Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigration Showdown

Yes, I know that title sounds like a game show or something. But, my faithful readers (ha!), you knew I was going to comment on the immigration reform before Congress. So here goes.

The House has passed a bill that deals with border security and enforcement but ignores the illegal immigrants here already. Not surprisingly, Tom Tancredo (the most infamous of the sodomites) is a major supporter. That being the case, I don't think sodomy is the main driving force behind this bill, though it certainly is a driving force. I wandered over to RedState to read their discussion on the issue, and it was (surprisingly enough to my liberal mind) mostly free of nativist sentiments. In fact, one poster even lamented the fact that nativists were going to distort their side of the debate.

(There were the people who thought that everyone who comes here to work should take an exam on English and on American history. News flash: most Americans would fail an exam on American history. And the exam in English is called "looking for a job that pays more than a subsistence wage.")

The House bill is driven by security and law-and-order concerns. Ironically enough, a House bill that is concerned with stopping illegal immigration and securing our borders will do neither. Woodhead's Fourth Law: If you build a better wall, someone will build a better ladder. The motivation to sneak in remains as strong as ever.

My point is that there is a difference between those who sneak into the country with honest intentions and those who sneak into the country with dishonest intentions. Those who sneak in would enter via an honest route were one available to them. Those with dishonest intentions would sneak across anyway. The key is to focus enforcement on those with dishonest intentions, and that means giving the honest ones the ability to enter the country and work.

Which brings me to the Senate Judiciary Committee's (and W's) guest-worker program, which I'll refer to as McCain-Kennedy after its sponsors. McCain-Kennedy offers current illegals the ability to stay here legally after paying a fine, and allows companies to hire guest workers who can then change jobs if they wish. The guest workers also would have an avenue to become permanent immigrants (and, presumably, citizens) should they choose to do so.

This is a better law than the House bill because it makes our immigration laws enforceable. I'm a bit worried about that fine, since I don't know how many illegals could afford to pay it. But companies are allowed to exploit illegals now because of their undocumented status - by making it possible for an undocumented worker to become legal, it gives them some rights under our system. And since previous participants in guest worker programs tended to outstay their visas, the path from guest worker to permanent resident is a good innovation.

To be quite honest with you, I still think that the idea of "illegal" immigration is somewhat un-American. I would like to see a complete liberalization of our immigration laws. Getting a work visa should be a relatively painless process occurring at the border, open to anyone who wants one. But I know that's not happening anytime soon - there are too many people (honest blue-collar workers) afraid for their jobs and too many people (sodomites) who think Latinos are a threat to our society, whatever the hell that means.

There's no proof that immigrants "take" jobs from the native-born population - in fact, the presence of immigrants may even help to create jobs. But it's easy for me to say that - I'm not the one who's afraid of having my job go to someone willing to work for less money. Furthermore, economists are divided on the issue (what a surprise) - some say that immigrants do take jobs, some say they don't. I personally think that the reason companies hire illegal immigrants is that they're easily exploitable, and ensuring that everyone here is documented would help limit that exploitability, thus taking away the competitive advantage immigrant workers "enjoy."

The best illegal-immigration-limiting policy, of course, is to help strengthen the economies of Latin American countries. That means getting rid of our farm subsidies and instituting fair free-trade agreements that benefit workers throughout the Americas. But that's not even being talked about.


Matthew B. Novak said...

Any thoughts on whether or not the Senate propsal will get watered down to look more like the House one? I'm afraid of that happening. Also, if the Senate one passes, how do you see them working it out between the two houses?

Jeff said...

Sadly, right now Sen. Frist is thinking of ignoring the Judiciary Committee bill altogether and submitting the House bill directly to a vote. In that case, Specter and co. will have to offer their McC-K as an amendment, which will probably water it down a bit.

Right now, my money's on the whole thing breaking down in conference committee, and nothing getting done until after the midterm elections. Which is equally scary, since most Americans have been whipped into an anti-immigrant frenzy by people like Tancredo and will probably elect a Congress more likely to be hostile to immigrants.

And if a House-like version does pass, don't be surprised to see Bush whip out Mr. Veto for the first time. He's not responsible to the voters again, and he seems to feel rather strongly about this one.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Wow. Bush doing something I would approve of... (Other than Roberts and Alito)... wow. Never even considered that possibility...

Andy said...

My two cents. While I do understand your wall/ladder theory, I do think a more enforced border is needed. Let's be honest, the reason this occurs in the first place is because Mexico's economy is complete sh!t. No one's sneaking in here because they're tired of their mansion in Mexico City.

Also this is not America's job, it's not my job as an American taxpayer, to pay to prop up their economy. Hell, as a Libertarian, I despise how much my money props up this one. And while I understand that many of the immigrants probably could not afford to pay the back taxes or fines, once again, I don't care -- they should have been paying taxes all along. Yes, they aren't "taking" my job directly but what taxes I do pay (begrudgingly) should be to support my services (lights, school, pavement, a standing army) not someone else who is simply a human avenue to send money back to another country. Also, I would surmise many of these workers have zero desire to become a US citizen, they work here long enough to feed their family back in Mexico and pass the card to the next family member. Ok, enough ranting. I'm sure I'll post more later. Feel free to call me the soulless robot now.

Mike said...

I personally think there's a very simple solution to the immigration problem: we should bomb all other countries into oblivion.

(Hi, my name is Mike, and when I start to feel insecure when I have nothing intelligent to add, I get really bitingly sarcastic.)

Jeff said...

Andy - I do agree that we need better border security, if for no other reason than to prevent those with dishonest motives from getting here. I just think that immigrants who come here to put in an honest day's work shouldn't be begrudged that right, and should be able to do so legally. Incidentally, were that to occur, I think a lot more Latino immigrants would start developing ties to the U.S. and breaking their ties with Latin America.

And you're right, the reason they're coming here is because Latin American economies are complete shit, which is why we need to get rid of our anti-competitive farm subsidies that prop up our farmers at the expense of Third World agriculture. It'd go a long way towards creating a viable industry in Mexico and other countries.

Matthew B. Novak said...

I'd appreciate it if you kept your hands off the farm subsidies. Or at least the subsidies that go to family farmers. Family farmers are good, and should get subsidies, but they don't (at least, relative to factory farms). Just thought I'd throw that out there. I love me my family farms.

Jeff said...

I disagree with the Heritage Foundation on almost everything, but they do a good job arguing against farm subsidies - you can read about it here.

I like family farms too. They're just all being bought out by big conglomerates. Who are being paid to do so by good ol' Uncle Sam.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Yeah, after skimming that article, I'm left with my same opinions - that it isn't farm subsidies which are a bad thing, but rather farm subsidies that don't target family farms. Also, in addition to the food/wealth production which family farms create, they add something culturally, which is immensely valuable.

Finally, that article is interesting in that it criticizes farm subsidies generally using statistics inflated by factory farming, but then goes on to also criticize factory farming specifically. I'm left to wonder what statistics adjusted to reflect only family farms would look like - I'm confident that farmers wouldn't look nearly so wealthy. (For purposes of full disclosure, both my parents grew up on family farms, as did my wife. Her family still farms. So I have some idea of the realities, (probably better than the Heritage Foundation) but I'm also probably a little biased).