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Marc Cooper
Marc Cooper has reported on international and domestic American politics for dozens of publications, and is Senior Fellow for Border Justice at USC Annenberg?s Institute for Justice and Journalism. He is the author of several books, including a memoir about his time as translator for Chile's...








 

The Great Immigration Debate: Getting Beyond Denial

(Page 5)

Those allied with Tancredo (and therefore opposed to any sort of liberalized reform) won a major victory in December when the House passed a draconian anti-immigration bill sponsored by Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner. This measure, now being loudly protested by a number of Latin American foreign ministers, would reclassify all illegal aliens no longer as violators of a civil code but as criminal felons. Anyone aiding or abetting or employing them would also be committing a felony. And a new 700-mile-long wall would be built along the border—extending tenfold the current length.

No provision was made for any sort of guest-worker or normalization program, a notion that restrictionists like Tancredo and Sensenbrenner scorn as little more than an “amnesty.” The logic of the Sensenbrenner bill is that the 12 million undocumented currently living here would somehow be rounded up and deported.

No one inside the D.C. beltway honestly believes that the House measure will become law. That’s one of the major reasons, undoubtedly, why many who voted for the measure did so, though they would never admit so publicly.

Which brings us back to the Senate. Two weeks ago, the Judiciary Committee began hearing competing proposals for reform. And while the handful under consideration differ greatly among themselves, they all go beyond the enforcement-only strategy of the Sensenbrenner bill. So whatever comes out of the Senate debate—which could drag on for months—is probably (but not necessarily) going to be more sensible, less detached, more grounded than the House version.

One last-minute complication was tossed into the fray by Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). On the eve of the great debate, he cooked up his own 305-page immigration proposal that, by rule, must be considered first. To no one’s surprise, Specter’s bill angered both sides. It pissed off the restrictionists by calling for a guest worker program and angered supporters of that program because his version wouldn’t allow migrant workers to eventually become permanent citizens. After its first two weeks of crucial markups on the immigration measure, Specter’s committee seems to have made no progress.

A more profound problem is, by the time the Senate acts and its bill is reconciled with that of the House, we’ll be in the heat of the November midterm elections. The elevated partisan atmosphere bodes poorly for any realistic settlement on immigration.

On the Republican side, President Bush has been reluctant to spend any of his much-vaunted political capital on the immigration issue. If anything, he’s been sliding in the wrong direction. Last December, at the last minute, he made a passing endorsement of the Sensenbrenner bill. Now John McCain is publicly pushing Bush to do more in favor of real reform.  As the congressional elections near, however, Bush may not want to rile the right-wing base by sticking his neck out on the issue.

On the other side, Democrats may be unwilling to support Bush if he does decide to come out swinging on border reform. All this leads many observers to glumly conclude that after five years of loud buildup in the immigration debate, the whole thing may fizzle—that the most likely outcome of this season’s posturing is maintenance of the status quo.

In the meantime, all of us outside of elected office have much to ponder when it comes to immigration and the way it is shaping America.

On the right, there must be some recognition that it is indeed the pushes and pulls (and mostly the latter) of a global free market economy that drives Mexican immigration to the United States rather than some dark conspiracy between American liberals and Mexican officials. As one celebrated border-based writer, Chuck Bowden, put it to me: “You’ll stop Mexican immigration into the U.S. only when you lower American wages down to the level of Vietnam.” Fantasies about fortifying the border sufficiently to dam up the human flow are only that—fantasies. Notions of deporting the millions of Mexicans and Central Americans already living and working here make about as much sense as the proposals to sweep up and expel the Italians and Irish who settled on the Eastern seaboard made a century ago.

