Sunday, March 13, 2005

Some Responses to Comments (So Far) on Illegal Immigration


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.

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.

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.

. . .

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 don't know about Fargo or Council Bluffs, Lee but you have obviously never been to Milwaukee.
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.

T.L. Cobb:

. . . 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.

Texas Tommy:

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still agnostic about the president's plan, but I do know what the effects of rampant illegal immigration is doing to our communities. I live in a dominant Latino neighborhood and I see the degradation of a way-of-life that I've enjoyed; from overcrowded apts, unlicensed street vendors, dumpster divers, and public drunkeness. We need to find a way to either get these people outta the country or into the mainstream.

I'm not sold on the notion that illegals are the "noble savage" and I'm looking for a solution that will reward everyone who sacrifices themselves on the alter of becoming American.If not, we're going to continue to see what just happened in our local city council race .

One other note, we're getting browner as a country; my son's mother is Colombian and I'm Italian and (mumble) French-Canadian. I hope that us Conservatives do not stray into the filth of bigotry as we debate this. After all we could just allow 10-20 million people from Eastern Europe and Russia to come here and solve the "racial" component of this argument.

Posted by jim

Sunday, March 13, 2005 9:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to take a second to applaud opening what is obviously a contentious debate. We need it! My $0.02 can be had at my blog since it's a bit long. Have a look at: 


Posted by Ric James

Monday, March 14, 2005 3:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am working on a post for my blog about this and was going to link to the thread referenced by this one. What I see is that the debate is being shaped, or more frequently being destroyed, by an irrational ideological stubbornness on the part of a few.

The mantra that "they broke the law and shouldn't be rewarded" has a certain pull and appeal but is not rational in light of the facts. The fact is that there are over 12 million Illegal's here in the United States. Not only are many of them working and removing them would create a problem, the sheer number of them makes imprisonment or deportation logistically impossible. Yup, they are here what?

Closing the border is certainly a good step. But anyone who ever saw the Czech border up close will realize what a daunting task that is.

In the main I agree with Steve White's points. There is one other point that needs to be in this debate. After 9-11 the Bush Administration realized that we couldn't sit behind the border and protect ourselves from human missiles...we had to change the face of the Middle East. The same is true for Latin America.

Things suck so hard in most of those countries that people will do anything to migrate. As an example I had an employee who was working here legally. He was from Mexico. He worked like one of Santa's elves and saved virtually every penny he made. Last spring he quit to go and start a business in Mexico. He came back last month. It was just too hard; everyone wanted a bribe for everything. Protection money had to be paid.

No policy will be effective if it ignores the reality of the number of people already here illegally, the length of our border, or the injustices rampant in our neighbors to the South.


Posted by Quilly_Mammoth

Monday, March 14, 2005 7:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also would like to say thanks for opening the debate; I must say I've spent the last few days reading what I could to educate myself on the issue. I haven't formed an opinion yet as to what the proper solution to the illegal immigrant issue.

But I wanted to ask aloud a question that has been nagging me. Bear with me, as I articulate it.

It appears that the central lynchpin of any plan -- whether the President's or the serious critics -- is the idea that by offering a guest worker program of some kind, we will (a) eliminate the massive, chaotic, and criminal influx of undocumented illegals and replace it with massive, orderly, and legal influx of documented illegals, and (b) be able to collect taxes on the work performed by illegal aliens.

Why wouldn't (b) simply create hierarchies of illegal aliens -- the documented guest worker, and the 'now-absolutely-illegal' alien?

Economics and market forces are driving the hiring of illegal aliens, no? Based on what I know, it isn't that the employers are unwilling  to hire legal workers, but that they feel that they cannot hire them and be competitive due to (1) higer wages, (2) increased regulatory burdens, and (3) payroll taxes leading to being uncompetitive on pricing.

So... if this economic reality is driving the need to reduce labor costs to the point where legal employment is uncompetitive... why wouldn't the existence of a guest worker program simply create an under-underground, if you will, of the non-guest worker illegal employee?

After all, if the point of hiring an illegal alien is that you can pay them $20 a day under the table, instead of $6 plus payroll taxes legally for 8 hours, why would this economic reality not persist even with a guest worker program?

In all of the comments and articles and debates, this is one thing that hasn't been adequately addressed or answered to my satisfaction. If the guest worker program increases labor costs to any significant degree (and payroll taxes most certainly do), then what is the incentive for the current law-breaking employers to hire guest workers in lieu of actual illegal aliens?


Posted by The Sophist

Monday, March 14, 2005 8:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've written about this several times on my own personal blog, Old Patriot's Pen. There are several factors to illegal immigration, and they've been hit at least glancingly in what's already been posted. The problem is, we have good laws, lots of freedoms, and opportunity for hard-working people to be successful. Life is better here than it is anywhere else, including our northern and southern neighbors. The only way to keep people out would be to change who we are to the point where they wouldn't want to come, or to make things better "back home". The former is unacceptable and the latter is HORRENDOUSLY DIFFICULT. In the meantime, we have to shut off the possibility of terrorists entering through our porous borders. We need to KNOW who's already here, so we can keep them from being blackmailed into doing the terrorist's (or others) bidding. Most of those that come to this country are willing to work, some aren't. We need to find a way to keep the workers and tell the rest they're not wanted here. We're certainly not going to do ANY of these things if we're not willing at least to discuss the options. 

Posted by Old Patriot

Monday, March 14, 2005 5:39:00 PM  
Blogger Johnny Canuck said...

Now that's a post I can relate to. You really got me thinking, I enjoy reading this blog.

I don't know how others feel, but I'm definitely looking into immigration to Canada as an option. The good ól US of A aint what it used to be.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The evil mexicans are comming over the border. If we let them come over they will lower our morals. I hope we can keep them out. Illegals go home. I have pictures of illegal homosexuals. 

Posted by jack kendrick

Monday, December 26, 2005 6:25:00 AM  

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