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The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute
Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick offer a handy and thoughtful conceptual primer on immigration reform. Light on details, but they have a book coming out in March which presumably will flesh out their ideas. But even so, this part of their WSJ op-ed was annoyingly thin:
Amnesty promotes illegal immigration. The U.S. must find a fair way to deal with its 11 million illegal immigrants without sending the message that America’s laws can be broken with impunity. Crossing the border illegally must have consequences. At the same time, we must recognize that children who were brought here illegally have committed no crime and in most instances know no other country.
OK, pretty sure they are not going to recommend trying to round up those 11 million and send them home or some kind of “hard attrition” strategy to nudge them to self deport. Likely they will outline a path to citizenship, though it may look more like a steeplechase with plenty of obstacles to hurdle. Another option is eventually giving the undocumented a green card, but one with no option to become an American — permanent non-citizenship status. But neither Hispanics nor Americans in general seem to prefer that option. All the more reason, I think, of refocusing on a more robust naturalization process. Yuval Levin:
As much as reasonably possible, coming to America should be linked with becoming an American. This means that as our immigration system is reformed, our assimilation efforts need to be similarly reformed.
For one thing, a modest element of civic education can and should begin early on in the process. To that end, the civics test now administered prior to naturalization could instead be administered prior to granting legal permanent residency. The test requires only a minimal grasp of English and some key concepts of American history and government—and all questions are available to applicants in advance. But administering it early will signal our belief that immigrants are required to take steps toward becoming Americans before enjoying the benefits of living here.
Later on, final qualification for citizenship can be made contingent on completing an actual course in American history and civics, rather than just taking an exam. Such courses might be certified by the Office of Citizenship, and conducted (in English) by civic or religious groups, community colleges, or private companies like those that prepare students for the SAT. They need cover only the basic concepts of American civic life—as found in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the speeches of some of our great men—and the outlines of how these concepts have functioned in American history. Learning the basics in the presence of a teacher and fellow students can make a great deal of difference—for the student, the teacher, and the culture in general.
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