The left must also abandon some of its illusions. Asserting effective control over national borders is always a legitimate and necessary task and one that should be supported by all. Simply denouncing border militarization and highlighting the sometimes very real abuses of the Border Patrol do not in themselves constitute a viable policy. The left must also recognize that there are legitimate complaints to be made by those living in border areas who see their schools, hospitals and sometimes even their natural environment overrun by desperate migrants who lack all legal acknowledgment. The current official policy of hotly pursuing migrants on the border and then ignoring them once they’ve been given a minimum wage job works for nobody. Immigrant workers should certainly be legalized, but in return there must be strict work site enforcement. Accepting and supporting a verification system at the point of employment must accompany supporting a channel for legal immigration. This would not only uphold the law but would also serve to protect immigrant workers from all the sorts of exploitation they currently experience.

Let’s hope that out of this season of immigration debate we begin to move away from myths and toward reality. 

Journalist Marc Cooper is a Senior Fellow for Border Justice at the USC Annenberg School’s Institute for Justice and Journalism

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Dig last updated on Mar. 14, 2006


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By theAmericanist, March 16, 2006 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Marc is still full of shit.

Congress promises more than it delivers.  This is not solved by making more promises, which is what Marc supports.

Here is an example, caused by the last amnesty:

“S. R.(Immigrant living in MN) 

My husband is in India and my kid who is 2 years old and myself are staying alone in Minnesota. Since I have a green card, I’m not able to bring my husband to USA even on a visit visa. US immigration laws have torn apart my family and have forced me into being a single mom. I often find myself searching for words to explain to my child why his Dad is not with him. I have even thought of taking an extended vacation on loss of pay and going to India to live with my husband. Yet, another Immigration law wouldn’t let do even that. It says if I live outside the US for more than 6 months in any given year, my Greencard will be suspended and I will no longer be able to enter the US. “

Marc has nothing to say about this, nor about worksite verification: because he doesn’t KNOW anything about it.

Want to fix immigration? It ain’t complex: 1) worksite verification, 2) Congress stops trying to manage by backlog, and 3) stop talking about it as if it’s economics, cuz it ain’t. It’s CIVICS.

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By PMain, March 16, 2006 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment
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I live 12 miles from the border in San DIego & the thing mosr overlooked is the burden that on hospitals, educational system, police, etc. California has closed over 82 hospitals in the last 5 to 10 years & our population is expected to grow from 33 million to close to 40 by 2010. Illegal aliens do not pay taxes other than sales taxes. Their lower wages actually cost us more per person that the price increases we’d immediately see on consumer goods. The biggest problem is that proponents have effectively been able to brand all opponents as racist. I’d personally like to see that for ever illegal immigrant we discover, we bill thier country ofr the means of incarceration & transportation. If they refuse to pay, we simply subtract it from any foreign aid given to them. Mexico would actually end up owing us each year. Since all foreign nationals involved would be covered we couls avoid any legitimate claims of racism.

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By Todd, March 16, 2006 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Your analysis is dreadfully incomplete without a consideration of the long term consequences of mass migration from Mexico.  THAT is the primary concern of most opposed to liberalized immigration.  Are we setting ourselves up for a civil war 50 to 100 years from now?  Can Mexican immigrants be successfully integrated into American culture?  Are we essentially allowing a colonization of our country by a neighboring state that may or may not be friendly down the road?

The history of mass human migrations points to a close coupling of migration and warfare.  That is the unfortunate reality we face.  An attempt to ignore, or “manage” public concerns in this area appear more than a little sinister.  Either immigration advocates don’t know/understand possible long term consequences ... are willing to gamble with others lives down the road (possibly for their own sense of self satisfaction) .. or they just don’t care.  Any liberal immegration policy must realistically address this issue and explain why the risk is outweighed by some tangible benefit other than moral posturing.  Without that they simply should not be trusted.

Border control certainly can work.  It would be expensive no doubt, but probably in line with other costs currently incurred due to massive uncontrolled immigration (10’s of billions in construction/monitoring vs. 10’s of billions in social security/welfare fraud and strains on public services).  But despite your somewhat religeous declarations, it’s certainly an option that should be considered.  It may or may not be the best option available, but you are being deliberatly dishonest to preclude that option and attempting to circumsribe the solution space to those of your liking. 

