It turns out that the “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill is going to have a guest worker component that will grow over time. The border security “trigger provisions are eyewash. Marco Rubio gives the game away when he explains that we need a guest worker program or else will get a new surge of illegal immigration from the border that would have just been certified as “secure.” The Republican establishment given up making much effort to fool us and are expecting us to do at least half the job of fooling ourselves.

That doesn’t mean they won’t succeed. I don’t see a consensus within the center-right on an alternative approach to immigration. Reihan Salam argues persuasively for reforming our immigration policy in order to increase high-skill immigration and reduce low-skill immigration. If you listened closely that is sort of what Mitt Romney suggested when you put to the side his views on amnesty. But that kind of reform approach just doesn’t in isolation from the rest of a candidate’s message and policy agenda. It makes a lot more sense to talk about transitioning to a higher-skill immigration system in the context of the declining wages and family disruption of lower-skill American citizens and residents. Transitioning to a higher-skill-oriented immigration system makes the most sense if you’re also talking about tax and health care policies that will increase the take home pay of lower-skilled current US citizens and residents (two categories that include large numbers of foreign born.)

That means that we will get a more persuasive conservative immigration reform rhetoric when we get a more generally persuasive conservative rhetoric and policy agenda aimed at the working and lower middle-classes. It means you can’t make the case for shifting immigration in a high-skill direction while mocking those earning just below the median as parasites who won’t take responsibility for their own lives. It means you don’t (like Michelle Bachmann) demand tax increases (if only nominal) on the working-poor. It means you can’t be for tax programs that cut taxes on high earners while increasing the tax liability of lower middle and working-class families (that’s my read of the tax proposal.)  Like with so many other things, we will have a better chance at better immigration policy when we get a more working and middle-class-focused conservative agenda and rhetoric.

H/T Reihan Salam on the “New Fair Deal” tax proposal.

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