Monday, April 19, 2004

Immigration

I've had trouble getting my brain around this topic. All sides make good arguments, and figuring out what tradeoffs are best is a rough piece of work. Fortunately, Mr. Kendall was kind enough to get the ball rolling with an excellent article on his site. So, rather than come up with my own thoughts (of which there are few), I'll go ahead and tackle his points. Firstly, Mr. Kendall (rightly) skewers the arguments of the left ('overpopulation') and right ('wage degradation'):

What I find profoundly repugnant in both these worldviews is the implicit picture of human beings as nothing but rapacious animals who exist only to consume and destroy everything in their path.

In fact, neither the American economy or even the global resource base that sustains it can be considered closed in any meaningful way.

I'll give him the wage argument up to a point. Although spoiled, middle class babies make the most noise about immigrants stealing their jobs, it's actually the very poor and unskilled that stand to lose the most in any kind of open immigration. The little pressure there may be for raising the wages of the poor will be squashed when the supply of such workers greatly outstrips the demand. One may say that the oversupply will be worked out as workers improve their lot, but his will be difficult to do with wage stagnation; as well, the U.S. will never work off the worlds current supply of excess unskilled labor. Mr. Kendall then goes to make the next point:

This argument [of enforcing existing immigration laws] fails on several counts, not the least of which is the sheer hopelessness of the task. It is simply not practical to either seal off the border or rid the country of the approximately 10 million illegal immigrants that are already here, and those who advocate the enactment of such measures are truly deluding themselves

Firstly I'd like to point out that I don't think it would be so hopeless. As with any law, not all the perpetrators would be caught, but a sufficient number would be so as to serve as a deterrent towards committing the crime by others who might be given to break the law. Not even 10% of the existing number of illegals would need to be caught in order to drive the existing number down. However, in my mind this point is irrelevant because:

  1. The PC police would never let it happen
  2. There's really no benefit to doing so anyway. In fact it would be quite detrimental

What would be gained in the U.S. by kicking out 10 million people who want to be here and are contributing to the GDP of the country? A rough equivalent would be enforcing an age old law that limits oil imports without regard to the effect on the country. Mr. Kendall then touches on the security benefit:

Yet bringing the cross-border flow of immigrants out from the shadows of illegality and into the light of official scrutiny can actually play an important role in preventing would-be terrorists from successfully infiltrating the country—with good execution on the part of the authorities.

I'm given to think this was the primary motivation for President Bush's initiative. Mr. Kendall is careful to note though that 'good execution on the part of the authorities' will be key. Unfortunately, those ambivalent about immigration aren't likely to be soothed by this argument for exactly that reason. Are the same authorities who are responsible for the current immigration mess going to be the ones in charge of implementing this solution? What if they find someone without documentation? Will they get kicked out of the country? (Ha!) Will such documentation be available to peoples equally around the globe? Or is it a sop to the semi-nasty Mexican government? From someone outside looking in, this looks merely like amnesty with with a layer of bureaucratic paperwork over it to disguise it long enough to get it through the congress.

I guess that was always my primary concern with the proposal. Bush proposes throwing in the towel on any kind of controls, and in return, the people of America get... nothing. We could get North Korean émigrés and destabilize a hostile nation. We could document workers properly and enforce the law so that those who mean us harm can be kicked out of the country. We could make it easier for skilled labor in Europe to emigrate from there to the U.S. Anything...please! Just throw me a bone so that it'll make some sense to me.

Mr. Kendall then brings up the main rub. This is it, the big event. Were this not a worry, I doubt if anyone would care about any of the other points because they would work themselves out as they have in the past:

...large-scale immigration from Mexico could pose a problem for the United States if the worst aspects of multiculturalism—the rejection of a common culture and the elevation of discreet group identities based on race or ethnicity—cannot be overcome.

America has nothing against different ethnic groups, but Americans of all ethnicitys don't care for groups that use the funding of the government to set up fiefdoms that mirror the same country that they'd just left. Canada is a great example of how even just an unshared language base can split a country up. Heaven forbid there's no shared heritage as well. Well, I think I'm ready to round up the ideas.

Enforce current immigration law

The Good: There are plenty less idiotic laws that are enforced. There will always be a need for some kind of limit on immigration to keep the (theoretical) assimilation process from being overwhelmed (a'la Lebanon), so it's good to stay in the habit. Limiting immigration from Mexico may force improvements for the people there.

The Bad: Even if we ignored the PC ramifications (a big IF), the effects on the U.S. economy would not be good

The Gist: Despite it's drawbacks, I still have a soft spot for this proposal. It's not because of any anti-immigrant feelings on my part, but because it would be a confidence building measure (My goodness, they will enforce the law!) and so that U.S. immigration can be geared more towards our foreign policy aims (improvements in Mexico, destabilizing unfriendly totalitarian regimes). As well, I'd be more open to the worker permit deal since the government has proven that it can and will enforce the law.

Amnesty

The Good: The U.S. government will be able to track foreign workers, and a halfway point will be there for those who want to continue and be citizens, or go back home.

The Bad: Punishes those who obey the law

The Gist: As with the existing laws, this law won't be enforced. It's good in theory, but crap in practice.

Trial by fire assimilation

The Good: We get rid of everything multilingual in the government. One language taught in schools (yes, English). Schools will teach the greatness that is the U.S. Proper ID will be needed for voting. Socialist benefits are reigned in so that the motivations for sopping off of the federal government are negated.

The Bad: A lot of work

The Gist: Enforcing existing laws has a better shot

The Status Quo

The Good: Existing nonfunctioning system already in place, no new rules are needed! Politically expedient.

The Bad: Sucks worse than some, but it's not as bad as others.

The Gist:I guess the future looks like the past!

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