Answer the tough questions and maybe you can be taken seriously.

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By Dennis L Rhine, March 16, 2006 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The issues of Border Security and an inadequate Domestic Labor Force need to be addressed separately.  It would be better to take care of the National Security First, then worry about there being too many jobs to go around.

I doubt that there will be any crops go to waste for lack of labor to harvest them, and I’m sure that roofs will continue to be repaired and lawns will continue to be mowed even without the aid of Illegals.
Maybe….just maybe..our schools may improve and our Health and Services bills will lighten up.
Naw!

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By Duane Campbell, March 16, 2006 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Marc,
This is an excellent article, one of very few which actually deals with several of the issues rather than reducing them to slogans.

The rising clamor for new immigration restrictions is a product in part of the skillful use of the media by right wing groups such as the minutemen.  Anti immigrant sentiment and backlash is being created and nurtured by extreme right wing and racist organizations, often armed,  which gain from this polarization. A CBS poll indicates that
that 75% of Americans—and 87% of Republicans—think more should be done to keep illegal aliens out.  They have a popular issue and they are using it.
(Intelligence Report, Fall 2005)
      At the same time,  a major increase in migration has occurred as a direct consequence of the spread of corporate capitalism ( neo Liberalism) and the exploitation of new markets and new trade rules by business interests.
The world is experiencing a major restructuring of the global economy, directed by transnational corporations and the institutions which these corporations control (NAFTA, WTO, FTAA,GATT). In many developing countries economic restructuring plans imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have led to unemployment rates of over 40%. In the current era, the economic forces of neo-liberalism, or global corporate capitalism, are unrestrained by governments.  For example, in Mexico neo-liberal policies have devastated the countryside. Federal subsidies for corn, sugar and produce were ended and development projects stopped.  The policies of the governments in Mexico and Central America have driven thousands off of their lands, many come to the U.S. looking for work. 
The U.S. policy is not one of free trade – and free immigration- but a policy of seeking economic advantage for the business interests and calling it free trade.
Policy directions:
1. A first step in any reasonable program is to legalize the millions already here.  Persons here should be given H2B visas for a defined period (one year).  Then, such workers should be given Lawful Permanent Residence status (Green Cards) and be permitted to apply for citizenship. The legislative package nearest to this goal is the McCain-Kenney Secure America and Orderly Immigration act S. 1033.
2.  All human beings, including immigrants,  deserve protection of a social safety net including health care, education of their children, and the right to organize in unions.
3.  The law to removal of pre-natal care deprives US citizen children of needed health care and thus is a violation of the universal rights of children and the specific rights of US citizens.
4. All workers in the United States deserve decent housing, working conditions, and safety.
5.  Guest worker programs have always increased exploitation of workers.  Guest worker programs should be ended.  In their place, immigrants should be given sufficient number of green cards ( Legal Permanent Resident)  to meet U.S. labor needs.
6.  Recognize and support the development of unions efforts to organize and defend all workers.
7. We should join with others to oppose legislation that only deals with immigration as a border enforcement issue such as the current H.R. 4312 and HR 4437.

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By Buzz Anderson, March 16, 2006 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think J. Koch had a pretty good answer to the problem and it is a problem.

I am as liberal a democrat as you will find anywhere in this country. I however have seen the damage the illegal aliens have done to this country. From the schools seeing their grade averages lowered, to hospitals closing because of the high number of illegals and those who cannot afford insurance, to the lowering of wages across the board.

In our area of Santa Barbara the growers are all panicky about tightening the borders because they say they need the cheap labor or we’ll have to start paying higher prices for fruits and veggies. I got no problem with doing that if it raises the wages and makes for a better life. Not one bit.

I do believe employers who do not make sure they are hiring legal immigrants or Americans should be fined very very heavily.

