Monday, March 27, 2006

Other Voices in the Reform Debate

From a Yakima (Wash.) Herald editorial:

We don't expect a sweeping, all-in-one piece of legislation out of this Congress. What we would like to see is approval of some meaningful steps that can be continued in the future toward comprehensive reform.

Any time an "all or nothing" approach is tried in a legislative body, the end result is usually nothing. We found that out in this state with farm worker housing. Competing factions finally agreed it was better to have approved temporary shelter, with proper amenities, during cherry harvest than no shelter at all.

So, let the immigration reform debate begin once again Monday. It's OK to keep it civil, but we'll continue to hold out for productive.

Arnold Kling at Tech Central Station:

Many people are eager to fight the Battle of the Borders. The idea is to prevent illegal immigration. In addition, what I might call the "new xenophobia" is eager to fight the Battle over Outsourcing and the Battle over Foreign Ownership. In my view, all of these battles represent misplaced priorities.

I believe that illegal immigrants bring relatively little economic benefit and cause relatively little economic harm. I believe that there are substitutes readily available for the work done by illegal immigrants. Legal residents could do some of the work. Other labor could be replaced by capital or by alternative production techniques. By the same token, because there are many substitutes available for unskilled labor, the salvation of American workers does not lie in immigration restrictions.

Cardinal Archbishop Roger Mahony of Los Angeles:

What the [Catholic] church supports is an overhaul of the immigration system so that legal status and legal channels for migration replace illegal status and illegal immigration. Creating legal structures for migration protects not only those who migrate but also our nation, by giving the government the ability to better identify who is in the country as well as to control who enters it.

. . . The unspoken truth of the immigration debate is that at the same time our nation benefits economically from the presence of undocumented workers, we turn a blind eye when they are exploited by employers. They work in industries that are vital to our economy yet they have little legal protection and no opportunity to contribute fully to our nation.

While we gladly accept their taxes and sweat, we do not acknowledge or uphold their basic labor rights. At the same time, we scapegoat them for our social ills and label them as security threats and criminals to justify the passage of anti-immigrant bills.

This situation affects the dignity of millions of our fellow human beings and makes immigration, ultimately, a moral and ethical issue. That is why the church is compelled to take a stand against harmful legislation and to work toward positive change.

Jim Kouri in a Men’s News Daily commentary:

The problem isn’t about the need for new laws; the problem is about the lack of enforcement of existing laws. The US Constitution provides the executive branch with a number of inherent powers such as the enforcement of immigration laws.

The Constitution also mandates that the President protect American sovereignty and the American people. That is the number one priority for our government — of it should be. And congress is mandated to provide domestic tranquility for Americans. Criminal alien gangbangers do not add to our domestic tranquility.

Frm an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail:

President George W. Bush -- who is headed south of the border later this week for a Yucatan summit with his friend Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canada's new Prime Minister, Stephen Harper -- is trying to find a middle ground between competing viewpoints, well aware that Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority in the United States.

Many voting Hispanic citizens have relatives or friends that are illegal. On farms and construction sites, in backyards and basements, illegal aliens are ubiquitous. Most live on the edge of poverty. Few have health care. Many have been in the United States for decades.

The President has been promising a solution to the problem of illegal aliens since 2000, but when the North American leaders meet in Cancun on Thursday, he may have little to report but another nasty deadlock back in Washington.

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly:
I've always been uncomfortable with guest worker programs. Germany's famous Gastarbeiter program of the 60s and 70s, for example, has produced a large population of Turks who do plenty of scut work but have little incentive to assimilate since they have no chance of becoming citizens. The result, as the Germans themselves have discovered, is alienation, distrust, and bitterness on all sides.

If we truly decide that we want to keep immigration limited, then we should face down the low-wage business bloc of the Republican Party and get serious about keeping illegal immigrants out of the country in the first place. But if we want to allow more legal immigrants into the country — as a guest worker program tacitly acknowledges — then we should encourage them to be good citizens by offering them the chance to earn actual citizenship. Because they don't do that, guest worker programs end up perpetuating both a culture of low-wage labor that's ripe for exploitation and insular communities that have no incentive to think of themselves as Americans — because they aren't. It's the worst of both worlds.

