FAIR'S FAIR. ...

FAIR'S FAIR. It seems that the new GOP attack against the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill is a throw back to grade school: no cuttsies. That's what Jon Kyl is saying in his complaint that his grandparents waited in line a long time in order to make it here, and why should Latin Americans get special dispensation to speed through?

It's a weird argument, as if geographical proximity were somehow an illegitimate consideration when crafting immigration policy. But is it? I was born in California, so I'm a native. Were I born a few miles south, I'd have been Mexican. Because of that nearness, the Mexican economy is far more intertwined with the American economy than are the much bigger players in Europe or Asia. Canada is our largest trading partner while Mexico is our second largest, and were anything to happen to the fiscal health of either nation, the effect on the American economy would be swift and devastating. That's why, when Mexico looked near collapse in the mid-90's, Bill Clinton rapidly rushed through a massive bond to head off the catastrophe -- it wasn't an act of charity, but of self-preservation.

Now, you can argue back and forth on the impact of immigration on our economy, but it's an obvious massive boon to the Mexican economy. Remittances -- the money sent back by immigrants -- is the single largest source of direct foreign aid to Mexico, and it's unquestionably crucial to their continued stability and health. Add in that many immigrants come here, amass some savings, and return home to start businesses, and you've got a real problem if you cut that off. And if Mexico has a problem, we have a problem, which means their immigration has more impact on our direct financial prospects, and should thus, to protect the national interests, be treated differently than those attempting to head over from Belgrave.

There is, by the way, precedence for this. Kyl's grandparents were Dutch. The Dutch are part of the EU. And the EU offers generous immigration advantages to its members -- who're united by proximity -- over, say, Latin Americans. If he's so worried about fairness, I'd say loosening restrictions on adjacent countries would be quite fair indeed.

--Ezra Klein

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