A Kinder, Gentler Immigration Policy

Forget Comprehensive Reform -- Let the States Compete

People stand at a wall separating Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, November 5, 2010. Eric Thayer / Courtesy Reuters

Ever since Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, in 1986, attempts at a similar comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration policies have failed. Yet today, as the Republican Party smarts from its poor performance among Hispanic voters in 2012 and such influential Republicans as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush have come out in favor of a new approach, the day for comprehensive immigration reform may seem close at hand. President Barack Obama was so confident about its prospects that he asked for it in his State of the Union address in February 2013. Now, the U.S. Senate looks poised to offer illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. But a top-down legislative approach to immigration could nonetheless easily die in Congress, just as the last serious one did, in 2007. Indeed, the president’s domestic problems with health care and foreign problems with Syria have already cast a shadow over the prospects

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