Monday, February 13, 2017
Why Are We Still Arguing About Immigration Policy?
I can't believe we are still arguing about immigration enforcement and reform after all these years. No, wait ... yes, I can ... because every discussion ends up with people on all sides shouting past each other, and immigrants - both legal and illegal - caught in the middle. The election of Donald Trump and the legitimization (by his ignorant rhetoric) of anti-immigrant feelings has led to a fresh round of anti-immigrant sentiment and a new tidal wave of raids designed to arrest and deport illegal immigrants.
I am, as are all Americans (including those we call Native Americans), the descendent of immigrants*. My paternal ancestors came to the US (legally) from Hungary, and my maternal line goes back to ancestors who immigrated (legally) from Germany. I am married to a fully-legal, green-card holding German who has worked and paid taxes in the United States since 1983. I have no problem whatsoever with legal immigration, because our country was built on it. I do, however, have a problem with those who - for whatever reason - choose to ignore the law and come here illegally. While their intentions may be good, their willingness to ignore the law is not.
I know from experience that navigating the legal immigration system is a pain in the neck. When I married my wife, it took months to maneuver through the system, with numerous trips to the American consulate for round after round of interviews and various hospitals for various tests. I had to arrange for the translation of hundreds of pages of documents written in convoluted legal German**, and at one point I commented - only half-jokingly - that the rule seemed to be that when the weight of the paperwork exceeded the weight of the bride, we'd get the visa. This is why I have no sympathy for those who choose to ignore the established process and enter the country illegally.
But while I have no sympathy for those who ignore the law, I have even greater disdain for those who rant and thunder about the horrors of illegal immigration, but offer no suggestions for solving the problem beyond such stupid placebos as "build a wall" or "deport them all." Those of you who have been long-time readers of this blog know that I have already floated (several times, with incremental adjustments) my recommended plan for immigration reform. I won't repeat it again ... if you're new to this blog, you can go back and read the most current version of my plan here. I'll be the first to admit that there may be some weak spots or difficult legal issues to overcome, but I think it's one of the first - and perhaps the only - serious, comprehensive, and realistic plans to fix our broken immigration system.
Many complain that illegal immigrants come here to steal jobs from decent, hard-working, taxpaying American citizens. This is patently stupid. Large numbers of immigrants do, in fact, come to America in search of work, but the jobs they take are largely those that Americans don't want to do for the wages and conditions offered. I haven't seen long lines of jobless Americans signing up to pick crops in the hot sun, or to do the miserable and bloody scut work needed by our industrial meat industry. Nor are they lining up to be maids, janitors, dishwashers, busboys, taxi drivers, trash collectors, and landscape workers. If they were, there wouldn't be a market for immigrants - legal and illegal - willing to take those jobs.
And consider this: the price you pay for your produce is kept relatively low because the people who pick it - largely illegal immigrants - are paid extremely low wages. Deport all those migrant farm workers, replace them with American citizens (if you can find any willing to work that hard), and watch your grocery prices skyrocket as they receive the pay and benefits legal American workers demand. If you're willing to pay more for your food in order to get rid of the people who keep your prices down, good for you.
At the upper end of the immigrant spectrum, the law allows firms who need the skills they aren't finding in American workers to sponsor visas for appropriately-skilled immigrants. Perhaps if we encouraged more Americans to become scientists, engineers, and doctors, there would be less demand for qualified immigrants. Hmmm ...
Bottom line: let's enforce our immigration laws, but smartly. Let's get serious about understanding the scope of the problem and coming up with real, workable solutions that are both legal and representative of our character as a nation that welcomes legal immigrants and the skills and cultural gifts they bring.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.
* Yes, even the people we call "Native Americans" came here originally from someplace else ... many across the land bridge that used to connect Siberia with Alaska. Of course, you can still see Siberia from Sarah Palin's porch.
** Think American legalese is bad? You have NO idea ...