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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On Immigration (legal or otherwise)

I heard on WILK yesterday (I think it was Corbett...I was driving back from WalMart...somehow that seemed appropriate) about how there is some legislator in Pennsylvania that is endorsing an Arizona-style anti-illegal immigrant law. "Great" I said to myself. Maybe the Tea Baggers will have caricatures of Mexicans on their posters now.

Anyway, if you want an example of how government has failed to do what it is supposed to do, you don't need to look much further than the issue of immigration. It is something of a "perfect storm" of political indecision:
  • It works well for foam'n@mouth radio talk show hosts on both sides of the extreme who specialize in demonizing anyone and everyone that doesn't follow their orthodoxy
  • It has built-in paradoxes...we love immigrants for labor (I don't see too many Access card recipients lining up to pick strawberries). we love the low prices their labor brings, but we don't want to know where they come from
  • Some of the common sense solutions, such as a national ID card, evoke paranoid responses from some quarters (I've actually heard some compare a national ID card to the "mark of the beast")
This is why basically nothing has been done on the immigration front in something like twenty plus years. What do to? Well hell, writing a blog means that of course I have all the answers! Don't we all?

First, illegal immigration is a crime. Folks on the extreme left need suck that one up. The reality is that we can't support every human being that wants to enter this country. What's more having a porous border creates a genuine, very real national security threat.

Second, folks on the extreme right need to stop demonizing illegal immigrants as being the cause of everything from urban decay & crime (*cough* Barletta) to the heartbreak of psoriasis (hey, I spelled that right...on the first try!). They are not. These are folks come here almost exclusively because they want a better life for themselves and their families.

Third, this is the job for the federal government, not the Arizona state police or the Hazelton city police. At the heart of what the federal government does is protecting the country. As noted above, having a porous border is a real national security threat.

Yes, the "Sanctuary City" folks and the Limbaugh/Barletta types both have it wrong. What a shock!

We need common sense immigration reform in this country. This includes things like:
  • A national ID card...or....some form on consistent drivers license between all of the states. I find it ironic that many who are tough on illegal immigrants also oppose the 'Real ID' Act. In effect these folks want it both ways: they don't want illegals, but they don't want consistent documentation that would prove who is legal.
  • Clear direction for business. Yes, businesses know what ID is required, although some forms of ID can be forged. There should be clear-cut standards on what is considered valid ID (i.e., rules around what could be a forgery) and some kind of safe-harbor what would shield businesses that make good-faith efforts to hire only legal aliens or citizens. Maybe this already exists, but I'm not sure, so it doesn't it should.
  • Devastating penalties for businesses that hire illegals. Having provided businesses with a safe harbor, I think any organization that knowingly hires illegal aliens should be punished to the extreme and the owners held personally accountable. This means jail time. Think about it: these folks are putting making a buck ahead of our national security...that's about a criminal of an activity as I think it gets.
  • Devastating penalties for human trafficking. Smuggle people across the border for a fee and you should go to jail, forever.
  • A clear path to citizenship. Despite what the Michael Savage types of this world may preach, we are not going to round up every illegal immigrant and send them back. It's simply not practical. We do need though to draw a line in the sand though and say that after a certain period in time, if you are here illegally you need to follow a set procedure to gain citizenship (basically what former President Bush outlined...learn English, pay a penalty, go to the back of the line); after that date, if you are caught here illegally you should be deported with no chance for future legal entry.
  • Militarize the borders. I know this one isn't popular with some folks, but it's the federal government's job to protect the national security. Given the size of the southern border and the resources required to protect it, it's about time we employed the military to help end illegal crossings. It seems less intrusive to me to stop this kind of activity at the border than to try and catch illegal immigrants once they are in our society at large.

Politicians on the left and the right need to understand that compromises need to be made on this issue if we are going to begin to solve it once and for all. Put another way, if ever there was an issue where the extremists have it wrong, it's this one.


Austin said...

If you aren't Native American you are an illegal immigrant.

We have doubled and then tripled the border patrol and INS budget. Instead of a 90% success rate, illegal immigrants were 80% successful. I'm not sure what the stats are today but clearly we cannot use the military to solve a problem radically conservative fiscal policies have created.

If you want to stop all but a negligible amount of illegal immigration you simply need a living wage to replace our minimal wage. Those people on Access cards wont give them up till they can make a decent wage picking berries.

We do have penalties for business that hire illegals but they are almost never enforced. One year we persecuted less than 2 dozen companies while we have 12 million plus illegals who are working.

To police immigration you have to go after the large corporations that are employing them. They wont because the politicians don't want to solve the problem they want a scapegoat. Furthermore, politicians are themselves beneficiaries of the corporations who are beyond the reach of law.

Stephen Albert said...

A few thoughts Austin...

...doubling or tripling the budget doesn't guarantee anything, other than doubling or tripling the budget. There are things that fact the border in California is more secure now than it has been in the past, which coincidentally why Arizona has such a problem we need to focus budget dollars there. As I noted though, maybe it's time to consider where we deploy things like military bases.

...I'm not against the concept of a 'living wage', but it's one of those things that easier to talk about than to specifically define (it costs less to live in Scranton than it does Hartford, for example)and implement. There is a very good article in the current edition of Business Week that touches on the cost of labor and illegal immigration. Worth reading.

...there are penalties for businesses, but as you noted there is a lack of consistent enforcement. Also, I believe that you need to make owners/executives personally accountable for firm hiring practices. your comment last week, I greatly appreciate the offer & I may take you up on it one of these days. Thanks!