April 3, 2006


The protests have happened, the right wing gas bags have spoken, and now it's time for some good old fashioned legislating. The interesting thing about the issue is that it splits the parties. The GOP is divided between business interests who want to keep a supply of illegal workers that they don't have to pay jack, and the element of the party that is, well, kinda racist. Or at the very least, "law and order" types who want all the lawbreakers deported. A third element is foward thinking strategy types who don't want to get crushed by Latino voters in the future.

Dems are divided as well, between working class voters who are hurt by low-wage immigration and middle class voters who benefit. Not to mention that most Latinos (outside of the Cuban community) are a pretty solid democratic voting bloc, one that Republicans would very much like to steal.

So the proposals now being debated are various forms of "get tough" enforcement, or some form of guest worker program to help illegals work legally. Personally I think the calls to "protect our borders" add up to load of crap. There are thousands of miles along our southern border and there is no way we are going to spend the money to fence it all and put border guards on every inch of it. The truly effective way to prevent illegal from working in this country would be to crack down on the people who hire them. But if the GOP has one guiding principal these days, it’s never, ever cause any trouble for big business.

So the two bills we have in progress now take completely different approaches. The House bill is classic "get tough" stuff. It makes helping illegal a crime, makes being an undocumented worker a felony, and does a whole bunch of stuff that brings hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets for protest marches.

The Senate bill, a product of the meeting of the minds of Senators McCain and Kennedy, allows for a process by which illegals can get legal. Not to outline the whole process, but you pay a fine, do your paperwork, keep on the straight and narrow and many years later voila you're legal. Needless to say, this is a very different approach from being convicted of a felony and sent back to your county of origin.

This week we see "How a Bill becomes a Law" plays when you have very different bills fighting to become law.


Laura said...

My stepfather was recently deported as he had been here for 20 something years illegally. The system doesn't take into account that for the last eleven of those years he was legally married to my mother, who is a law-abiding tax-paying citizen. (Well except for the whole aiding and abetting an illegal alien thing.) Oh, and he's Canadian. I had no idea they deported Canadians. He's also not allowed to return for ten years, or until his application for citizenship is approved, which, according to the lawyer will take 8 to 11 years.

Our good friend Erin can tell you that obtaining a student visa for even, say, a Danish student who has been accepted into a prestigious college, is all but impossible.

Immigration is currently a mess, and it will be fascinating to see how this debate plays out.

Tyler said...

A country has to restrict immigration of low skilled workers from poorer areas out of responsibility for its own people, not the immigrants.

Isn't there a diminishing return on unskilled illegals? Don't we have so many that their supposed economic benefit is now nil? So maybe a few thousand may have some sort of small scale benefit. But countless millions just suck resources, discourage farm mechanization in some areas, and increase our medical insurance.

How many times do I have to hear "Illegal immigrants will do jobs American citzens won't do" Are you kidding me? What about the affect unskilled illegals have on the welfare system? How many American citizens on welfare now would have a job if not for the illegal? Those citizen may be far more likely to commit crimes if unemployed.

Do you honestly think the wealthiest most powerful country in the world would fall to its knees because we fobid farm workers from foreign countries with 8th grade educations to pick our fruits and vegetables? I sure don't, prices would rise only negligibly. What did we do before mass immigration? What does Europe do? Remember when middle class people in southern California actually mowed their own lawns?

A certain amount of immigration is alright, but at some point when it becomes excessive between countries where one is rich and the other is so not rich, the end affect is to impoverish the richer countries working class and increase the amount of crime.

hirnstrom said...

Does anybody know a pointer to a good analysis how immigration in America compares to other countries, especially various European Union ones, and how it works out there?
As far as I know, we have shamefully tough rules that even apply to the most skilled labor, e.g. professors, but that doesn't keep the dream of an integrated, multi-cultural society from failing, or even worsens it.

I am not affected, though, so I never bothered to find out for sure…

larry said...

I think Americans would still be on welfare even if they took the jobs that now go to illegal immigrants. After all, $5.15 per hour, before taxes, doesn't go very far. (Yes, taxes - although there would probably be no income tax at that level, FICA/Medicare taxes take a bite from everyone).

Now, if we were willing to raise the minimum wage to something that people can actually live on, the argument might hold water.

Erin said...

There is a documented migrant worker system out there, but the would be short-term legal immigrant has to fill out bunches of paperwork (although mixing unskilled labor and US govt forms sounds like a recipe for disaster, somehow it has worked in the past) and then discovers that the little card you worked so hard to get doesn't matter a bit to the farmer. You want to crack down on illegal cheap labor you have to go to the business. As far as I know, it is still illegal to hire illegal aliens. We really have all the laws we need, we need to enforce them, that's all.

And the Danish student previously mentioned wasn't officially accepted to the prestigious ivy league, it was more of an arrangement and the lack of "official" documents is what did it all in. On the whole, the more prestigious the university, the more it behaves like the US govt.

Oh, and as for how European countries deal with immigration: they make the US look good. There is currently a great deal of fuss over how to keep Arabs and Muslims out without making it really obvious. Holland has perspective immigrants view a video with shots of naked people sunning on the beach. "If this offends you, perhaps you shouldn't move here," is a gross translation of what is said. (So don't quote me on that.) Other countries deny immigrants from wearing culturally identifiable clothing (France has a ban on head-scarves at schools, British students must adhear to uniform policy no matter what religion they are [so legs are bare as well as heads]) in an effort to get them to assimilate. Further, western EU countries are in a panic over cheap eastern EU labor. The main Irish ferry company recently sacked all of its employees in order to hire an eastern EU company to import cheap labor. This gets around Ireland's high minimum wage and it's legal because the cheap labor comes in from EU contries. All of this results in bizarre laws for both immigrants and migrant workers. If I were to immigrate to Denmark, I'd either need to marry a Dane or get a job that couldn't have gone to a Dane, I'd have to sign a paper saying that I would raise my children according to Danish values and I would have to pick the children's names off of an official registery of acceptable Danish names (I could petition to have a name from my home country as my child's name, but I would have to prove that it is a popular and normal name). Although I am not a member of the Danish National Lutheran Church I would have to register my marriage and my children through them because they are the offical keepers of such documents.

So while US immigration is a nightmare, if you follow the laws and fill out the forms you do not have to change your religion or your culture (except for a few specific cases where your cultural practices such as animal sacrifice [legal in certain places under certain restrictions] and female circumcision is illegal) and you can stay and enjoy all kinds of freedoms. There is a good reason why so many want to be here. And I will refer back to the first paragraph instead of restating because this is a really long comment.

jess said...

I heard a commentator (i think on npr, but don't quote me on that) discussing this. They were saying that immigration was one of the only things that the US really does better than europe. And now, we want to do it the european way (guest worker program) to mess it up.
Remember the riots in france by african and muslim immigrants last year? Makes a half a million folks marching peacefully in LA look damn good. Even if you add in the stupid kids walking out all last week (they have the right to, but many handled it very badly, at least here in sd), our protests show that people here are concerned, upset, even angry. But certainly not violently angry at our government as immigrants in some european countries are.