True Colors

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Immigration

In a sane world, immigration reform wouldn’t be a controversial issue. There is widespread agreement across most of the U.S. political spectrum that border security is important and people shouldn’t be allowed to enter the country illegally unless they have a durn good reason, such as fleeing oppression from a totalitarian regime.

There appears to be a small “open borders” movement, but I don’t think any elected official of any party is seriously talking about open borders, and I don’t know personally of any progressive activists pushing the idea. But I’ll come back to this in a minute.

I think anyone with a lick of sense and even half a clue about the drug wars in Mexico would agree that keeping the perpetrators south of the Rio Grande should be a priority.

Further, there is supposed to be widespread agreement that illegal workers reduce the value of labor, and employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should get smacked. This may be the real sticking point, although those doing the sticking are pretending they aren’t. I’ll come back to this.

There is disagreement over what to do with illegal immigrants who already are here. At one extreme there are those who call for immediate deportation of all illegal immigrants, and sometimes even the children of illegal immigrants who were born here and are U.S. citizens. In the real world, this would suck up an unimaginable amount of funds and other resources and is not going to happen. But the next time you see someone calling for this approach, ask him if he minds getting his taxes jacked up to pay for it.

At the other extreme there is no extreme that I can see, but merely a desire to find a way to allow people who are already here and who are working and tax paying and law abiding and connected to families and communities to at least achieve legitimate documented status if not citizenship. This is not just being nice; it is a far more practical approach than rounding up and deporting people. Within those parameters there is some disagreement, but nothing that couldn’t be worked out through rational dialogue were such a thing possible in the U.S.

But the Right will never stand for this, because the Right can never get past the notion that “guilty” people must be punished, no exceptions, no matter the nature of the thing they are guilty of and whether the greater good might be served through leniency. (Think Les Misérables.) So the mass deportation idea is a gold mine for wingnut demagogues who want to fire up Teh Stupid and get them to the polls in November.

However, I suspect a large number of Republicans, never mind Democrats, in Congress don’t want to take on the issue of what to do about illegal immigrants already here in a mid-term year, because in truth they don’t want mass deportation even though they might pretend they do. And they don’t want a mass deportation bill to ever come up for a vote, because then they would be forced to take a firm public stand on the issue. They like to be able to bleat vague bromides at their wingnut constituents about deporting illegal immigrants, but they prefer to do so secure in the knowledge that it won’t ever happen.

It won’t ever happen because the dirty little secret is that a portion of the American economy depends on illegal labor. I wish that were otherwise, and I’d like to make it otherwise. But, for example, fruit and vegetable growers (who, note, tend to be in the South and West) say they can’t survive economically without illegal (e.g., just this side of “slave”) labor. There are other industries in a similar fix.

You know plenty of business owners are telling their Congress critters that immigration reform had better not take away their illegals. And you know plenty of Congress critters and their more well-heeled supporters hire illegal housekeepers and pool cleaners and nannies and really don’t want to change the status quo. They just don’t want to have to admit publicly that they don’t want to change it.

For the reasons given above, I suspect the “border security first” approach will prevail this year. I predict serious work on comprehensive reform will be pushed off to next year.

Even so, the Republican echo chamber (which is run by a goodly number of people who hire illegal immigrants, notice) is keeping Teh Stupid stirred up by framing the issue within a false dichotomy — that the issue is a choice between “secure borders” and “open borders.” It isn’t at all; there is no serious support in Washington for open borders that I can see. But by keeping Teh Stupid in the dark about the real issues, it’s easier to push off discussing the illegal-immigrants-already-here issue that Republicans really don’t want to discuss.

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11 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Anniecat45  •  Apr 29, 2010 @11:27 am

    What do “open borders” and “secure borders” mean anyway? It’s not like it’s a door and we can just close it. The border with Mexico is thousands of miles long and not all of it is the Rio Grande –a lot of it is desert and rock. How do you secure that? Do you set up a check point every 50 yards? What do you do about people coming in on a tourist visa and simply not returning to their home country? Sure, you get their address when they arrive but if they move on from that, how do you find them? And how much money and time do we want to spend tracking those folks down?

    I’m not opposed to stricter immigration controls — I just don’t know how you would enforce them. I’d be glad to hear anyone’s thoughts on the subject.

  2. PurpleGirl  •  Apr 29, 2010 @11:29 am

    Let’s not forget the landscapers and grounds keepers… lawns, gardens and golf courses don’t maintain themselves.

  3. moonbat  •  Apr 29, 2010 @12:19 pm

    Setting aside the moral and practical aspects – which as you’ve outlined are significant – immigration is one of those revealing, true color issues that divides the GOP, clearly separating the owners from the dupes (the “wannabe owners”?). It’s definite pass the popcorn time, watching the owners pretend they want to curtail their source of cheap labor.

    OTOH, wasn’t it GW Bush (of all people) who floated a somewhat middle way idea of creating a path to legal status or citizenship for illegals? At least it wasn’t as nuts as mass deportation, and had the potential to break through this serious impasse for the GOP.

