Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The immigration divide

Currently frontpaged at RedState is California Yankee's disappointment with Bush about the President's immigration ideas.

The Republicans may indeed use immigration as the next scare tactic to keep people afraid enough to vote for them, despite whatever scandals and other illegal and immoral activity comes down the pipe to screw the middle class. But unlike a "get the bad guys" terrorism policy whose failure to address the subtleties and complexities of actually fighting terrorism is not generally well understood by the public, most Americans at home--liberal or conservative--know that immigration is far more complicated because they see it in their everyday lives--those of us on the coasts especially.

The entry on RedState mentioned above exemplifies this clearly. We have the people who say "deport them all, amnesty be damned!" arguing with the people who say, "ok, but what happens to their possessions? forced sale like Japanese internment camps?" The reality of it hits home--even conservatives recognize that tough talk about deportation and "no amnesty" should a guest-worker program be introduced, is fraught with difficult choices and decisions.

And something does need to be done. It is clear that the current situation is a result of a lack of foresight combined with a "let's not do anything about this" policy that has been eagerly supported by businesses, big and small, more than pleased about an endless supply of cheap labor.

A guest worker program would be a step in the right direction, in my opinion. First and foremost, it applies some sort of systematization and status to a group of workers that are necessary but criminalized under the way things currently work. Second, it might have the effect of reducing the Mexican economy's dependence on remittances from the States, which is a large problem that fuels this negative feedback cycle. One of my best friends is of Mexican descent, and has family back in Mexico. He told me that his uncle, who runs an avocado farm down in Mexico, has a hard time finding workers to operate the farm unless he pays high wages in U.S. currency--because otherwise, it's more worth it to the available workforce to sit around and wait for the ones who crossed the border to send their dollars back to Mexico. Picture it--an entire nation living off welfare. That's not good for anybody because at this rate, there is no incentive for the Mexican government to make the economy progress.

But the next thing that needs to happen is a dramatic increase in border funding. We should force Republicans to choose between extending the unnecessary tax cuts to the investor class, or funding the border patrol. Make them choose between billions of subsidies to the energy industry, or billions for the border patrol. The list could go on and on, because the border patrol in its current form is woefully incapable of performing its assigned duties. It does not have enough manpower or enough facilities to do its job.

The third thing that needs to happen is more extensive fines and even prison time for business administrators that knowingly hire undocumented labor.

But what about the ones that are already here? At this point, I really don't think we have a choice. We can't oust them from their homes in the middle of the night and force them to sell their possessions so they can be deported--as if the border patrol and the INS have the funding to engage in such an operation anyway. And what if we did? What about the businesses that all these people are already working at? The social and economic disruption would be huge. For the good of society and business, there needs to be a boundary of demarcation: "from this point on, we do things this way."

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