A friend of mine posed the question on Facebook as to why we can't have a rational immigration policy, like Canada or Australia.
Without defending our dysfunctional politics, I've increasingly come to believe that comparisons of the U.S. with other countries is not a very useful metric. (I used to do this, for example, in wondering about guns and violent crime rates.)As far as immigration policies go, neither Canada nor Australia is a useful comparison for very specific reasons: Canada's only border is shared with us, rather than a populous country with a low standard of living; Australia shares no physical border at all. They don't face the immigration issue that we do. If Canada were located between the U.S. and Mexico, who knows what immigration policy it would have.
In addition, our role as the sole superpower, as the defense protector of the Western world, etc. makes comparisons inaccurate, because in a sense other countries are free-riding off us. If we stopped providing a nuclear umbrella -- thus making countries like Canada, Australia, all of western Europe other than France and England, Japan, and South Korea -- decide whether they wanted to risk being unprotected, developing their own nuclear weapons program, or paying us a fair share to protect them, I suspect that their fiscal balance sheets would look a lot worse than they do now (and ours would be marginally better). If we took steps to stop Canada and other countries from demanding cheap pharmaceuticals from our companies (in effect, we subsidize Canadians), that too would change things.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that we're perfect or that we can't learn from other countries (although looking at the yawning chasm of unfunded liabilities that western Europe faces regarding its generous social welfare programs suggests otherwise). But I think our problems may be unique to us in our own context.