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  • Immigration – “The System Is the Problem”

    Posted by Jonathan on December 15th, 2006 (All posts by )

    Great op-ed by Tamar Jacoby on our unworkable, unsustainable immigration system. The current system penalizes well-meaning employers while doing little to facilitate legal immigration. “Tougher enforcement” without major reform of our 19th-Century immigration bureaucracy would serve mainly to encourage even greater disrespect for the law and drive labor-intensive industries that rely on immigrants overseas. Anti-illegal enforcement alone is also a political nonstarter. Too many Americans, including me, do not want to see productive people who came here years ago, and in many cases have families, deported, but would prefer policy alternatives that provided some route to citizenship for such people. But blanket amnesties and business-as-usual are not solutions either. Major political compromise by the various interests will be necessary to get anything significant done on this issue, and I actually think that President Bush has been pretty good in this regard. At least he has a politically competitive plan, however flawed, for addressing the concerns of the interested groups. The people who think that vigorous enforcement of anti-illegal immigration rules is enough, and those whose ideological or business interests favor mass immigration and tacit tolerance of a large population of illegals, are not likely to get very far with their respective agendas because too many Americans disagree with each group.

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    7 Responses to “Immigration – “The System Is the Problem””

    1. engdre Says:

      The problem of illegal immigration contaminates the whole debate on immigration. Until illegal immigration is brought under some control, the rest of the immigration debate cannot be discussed without blurring the lines of “Rule of Law”.
      PS I welcome legal immigrants and welcome a discussion on the number of legal immigrants to be let in.

    2. Mitch Says:

      Just to throw something out there – should we be treating neighboring countries the same as distant ones? I’m just thinking that with money on one side of the border and labor on the other, the pressure on our southern border is probably irresistible. How about if we pressure Mexico to remove the parts of its constitution that limit foreign investment and the civil rights of immigrants to their country? In return, we can employ the excess labor created by their corrupt and paternalist system while working to bring rule of law and equality to them, along with investable funds?

      If we get something we didn’t have for something we can’t keep, I score that as a win. Besides, look what happens when foreigners come here, like it, learn our ways, and return home. Indians form companies, instead of angling for government jobs. I have even heard rumors of repatriated Filippinos forming orderly lines for the bus in Manila.

      Maybe it’s my vestigial leftism, but I’m afraid that if we don’t integrate the illegal immigrants, we risk creating a caste of permanent proletarians, workers unable to rise into the middle class. If we can somehow integrate them, their grandchildren will be indistinguishable from ours. Maybe they will even be ours, too.

    3. Ben P Says:

      I don’t see whats so great about the article? Yes the system is all messed up, but I thought the article reads like pro business BS.
      “Despite the meatpacking industry’s well-known need for foreign labor”, because we know that mechanization and paying higher wages can’t work. Also I just don’t believe his numbers. America creates 500,000 more unskilled jobs than America want to do? What does that mean? Don’t we have ~1 million new illegal immigrants each year? And I just don’t believe they can’t find someone to work an unskilled job for 22.50.

      The problem with unskilled labor is that America is generous, we don’t really let people raise a family on minimum wage, those unskilled workers are a net drain, and business gets profits.

      I’m not sure where you draw the line between “not removing productive workers” and “blanket amnesty”, because most of the illegal immigrants here have jobs. So letting the employed stay means pretty much letting everyone stay. I would draw the line at high hourly wage (or other measure of productivity) and this would basically send all of the unskilled illegals home, because their wages are very low because they are easily replaced by other unskilled workers. And I would send them home by taking away their ability to work, by going after their employers, not through direct deportation.

    4. Don Says:

      Government – from the people who bring you the public education system. Here’s an idea – outsource.

      Since we’re going to get an increase in the minimum wage law lets insert provisions for a new tier for ‘improperly documented’ foreign workers, three times the rate of the other classifications. Of course, the employers are not going to admit to having such on the payrolls. However, the enforcement mechanism should be the ability of the individuals to sue for back wages and for all legal costs incurred by their torte lawyers and the state in processing the case along with triple damages. Let the public sector handle the enforcement. Sort of like issuing marks of reprisal for privateers. Employers can protect themselves with something along the lines of title searches and insurance. They can pay bonded organizations or companies to validate the legitimate status of a potential employee.

    5. ElGaboGringo Says:

      Jonathan, I think you have a good point and that, ultimately, something like Bush’s proposal will make the best law, but there are aspects of enforcement that are necessary for any reform to succeed.

      Although you don’t mention it explicitly, but in case this gets included under the umbrella of “enforcement”, I wanted to say that I feel border enforcement is an absolutely necessary step. If we can’t control our borders, then no proposal for guest-workers, amnesty, etc, is going to stop the flow of illegals

    6. Peter Jackson Says:

      Although you don’t mention it explicitly, but in case this gets included under the umbrella of “enforcement”, I wanted to say that I feel border enforcement is an absolutely necessary step. If we can’t control our borders, then no proposal for guest-workers, amnesty, etc, is going to stop the flow of illegals

      I hear this sentiment so often and it’s silly. It’s like saying we’ll end drug prohibition once people quit buying and selling drugs. Or I’ll quit sticking the fork in the toaster as soon as I stick it in and don’t get the piss shocked out of me.

      It’s not only silly, it’s false. Which is easier to control, a border where there’s a jillion people trying to sneak over it every day because there’s no practical legal way across, or a border where most who want to cross are able to legally do so merely by paying admission?

      Jonathan is absolutely, utterly correct: it’s the system. Our border is uncontrollable because the system is broken, not the other way around.

      yours/
      peter.

    7. ElGaboGringo Says:

      “Which is easier to control, a border where there’s a jillion people trying to sneak over it every day because there’s no practical legal way across, or a border where most who want to cross are able to legally do so merely by paying admission?”

      The end goal isn’t to control the border, it’s to shape immigration policy that is in the best interest of the US, then enforce the policy. I think we forget this too often. Certainly we could end illegal border crosssings tomorrow by completely opening the border in the same way one can end a war by surrendering, but the goal isn’t ending the war, it’s winning the war.

      If we decide as a people that we don’t want further mass migration from Mexico, how do we enforce it without controlling the border?

      Also, can you find a more cordial way to correspond? I have a wealth of knowledge on this subject and have explored this issue in both languages from both sides of the border. I assure you that I know very well of what I speak. Even if this weren’t the case, even if I were completely ignorant, is it really necessary to say that what I wrote is completely silly and false?