So Jeb Bush has caused quite a stir on the immigration reform front by changing positions more times than Lady Gaga changes her outfits. As I noted in a previous post, he's flip flopped so often that his actual view on immigration is now incoherent and incomprehensible. This is all the more stunning since he and his coauthor have just released a 304 page book on immigration. I am not spending $15 to buy the book, nor do I want to invest the time to read something that is likely polemical, so I was delighted when Wonkblog wrote a summary of it promising "We read Jeb Bush's immigration book so you don't have to" .
Unfortunately, immigration law, as the Ninth Circuit has described, it second in complexity only to the IRS tax code (see Castro-O'Ryan v. U.S. Dept. of Immigration and Naturalization, 847 F.2d 1307, 9th Cir. 1988). I don't understand why media outlets are not bringing in experts on this one; actually any 3rd year law student who has taken a U.S. immigration law class would have also done the job. The wonkblog summary of Jeb Bush's book may have been sufficient for the general public, but it raised more questions than in answered for specialists.
Of course I realize I sound like the crumudgeon who is critiquing the inaccuracy of the Cliff Notes instead of going to the primary source. To be sure specialists can go read the book ourselves and judge. But the likelihood of comprehensive immigration reform passing depends also on public approval and ultimately the public (rather than scholars') understanding of this complex immigration system is vital. For that reason, the reporting has to be accurate and clear. To be fair, the convolutedness of the summary could simply be reflecting the lack of clarity and organization of Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick's ideas.
Just a few problems with the summary (not an exhaustive list).
-The summary repeatedly refers to "work visas." Yes, there are "work based visas", but many are temporary in nature and do not lead to a Green Card while a few do offer a Green Card. The distinction of whether the visa is temporary or permanent is as important as the ratio of one to the other.
-I have written one of the few academic articles on the bizarre diversity visa lottery. I was entirely baffled by this part of the summary:
Replace diversity visa lottery with a “regular” immigration process with no special qualifications. The U.S. currently offers diversity-based visas to prospective immigrants from underrepresented countries. Bush wants to replace this was a ”regular” immigration system, which would run according to a “non-preferential, first-come, first served basis.” There aren’t any special requirements other than having a sponsor in the U.S. and no criminal record.
Presumably "regular" immigration process means no lottery and applicants just apply. But how do you replace a lottery by a "non-preferential, first come, first served basis" system? Isn't that what a lottery is? More importantly, what is the NUMBER of visas allotted to this program? -I also admit to being confused by this bullet point:
More enforcement against employers who employ illegal immigrants: Since work-based immigration would be increased, Bush believes it’s only fair to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants. He proposes a system like E-Verify that would make it easier for employers to determine the immigration status of prospective employees.
What part of Jeb Bush's system would be "like E-Verify" and what would be different?
I'm not saying that all reporters have to use the byzantine immigration law lingo; it's perfectly fine to use terms like "work visa" that are understandable to lay persons. But some attention to the basic conceptual and organizational features of the immigration system are in order to help educate the public.