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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Immigration

Mike has a post about immigration and what our policy should be.
"I do think we need to have a liberal immigration policy (the free marketer in me) but a secure border (to protect against terrorist sneaking in)."
I agree that a liberal immigration policy is a good thing. There's a lot of truth to the fact that being a nation of immigrants is one of the things that makes this country great. I'm not sure, though, that our current policy isn't liberal enough. No one who really wants to come here for the right reasons can't make it - assuming you have no liabilities in your background, and you are willing to wait what can be a very long time for the INS (or whatever they are called now) to get around to you. (Case in point: my family applied to emigrate here in 1982; we were told in 1995 that our quota number had come up and the INS was considering our case; we came here for the first time in 1997. So it took a long time, but we made it eventually.) And people with important skills, like scientists and engineers, can get here a lot quicker.

The problem with the current debate though, is that the people being defended are illegal immigrants. These are people who broke the law to come here, and are now in the country illegally. And because of their illegal status, they have certain characteristics that make them attractive to certain segments of our population. For example, they are willing to work for a pittance - because it's all they're going to get, but also because they keep everything they make. A worker making minimum wage pays taxes on his meager income. An illegal immigrant does not, and therefore can live on less. The other factor is that an illegal immigrant has no one to turn to if he's being mistreated - a fact that unscrupulous employers exploit.

If we legalize these millions of people, they lose both these qualities. Which means they are no longer a source of cheap, exploitable labor and they lose their value to employers. If they're going to have to pay them minimum wage, and contribute to their social security fund, they might as well hire American high school drop outs who can at least speak English. What we're most likely to end up with is millions more people who can't get jobs, and live on welfare at our expense.

What's more, the demand for cheap illegal labor isn't going to go away - which means they will simply be replaced with millions more who will come across the border to take their place. An amnesty for our current crop of illegal immigrants will leave us worse off than we were before.

The first step in any debate on immigration has got to be a commitment to securing our borders. We need to know who's coming in, and we need to make sure that it's limited to people who are supposed to be here. After that we can talk about dealing with the people here illegally as well as discuss options for letting more people in through the door.

The other thing that needs to be addressed is the rights of all those people that are waiting to be admitted to the country legally. It would be completely unfair to them for these people to be pushed in line ahead of them as a reward for breaking our laws. Yes, the INS has a tremendous backlog, and the wait times are atrocious. Yes, people are having to live worse lives while they wait to get here. But, we don't speed up that process any when we punish the people in line, and reward the people who break the rules. That undermines the process and makes people lose faith in the system. And that will create more illegal immigrants, not less.

5 Comments:

At 6:46 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

We have two very good friends, one from India and one from Poland. Both went to college with us on student visas and got good jobs afterwards. Both contribute greatly to the American economy and society, and I would be completely disgusted if someone who snuck over the border to pick fruit got to jump ahead of them in line for citizenship. They both want to integrate into American culture (our Polish friend doesn't even travel back anymore because "the US is home now"), and it burns me up that the process is so hard for people like them.

 
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