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Fix the original problem

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advances research and debate on immigration policy. Krikorian spoke to the Trib regarding the U.S. Senate's latest immigration reform bill.

Q: The printed version of this bill is 1,070 pages long and weighs 24 pounds. Do you think most senators have actually read it?

A: I don't think even the bill sponsors have read the thing.

Q: Just too long?

A: It's long and it's also complicated, like most legislation. I would be satisfied if they read a detailed summary and overview, but I'm not sure most of them have even done that — including the sponsors of the bill. I'm reasonably confident that they don't really know what's in the bill beyond a one-page press release.

Q: So you don't believe it was wise to bundle together into a single bill items like border security, greater workforce enforcement, an overhaul of the legal immigration system and a proposal to legalize 11 million unlawful immigrants?

A: I think the word “comprehensive” should never appear in anything that Congress does. It's an example of hubris to imagine that 535 people, especially these 535 people, can actually construct blueprints that cover millions and millions of people and huge sectors of our economy.

What they should be doing is trying to address pieces of the problem, targeted legislation, see how it works, see how it needs to be changed. It's much easier to approach lawmaking that way instead of this grand, even arrogant, approach of this vast legislation that does hundreds and hundreds of things.

Q: What do most conservatives see as the bill's most significant shortcoming?

A: Number one on the list has to be the fact that the illegal immigrants are legalized before the various promised enforcement measures are fully in place. That amnesty-first, enforcement-maybe approach is what got us into trouble with the 1986 (immigration law).

A lot of people object to amnesty for anybody, and I understand that — it's a distasteful and expensive proposition. But you can make a case under some circumstances for clearing the decks as a practical matter, as distasteful as it is, because we have to deal with reality.

But you can't legalize millions of people without fixing the problem that created this large illegal population in the first place. That's what this bill suggests, and that's what this bill proposes to do.

Q: If you had to make a prediction, what do you think the outcome of this latest battle over immigration is going to be?

A: It could play out in different ways. It could fail in the Senate still. I think the bill has a better than even chance of making it through the Senate, but not much better than even, so it could fail.

If I had to pick the most likely outcome, I would think that it would barely pass the Senate, the House would pass different legislation, they wouldn't be able to reconcile the two and so nothing would happen. That's not unprecedented. I wouldn't bet my house, and I wouldn't bet my car, but I am taking bets on lunch that by the end of the year there is not going to be a bill on the president's desk.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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