Illegal Immigration Not Prone to Quick Fixes

A topic which has been quite popular around the blogosphere has been illegal immigration, and the related problem of drug smuggling or criminal infiltration over the border. Much of the Right has been furious at President Bush for proposing a guest-worker program for nonresidents, which they characterize as an amnesty that would reward lawbreakers. At the same time, they have few ideas of their own on how to deal with the problem. With millions of people crossing the border each year, closing the border effectively would take prohibitive resources. Indeed, the border patrols are already releasing most of the people they arrest because the prisons are full.

Just about the only alternative to some sort of amnesty program would be to declare the border to be a free-fire zone and shoot anything that moves; the horrible thing is that many people near the border want to do just that, because of the increasing violence from narco-gangs crossing the border. (Border patrol agents are fired upon several times a week.)

There are a number of additional problems with simply closing the border. First, the laws of supply and demand are against it: an awful lot of people want to come to America, and they will find a way somehow. Second, the present situation has created a vast underground economy of illegal immigrants who work for low wages because they fear arrest and deportation. Not only does it promote a disrespect for the law and a separation from greater American society, but it deprives the government of a lot of taxes. By most estimates, if all illegal immigrants paid taxes, the Federal budget would have run surpluses for the last decade. Meanwhile, the illegals are taking advantage of public education and medical care. Unless you want to somehow deport ten million people, this will continue unless you bring them into the system with some sort of guest-worker program.

There are also several benefits to an amnesty. If we can channel all of the prospective workers through a legal registry, which records their names, locations, financial arrangements, et cetera, we can much more easily find out if they engage in criminal activity. At the same time, the only people left to illegally cross the border would be those we do not want inside: criminals, drug smugglers, terrorists. That being the case, it would be much easier to argue that U.S. citizens should have the right to shoot border crossers, given that the citizens are effectively resisting a foreign invasion. Homeland Security benefits, Federal revenues increase, a lot of people are brought into society, and wages go up. What's not to like?

My one caveat is that some level of English instruction should be mandatory for everyone in a guest-worker program. The growth of enclaves where U.S. citizens cannot function because they do not know Spanish, or Arabic, or whatever, is damaging to society. Furthermore, it is damaging to the people who cannot speak English, because they are permanently kept in the underclass of society.

Many of the people against free movement across borders claim to want to protect the unique American culture. They need to study some history; the same sorts of complaints were raised against every wave of immigration, from the Irish, to the Jews, to the Italians, to the Germans and Norweigans, to the Japanese... So long as the new residents learn English, they will be incorporated into the American tapestry as were all those before them.

No comments: