The immigration debate (or lack thereof)

2009/04/13

Given the current efforts by the President and his administration to tackle as many national issues as possible in as short a time as possible, it is probably inevitable that certain sectors of the population would resume their clamoring for immingration reform. [1] Thus far, the stance of the administration appears to be, well, I’m not sure anyone is taking a specific stance yet. [2] I think that there are compelling reasons to tackle said reform sooner, rather than later, though whether or not sufficient will exists to do what needs to be done remains to be seen. Before going further, let me be clear: I do not oppose immigration per se, [3] but I have no sympathy for people whose first official action when entering our Republic is to defy the laws of the land; that our laws may be outdated and/or unenforced is also an important aspect of the debate, but for now, the laws are what they are. I do not, in any way, believe that violation of those laws should remain unpunished and/or potentially rewarded.

For now, my primary concern with the immigration situation is economic: recent estimates indicate that there are roughly 12 million illegal immigrants living in the nation, [4] and many of these entered the country seeking work. This seems especially pertinent, given the current economic climate; assuming that the employment statistics for this sector of the population are the same as those for the general population, [5] there are potentially several million jobs currently being performed by individuals who should not have those jobs in the first place. [6] This is no mean figure, given the current unemployment statistics, which indicate that there are nearly 13.2 million workers currently unemployed, as of March 2009. [7] Of course, this does not guarantee that the jobs currently being performed by illegals will lead directly to the employment of several million of the unemployed (professionals who have lost their jobs, for example, probably will not benefit much from such a situation). Nonetheless, the statistics are rather sobering, and even if we were not currently in an economic recession/depression, it does not seem wise to perpetuate a system wherein jobs that could be performed by, and be beneficial for, law-abiding citizens should be relegated to criminals. Unless, of course, one accepts the President’s notion that our economy does not really need “low skill” jobs, that is. Additionally, at least some of these illegal workers are draining our economy in a similar fashion as the outsourcing of jobs is not wholly beneficial to our economy. While not all illegals send money back to their homelands, it is suspected that many of them do, and while they do not send all of their money out of the country, given the numbers involved, the amount of money involved is likely to be non-trivial. Unless their out-of-country family members are buying American goods and services, though I highly doubt it; many of their expenses are likely to be sustenence-oriented (food, housing, etc.), and these are most likely derived from local sources. It may be small change compared to the amounts of money we hemorrhage via outsourced production and import purchasing, but again, it is still probably a non-trivial amount that would likely prove to be of some benefit to our domestic economy. Or maybe our Republic is rich enough as it is, and we should be more generous in spreading the wealth. And if you accept that idea, I’ve got some nice oceanfront property to sell you. In Iowa. Cash only, please.

My other concern is a bit more esoteric, but not much less important than the economic impact, namely the impact on the state of and respect for the laws of our Republic. The notion of “sanctuary cities” came to national attention some years back, [8] and has picked up a little steam more recently. [9] The latter article is particularly troubling both for the facts themselves (seriously, the police can just unilaterally decide to ignore their oath to uphold the law?) and for the precedent it sets for future action (or inaction, as the case may be). Sanctuary cities are no less troubling either, for the blatant defiance of the rule of law that such cities represent. One could argue that this might revolve around states rights versus Federal infringement of the former, [10] but ignoring the law is not the proper means of addressing the situation. In addition to this, there are even some individuals calling for the extension of voting rights to illegal immigrants; [11] if this is not a subversion of the sanctity of law in our Republic, I’d like to know how it could possibly be considered as anything other than this.

Beyond these aspects of illegal immigration, the practice also serves to highlight an obvious vulnerability to our national security, specifically, the ease with which an undocumented individual can cross our borders mostly unimpeded. It worries me that people can sneak across our borders so easily, and, having accomplished that, can continue to reside in our nation with relatiely few impediments to their movements and activities. Additionally, there is the case of two border patrol officers from a few years ago. [12] Granted, I do not condone their actions after the fact (i.e. tampering with the crime scene, tampering with evidence, etc.), but how was the smuggler able to claim standing in American courts to argue that his civil rights had been violated? Are we now extending the protection of our laws to individuals who do not profess loyalty to our Republic and the principles for which it stands? Is it in the best interests of our Republic to turn a blind eye to the blatant violation of our borders and laws, and, even more than that, to effectively condone such actions by assigning no penalty to individuals who perform such acts? For that is exactly what silence on the matter entails: tacit approval.

Notes:

[1]: CNN article, 10 April 2009.

[2]: CNN article, 09 April 2009.

[3]: Do not make the mistake of presuming that I oppose immigration in all forms. My parents, after all, were immigrants, themselves; they, of course, entered the country the right way. You know. Getting immigrant visas and such. My mother also became a citizen the right way, i.e. studying for and passing the citizenship exam (I don’t recall now if my father also did so before his untimely death, though I suspect that if he did not, he would have), not by demanding a “path to citizenship” after disrespecting the laws of the land.

[4]: DHS immigration statistics, January 2008. (PDF warning) Note that these are statistics through January of last year, so there may be more or less than 12 million at present.

[5]: There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the percentage of working illegals is higher than that of the general population, as one of the standard MOs for illegals is to enter the country to work, while sending money back to their countries of origin in support of their families, who still live outside our nation. This being the case, it is possible that the ratio of working to non-working illegals may be higher than the national average.