I have no problem with a guest worker program but mine would be to make the people who want to work here be picked up at the border by the outfits who need them.

They can’t bring their families either. The workers don’t get paid enough to cover the costs of their 4 to 6 kids going to our schools, collecting welfare (and don’t kid yourself, they collect billions)and putting our hospitals at financial risk. Not to mention that in the last few years almost all the fatalities on 101 between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo were caused by illegals under the influence. Not all but the great majority.

So NO Amnesty, a guest worker program that would require the workers to be picked up at the border or have transportation paid for DIRECTLY to the work place. Have the employer either make arrangements for housing, whether or not it’s in farm bunkhouses or apartments, the employer should be responsible for providing it and let the employees of course pay the rent if they live off the farms.

No medical unless it’s part of the employers medical package. Health and safety violations need to come down hard on the employer.

It can be done, but it’s not going to be a giveaway and it’s not going to be easy, but it can be done.

But the open the borders crowd is wrong, and I don’t believe it’s liberals as much as it is big business who wants the cheap labor to maximize their profits and nothing more.

Big business in this country is destroying America slowly but surely. And NAFTA is proof enough of that.

I’m all for sealing the borders and the sooner the better.

Sorry for the rant, but I’ve seen too much firsthand the damage illegals aliens have done and I have no problem with paying more for food if it stops the problems.

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By Ken Hahn, March 16, 2006 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The great myth in this debate is that immigrant labor is cheaper because illegals will accept lower wages for the same work. This is becoming rarer all the time. Most illegals are paid as well as legal immigrants or citizens or close enough that the difference is not worth worrying about. Where illegal immigrants are cost effective is in taxes and other secondary costs. Do employers pay social security or disability insurance fees on day laborers? Do they pay health coverage or any benefits? Nearly every illegal raking leaves, nailing shingles or cleaning house is outside the tax structure. But of course, police, fire, public health and other community costs are at least as high for immigrants as they are for citizens or legal immigrants.

Isn’t it strange that those who support higher minimum wage and employer paid social programs usually support illegal immigration so the dishonest can avoid these costs? Then they complain of the conditions in which illegals live while opposing any effort end the two tiered labor market.

There can be no effective reform until the border is under control. Every “reform” that does not address this is simply putting off the issue. More money is being spent on enforcement. This might mean something if tyhe base spending was measurable. Nothing is being spent on interior enforcement. The current condition is like sending soldiers into a fire fight and saying no mre needs to be spent because the have two bullets for their machine gun instead of the one they had before. Oh, and by the way, just ignore any enemy behind you.

The current level of enforcement is cosmetic. The arguments in favor of economic benefits in amnesty are the real voodoo economics. We need increased and improved legal immigration but until the border is under control, any efforts for this needed reform are meaningless so long as illegal immigration allowed to continue.

The unholy allience between dishonest employers and social activists, dependent on the votes on noncitizens, will do anything to prevent real reform. Many honest people get caught up in the propaganda. Illegal immigration prevents reform in Mexico by depriving that country of its most dynamic citizens and prevents any honest negociation at the low end of the labor market by supplying an oportunity to cheat the laws and taxes.

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By Ron Nord, March 16, 2006 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We have 11 million illegals of MILITARY age in the United States in time of war.  We don’t know who these 11 million illegals are but just try to visualize that only 5% are terrorists, infiltrated army personnel from countries that hate us.  Forget that these men are being used as slave labor, forget that these men are taking jobs at such a low amount that it suppresses our entry level wages to amounts that you can’t live on it unless you live like a slave, think about an armed uprising.  What can our Federal Government be thinking of allowing another country to dump their slaves across our borders, this in-itself is economic war and has been used as a tactic of war for millennia.  We are having our laws subverted with the complicity of our own government.

