Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell should offer the Democrats a grand bargain--an increase in the minimum wage in exchange for a secure southern border and increased enforcement of current immigration laws. Here are the reasons to make this deal:
1. Because it separates border security from immigration policy--specifically the question of what to do with immigrants already illegally in the country. Poll after poll show border security to be a more broadly popular policy than any approach to legalizing illegal immigrants, but as a political matter, tying the two subjects together creates a dependency that does not work for Republicans. The matter of border security gets bound up in all sorts of side issues, nativist rants, and ethnic tensions, rather than being treated as a straightforward matter of the table stakes of sovereignty and national security. Break this unnatural linkage and REFUSE ANY EFFORT TO CONTINUE TO LINK.
2. Because raising the minimum wage--while dubious in its impact on actual wages and outcomes--is a relatively pain-free way for Republicans to "give" on something that Democrats are hard over on. Let's face it. There is ALREADY a minimum wage and it has been raised a number of times in the past. And to the extent that pain does develop as a result of economic distortion created by raising it, my sense is that such pain would amount to a rounding error compared against the totality of our economy. We are standing on principle here, and it isn't working for us.
3. Because as a political matter, this puts the Democrats on the defensive, in a HUGE way. Let's say Boehner and McConnell make this offer in a splashy way to the President and Democrats--and the Democrats walk away from it. Imagine the reaction from working class voters of all races and ethnicities who will have to reconcile the fact that the Democrats refused this increase in order to essentially protect the rights of those who would enter our country illegally--thereby continuing to exert downward wage pressure in the first place.
4. Because it would show that with Republicans in charge, big important things CAN happen, and we can achieve things that are very important to our voters. Yes, the cost of this is giving in on another issue, but it is one that is far less important to Republican voters.
5. This entire “swap” cannot be held hostage to the “must be revenue neutral” crap. Building a fence is going to cost some money. We have to recognize that.
6. This is a "take it or leave it" negotiation.
What then, to do about those who are already here illegally? What about paths to legitimacy and citizenship? These are important questions, questions that should be considered and discussed. But for the time being--they are simply not subject to political solutions and the discussions surrounding them do not work to GOP advantage. Skip them and move on.