Anti-immigrant groups seem to lie in two main camps. The first claims that immigration is an economic concern — U.S. wages are being undercut by illegal and unregulated labor — and that government resources are being drained by millions who do not pay into the system. The second are the “culture warriors.” These are the people who vocally lament the entry of Latin Americans into our country because they fear American culture will be subverted and altered. They’re usually pretty ticked off when they have to press “1” for English.
I can respectfully disagree with the first camp, though I would argue they often spill into the second camp as well. The culture warriors, though, are completely perverted in their priorities and in their understanding of American identity, which was built upon immigration and includes many diverse cultural aspects. If you love America so much, embrace multiculturalism.
Here’s an economic issue with existing immigration law that’s conveniently ignored by anti-immigrants: The North American Free Trade Agreement. I don’t generally take a stance on NAFTA, since I find some aspects of free trade quite attractive and others questionable, but I will take a stance on this one. This treaty practically eliminated trading barriers, an ideal which generally assumes free movement of labor to different industries and different countries. But NAFTA didn’t address immigration at all. It provided the opportunity for companies to move into more profitable areas and trade with more profitable markets but kept workers trapped in their own countries. That’s not equitable, and it’s not efficient. I believe in the law of comparative advantage, my economist friends, and this isn’t how it’s supposed to be implemented.
We cannot systematically round up all illegal immigrants and deport them immediately without incurring enormous costs to federal and state law enforcement agencies. Such a program would be almost impossible to implement without necessitating institutionalized discrimination against Latino people. Unconditional and immediate amnesty was a nice idea in the 1980s, intended to provide a practical solution to an increasingly burdensome problem. But repeating it a second time encourages further illegal immigration, and is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Both current undocumented workers and potential illegal immigrants want to live here legally and become a part of the American identity, but can’t without spending many years living in an impoverished country. Some don’t have that long, with mouths to feed and bills to pay. First, we need a pathway to citizenship for those currently in the country. This would provide compassion to those who currently have few choices but to disobey the law, and would expand the tax base. Second, a guest worker program should be implemented to allow for legal and more easily accessible workers to enter the country and contribute to the system. Both of these programs support the collection of revenue through an expanded tax base, and help protect labor laws extended to all documented workers in the U.S.
A third, and very much necessary, solution to illegal immigration was signed into law by both Jerry Brown and Barack Obama recently: The California and Federal DREAM Acts. These landmark laws allow for undocumented students to receive state and federal financial aid to attend college. Most of the immigrants this affects are completely inculpable, having been brought here as children. The benefits of education upon a future workforce are well known; let us invest in our future. Uneducated, impoverished workers will not build up our country — more brainpower and training will.
Daily Nexus liberal columnist Geoffrey Bell doesn’t mind pressing “1”, but usually just stays on the line instead.
In Response, Right Said:
First, I must congratulate my opposite on setting a new low. His characterization of people who are anti-ILLEGAL immigration — not immigration in general — is essentially one camp is rednecks screaming, “They tirrrkkk errrr JEERRRBBBS,” while the other is at best racist and at worst members of the Aryan Brotherhood.
I have never heard such appallingly uncivil rhetoric concerning immigration, even from my borderline socialist friends, and it is truly regrettable my counterpart has chosen such unkind words to misrepresent the majority of Americans. I cannot possibly hope to refute my counterpart’s statements concerning multiculturalism and NAFTA in the space I am allotted, and so I beg you to be patient and wait for future columns on those subjects.
As for the current subject, I agree that unconditional amnesty and complete deportation have never been viable options and it is right that this is so. However, my opponent has failed to address whether he would secure the border, a vital step in preventing yet more people from entering the country illegally and exacerbating the problem further. If only he and the President would stop playing the race card, a truly bipartisan solution to our immigration problems would have been enacted long ago.