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By Chris Daley, March 16, 2006 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The proposal that we should legalise those here and have stricter workplace enforcement is not going to fly politically because it was tried before.  Everyone seems to forget about the 1980’s decision to do exactly that.  We got the amnesty but no one bothered to enforce the laws on hiring illegals.  Those laws are on the books right now but you can count the number of enforement actions against employers on one hand.  And when those types of actions are done now activists who support rights for illegals cry bloody murder.

Folks like Tancredo don’t have faith that the law will be enforced and feel that if they do a deal like the 1980’s one all they will get will be another wave of immigration with the controling laws ignored.  The historical pattern of the previous immigration reform effort is what is polarizing the debate on both sides.

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By Carl Ryan, March 16, 2006 at 12:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This tendentious piece by a self-described “radical reporter” ignores the whole issue of the wage suppression illegal workers cause. Employers are under no pressure to raise pay for their unskilled jobs if they have a bottomless supply of Mexicans willing to work for peanuts. Lou Dobbs is more right than wrong, unlike Marc Cooper.

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By The Ugly American, March 16, 2006 at 8:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great Article!

Not entirely correct his assertion that the border can not be secured for example.

You can try to argue that the disparities between East and West Germany were not as severe as the US and Mexico, but any serious person would laugh you out of the room. The “Berlin Wall” example Marc cites is 50 years of proof that a well guarded well built fence will effectively stop illegal immigration and save Mexican lives.

I address the rest of Marc’s post here

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By Ed Watters, March 15, 2006 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The biggest myth surrounding the immigration issue is that by supporting “reform”, you will win the hispanic vote. My humble,
informal sampling method (striking up conversations with hispanics and asking them how they feel about immigration - not the hispanics that George Bush runs with, or even Marc Cooper - I’m talking working folk) shows over 9 out of 10 opposed to any plan that would increase the flow of undocumented workers.

Can anybody guess why?

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By Martin, March 15, 2006 at 7:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A follow up:
Jim mentions that every major industrialized nation has immigration problems.  True, but none have this illegal immigration problem like the US.  We might have 7% of residents here without legal status. (20 mio) That doesn’t exist in other countries.
Second a comment on Rogelio: This ‘Other commit crimes too’ attitude is not contributing to society, in fact it takes from the common good. Building a complex industrialized society depends on people dedicated to the betterment of life for all. Third world countries are so messed up because nobody wants to do something for the common good. Everybody want only an extra slice for themselves or their family. Sewage treatment? Roads? Schools? Anti-corruption? Trash removal? nobody cares and that’s how it looks.  That’s how so many people want to leave these hell holes.  A functioning society is an accomplishment that many people sacrifced for. Carelessness and disregard for the law can run it into the ground in no time

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By Derek Greenwood, March 15, 2006 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t believe that we would have a crippled economy without braceros, illegal immigrants, or guest workers. The reason no American’s want to do the jobs that immigrants do is because big agriculture and big business don’t want to pay living wages. Opending the border to the oppressed of Mexico only drags down the economy for all.

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By Jim, March 15, 2006 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Marc, this is another great and balanced article that you have written. It is interesting to me about how emotions, myths and lack of critical thought on all sides of the coin can make policy. But alas, I dealt with it every day in my life as well. A prime example was a comment made by martin;

¨´Mexicans do jobs that no American is willing to do’. Well how come the Europeans, the Japanese and every other successful society on this planet does not have this rampant illegal immigration? Meals are cheaper and the streets cleaner mostly over there¨

I would have to say this is far from the truth. Every major industrial country is wrestling with their own immigration problem. In Europe it is not mexicans but africans, and their citizenry is backlashing against the african immigrants. Look at recent events in both France and London for examples, germany as well. In Japan for a long time it was korean workers as well as some Chinese that would travel over there. This is all a product of our industrialized societies needing labor to drive our market forces, as well as undercutting and udnerselling developing nations on our trade agreements. There are many possible remedies that need to bve metted out. Naturalization, and work visas seem like the most logical step as well as helping to develop industries in developing nations. But I do not think the government is going to be able to act fast enough to keep up with the other forces outside of its control. Until our political system can adapt to the 21st century then businesses and NGOs along with other organizations are going to have to bear the burden and cost of this issue.

