IN OTHER WORDS : Immigration

For five years, President Bush has said that he wants to reform immigration, but when the Senate finally took up the issue last week, the White House went missing. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Labour Secretary Elaine Chao backed out of the hearing at the last minute, a gap that was noted with understandable irritation by Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. With an estimated 11 million people in the country illegally, immigration is too big for the White House to ignore. There are several proposals that deserve consideration. The best bill so far comes from Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy, among others. It would set up a guest worker programme and begin the process of making the illegal immigrants legal.

Senators Jon Kyl and John Cornyn propose drastically beefing up border patrol. This would be a good thing if the proposal also offered a more realistic solution to the illegal population. It does not. Almost 500,000 immigrants a year pour over the border to take backbreaking unskilled jobs that Americans don’t want. But without that work force the economy would sour. Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research summed up the goal at the Senate hearing last week: “to remain a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.” — The New York Times