Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Illegal Immigration
Since When Am I a Conservative?

Maybe it's just me, but I find myself less and less sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants in this country. It seems like every other day I have to see or hear some activist or other screeching incoherently about how, in effect, anyone who thinks that it's o.k. to have immigration laws is a reactionary (and probably a racist). I'm well aware of the dangers of letting the demeanor of activists effect one's political positions, but it's getting harder and harder for me to tamp down my reactions.

I'm not a against legal immigrants, and I'm not even in favor of any particularly draconian measures against illegals. But, try as I might, I can't see anything wrong with securing the border, I can't see anything wrong with the fence, and I can't see anything wrong with arresting people who are here illegally and explaning to them that they've gotta go home and come back legally. I know the situation is complex, and I'm perfectly willing to have flexible laws that reflect that fact. But unless one thinks that the nation-state is an immoral entity, I don't see how one can think that it's impermissible to secure borders against illegal immigration.

Now, I'm perfectly willing to listen to arguments on these points, and willing to be rationally persuaded. But the folks I've been seeing, hearing, and reading are not doing their cause any good. I heard a story on NPR the other day--delivered in that typically breathy NPR way--that only made sense if it presupposed that it was rarely or never permissible to enforce immigration laws at all. Then I went home and turned on the News Hour only to find two people having roughly the following discussion:

Him: Blah blah, blah, the President's amnesty plan.

Her: (voice dripping with derision and anger) It isn't amnesty!

Him: Uh, yeah it is.

Her: No it isn't! These are hard-working people! They love their families!

Him: Yeah, see, I'm not denying that. I'm just saying that Bush's plan amounts to amnesty.

Her: It is not!!! These are hard-working people! They love their families.


Now, I'm not sure whether it's amnesty or not...but I am sure that whether or not these are hard-working people who love their families is irrelevant to determining the answer to that question.

More and more it sounds to me like people are demanding that we let them have their way on this issue. This might be understandable if our policies were clearly immoral...but they aren't. So it isn't. And I don't like being told what to do in such cases.

Um, anybody else out there having this reaction, or is it just me (and JQ)? If it's just us, what are we missing here?


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

But unless one thinks that the nation-state is an immoral entity...


6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I probably haven't been paying as much attention to this as I should - it's possible the left is getting away with rhetorical murder, sloppy thinking, and bad policy while I'm not looking. So I'm not sticking up for them per se.

That said, I think the following seems reasonable:

1) That building fences, etc., isn't bad in and of itself, but I don't know how effective it'll be - I get the impression that parts of the fence in isolated areas will be cut through pretty easily, and that it'd be a huge expense to constantly patrol the border to make it totally and completely secture.

2) I think a MUCH better solution would simply be to ratchet up greencard checks on the businesses that (might) employ illegals. People come to the US to make money - if it's difficult or impossible for them to do so if they come here illegally, then they won't do so nearly as often. And the resulting pressure that businesses would place on government to increase legal immigration would give us a better idea of where the legal immigration quotas should be.

3) However, the fact that anti-immigration folks don't seem in favor of tighter regulation, plus some of the rhetoric I've seen on their side, makes me think that, at least at some level, they're seeking to demonize illegals for political gain. And that's something I don't want to go along with.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, this is the only thing I've ever thought was coherent that came out of Bush's mouth.

If the illegal immigrants are currently productive citizens, why should we deport them? Aren't we hurting ourselves in doing so? Deport the ones that have been legal issues or totally unproductive, but the ones who have been contributing members of society, just let them be. Why not?

Certainly, some say that they haven't paid taxes and perhaps we could offer them, in exchange for "amnesty" or whatever the hell you want to call it, a plan by which they pay back what they owe in taxes.

I mean, seriously, it doesn't sound too bad to just deport the worthless and keep the worthy.

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you assume that people tend to vote their pocketbooks then arguments on illegal immigration start to make sense--on both sides of the fence (no pun intended). Politically accountable rightists argue for measures like a fence and border control because (1) it makes them look tough in the "post 9-11 world" and (2) they are minimally effective red herrings that draw attention away from their unwillingness to support sterner greencard enforcement procedures in agribusiness and other large industries.