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By Russ Draper, March 15, 2006 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The author says the Clinton initiated fence- building along the Tijuana/San Diego area border had no practical effect:  Tell that to the citizens of Imperial Beach, California.  Friends who lived there at the time said the decline in the number of people traipsing through their yards was startling.  Property values soared! Why?  Because people unknown to the residents weren’t moving across their property at night…and I’m talking little suburban properties and yards.  The real solution is TWO-FOLD:  1) Seal the Border 2) Corporate hands off Mexico so that the Revolution can continue.  Until Mexico throws off the Euro-centric ruling elite and creates a government responsive to the masses then unchecked birth control rates and and the lure of EL NORTE will allow those ruling elites to ship its governmental failures (i.e., desperate and hungry people) north.  The rich laugh like Foxes in the henhouse!  Or in the Bushes!  What’s the difference

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By Rogelio, March 15, 2006 at 1:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is certainly no “easy button” to the immigration issue. As a son of Mexican immigrants, I support those individuals who strive and yearn for a better life. So what if those individuals are breaking the law. Did Enron break the law? Did Abramoff break the law? Have we found those weapons of mass destruction that did not exist that have led to the deaths of thousands of Iraqi’s? There are greater issues confronting our nation’s health then “those people” that live to the south of us.

A major factor(one of many) that is leading our southern neighbors to the U.S. are economic factors or push-pull factors. Like my parents, if I were working in Juarez, Mexico earning 1/5 of what I could be making in the U.S., I would certainly break the law and cross that border. I am not Hindu and have the hope that in the next life I will live a better life. 

If we want to “semi-delay” immigration to the U.S., then we should start trying to develop the Mexican economy. Unforntunately, Israel, Iraq, and Egypt are more important and deserve more of our free aid. Why should the U.S. assist the Mexican economy? Simple, NAFTA! NAFTA has led to many of the current problems. Also, an inept and corrupt Mexican government has led to many of the economic problems. How I wish the U.S. would have invaded Mexico and brought DEMOCRACY, rather than waste its time in IRAQ.

So, drugs are coming into our nation. But, I live in Southern CA. near the meth producing capital. When I visit my parents in Northern CA., Humbolt County is nearby and we know what they grow there. The War on Drugs is an oxymoron.

Our politicians want illegal immigration because we need cheap labor. It is called BIG-BUSINESS!

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By R. A. Earl, March 15, 2006 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Boiled down, the problem is twofold: poverty &  lack of opportunity south of the border, aggressive and profound greed north. Solve either or both and you likely wouldn’t need the border or the billions required to service it.

I think building a fence has been tried (can you spell Great Wall of China or Berlin Wall?) and has ALWAYS failed in the long run to “keep the infidels” out. So what do the highly paid geniuses in charge of Homeland Security come up with… yup, LET’S BUILD A FENCE. These idiots are even talking about building one across the Canadian border. That’ll stop them bears and mooses cold (the people, of course will just fly over it, swim around it or tunnel under it!)

There really is no upper limit to human stupidity, is there?

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By J Koch, March 15, 2006 at 11:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Work Americans won’t do?  Rubbish.  Place an ad for “software engineer, $5 / hour.”  You’ll get no reply.  Place an ad for “sanitation worker, $25 / hour” and lots will apply.  It’s the wages, stupid.

Wages for manual labor is just too low.  Cut illegal immigration so that legal landscapers, mechanics, painters, and field hands can support families.  Continued illegal immigration also makes it harder for the children of immigrants to rise from poverty.  Not all Americans can work in offices or high tech.  A lot of what needs to be done is not high tech, and the people who do these things should not be reduced to peonage.

