A perspective on immigration

I read Tammy Bruce’s post today on the L.A. Unified School District’s decision to express “outrage” to its student body about the AZ immigration law, saying it’s “un-American”. Tammy criticized the fact that 73% of the student population is latino.

Just a note before I get into this, as I recall, we got rid of the House Committee on Un-American Activities because we didn’t like the government calling people “un-American”. What was that I used to hear about McCarthyism? I understand this is about a law, but the school district is implicitly calling anyone who disagrees with them “un-American” as well. They can say they disagree with it and give the reasons why, but calling it un-American is divisive.

Tammy’s article brought to mind an interview I heard recently with a man who’s running for congress in Colorado. I can’t remember the name, but for this discussion it doesn’t matter. He described how immigration at Ellis Island used to work. He said there were many immigrants who did not have immigration papers when they came in. Documentation at the time of entry was created for them. He said this is the reason we hear about immigrants who had one name when they were in their country of their birth, and given a different name when they came here. The immigration officials couldn’t understand their name, and so gave them one that was more American-sounding. He also revealed that the epithet against Italians, “wop”, came from the term “Without Papers”. I guess that was a common thing with Italian immigrants. What I remember from the history of Ellis Island, anyway, is that immigrants were given a path to citizenship. I don’t recall there being a provision where immigration officials said, “You can stay here without becoming a citizen,” which is what the previous “comprehensive immigration reform” would’ve allowed.

It would be good for us to have a good understanding of the history of our immigration policies and their effects. To get some perspective, it would also be good to take a look at the immigration policies of Mexico, since we get pretty self-conscious about how “racist” we are for wanting to impose some rules on immigration. Here’s a hint: Mexico’s immigration policy is stricter than ours.

I’ve liked the idea of a “path to citizenship” for people who are here illegally. I don’t see the U.S. deporting all 12 million of them. I would not be in favor of them being granted blanket amnesty. Perhaps the better way to go is something like Ellis Island, where we don’t try to make it just a one-time thing (which is what was tried in the last attempt at “comprehensive reform”), but make it a policy that acknowledges the reality that there will be people who come here without immigration papers, and who need to be documented. A proviso would be that if they’re going to stay they need to go through the normal procedure to pursue asylum, get a visa (tourist, work, etc.), or pursue U.S. citizenship. If they pursue citizenship, I’m in favor of them having to pay a fine, and “getting in the back of the line”. That’s only fair to the people who come here legally. In other words, they’re going to have to make a choice. If they refuse, then we deport them. This to me sounds like a reasonable policy.

I also like the idea of requiring employers to check into the immigration status of employees, and penalizing employers if they don’t do so. They should only be required to not have illegals on their payroll. I would not support the idea that businesses be required to report the people they refuse to law enforcement or federal authorities, because even if something doesn’t check out, it could be a bureaucratic error. It would be disruptive to our society if people worried about being turned into “instant criminals” if their records have somehow been mismanaged by the government.

The thing is, it seems like it would be difficult to implement this universally. If you’re a building contractor, are you going to have the where with all to check on the immigration status of all the people you hire? Depending on the size of the business, that may or may not be likely. It imposes an extra cost on business, and I can understand the objections to that, especially at this time. It would put a crimp on the ability to subcontract. I think what would be a sensible policy is to impose these sort of rules once a corporation is formed, and to exempt contractors who are not S-corporations or some other form of limited liability. This would still allow some illegals to go under the radar, but it would place a limit on how many could viably get away with it. In fact, we might want to make it a rule that such corporations be required to check into the immigration status of its contractors and subcontractors, if those contractors fall outside of this rule. This shifts the burden onto corporations, but I think it’s a good compromise, because it allows “free form” contracting and subcontracting to exist in our economy, without allowing the employment of undocumented immigrants to grow into a massive problem.

The state-by-state solution for immigration reform might be the best way to go for our society, as opposed to trying to solve the problem entirely at the federal level. There are some localities who don’t regard undocumented immigration as a problem. There are others, particularly along the southern border, that do, and I don’t believe it has much to do with racism. It’s the federal government’s responsibility to manage our borders. The thing is there is such disagreement in our society about what to do with immigrants who enter illegally that a solution more in line with federalism might be the better way to go. Let those states that don’t mind undocumented immigrants accept them, and let those who find a problem with it restrict it, so long as it doesn’t involve racial profiling.

As for AZ, I think they are dealing with the problem in the best way they know how. They have good reasons to address the issue of illegal immigration, and I think they gave due consideration to racial issues, and trying to not worsen the problem they have. They have a severe problem with crime that is largely driven by the activities that stem from illegal immigration. Phoenix has the 2nd highest rate of kidnappings of any city in the world. If you think about that for a moment that’s pretty staggering. Not even Baghdad, Iraq has a higher kidnapping rate. I think the belly-aching over their law is silly, because it’s pretty reasonable when it’s evaluated on what it actually says: No law enforcement officer can look into a person’s immigration status until they’ve gotten involved in investigating a crime or misdemeanor of a different sort, and have “reasonable suspicion” (this is the part I’m sure people are getting hung up on) that the person they are investigating might be here illegally. From what I understand, “reasonable suspicion” is well defined in the law, unlike what many people think. It can’t be that, “Their skin is brown”, or, “They can’t speak English.” The law specifically prohibits racial profiling, which is the issue that civil rights organizations are getting upset about. It’s more like “behavior profiling”. One example might be if the officer gets the person’s driver’s license and it’s found to be fake. Even then, the officer can’t make a snap judgement that the person is here illegally. Something like this would give them the option to check into their immigration status. They could only come to a conclusion after they did that. It’s also come to my attention that the law in AZ is actually more lenient than federal law. The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that a federal agent can check into anyone’s immigration status for any reason. They don’t even have to be investigating an infraction, and this applies all across the country, not just in AZ.

L.A. officials are deliberately engaging in a political campaign to preserve the status quo within their state. It’s an election year. They want an open borders society, and they are making it very clear to their residents, and the rest of CA where they stand through their political posturing: “Don’t follow the lead of AZ”. I understand that CA is very generous with its public benefits. We can look at them as an example. Do we want a state that is $500 $19 billion in the hole like they are? I personally don’t. They can run their state how they like, but I also leave it to them to deal with the consequences of their decisions. There is nothing forcing them in the situation they’re in except for their own values, and what they think is sensible policy. If they are satisfied with their current situation, I say leave them to it. I believe in federalism. If at some point they find their situation unacceptable, well then they can reconsider their values and change their policies to try to make their situation better. They are still one of the largest economies in the world. They have plenty of resources with which to solve their problems. All it takes on their part is the will to do it. I am not trying to suggest that they do anything about their immigration policies. That’s for them to decide. Since they’re pointing the finger at AZ, I’m just pointing the finger back at them.

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