Wednesday, May 17, 2006

# Posted 7:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IMMIGRATION, POLITICS AND SUBSTANCE: I can't keep up with the avalanche of new material, but here are some interesting, albeit random links:

In an NRO symposium entitled "Meet El Presidente", a broad array of conservatives step up to bash the President, although Bush allies such as Sen. John Cornyn tread very carefully.

Kevin Drum observes that Bush's immigration speech has "provoked full scale nuclear war among conservatives." Reinforcing that notion is John Podhoretz's post at The Corner, which denounces an outbreak of extraordinary intolerance on the Right for anyone who supports Bush's reform plan.

But are things that bad if the Senate was able to pass an immigration reform plan this afternoon by a vote of 83-16? That is progress, but the real question is what will happen in the House.

Michael Stickings is, uncharacteristically, rooting for Bush. But agrees with Kevin Drum, who writes that "Bush's xenophobe base" will prevent any reform plan from getting by the House, thus disappointing the moderate majority that supports the President on this issue.

When it comes to the economics of immigration, take a look at dueling op-eds by Tyler Cowen and Robert Samuelson. I found the first of the two to be much more persuasive. Although Matt Yglesias' criticism of Samuelson's facts and figures is spot, Matt's insinuation that Samuelson is a racist is pretty much uncalled for.

Personally, my mind seems to be staying made up on this issue. Creating a path toward citizenship for illegal immigrants makes economic sense and, more importantly, moral sense. The various reform plans on the table have assorted flaws (such as stratifying immigrants by how long they've been here), but nonetheless represent an important step in the right direction.
(8) opinions -- Add your opinion

Millions have entered this country illegally to pursue better lives for themselves and their families. Millions more also want the best for their families, but have endured a lower standard of living in their home countries in deference to our laws. What moral sense promotes the first group above the second?
As far as the 'xenophobia' slur: If we provided the means for everyone who wanted to move to America to do so, we could improve the lives of billions of people. But that would drastically lower the standard of living for the vast majority of current American citizens. No one is willing to that. It's like Churchill's quip on prostitution - we're all restrictionists, we're just haggling over how much.
Providing a path to citizenship is obviously immoral and manifestly unjust. What follows is a repost of my comments on this same issue at Democracy Arsenal.

We often think of illegal immigration from a standpoint of fairness, fairness in comparison to legal immigrants; and we often think of illegal immigration from a standpoint of job competition, job competition with citizens. Both miss the crucial issue.

Suppose a citizen commits social security fraud, fails to pay income taxes, and conspires with others to do it. That American citizen is subject to over a decade in federal prison, over a million dollars in fines, confiscation of all assets, permanent loss of the right to vote, and permanent loss of the right to possess a firearm. If it were a legal green card holder all of the above would obtain, and the offender would permanently lose any hope of attaining citizenship. While these examples are hypothetical, the US government is throwing citizens and legal immigrants in jail --- right now --- for conspiracy, social security fraud, and income tax evasion.

Now suppose an illegal immigrant from Mexico commits social security fraud, fails to pay income taxes, and conspires with others to do it. On the liberal view, we ought to provide them with a path to citizenship, including the right to vote, and legalize their assets acquired in a criminal enterprise.

The difference is striking. We will reward illegal immigrants for law breaking, even while we imprison citizens and legal immigrants for exactly the same crimes. The liberal view of illegal immigration is a radical, and perhaps racially motivated, attack on the principle of equal treatment under the law.

My anecdotal experience convinces me of this point: although most people cannot articulate it, they instinctively oppose such unequal application of the law. This is especially true when the laws are disadvantaging citizens in so dramatic a fashion.

Politicians ignore this obvious injustice at their peril. The electorate simply will not stand for it.
Question, when Bush/others talk about a "guest worker program" in the forward looking sense, are they talking about a) immigrants get a card becoming guest workers and entering a pipline to becoming citizens after they meet some requirements (earned citizenship) or b) they are always guest workers, never citiznes and have to go back to their country of origin when their guest worker period expires (Like Germany ect)?

I'm talking about in 5 years, a new person, not people that are here now (my understtanding is that for the majority of them Bush is proposing "earned citizenship"). Because I have a big problem with B, not so much with A.
What if illegals don't want to become citizens, don't take any steps toward citizenship? Do they get to stay here forever with no hassles? How can Mexicans get that privilege when Mexico does not extend that privilege to US citizens? And a look at Mexican policy towards illegals from Guatemala, for instance, should change some opinions. Or is there a different, lower, standard of morality for the little brown people?
My daughter lived for a year or so in California. To get her drivers license changed, we needed to send either her passport or her birth certificate. For a person with brown eyes, black hair, and only semiliterate in English, it's much easier. Go figure.

Anyway, the current debate is meaningless. If current laws had been enforced, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I see no reason to think the executive branch, and any congressional oversight of executive branch actions will look at new laws any differently than they did the old ones.
This is eyewash and nothing will change, not even enforcement. Especially not enforcement.
Was there really a DEBATE over whether being a felon should end your immigration status? Those guys are living on a whole 'nother planet.

I've never been comfortable with impeachment of presidents, but starting with this one, for deliberate failure to see the laws are faithfully carried out, might be a good way to encourager les autres.
As is often the case for issues that interest him, some of the best online thinking on this issue is coming from Mickey Kaus.

As he makes clear, the moral issue does not cut nearly so cleanly. To come out and say, as you do, that granting citizenship makes moral sense, you have to ignore those wanna be immigrants who remain in their own countries as they respect our laws and attempt to emigrate legally.

As bgates said, it is decidedly IMMORAL to put illegal immigrants on any path to citizenship that makes entering this country illegally preferable to entering it legally.

Nor does it make particular economic sense--in granting the privilege to these people, you encourage more illegal immigration in the future. It only makes economic sense if you first effetcively seal the border (not make plans to seal, not pass laws intended to seal, to actually, demonstrably seal).
I think we can agree that this is a step in the Right direction.
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