From a BBC News report from Southern California:

Talking to local shoppers in the heavily-Republican city of Escondido, there are a few who speak with passion about the real and worthwhile contribution that Mexican "illegals" - or undocumented workers - make to their lives and local economy.

Most though were convinced that even if local businesses are blatantly hiring them, Mexicans without papers are a parasitic drain on local services, and worst of all, a major security risk at a time of war.

"They say that Iraqis are coming across our border. If they're coming across, anyone can come across," says Nancy Price.

She favours closing the border altogether, although she says she has "nothing against" a speeded-up process for legal workers.

From an LAVoice editorial:

The protest completely bulldozed the contours of the immigration battleground for the U.S., creating deeper trenches, tougher hills to be taken and - most likely - a greater risk of ugly "patriotic" bloodshed.

When 500,000 people - many of them illegal immigrants, if reports of the event are accurate - can take over the streets of a major American metropolis to protest changes in the law, then two things have become obvious:

1.) Vast numbers of immigrants in L.A. feel entitled to work in this country and demand the rights of citizens - whether they're here legally or not.

2.) They may be a major contributing engine to our economy, culture and society, and simultaneously a major drain on our public services. But now it's clear they're also too large a force to be merely kept out with a simple array of fences, guards and felony threats - or to be flatly ignored.

. . . In short, they're here, they like being here, and they're not going away until they can be assured we'll let them come back. All of these conditions were in place before Sunday's march. But the march sharpened the argument considerably and whetted appetites on both sides of it for a solid solution.
Glenn Reynolds, blogging at MSNBC:

It's not really about security: Even if we tighten up the border with Mexico immensely, it won't stop terrorists from sneaking through if they want to. And even if we could accomplish that impossible end, they could still come in other ways. As long as we have easy visas for Saudi citizens, worrying about the Mexican border seems silly.

It's only sort of about economics: At the moment, at least, unemployment is very, very slow so people aren't thinking that way as much as they might if there were a recession. Instead, the resentment is based on the idea that people who come here illegally feel entitled to demand that they be treated like Americans. It's the devaluing of citizenship, as much as the loss of jobs, that seems to upset most people at the moment.

A lot of it is anger at Washington: "We pay taxes, they say there's a war on terror, and they can't even secure the border." People don't necessarily expect perfection, but the powers that be don't even seem to be trying. That anger, I suspect, has a lot to do with the sudden interest in politicians in doing something -- or at least looking as if they're doing something -- about the issue.

The debate stinks: Most opponents of illegal immigration aren't racists. Most supporters aren't enemies of American civilization. The immigration problem is hard because it pits two things that we care about -- freedom of opportunity and control of our borders -- against one another.

It could be poison for both parties: The people organizing these rallies don't seem to care if they're bad for the Democrats. Maybe they won't be. There's a similar, if more diffuse, phenomenon in the GOP. But it's entirely possible that both parties will suffer in different ways if the debate gets overheated. Political debate in America is poisonous enough; this won't help.

The New York Times in an editorial:

Anti-immigrant forces . . .stand ready to try to torpedo anything other than a strictly get-tough approach.

That would be an awful outcome for immigrant advocates and for President Bush, who has long argued for comprehensive reform and tried, with limited success, to steer his party away from the one-note harshness of the wall-building crowd. Last week he urged Congress to have a civil, respectful discussion about the issue. But with looming elections and Republican presidential jockeying casting a distorting fuzz over the debate, it may be too late for Mr. Bush's hands-off approach. If the president really wants a sensible reform bill to reach his desk, he will have to do more than stand on the sidelines, urging everyone to have good manners.

The marchers recognize — as much of the nation seems not to — the urgency of comprehensive immigration reform to the nation's future. Their indignation is mixed with pride in their work and hunger for fair treatment. Their protests have been a model of peaceful dissent and a blow against the mental straitjacket that defines immigration reform as entirely a problem of policing. Mr. Bush should make his case with equal force.

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