Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Illegal Immigration: I'd Like Some Answers, Please

The name Ed Meese brings back happy memories of times gone by, so I read his op-ed in the New York Times today with great interest. Here's Meese's proposal for addressing illegal immigration:

The fair and sound policy is to give those who are here illegally the opportunity to correct their status by returning to their country of origin and getting in line with everyone else. This, along with serious enforcement and control of the illegal inflow at the border — a combination of incentives and disincentives — will significantly reduce over time our population of illegal immigrants.
I think this is essentially what my fellow conservatives want to see done too. If so, then I have these questions:

  • Politically, how are you going to sell this? You're asking the opposing side of the issue either to give up their demand for a guest worker program altogether, or to do so in return for a promise that we'll do "something," someday, about the illegals already here, but only after we've taken care of the enforcement problem. Meese says conservatives are "being offered [a] deal in exchange for promises largely dependent on the will of future Congresses and presidents." Well, isn't that what you're asking your opponents to accept-- a promise of future action in return for giving up on a major point?
  • Consider a man in his 20's who was brought here by his parents when he was 3 years old. He's grown up here, speaks English, can speak conversational Spanish but cannnot read or write it, and has graduated from college. He's married and has a couple of kids, who are American citizens because they were born here. He's never been to Mexico, or maybe has visited relatives there two or three times in his life. Do you really expect him to pick up and return to Mexico? What will the public reaction be to hundreds of thousands of such forced relocations? Do you want Republicans and conservatives to be identified with such personal tragedies, which will get endless news media attention? Note: I am not defending the situation of such a man; I am describing a reality that we have to deal with.
  • Do you know any American citizen who wants to go pick strawberries or lettuce all day in the hot sun for months at a time? This is a serious question, one that I don't think you can answer with a straight face. Drive around California's Central Valley and look at all the thousands of people doing such work. Where are you going to get their replacements?
  • Meese says "President Bush and Congress would do better to start with securing the border and strengthening enforcement of existing immigration laws. We might also try improving on Ronald Reagan's idea of a pilot program for genuinely temporary workers." Okay, let's hear more about that program for "genuinely temporary workers." I thought that was anathema to you all. Can you really live with such a program? How would you make it work? Details, please.
  • Do you have any close friends of Hispanic descent?
I sometimes think some conservatives get so hung up on principle that they become unrealistic and blind to the consequences of their often uncompromising approach.

Come back to the real world.

Please don't sanctimoniously ask me, "What part of illegal don't you understand?"

Tell me, what are your answers to the questions above?


Blogger Harold C. Hutchison said...

I wonder if there is anyone willing to even discuss what is possible... as opposed to what they want in their perfect little world. 

Posted by Harold C. Hutchison

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 7:38:00 AM  
Anonymous tommy said...

1st Point:

"Well, isn't that what you're asking your opponents to accept" 

We have tried the amnesty-first, enforcement-never approach already. Repeatedly. The difference is that immigration opponents have the weight of history on their side.

2nd point:

"Consider a man in his 20's who was brought here by his parents when he was 3 years old. He's grown up here, speaks English"

These are circumstances that can be dealt with once we have the borders under control and serious enforcement of laws against those who employ illegals.

Do you know any American citizens who wants to go pick strawberries or lettuce all day for months at a time? This is half-serious.

My father actually picked hops in Oregon when he was a young man. This is very difficult work - much more so than picking strawberries. The difference back then was a reasonable wage. With illegal immigrants, that is no longer true. Also, when there was a major sweep to drive illegals from the country back in the mid-50's, farmers resorted to implementing increase mechanization. Productivity and price were actually improved in the long-run as evidenced by the fact that nobody abandoned mechanical improvements in agriculture once illegals became common again. Future mechanization of agriculture is hindered by reliance on low-wage illegals.

ParaPundit has pointed out that the price benefits to the consumer of agricultural products produced via illegal immigration are actually miniscule (especially when you consider the tremendous amount of money dolled out by taxpayers to subsidize this form of agriculture, in the form of health care, crime, and educational costs):

(Right Wing news points to a study that shows the effects of a 40% hike in wages for farm workers and what that would mean for the American consumer. Hint: the effect isn't much.)

3rd Point:

"Okay, let's hear more about that program for "genuinely temporary workers." Can you really live with such a program? How would you make it work?"

Well, I haven't personally proposed any such program. However, let me propose a simple way that guest workers could be allowed in while shutting illegals out:

Every American could be assigned a unique number for employment purposes only and every employer could be required by the government to validate that number by calling a hotline prior to hiring a new employee. The only function of this hotline would be to, when given a name and number, verify whether or not the two pieces of information matched. They would provide only a 'yes' or 'no' response. A record of the transaction would then be created. This would remove the 'plausible deniability' excuse used by employers of illegals currently when they hire illegals who have fake identification. They would not be able to provide a valid number or they would have to provide a phony name and number. The transaction database could be queried by immigration enforcement officials for suspicious duplications or other anomalies for further investigation. Guest workers would be assigned a number that would expire after a given time period. If they overstayed their allotted time, they would have a hard time finding employment.

Of course, these sort of proposals will never be endorsed by pro-immigration forces. They don't want a temporary worker program; they want a permanent resident program, instead.

4th point:

Do you have any close friends of Hispanic descent?