I cut my own grass, rake my own leaves, wash my own dishes, etc.  I’d like to think that the roofer or auto garage businessman hires legally and honor all legal obligations.  But often they don’t.  The advantages of illegals are manifold: lower cost, obedient, off the record, or (thanks to false IDs) still tax deductible and relatively cheap.  The “prevailing market rate” for most manual duties becomes whatever will draw an illegal.  And illegals work for less precisely because they are illegal.

The business community likes “enforcement” policies that make the illegal labor force timid and cheap but no less plentiful.  This includes border patrols and denial of rights.  They also like “guest worker” programs that keep the worker as a peon dependent on the employer’s “protection.”  They would scream, on the other hand, if the illegal workforce vanished due to a wall, if employers were charged more fines for employing non-residents, or if the IRS got wise on policing use of phoney social security IDs.

As soon as any “amnesty” is declared, employers will promptly discard the newly “uppity” legalized workers and seek new cheaper workers.  They will be able to “prove” a scarcity of local labor simply by placing want ads that offer terms too cheap for any legal person to accept.

Yes, let the price of vegetables rise a little.  Let people do a few more of their own chores or hire teenagers on weekends. Better that than to know that my bargain exists because someone else labors for slave wages.  On the margin, some jobs contingent on illegality would disappear, but wages earned by teenagers and blue collar Americans would rise.

The present system is not working, encourages dangerous border crossings and creates a permanent underclass.  It is pointless to continue.  There is no need to go on persecuting illegals or expand the army of border patrol offices.  Neither is there any value in disguising the problem with guest worker (indentured servant) programs that will never work. 

There are four much more humane and efficient solutions: 

1) A fence would cost less than the present futile approach and squelch the “coyote” traffic.  Any breach of the fence would prompt instant interdiction and also facilitate rescue to prevent deaths by dehydration.

2) IRS sanctions on employers who fail to produce proof of legal employment would reduce the incentive to cheat and exploit.

3) Persuade Mexico to stop giving visas so liberally to “tourists” from other countries who are often simply en route to El Norte.

4)Levy a North American Development “Espaldas secas y manos dignas” Tax on imports of apparel and electronics from countries that do not protect freedom of religion, tolerate patent and copyright piracy, neglect labor laws, outlaw independent unions, censor their media,  and run disproportionate trade surpluses with the US.  The tax law need not mention the principal offending one-party tyranny by name.  Use the proceeds to support schools, health services, and infrastructure development in Mexico or severely depressed areas of the US and Canada.

In this context, some sort of amnesty or regularization scheme for existing illegal immigrants might work, especially if it matches service demands to tax revenue growth.  Otherwise, the cycle will repeat every 10 years and manual wages will remain stuck at subsistence levels.

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By Fred Garber, March 15, 2006 at 11:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A very thought provoking piece! This mass migration is worldwide. South to north. Countryside to city. Poor to rich. A couple of points…

1. Many immigrants do not sneak in. They overstay visas.

2. Capitalism is built on cheap labor. In the US we went from using the indigenous people to African slaves to indentured servants to legal immigrants to illegal immigrants.

3. We need to raise the minimum wage to at least $9.00 an hour.

4. We need a single payor health program that is free to all.

5. We need free education thru university for all.

6. We need an amnesty program for all the undocumented workers.

7. We need to raise taxes on the rich.

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By Robert Rafferty, March 15, 2006 at 9:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Lets start by stopping drugs from getting into our country. This is killing our kids and dumbing our society. I will bet pound for pound our boarder patrol allows more drugs than people. Once we get control of the drugs then we can focus on migration movement north. Giving assistance to the Mexican Government on developing rural areas of the country to sustain themselves just might slow the migration. We do need to remember that we don’t build walls to stop the butterflies, birds, and bears. These are educable human beings that just need tools.

