All of America walks into a bar. Explaining the case for immigration reform

Barguments An occasional argument with ourselves — and sometimes others — about big issues, involving real or imagined drinks.


A flight of tasters is served up at the bar at Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights. According to the restaurant’s general manager, Drew Swift, half of the bar’s draft list are beers from breweries within a 60-mile radius of the establishment. Photo by Lexey Swall For the Washington Post)

Immigration reform has died and died again, and people are still arguing about it — many of them, presumably, in bars. So because stretching metaphors to their breaking point is more fun than examining our politics, let’s pretend we’re actually in a bar. Here, have a pretend drink! Pretend cheers! Except, and here’s the totally not surprising metaphor, this bar is the entire United States. Yes, this is a metaphor for understanding the case for immigration reform.

So America is a bar. How’s Barmerica doing? Well, its sales — all of the beers, wings and whiskey, plus things like the investments its owners have made — have been terrible. Like negative 2.9 percent-terrible over the first three months of this year. This makes everyone in this bar kinda, well, uneasy. Barmerica is used to selling more, not less. During the past 20 years, Barmerica’s business — its gross bar product, if you will — grew closer to 3-4 percent a year, or sometimes higher. Also, the music really was better.

So,we need to find a way to sell more drinks, right? But most of the patrons like you and me are kinda tapped out. We’ve been drinking a while — not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s a few high rollers over there in the VIP section, but most people aren’t really spending on the midprice drinks that used to be your bread and butter.

One way to increase sales is get more people to come into the bar. Unfortunately, it’s actually quite hard to get into Barmerica. Like, it can take, a decade to get into this place. Having money helps.

But, there are still a LOT of people waiting to get into this bar. From an immigration perspective, America is basically every Stefon club combined. It’s Miami’s LIV after the Heat won the NBA championship; the VIP areas are called H1B and EB-5. Gallup estimated that 138 million people are trying to get into your establishment every year (don’t worry it’s a big place).

It’s great that people still want to get into your bar, right? Except that people are literally dying to get into Barmerica — even as security has tightened, deaths from getting into Barmerica hit their highest level since at least 2006. It’s something of a humanitarian crisis outside the bar. So, if you’re the bar’s owner, it’s kind of a moral imperative that you let people in and try your unbeatable drink specials and jalapeno poppers. Religious leaders are on your case too about getting more people in; they have yet to comment about the jalapeno poppers.

But unlike your favorite pub, where the ratio of regular-to-newcomer is basically the whole appeal, adding more people to this bar America isn’t going to hurt its bottom-line. (And your staff doesn’t need to worry about these new bar-goers taking away their jobs). In fact, it’s the opposite: Experts, including some of the smartest business people you know, even that kinda off-putting tech dude in the hoodie, are clamoring for you to let more people into the bar. Oh, and a very smart French guy even says it’ll help make spending in the bar more equal. Plus, there’s a really annoying guy with a mustache who’s been saying the same thing about this topic for years.

They say the new patrons will actually boost your hip tavern’s bottom line, they won’t take your employee’s jobs, and, even though, these new patrons are more likely to have less than a high-school education, they’re also a tad more likely to have an advanced degree than your own regulars — and twice as likely to have PhDs. Meanwhile, they’re drinking and eating and driving up sales too.

This, of course, is just a metaphor. It’s applicability to Washington is limited. Bars usually have owners who are, you know, actually responsible for the success of their establishments.

So now that we’ve made our bargument. Make yours by clicking here

Ryan McCarthy is the assistant business editor for The Washington Post. He oversees Storyline, Wonkblog and other digital projects.
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