The sheer number of comments to my post below on illegal immigration and to my follow-up post linking Tamar Jacoby's piece makes it impractical, if not impossible, to respond to all of them. I'll offer a few general thoughts of my own and single out some of the most interesting comments to my earlier post.
1. It is not surprising, but quite alarming, to see how divided conservatives are on this issue. That's why we need to have a thorough discussion about it in the blogosphere.
2. The most disturbing phenomenon is the seemingly reflexive name-calling and pigeon-holing that is going on among conservatives. I have never in my life been called "squishy" or "a moderate." Wow! But both sides of the argument do this. Having felt the sting of such epithets, I hereby renounce the use of the term "nativist" to describe people who disagree. (My pledge could break down if someone calls me "wobbly" on this issue when I am in a bad mood.)
3. People who disagree strongly with President Bush's approach to this issue need to recognize that it is possible to be appalled and alarmed about illegal immigration and still think the guest worker plan is tough-minded and the best way to get on top of the problem. Glenlyon's comment below is an excellent example of this type of thinking. I'm also in that category. (By the way, there is no Bush immigration "bill" in existence, no legislation, just an outline of principles Bush believes should guide the debate.)
4. I liked Gringo Salado's comments very much, except for the part about "quit bitching and learn Spanish." I think it's a good idea to learn Spanish, but the immigrants need to learn to communicate in English. The prospect of a Quebec-style language division here in the USA is a serious concern. I don't think it will get that bad here but unless we get a handle on the problem we will end up with a permanent underclass, stuck in poverty because they are not fluent in either English or Spanish.
5. There were some very interesting ideas advanced in the comments (apart from the commenters who simply vented and think the problem is a simple matter of "non-appeasement"). I hope some staffer to Congressman Sensenbrenner picks up the threads here and on Wizbang and Polipundit, as well as Glenn Reynolds' MSNBC piece. A person can support the Bush approach generally and still support these very tough and creative ideas. Some examples:
MrsPatriot may have the most important comment of all, referring to the Tamar Jacoby piece I linked below:
Ms Jacoby's article is the first I have seen that explains President Bush's plan so clearly. The White House needs to present their case more in these terms. The reason for so much opposition is that the American public doesn't really understand the proposal.Indeed!
Steve White has a list of eight good, tough ideas, too long to quote here. I like them all. An abbreviated summary:
1) Control the border.Glenlyon:
2) Institute a true guest worker program. Protect the workers from the avarice of employers who would otherwise mistreat them. Match workers and employers. Provide an ID card. Individuals outside the USA who want to come have to match up with an employer who needs them. Illegals currently in the USA have to do the same or risk deportation. The goal is no illegals: you are here legally or you are not here. . . . If a household employs an illegal as a gardener or a nanny, they can darned well come clean and start paying the appropriate taxes.
3) The guest worker program has time limits . . . .
4) The guest worker program has a safety valve -- if you're here, keep your nose clean, learn English, etc., you can enter a program that eventually leads to permanent residency and citizenship. . . .
5) Children of guest workers would have the right to be in American schools. Children belong in schools, not on the streets. Since the guest workers have jobs and thus are paying taxes, they have the right the send their kids to school. The Federal govt would subsidize school districts that have a high percentage of children of guest workers. Along the way, the kids learn English.
6) Guest workers get the same minimum wage and legal protections as any American citizen.
7) Children of guest workers who are born in the U.S. are not automatically American citizens. Redefine the citizenship law accordingly.
8) No amnesty. If you're an illegal now, you get matched up or risk deportation. As a practical matter, there will be relatively few deportations, as under any scheme it's tough to deport any large number of people. But any law needs a hammer, and this is the hammer.
If we establish a meaningful system of guest workers for Mexicans to enter the US, this can change. The economic border crossers will enter legally, and we can actually isolate and scrutinize the others trying to enter in a manner compatible with the norms of our civil republic.PersonfromPorlock:
. . .
I will agree that a series of companion measures to the Bush plan are needed to clarify what being a guest worker means in terms of welfare, public benefits of other kinds, taxes, eligibility for residency and citizenship, etc. Some work there could assure people that the system will be orderly and fair.
. . .
I would also suggest that this issue could be used to strengthen NAFTA. Make the guest worker provisions specific to the treaty members, perhaps through a series of bilateral side treaties. Something like this has already happened in Europe, to great advantage in their internal immigration affairs.
Let's make the penalty for hiring an illegal alien $25,000... then make the reward for turning in an illegal alien's employer, oh, say, $25,000... and immediate permanent resident status if the turner-in happens to be that very illegal alien.Well, it probably has practical drawbacks, but an interesting and appealing concept. Congress, are you listening?
"If you go to Milwaukee or Fargo or Council Bluffs, you'll likely see American citizens cleaning your hotel room or serving you your Big Mac or your burrito supreme from Taco Bell."I travel an awful lot, and mishu is absolutely right. The phenomenon appears in such places as Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Boise.
I don't know about Fargo or Council Bluffs, Lee but you have obviously never been to Milwaukee.
. . . I would like to see a system where every illegal alien who is apprehended gets his fingerprints checked/included on a database. If its your second time being found in the USA illegally, you get to spend 60 days at hard labor. Penalties would increase for additional illegal entries. Anyone who was found to have entered the country illegally would be forever barred from residing in or entering the US again.Okay, let's get that on the table too.
One angle I haven't heard much about is mainstreaming immigrants so that they become productive, patriotic citizens. I certainly believe in proper border integrity and immigration law enforcement. Yet, there are 10-12M illegal immigrants in the US now and mass deportation is problematic. Providing an integration path with the help of faith-based/community-based organizations and visionary businesses could help alleviate the problems associated with illegal immigration. Check out my recent blog on this topic for more info.I recommend Texas Tommy's blog. I especially loved the quote from Leviticus. Good thoughts!
An appeal: Let's flood the blogs with ideas like those above. Surely there are more out there. The right resolution of this issue is vital to the nation's future and to the GOP's future, and we can contribute greatly to the debate.
UPDATE: Ric James at HoodaThunk has a long and thoughtful post about all this.