Bryan Caplan  

A Specter of Common Sense

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I can't remember the last time I favorably quoted a politician, but these paragraphs from Arlen Specter are good enough to justify a break with tradition:

The main objective in legalizing the 12 million was to eliminate their fugitive status, allowing them to live in the United States without fear of being detected and deported or being abused by unscrupulous employers. We should consider a revised status for those 12 million people. Let them hold the status of those with green cards -- without the automatic path to citizenship that was the core component of critics' argument that reform efforts were really amnesty. Give these people the company of their spouses and minor children and consider other indicators of citizenship short of the right to vote (which was always the dealbreaker).

This approach may be attacked as creating an "underclass" inconsistent with American values, which have always been to give refuge to the "huddled masses." But such a compromise is clearly better than leaving these people a fugitive class. People with a lesser status are frequently referred to as second-class citizens. Congress has adamantly refused to make the 12 million people already here full citizens, but isn't it better for them to at least be secure aliens than hunted and exploited?

In fact, this is so reasonable I really wonder how Specter got elected in the first place.

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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Eli writes:

This is reasonable, but Specter has no shortage of irrational views to endear him to the electorate.

FC writes:

I want them to be hunted and exploited as long as they are in this country.

That is the unspoken contract - the hidden law - to which they assented by coming here as illegals.

Larry writes:

The fundamental problem with legalization is its incentive effect. 10s of millions more would immigrate if they could reasonably expect to receive a "pale" green card with no downside. First control the borders, assuming that's possible. Then figure out what to do with the 12 million.

Unit writes:

Wait a sec! How much money are you willing to spend on this new Department of Regularization of Illegal Aliens whose sole job would be to hunt down 12 million people, interview them one-on-one, enter their data in a database, produce some papers, and track their movement from then on? Cost-benefit analysis anyone?

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