Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Agreement with Instapundit on Immigration Reform.

Glenn Reynolds details on MSNBC.com how the immigration debate has been framed. I agree with him 100%. Crazy people need to read this. And if you're middle class, expect a mass deportation or too-tight restriction on Mexican immigration to increase the cost of living by three times.

  • It's not really about security: Even if we tighten up the border with Mexico immensely, it won't stop terrorists from sneaking through if they want to. And even if we could accomplish that impossible end, they could still come in other ways. As long as we have easy visas for Saudi citizens, worrying about the Mexican border seems silly.

  • It's only sort of about economics: President Bush likes to say that immigrants do the jobs Americans won't do. That's true, of course, but it's really more accurate to say that immigrants do the jobs Americans won't do at the wages businesses want to pay. In my area, for example, American-born drywallers make 5-7 dollars more an hour than illegal immigrants. They're willing to do the work, just not for what the contractors want to pay. But I've talked to many of them and they actually admire the Mexican workers, who work hard and support their families.

    Where I hear resentment of illegal immigrants, it's not so much based on the idea of them taking American jobs. At the moment, at least, unemployment is very, very low so people aren't thinking that way as much as they might if there were a recession. Instead, the resentment is based on the idea that people who come here illegally feel entitled to demand that they be treated like Americans. It's the devaluing of citizenship, as much as the loss of jobs, that seems to upset most people at the moment.

  • A lot of it is anger at Washington: "We pay taxes, they say there's a war on terror, and they can't even secure the border." People don't necessarily expect perfection, but the powers that be don't even seem to be trying. That anger, I suspect, has a lot to do with the sudden interest of politicians in doing something -- or at least looking as if they're doing something -- about the issue.

  • The debate stinks: Most opponents of illegal immigration aren't racists. Most supporters aren't enemies of American civilization. The immigration problem is hard because it pits two things we care about -- freedom of opportunity and control of our borders -- against one another. It's also made harder because people fear that immigrants -- without the pressures of earlier eras -- won't try very hard to assimilate. Those fears may be overblown, but they're real, and the cries of racism, plus the occasional bit of Aztlan-irredentism from the fringes (calling for the reconquest of California, Arizona, etc., by Mexico), make them stronger.

  • It could be poison for both parties: The people organizing these rallies don't seem to care if they're bad for the Democrats. Maybe they won't be. More likely the organizers don't care, because even if they are, the organizers will wind up more powerful within the Party. There's a similar, if more diffuse, phenomenon in the GOP. But it's entirely possible that both parties will suffer in different ways if the debate gets overheated. Political debate in America is poisonous enough; this won't help. At any rate, stay tuned. It's likely to be a rocky ride.

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