    Given the demographics, particularly in the southwest, the Republicans must solve this problem, or their party is doomed electorially. The recent “your papers, please” law in AZ is a massive demographic gift to the Democrats. I was chatting with a friend who attended the California Democratic Party convention, where he met numerous Latinos who described themselves as “conservative Democrats”. They’re conservative because they’re Catholics, and would be far more receptive to the GOP, were it not so obtuse about immigration.

    It’s difficult to imagine GW Bush as a strategic genius, but on this point he (or his braintrust) understood that the near term advantage of low cost labor is way offset by the GOP’s need for long term electorial viability.

  4. erinyes  •  Apr 29, 2010 @6:05 pm

    You are spot on Maha.
    Very good comment, Mr. Moonbat.

  5. hidflect  •  Apr 29, 2010 @7:32 pm

    I’ve been living in Japan on a working visa for 13 years. If it expires and I overstay I face immediate detention and expulsion. I accept that. Why does some special status need to be reserved for the Mexicans with the USA? Just because the repatriation issue problem is intractable, it’s deemed bigoted? Try just about any other country in the world (Switzerland, India, China, Kenya) and see what happens to overstayers.

  6. maha  •  Apr 29, 2010 @8:51 pm

    Why does some special status need to be reserved for the Mexicans with the USA? Just because the repatriation issue problem is intractable, it’s deemed bigoted? Try just about any other country in the world (Switzerland, India, China, Kenya) and see what happens to overstayers.

    I don’t think you grasp what’s going on here. Certainly if people overstay their visas and get caught they’re probably going to be shipped out. But the estimates of illegal aliens in the U.S. that I’ve seen are somewhere between 8 and 12 million people. You’re going to round up and deport 12 million people? With what? Do you have any idea how many resources that would take? What it would cost?

    Many people living here illegally never had visas. Many have been here for years, working, living in communities, forming close bonds, and have no ties to where they came from. Many who came here as children have no memory of their countries of origin. Many illegal aliens have children who are U.S. citizens — you’re going to deport citizens? On what authority? Or are you going to separate parents from children? Deport feeble, aging grandparents?

    Do try to live in the real world. There’s a lad.

  7. Doug Hughes  •  Apr 29, 2010 @8:45 pm

    I was running the numbers recently. Suppose it costs $5,000 per illegal to cover the cost of tracking, arresting, housing, feeding, plus the administrative cost of processing appeals, and the final cost of transporting.. and suppose the number of 20 million illegal aliens is correct. The cost of deporting comes up to 100 Billion – and I suspect that’s a low-ball number.

  8. Velitar  •  Apr 29, 2010 @10:13 pm

    The real problem is the refusal of either side of the spectrum to acknowledge the deplorable treatment of the Mexican nation itself. There would not be a flood of immigrants into the U.S. if it were being treated like a respected partner rather than a an exercise in political and economic target practice. The Right of course would rather set fire to themselves than admit that another nation’s troubles might be the result of American policy decisions (though I suspect they are secretly gratified at the thought of inflicting divinely-ordained misery on the Other) and so screams about evil foreign hordes overrunning the poor sweet innocent Homeland. The Left, having long since abandoned the thought of taking on business interests that profit from despoilation and slave labor, just smiles cringingly and mumbles something about enhanced social diversity.

  9. erinyes  •  Apr 30, 2010 @7:25 am

    Hidflect, revisit Moonbat’s comment.
    The issue has been constructed as a distraction, red meat to anger the right wing base. The right is sinking, and will continue to throw emotional issues into the air to pump up their base while distracting them from issues that can be and need to be confronted. The right is being punked by its leadership.

    Obama is a Muslim native of Kenya who wants to take away your guns,increase your taxes,kill your babies, destroy your country, make you a socialist, and allow Mexicans to rob you and rape your women. Every point is absurd, but exactly what the Limbaugh/ O’Reilly/ Hannitty/ Beck Axis of evil Clowns wants their lemmings to believe.

  10. joanr16  •  Apr 30, 2010 @9:14 am

    Hmm, let’s see; Japan’s an island nation, inaccessible without a visa. The U.S. consists of about one-third territory obtained from Mexico, either militarily or peaceably, with all that borderland Anniecat45 mentions, not to mention 300 years of cross-pollination. Hidflect’s comparison is apples to tennis shoes.

    Further, the only “special status for Mexicans” can be found in the AZ bill, which singles Hispanics out for harassment by law enforcement based on physical appearance and surname. (Just try and picture an AZ cop stopping a car solely because he thinks it’s full of Norwegian or Scottish illegals.) On the other hand, there is no “special status” plan for immigration reform I’ve ever heard of. Reforms would apply to anyone who’s here illegally, no matter where from. I suppose 13 years in Japan could leave one with limited info on what’s really going on, but that’s hardly an excuse for such an obviously flawed opinion.

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