Sunday, January 01, 2006

Illegal Immigration: How The Mexican Government Makes It Worse, And Some Well-Meaning Americans Keep Us from Controlling It

Victor Davis Hanson analyzes the infuriating and perverse incentives created by our porous borders and the cynical policies of the Mexican government toward the flight of its own citizens to the U.S.

I think Hanson is an important commentator on this issue, but he does not address the major sticking point in getting Congress to address the immigration problem: What to do about the illegals already here? Hanson says only this:

"[T]he American poor who wish to organize for better wages; the reformers in Mexico who need pressure on the Mexican government; and the middle class, which pay the taxes and tries to obey the letter of the law, are increasingly against illegal immigration. And they no longer much worry over being slurred, by their illiberal critics, as nativist."

This is an oversimplification and actually describes the mood of the electorate incorrectly. Yes, people are angry about unchecked immigration and all its costs (many laid out in detail by Hanson); but the evidence from this poll is that the same electorate does not think all 11 million of the illegals should be deported. Yet a substantial number of the same conservative politicians (and more importantly, lobbying groups) who are most vocal about the illegal immigration problem also vociferously oppose any type of guest worker program.

Hanson complains about the nativist label, but it seems to me that among that opposition bloc is a substantial group that does not like the idea of "all those Mexicans" coming into the USA. In my experience that group consists almost exclusively of my fellow white anglo-saxons. I'm not convinced that there is not a large element of nativist sentiment in that group. The same sentiment has been with us since the days of the Know-Nothings. Perhaps this sounds familiar:

The nativist movement, championing the so-called rights of Protestant, American-born male voters, grew out of fear about new waves of immigration, and about the future. From 1820 to 1845, the arrival of newcomers to our shores had been steady — 10,000 to 100,000 a year. Then immigration surged: from 1845 through 1854, some 2.9 million immigrants, including 1.2 million Irish and more than a million Germans, poured into seaboard cities like Boston and New York. These strangers were impoverished and disease-ridden, easy fodder for the burgeoning coalition of nativists. Membership in the new third party soared: by 1854, when the Know-Nothings formed the American Party and won offices nationwide in that year's election, they had scored an impressive coup.

Once they took on the hard work of enacting legislation, though, the Know-Nothings too became mired in political reality. Although they had transcended their own xenophobic rhetoric and tried to achieve desirable reforms, their accomplishments were transitory.

Many in the anti-guest worker bloc bristle when they are compared with the Know-Nothings, but the uncomfortable similarities are there. Notably, the Know-Nothings were out of business after only a couple of election cycles, and in 1860 a new national party called the Republicans elected to the presidency a man named Lincoln, who was a fierce critic of the Know-Nothings:

I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who
abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white
people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a
nation, we begin by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now
practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the
Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except
negroes, and foreigners, and catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer
emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to
Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base
alloy of hypocracy.

In this blogger's opinion, we need to control the borders, normalize those who are here already, and have some faith in American culture and the English language to assimilate the newcomers. It is true that we run a great risk if we continue to allow unchecked illlegal immigration, because that seriously endangers assmilation. That is where the anger should be directed, and that is the most important key to solving the problem. But if enough Republicans continue to insist that their agreement to a program for controlling the borders is conditioned on the total absence of a guest worker program, then we are allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good and we will not see a solution anytime soon.


Anonymous Al Reasin said...

While I agree to the need for a guest worker program, I strongly believe that control of the border has to come first. If not, we will see a large increase in illegal immigration, just as we did when President Reagan initiated his program with little change in border security. Therefore I support the Congressman Tancredo’s immigration bill, which is now on its way to the senate. 

Posted by Al Reasin

Monday, January 02, 2006 1:49:00 PM  
Blogger SkyePuppy said...

My biggest concern about the proposed guest worker program is that we haven't yet learned how to make people go back home when they're supposed to go. People overstaying their tourist or student visas appears to be the norm, not the exception.

Since a big part of the guest worker program is that they return to their home country when their guest worker time ends, send-em-home enforcement will need to be up and running. It isn't yet.

Our ICE department needs to get this working on existing programs before I'll be willing to support another new program that establishes "temporary" residency.  

Posted by SkyePuppy

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 1:58:00 PM  
Anonymous S. Ralston said...

Legalizing millions based on "its too difficult to deal with the issue," leads one the believe that this vacuous approach could be assigned to any number of issues that are inconvenient, either from a practicality standpoint or worse, a political standpoint. Regardless, it will take a long time until we can come up with a policy & program that is fair to all involved, plus properly deals with the legal aspects of illegal entry.
Securing the borders is the first step in a long, tedious and what will surely become, contentious process. However, just as any good ER Doctor will stem the flow of blood from a wound, so too must we stem the flow of illegal entrants. Attempting to deal with all of the other complex issues of immigration without securing borders first, only stalls a solution that can be fair for all involved. In the meantime, even more blood flows foolishly from the open wound of unsecured borders. Eventually we may all pay a dear price for our failure to lock our doors from criminals or terrorists intent on doing us harm.
America needs immigrants. America may need workers to fill jobs others do not want. America has a lot of unemployment to deal with as a result of the bust, hurricanes, and more. America also needs to protect all workers from exploitive employers.
Fair wages are difficult to resolve while exploitive employers have illegals to push around.
Closing the borders to illegal entry is NOT a racist issue. It is NOT an anti-immigration issue. Closing the borders is simply a good initial measure that allows us time to develop fair, reasonable, effective immigration policies that are good for America AND for those seeking a better life by working or living in America!
Clouding the issue by calling people names, or alleging nefarious racist intentions, only deflects attention from the issues we all must address. And by ignoring or minimizing the need for security, all we do is expose innocent people to possible harm by those who would kill us just to push their political agenda. Remote as the possibility of an attack may be to some, others, with sound historical reason, feel discounting security may come from some who may have ambivalent or malicious feelings for this nation. Others may just want to shove one at President Bush because they don't like him. That is not sound policy, its just vindictive. 

Posted by S. Ralston

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 7:49:00 PM  
Anonymous AUDREY LANIER said...

I am an American citzen who believes in fair rights for everybody, but I am personally afected by illegal immigrates now, and I am angry, because some mexicans did a hit and run, and when my husband caughtup with the car, they denained it, we called the police and found out they had no driver license or insurance. They are illegal immigrates. It carry think of the people on the road with no legal paper.  

Posted by Audrey Lanier

Saturday, April 22, 2006 5:12:00 PM  

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