Illegal Immigration: A Fragile Conservative Consensus Begins to Emerge
Thanks to Real Clear Politics for this sampling of opinion on immigration. I think we are beginning to see the emergence of a consensus that immigration needs an approach that is both tough and practical: (1) Enforce the border and (2) assimilate those already here who are not committing crimes other than immigration law violations.
Here are three different views of the problem.
Same Old Same Old
This piece in the Washington Times is by two Republican congressman, John Hostettler of Indiana and Lamar Smith of Texas, so probably cannot be taken very seriously. It was surely written by committee staff to please one constituency or another. Entitled "Illegals Hurt Americans," it makes the rather tired argument that illegal immigration is costing legal Americans their jobs.
I find that hard to swallow in light of today's report of 5% unemployment, virtually a full-employment economy. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The Path of The Future
Yesterday's data blitz included a report by the Institute for Supply Management that showed manufacturing activity was robust in November and expanded fast enough for factories to add new jobs. Although the ISM's index declined slightly
to a reading of 58.1 from October's 59.1 and September's 59.4, economists said the report indicates that manufacturing activity, and indeed the broader economy, is on solid footing. (Readings above 50 indicate growth; while readings below 50 indicate that activity is contracting.)
R. Emmett Tyrell in the Washington Times says the issue is not economic:
We are almost at full employment, and with 2 to 3 times as many illegal
immigrants in the country as in the mid-1980s, when former Sen. Alan Simpson, Wyoming Republican, last addressed the immigration issue. That pretty much proves the economy can accept immigration and prosper. . . . The real problem is border security and an orderly society. We need to know who is entering the country and that they abide by the laws. So Congress is preparing a series of get-tough measures. . . . [proposed] legislation would deputize state and local police to arrest the millions of illegal immigrants (possibly 12 million) and deport them. . . .
Any prudent law must be based on what James Madison in The Federalist Papers called the "genius" of the people. The American people are by nature generous, optimistic and tolerant. It is apparent, at least to me, that as we begin arresting illegal immigrants the process will soon come to a sorry end. Wretched immigrants would be held up by many Americans now favoring the tough approach as the victims of unjust law enforcers. Civil libertarians would step in. The approach would be brought to ruin, and the "hate-America" crowd would have more spurious evidence this is a racist and intolerant country. There is a better approach.
We have the capacity to close off the border, and we should. We also have the capacity to encourage many of the illegal immigrants to enroll in a program aimed at amnesty, but one that does not make chumps of legal immigrants who have played by the rules. The legislation of the 1980s ended in amnesty and well more than half the illegals became law-abiding citizens.
The burden on the president and Congress is to close off border and get the present immigrants to enter amnesty programs. This is not easily done, but it is certainly more practical and feasible than the "tough" approaches bandied about. The market for immigrants is here and will not evaporate. The Know-Nothings faded away but the bad repute they settled on the country endured -- unfairly, but it endured.
Tyrell, editor of the American Spectator, certainly has solid conservative credentials and is no bleeding heart softie. I think his view is the one that will eventually prevail.
The Economic and Human Reality
Writing in the Miami Herald from Puerto Escondido, Mexico, Frida Ghitis takes a different but equally realistic tack, arguing that Mexicans (and other latinos) are going to come to the USA no matter what:
For the millions who make it to the United States, a life of relatively high earnings does not mean a life of comfort. Mexican migrants send so much of what they make back to their families, that remittances have become the second-largest source of revenue for Mexico, second only to oil exports.
. . .
One of the reasons for U.S. success as a country is that it was built by immigrants, a self-selected group, which has always included some of the most determined, driven and hard-working people from around the world.
As long as the United States needs workers and Mexico has more people than jobs; as long as Mexico remains so much poorer than its northern neighbor, Mexicans will give in and seek to make their fortune in America. And, as long as there is no viable legal option to enter the country, an illegal infrastructure, rather than legitimate immigration authorities, will control the border. That will make the U.S.-Mexico frontier one that will open America to anyone willing to pay cash and take the risk.
I don't like that, but it's reality. We have to cope with it. Tyrell has it right. As Matt Drudge might say, developing . . . .