Politically accountable leftists argue for...well, what is it really that they argue for? Again it is much harder to treat liberals as a monolith vis-a-vis conservatives. However, I believe many of the NPR types out there don't want to see Isabella, the loving nanny and maid of their homes, be deported. Life without her would be too damned inconvenient.

Of course the illegals themselves don't want to be sent back to the country of their origin because, frankly, life is better in the States. Even if they are making a couple dollars an hour they enjoy more prosperity here than was realistically possible back home. Can you blame them? (For this reason I think more pressure should be put on Mexico to rid its politcal machinery of corruption and raise the standard of living there.)

What really irks me about this is when I see a protest rally where the very same people arguing against immigration reform and deportation are waving the flags of their homeland. It is hard for an American born person to interpret such a conflicting message with any sympathy. If they were waving the Stars and Stripes and declaring how much they love this country (rather than how much they disdain a political measure against which they legally have no say about one way or the other), then they would probably deserve more support.


11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the past behavior of this administration, if they say X then it is safe to assume that ~X (where ~ means not) is most likly true.

Thus Bush says "There will be an amnesty in the plan" translate to "There will not be an amnesty in the plan". At which point the arguement about hard working people who love their families is important. (see even the left can learn right wing pander to the social conservatives tricks)

9:28 AM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...

Interesting post, WS...I agree with most of it except that it seems wrong to force the illegal immigrants who are here. It's not like we can politely ask them to leave and they will do so willingly.

I'm all for securing the border and don't really have a problem with the fence. But since we have failed to enforce our immigration laws for several decades, it seems a little late to demand now that those people who have lived here for decades must pack their bags...That does seem like it would be disproportionately harmful to the people here as well as costly to taxpayers. It also seems like a law that we have no intention of enforcing (for whatever reason) is a bad law most of the time. An analogy would be the 55 mph speed limit...

A final thing I'd add is that if the screeching of pro-immigrant rights people is bad, try listening to some of the anti-immigrant talk radio folks sometime, like Michael Graham. They're on the other extreme, and perhaps even more painful to listen to...

4:05 PM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...

correction: that should read "force the illegal immigrants who are here to leave."

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think immigration is a left/right issue. I always thought it was a populist vs (??? elistist-that's not right.) issue.

And surely, there have been populists on the left, over the years. "Workers of the world unite" is all very well in its place, but a completely fluid labor market is not generally favored by the left as a whole.

- mac

1:23 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Good points, guys.

That seems right to me--if we egaged in statutory neglect all those years and let people come and settle here basically on purpose, it seems like a bit much to frog-march them all out now. (Except for those few who are criminals, in which case: screw 'em.)

I'm not really so much against letting those who are here stay here. What really irritates the sh*t out of me is the demands that we *continue* to maintain a porous border and all if having immigration laws *at all* were impermissible. But I'll bet we agree on that.

You know, JQ and I were talking the other day--we're both even more inclined to take the side of the underdog than most people are--and if these folks have pissed even *us* off, then they're in big trouble, strategically/politically speaking.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Immigration law should be about deciding what's in our national interest and making that happen. Neither extreme (let 'em all in forever v. send 'em all home and fortify the borders) recognizes the problem as a practical one, not a moral one.

One very small way I agree with Duhbya is that we should have a guest worker program. In truth, we already have at least two:

- The H1B visa program lets hundreds of thousands of technical workers come to work here and puts an end to those nettlesome raises for American engineers.

- Millions of unskilled workers come here for six months on tourist visas and work under the table. Nearly everyone winks at this - until someone like Zoe Baird or Kimba Wood needs to be vetted by Congress.

Are these things good in the net for America? If we could talk about it in less hysterical terms, i.e. minus the Tancredos and the radical pro-immigrant groups, we might be able to make good policy.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Not sounding very liberal there LL...

I can't agree that it's not a moral issue.

We have an obligation to let in at least some people who are being oppressed in their own countries. Seems to me they have first priority.

Then there are folks who just want to come here...there we can probably just look to our national self-interest.

4:46 PM  

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