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Why Immigration Reform Only Looks Dead

The White House is looking for $2 billion to throw at border control
The White House is looking for $2 billion to throw at border controlPhotograph by John Moore/Getty Images

For supporters of immigration in the U.S. and Europe, it’s a hard time to be optimistic. The White House effectively declared the legislative effort for immigration reform dead last week, while looking for another $2 billion to throw at border control. The recent European Union elections, meanwhile, voted in more extreme-right politicians than ever. Yet there are still strong reasons to think the trend is toward a more welcoming West for migrants from the rest of the world. Poll evidence suggests Europeans and Americans are becoming more welcoming of foreigners over time. Add to that the growing economic interest in increased migration to keep up living standards, and a return to the historical norm of open borders in the West is the likely long-term result.

Politically, there’s little question that immigration is currently seen as a losing issue. The U.S. spends considerably more on immigration enforcement agencies than on the FBI, the DEA, the Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals, and the ATF combined. In elections for the European Parliament at the end of May, far-right parties won the most votes in both France and Denmark, while Greece’s fascist Golden Dawn party won three seats. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed reducing immigration to the U.K. from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands, yet his Conservative Party was still outpolled by the UK Independence Party, whose platform is pretty simple: Get out of Europe, close the borders.