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By Martin, March 15, 2006 at 8:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am an imigrant.  I am a naturalized citizen.
I agree in big part with Lou Dobbs.  I think he is right in pointing out an alliance between capital, those courting a constituency and the poor sub-class of illegal imigrants.
Marc, you say that the root of the problem is the ruined Mexican economy. Well, I would say that this is only half of the equation. The other half has to be here in the US. There is definetely a ‘push’ force out of latin america to go North, but there also is a strong ‘pull’ here luring the workers North. The agro-industry says the need them. The home building industry needs them. The restaurant industry needs them. Everybody needs them.
The question is ‘Needs them for what?’. To operate honest businesses or to make unconscionable profits? They say ‘Mexicans do jobs that no American is willing to do’. Well how come the Europeans, the Japanese and every other successful society on this planet does not have this rampant illegal immigration? Meals are cheaper and the streets cleaner mostly over there.
Is this mass imigration good? Good for the current inhabitants? Good for the environment? Good for the social infra-structure? Good for creating a citizenry, a society that seeks higher goals?
Immigration is good, no doubt.  Immigrants are a selection of the brighter and more energetic of their people. But lawlessness is bad.  A society that allows lawlessness to pervail is going down.  Lawlessness is in this case brought on by greed. Employers calculate that they make more money, undercut the competition, get more jobs etc. by hiring illegal aliens. In truth, they screew us all. Those services are performed but not taxed. Consciounable employers lose out. The coffers of society, of us, suffer.  There is so much anti-tax rethoric out there. Taxes are good and necessary and if they are well distrubuted over society, then they don’t hurt.
Now the whole enchilada is also that illegals have an illegal sub culture. Some feel ‘Hey, we are out casts anyway, so why not break a few more laws’. Drugs? Easier to get in the latino suburb. Bringing in other illegals? Of course. Paying taxes? Not if it can be avoided. Gangs? Violence? Crime? Trash?
Will the illegal immigrants take part in the public debate? Will they plan schools, demand parks and recreational facilities, ask for reduction in work load, increases in vacation time, sick leave, accountable representation?
No. The population as a whole changes. American work harder for less benefits than Europeans or Japanese.  Many have no health insurance.  Many have no vacation, or just 10 days a year. Public schools are an abomination. Her we should create the next generation of the most advanced civilization on earth. Illegal immigration turns many public schools into Dickensian institutions where kids are brutalized to believe that life is a battle and mostly you loose.
Immigration has to be orgamized and regulated.  A society has the responsibility and duty to curb low instincts like greed, enforce its laws or do away with them, collect taxes and work for the common good, the common wealth.
This ‘Screw everybody while it lasts’ mentality permeates our culture right now.
When this system crashes, most Americans will have nothing. No house because the bank took it, no health insurance. No savings. How come?
A lawlessness in congress where public money is funneled to the few.
A lawlessness in commerce and industry, whether it is taxes, pensions, benefits.
A lawlessness in international relationships. Pre-emptive wars. Guantanamo. Kyoto.

In the end, we need a guest worker program.
We need employment eligibility verification.
Illegals need to get legal status or leave.
We need national ID cards.

That is how the rest of the world works.  That or Mad Max.

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By Tom Grey - Liberty Dad, March 15, 2006 at 4:23 am Link to this comment
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Biggest truth: “On the other side, Democrats may be unwilling to support Bush if he does decide to come out swinging on border reform.”

Dems are so full of Bush-hate they wouldn’t support anything by him.  If Bush really wanted to kill the Dem proposals, he would just mildly support them—and the Dems would denounce him, the Reps would object.

You have the right basis ” Immigrant workers should certainly be legalized, but in return there must be strict work site enforcement. Accepting and supporting a verification system at the point of employment must accompany supporting a channel for legal immigration. “

But those already here should be fined—like $40 000, payable in small monthly payments (for the rest of their US lives?).

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By Paul Tracy, March 15, 2006 at 12:45 am Link to this comment
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The rich think that American workers are overpaid.

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