Monday, April 26, 2010

Immigration Reform, Part The Last

OK, I want to draw this series of posts to a close and move on to other things.  My basic premise, said in too many words and with far too much bloviation, is that the majority of opponents to sensible, realistic immigration reform maintain their opposition for essentially the same reasons that Southerners opposed desegregation 50 years ago.  They wish to maintain a static, caste-based society with a permanent semi-slave underclass.

Surprisingly, I'm not alone in this.  I found this column over at HuffPo today, where Robert Creamer is comparing Arizona in 2010 to Alabama in 1963.  He recognizes that this is going to go down like the civil rights struggles of the past.  I fear this is going to get very ugly before it's over, but will simultaneously serve to put the troglodytes back into their caves for another couple generations.

Anyway, I've been dancing around this topic for the better part of a week, and I guess I should close with what I think is a reasonable approach to immigration reform, from my perspective as a pragmatic bleeding-heart liberal.  I'm not much of a policy wonk on this at the moment, so it's a good thing no one reads this - I'm going to let myself look quite silly and naive.

First of all, we have to acknowledge the illegal immigrants that are here, and recognize that they're not going anywhere.  The only thing we can really do with them is get them out of the darkness and provide them with amnesty and a reasonable path to citizenship.  The people who migrated here legally pitch a fit over this, and legitimately so, but there is no completely fair solution to anything here, and the greater good seems to be in moving the currently illegal to legal status.

Second, we need to change our border policies.  There are millions of people seeking to get into this country, and few that are allowed in legally.  Thus, we have so many crossing in illegally.  Since it is obvious we cannot stop them, let's go the other way and remove nearly all limits to immigration, and make entering the country legally a simple task.  No one is going to take a risk on a sprint through the Arizona desert at night if they can help it.

However, we do have a right to know who is entering our country, and keep certain people (known criminals, or with highly communicable diseases, for example) out.  Thus I would propose a registration system at border crossings, where people can apply to enter, and within a week can be approved to cross.  Those who are coming to find a job will have a chance to do so without fear or significant cost.  Work visas could be initially granted on a 6-month basis, with a continual rollover allowed for reasonable lax reasons.  Non-citizens would have access to limited social services, but not be eligible for unemployment benefits, social security, medicare, or welfare.  If they're here to find a job and can't find one, they should head on back home, unless they have friends and relatives who will support them. 

Application for citizenship ought to be contingent on a credible work record, though.  I do have a problem with someone coming here, laying around sponging off relatives for five years, then becoming a citizen and living off welfare.  I don't think that's actually a very common problem, but I wouldn't have an issue with a work history requirement for someone who arrived via the lax immigration quotas.  Someone who is deported for criminal offenses would go on the list of "persona non grata", and not be allowed back in.

Coupled with this would be stringent enforcement of laws against employers hiring undocumented workers.  Once the amnesty is available and the borders are opened up, there is no reason whatever to employ someone who has entered the country illegally, except to exploit them.  No hiring of illegal immigrants, plus relatively easy legal border crossing, would dry up the market for these near-slave laborers in a hurry.

I'm sure there are plenty of problems with this basic scenario, as I am not conversant enough in the details of immigration policy to know what I'm overlooking.  It is something of a "free market" approach to immigration - if people think living here without social benefits is better than living in their home country, then come on down.  We just want to know who you are and where you're hanging out.  Get a job, pay your taxes, behave yourself, and you're welcome to join the party as a citizen.

And with that, I will leave this subject for a while.  It's been good to get all this out of my head, as it's made room for other stuff.  I'm glad I have no readers, as this whole series will be long buried in archives before anyone discovers this place.

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