Irrelevant, but yes I do. In fact, I have several intelligent and mostly college-educated Hispanic friends and acquaintances. However, I've also attended high school in a heavily Hispanic populated area of Texas and have seen the social ramifications of immigration first hand. I wasn't one of those wealthy white old oil money conservatives who are so partial to illegal immigration and who live in gated communities only a mile down the road from the rabble (frequent in Texas), completely insulated from the effects of their policies on American life (except for the cheap servants, of course).

It looks like a missed a point. Oh well, this is dragging on too long anyway.

A few other notes:

Currently, as proposed, the Senate version of the bill will allow 60-70 million immigrants into the US over a 20 year period. Yikes. Double yikes when you consider that 4th generation Mexican-Americans in the US still have a greater than 40% high school dropout rate and a less than 10% rate of post-high school education. If that is successful assimilation, then we are in for serious trouble. A nation of high school dropouts with a vast underclass isn't likely to successfully maintain the US as a First World power into the next century.

(You'll notice, not only are the figures dismal for 4th generation Mexican-Americans, but improvement in the three subsequent generations is rather small.)

And please folks, let us be honest about this, it isn't a guest or temporary worker program. It is a permanent immigrant program. There are no serious provisions for internal enforcement and nothing stopping these immigrants from becoming permanent residents.

And, as Meese has pointed out, this is an amnesty no matter how you look at it. The supposedly penal aspects of this bill are very similar to Michelle Malkin has some excellent commentary:

So, Hedgehog, while you ask how we are supposed to sell this, let me ask you: how we are supposed to live with the consequences if this comes to pass? 

Posted by tommy

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 8:29:00 AM  
Anonymous tommy said...

Error: I used the word "subsequent" when referring to generations of Mexicans. I meant 'previous'. As in, educational improvements seen in the 4th generation of immigrants are small compared to previous generations of immigrants.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 8:34:00 AM  
Blogger Harold C. Hutchison said...

I have to wonder... how much enforcement will it take until the "enforcement first" people will agree to consider a guest-worker program.

Even when tommy answers the second question... it is, "Enforce the law first!" No answers as to when he will consider increasing legal immigration - be it temporary workers or more permanent residents.

I don't think they are interested in reality (dealing with the situation as it is). 

Posted by Harold C. Hutchison

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous tommy said...

Harold C. Hutchison,

Well, if you have seen the incredible statistical decline in enforcement of immigration laws against employers over the course of the Bush administration's history, simply getting back to Clinton-era enforcement would be a major improvement. How about this for a benchmark: a 5-6x rate of enforcement, measured in convictions, over Clinton's best year and a realistic system of verification of eligibility of employment, like the one I described, to make this possible.

BTW, Harold. Since you don't think I'm interested in reality, I would like to hear your proposal for reversing the 40% dropout rate among acculturated Hispanics in America. 

Posted by tommy

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous tommy said...

My bad.

I should have stated "acculturated Mexicans" rather than "acculturated Hispanics." 

Posted by tommy

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous tommy said...

Of course, there are always nonmonetary considerations regarding immigration as this story illustrates:

Posted by tommy

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous tommy said...

Update: My last link carried a story about the Department of Education in Michigan trying to expunge the word 'Ameican' from the curriculum. Thankfully, the DOE in Michigan is apparently denying this is true, now. Let us hope so. 

Posted by tommy

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 3:26:00 PM  
Blogger Aladdinslad said...

the bottom line is this....these people they are no good if there is anything to these they would not brake the laws of this country...they would come here legal way the same way as i do and from other places do.....if this go on much longer you country will have a real problem on your hands that make what going on today look like small headache and make you whole country into a big joke for all the world and youenemies to just laugh about...and these are the same people saying oh you should allow these poor people to come in you country...and some ofthese you enemies are ones that living here now and born and raise here.. 

Posted by MuhammedShahiri

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 5:30:00 PM  
Blogger terrance said...

Do you know any American citizen who wants to go pick strawberries or lettuce all day in the hot sun for months at a time? This is a serious question, one that I don't think you can answer with a straight face. Drive around California's Central Valley and look at all the thousands of people doing such work. Where are you going to get their replacements? 


This is an amazing question. It shows the disjunction between younger and older generations. I actually worked in the fields picking crops as a young teenager to earn money in the summers.

Yes, it does get hot, but the work is not horrible. Both my parents picked hops. Their whole family (except the father) would go out for a week or two and stay in cabins provided--bringing their own bedding, clothing and food.

Neither they nor I have been scarred for life. There were even some enjoyable elements. I do not look at those summers with a shudder--except for having to get up at 4 am (which makes me shudder even today when I have to catch an early flight).

I guess the real questions are:

1. Why do we look down on manual labor and assume no one would ever do it if they could get out of it? For crying out loud, there must be a million recreational gardeners in the country. How about running a marathon or participating in any athletic event for hours in the hot sun?

2. Do we really want a perpetual imported servant class in the US?

Maybe it's time for an internal "Peace Corps" where kids get an opportunity to learn about how most of the rest of the world lives and that manual labor in the fields is neither dishonorable nor a horrible fate. Come to think of it, there are a lot of adults who could profit as well.

Posted by Terrance

Friday, May 26, 2006 3:22:00 PM  

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