On the Border

There’s a lot of energy surrounding the question of illegal aliens from Mexico there days. This is an attempt to bring some of that discussion into our purview. My own belief is that the law must be respected until it’s changed. I focus on the “illegal” part, and find it untenable to ignore that aspect of the problem by offering “amnesty.” From a practical standpoint, I agree with those who cite the impossibility of deporting tens of millions of people. So what? It’s impossible to catch every petty thief, every tax cheat, even every murderer. Every law forces us to choose how aggressively we enforce it. In some cases (prohibition probably falls into this category) the impossibility of enforcing it causes us to change the law. I don’t believe our immigration policy should be changed merely because enforcement is difficult.

The major argument for changing the policy (or not stepping up enforcement of current laws) is that the American economy depends on cheap alien labor to do the jobs “Americans won’t do.” This is one of those simple, misleading mantras I hate. There are no jobs Americans won’t do. Pay sufficient wages and you will have workers lining up to do the job. If indeed the American economy depends on these low paying, no benefits jobs, then what we’re really saying is that Americans depend on exploiting the desperate, disenfranchised citizens of other countries. Some would say we do that routinely, whether or not they have managed to sneak across our border.

The fundamental question we ought to face is the legitimacy of protecting our borders at all. Why do we have an immigration policy? I think it is because our government is responsible for the welfare of its own citizens first, and, notwithstanding the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, we cannot continue to accept hordes of the “wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” If, as is said, we need the workers to pick our crops, clean our houses, and tend our children, then maybe a guest worker program makes sense. However, I question the practice of automatically giving their children citizen status. We no longer need to increase our population. And rather than strain our health care and social systems with additional poor, it would be better to focus on bringing in highly skilled immigrants.

The obvious key to handling immigration is to step up our oversight on the businesses that hire them. By requiring businesses to document their workers (and while we’re at it, provide them with adequate working conditions and a living wage) we get some semblance of control, and begin to set up the type of systems needed to administer a guest worker program in the future. The end result will naturally be an increase in the cost of the services now provided by undocumented aliens, but I believe this is right and necessary.

DadIdeas04/29/06 0 comments

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