[6]: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) information indicates that for 2008 (the latest year for which data is available), 59.5% of the overall population was employed in some fashion; see here. (U.S. BLS website) This being the case, 59.5% of 12 million equals 7.14 million.

[7]: Statistics available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; see here.

[8]: See here and here, from MediaMatters and the Virginian-Pilot website, respectively. This hit (quite literally) especially close to home, as I am from the area; naturally, I was appalled (though not surprised) by the situation and the official reaction from the Virginia Beach officials (I don’t follow O’Reilly enough to know if I agree with his general outlook, but he is right in one regard: the city officials in VA Beach are idiots, and not just WRT this situation).

[9]: Salt Lake Tribune article, 08 April 2009. Its nice to know that the police get to pick and choose which laws they enforce, and which ones they’ll ignore.

[10]: Two thoughts here: 1) the debate over states’ rights vs. Federal infringement is much less widespread than it once was (such as prior to the Civil War), and I have not heard any voices arguing this point in the immigration debate; and 2) illegal immigrants, by definition, violate the national borders prior to entering whichever states they eventually end up. This being the case, the issue is one of national priority before it becomes an issue to the individual states affected; I don’t know if this constitutes a valid argument WRT the laws involved, but it is commonsense enough for me.

[11]: Boston Herald op-ed article, 07 April 2009. Another article from the same paper also details the possibility of extending drivers’ licences to illegals; this could very easily lead to a similar situation as referenced in note [8] above.

[12]: Articles from the El Paso Times; see here and here. Thankfully, President Bush II commuted their sentances, though it seems to me that this farce never should have gone as far as it did. The officers in question should be punished for attempting to cover up their actions, but as to whether or not they employed excessive force against an intruder in our nation? Please.

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4 Responses to “The immigration debate (or lack thereof)”

  1. MI Says:

    1. I think it unlikely that Obama will try & tackle immigration reform so long as unemployment remains high. Even with a booming economy, Jacksonian xenophobia killed off such reforms. And now, with the economy down the tubes & millions of unemployed? I can’t believe he’d be that foolish.

    2. Were I in Obama’s shoes, I’d instead concentrate on how to react if (when?) Jacksonians start pushing for a Mexican Repatriation Redux.

    3. Money quote from a recent WSJ article (*):

    During the boom years, restaurants and retailers struggled to find Americans willing to work at low-wage jobs. Seasonal employers, such as lifeguards and camp counselors, often recruited overseas to fill open positions.

    This not only lends ammunition to those who’d aid the unemployed via mass deportations, but – if sufficiently widespread – may also revolutionize the immigration debate in years to come. The existence of millions of Americans who, during the recession, filled formerly-immigrant-only positions, will undercut those who argue that Americans’ unwillingness to do certain types of work necessitates the mass importation of unskilled foreigners.

    4. While I agree that sanctuary cities are a lamentable affront to the rule of law, I also tend to think they’re the lesser of evils. See http://gravitron5.blogspot.com/2007/07/immigration-law-enforcement-part-iii.html

    (*) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123870904496284141.html

    • seeker312 Says:

      1. Oh, I’m not arguing that Obama et al. should reform the system based on their amnesty-based ideals. I’d like to see mass deportations of such criminals, if for no other reason than, well, why should we tolerate the continued liberty afforded to 12 million criminals?

      2. See response [1] above; of course, I doubt that the President and his cronies will do anything of the sort.

      3. In some regards, I think that the argument that Americans are “too good” to work jobs that are typically immigrant-only is specious. While there are legitimate economic factors influencing such decisions (e.g. our societal attitudes towards low cost at all cost, insistence on high wages without regard for merit, etc.), these are not insurmountable challenges. Assuming, of course, someone is willing to make the hard choices necessary to address these issues. I do not believe that it is simply okay to accept this situation as it is, just because the consequences of the necessary actions are politically distasteful. Besides which, who is our government supposed to serve, anyways? Our own citizens, or a group of loud-mouthed criminals?

      4. Point taken WRT federalism and sanctuary cities. I highly doubt that they’ll succeed at being stellar success stories, but who knows…I suppose stranger things have happened. Of course, the concept would be mostly invalidated with strong border defense, but I’m guessing that I’m preaching to the choir in that regard, too. I wonder how much economic stimulation could have resulted from the construction of massive reinforced concrete walls across our land borders, and the construction and manning of scores of coastal patrol ships. Ah well, one can always dream…

  2. MI Says:

    While I understand the sentiment favoring mass deportation, I do also think amnesty is at least defensible under certain preconditions. See

    http://gravitron5.blogspot.com/2007/08/immigration-law-enforcement-addendum.html

    • seeker312 Says:

      Okay, there’s that. I was, for my part, assuming that the illegals would either be unwilling or unable to aquiesce to such constraints. And note, also, that the majority of amnesty supporters are not calling for such extensive sacrifices and loyalty tests on the part of the illegals who would benefit from the amnesty. Under such constraints as you’ve listed, I would not be opposed to such amnesty, but of course, that’s probably not how things will work out. Given that there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that military service could rehabilitate criminals better than prisons could, I would also not be opposed to using temporary conscription as a condition for extending an offer of amnesty. Again, though, I don’t think there would be much political support for such a program, either.


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