Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Illegal Aliens Issue

Immigration reform — which some call an issue of illegal immigration — is a hot issue, and I've intended to write about it for some time — preferably at a time when we might be able to discuss it with at least a little rationality. Maybe now is the time to begin.

Let's start with a couple of very basic, very general, key principles:

1. We need to make it a lot harder to come here illegally.
2. We need to make it a lot easier to come here legally.
Number 1 seems to be self-evident. The large number of people who have crossed our borders without documents and the commerce of the drug cartels and coyotes should make it quite plain, even if the Border Patrol hadn't been finding jackets with jihadi patches abandoned near the border.

Number 2 may seem less evident to some. But it is clear that the current immigration quotas are absurdly low. If that were not so, there would be nothing to draw all the undocumented workers. (It can be argued that this is a chicken-and-egg question. Either the workers are drawn here because the quotas are set absurdly low so that job needs cannot be filled, or the quotas have been deliberately set absurdly low in an attempt to compensate for the additional workers here. The result is the same either way.) It is also absolutely unconscionable — if not criminal — that it takes U.S. citizens five to ten years (or more) to bring their legitimately married foreign-born husbands and wives into the U.S. legally.

We really should have done something about the immigration issue long ago. We've known for years that we have (and have had) a growing problem, and have chosen to do nothing about it. That's part of why the problem is so big now. I think most will agree it has now reached the point that we can no longer afford to do nothing.

Just as important is that, however much the more extreme positions on either side may have going for them, they are and will remain non-starters. We simply cannot do "just this" or "only that", and I doubt we ever really could. The immigration issue is multifaceted, and any attempt to solve it must be as well. And that's only part of why some form of comprehensive reform is necessary — but perhaps it is a hint of why the reform's individual elements are of critical importance.

To identify what the proper elements are, we first need to consider what the “immigration issue” is, and what it is not.

What this issue is not is

• an immigration issue
Most of the “illegal immigrants” — more accurately, illegal aliens — do not intend to immigrate. They don't (at least initially) intend to come here to stay. They just want to have jobs here so they can send money back to their homes and families outside the U.S. What pushes some (many?) to stay and become immigrants is the uncertainty of moving back and forth across the border, which brings them to stay put, and put down roots. For many (most?) of these “immigrants”, ties to their homelands would remain dominant if they could be sure they could visit home and return to their jobs in the U.S.

What this issue is is

• a labor issue
• a law enforcement issue
• a security issue
It's a labor issue because many illegal aliens are coming here and getting jobs. That means at least two things:
1. There are jobs available. These aliens wouldn't come here if they couldn't get jobs.
2. There are jobs available. They wouldn't be available for aliens to take if they weren't unfilled by citizens and legal aliens.
That combination means there is an issue here that must be dealt with.

It's a law enforcement issue because there are so many in our prisons who are illegal aliens. And because so many of those are repeat offenders. The latter point, in particular, means that we don't deport illegal aliens who have committed serious crimes in this country and/or we don't keep these individuals from coming back into this country.

It's a security issue because Arab would-be terrorists have been able to enter this country illegally (as well as by misusing the legal entry system) to the point that there are now human smuggling operations (like the one in Chaparral, New Mexico) that focus on bringing Middle Eastern individuals across our borders because they can make a lot more money that way.

One final thing: This is an issue of fairness. It is unfair to those who try to come to the U.S. legally to so completely ignore those who come here illegally. It is unfair to the illegal aliens to make it easy for the unscrupulous, whether employers or criminals, to exploit them. And it is unfair to citizens and legal aliens to let exploited illegal aliens take jobs citizens and legal aliens would otherwise have. Indeed, it is hard to think of anyone the current situation is not unfair to. Except the criminals.

These are the issues that any "immigration reform" needs to address, and that must determine the provisions in any comprehensive immigration reform bill.

(You want to read more? See Jim Addison's take on the issue at Wizbang.)

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