both parties.
I imagine the reaction to this modest proposal will be that it’s too simple, the devil’s in the details, etc. And there will be some truth to this reaction. But precisely because we’ve been so bedeviled by the details of immigration policy, precisely because it’s become such a toxic issue for our politics and our polity, it would be good for the country to secure a limited achievement most would applaud and of which we could be proud.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard