It's a hot topic. Thousands of people in the streets protesting pending legislation. It is democracy in its most visceral form. And yet it is also theater. Just what, exactly do the protesters want? On the surface they seek fair and equitable treatment for immigrants. Illegal immigrants.

Part of these protests make sense, the country does benefit from the work of illegal immigrants. They fill a niche of the labor market which is underserved by our own population. In a nation which is essentially at full employment, there are many jobs which are simply left undone. Some of these immigrants are economic pilgrims. They have travelled to the USA to "build a stake" after which time they will return to their home country. Some are seeking out a new life of opportunity form a place where there was none. We can not afford to ignore their concerns, nor can we afford to discount their status. These individuals came to the country voluntarily, at great risk, and in violation of the law.

I believe there are three major elements to the present fracas over immigration. One is our relationship with our southern neighbors. Nations, such as Mexico, which boast rich natural resources and stable neighbors, should not be wallowing in near poverty. Part of this problem is corruption and mismanagement by their own government. This must be addressed. Canadians do not flock to the US beacuse Canada is (relatively) well run, despite a lackluster economy.

Secondly, the risk to enter the US is too low. Individuals can essentially move through the border with impunity. They arrive on visas and overstay them, they cross rivers, ride in the backs of trucks or stow away in aircraft wheel wells. The penalty for attempting to cross is low and this must be changed. Good control of border crossings is essential to improving our overall immigration policy. I do not favor militarizing the border, however, a physical barrier reinforced with technology is not an unreasonable approach.

Finally, the individuals who are here now need to be dealt with. I am in favor of a two pronged approach. For economic pilgrims, develop a robust guest worker program which will afford transient workers with legal protection, tax liability and some measure of accoutnability. For folks who seek citizenship, set them on a path with specific milestones. Some prorated credit for time spent in the US could be developed substantiated by tax receipts and sponsoir affidavits. For example, an illegal residing here ten years with no criminal activity should get twenty-five percent credit towards citizenship. Those on a path to citizenship must demonstrate that they are fiscally responsible, law abiding and willing to assimiliate (learn English - it's not too much to ask).

Amnesty is ultimately what we are discussing. It has been done before in 1986 and the results were not favorable to the nation. Mainly, I think, because we failed to address the two other legs of the immigration stool. We can not afford to ignore these elements. Parts of my own family emigrated to the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Immigrants are vital to enriching the strength of our nation.

We owe our country, its present citizens and those who would be in the future a strong and flexible immigration policy which allows for growth and opportunity while eliminating abuse and opportunism.


Darrell said…
We must recognize that the real solution to our Immigration problem lies with the countries they immigrate from. When countries like Mexico can provide the economic environment that can sustain their population it will provide its citizens with the means of giving their children the opportunities they never had.

Citizen Deux said…
Darrell, I think you have hit on the crux of the matter. If Canada were a shambles, we would have a huge influx from the north. Mexico has everything going for it. A strong natural resource base, stable neighbors, dual ocean access and a robust population. What they do not have is a strong rule of law or sense of political honesty.

Much to do there...
Anonymous said…
I do understand your point. But what is the real solution? Who is guilty and who is innocent?
Immigrants (BOTH) are the potential basis that built up the civilization framework(germans, irish,italians,english,asians,africans,spaniards,...) of the American society. Now according to USCIS, 85% of illegal immigration that crosses the border is mexican. D o they deserve amnesty? Do they deserve deportation? Do they deserve understanding? Do they need to be taxpayers for the revebue system, or target for the immigration department?
I do not really understand the whole situation
Claire said…
True- Mexico has a corrupt government. However, this should not constitute grounds for amnesty for the citizens of Mexico. Amnesty should be reserved for those fleeing such atocities as war,famine, and genocide. If entry into the county is allowed on the grounds of economics alone what chaos would ensue?
Each one of the 12+ million illegal immigrants here has made a choice- to not enter the lottery for legal entry. They have chosen, for an array of reasons, to bypass a fair system created to give equal opportunity for people of ALL the nations of the world to experience the American Dream. Should we not hold them to some level of personal responsibility for making that choice?
It is not, for me at least, a matter of racism or bigotry. It is a matter of accountability. Too many people have gone about the process of naturalized citizenship the legal way to say it is too difficult or unfair. The system is fair. The system just does not favor Mexico. Mexican immigrants have taken advantage of our common and basically unprotected border to "jump line".
Whose fault is this? Well, that is the conundrum. The US has made the resident alien status too comfortable. US businesses hire without regard to existings laws either. The rewards for the illegal immigrant outweigh the risks. As long as that continues to be the case, Mexican citizens will continue to pour over the border.
The US must be held accountable as well. Yet, the government would never suggest tax breaks for businesses who hire hire illegal workers. It would be an incentive for more law breaking.
Conversely, citizenship as a reward for the illegal immigrant will only be an incentive for more law breaking.
Citizen Deux said…
Economics trumps all. Claire has some sound points. I think had we been truly robust in enforcing our laws, we may have stemmed the tide slightly, however, the vast majority of immigrants (and I am going out on a limb) aer employed at the fringes where they can come and go with out a trace. Their places of residence, however, are rarely subject to any scrutiny. As they are typically embedded deep within a sub-culture community.

Thanks for digging through the archives Claire!