Creative Destruction

March 31, 2006

The immigration question

Filed under: Uncategorized — bazzer @ 6:24 pm

There are two reasons why I've yet to mention this new, hot political topic of the day. First, I've been so busy with real life for the past couple of days that I've barely blogged about anything. Second, like many people, I don't really know what to say about it.

First of all, I want to know how the immigration issue finally exploded so prominently on our national stage? Last time I checked, pretty much only Pat Buchanan and Michelle Malkin were yammering about it. Next thing I know, massive rallies and protests are breaking out, there are competing bills in Congress, and it's all anybody's talking about.

What happened? As near as I can tell, there was no precipitating event which triggered this "crisis." Joblessness in American is near an all-time low, and I haven't seen any news stories about al Qaeda operatives infiltrating our country over the Mexican border.

And yet, here we are. The issue has acquired a political momentum that demands it be addressed once and for all, no matter how much individual lawmakers may wish to avoid going on record with their position. Funny how things work out that way sometimes.

So what do we do? Passions are clearly inflamed on all sides, so how do we arrive at a satisfactory common ground?

On the positive side, I can't help but think there is much more that unites us than divides us on this issue. I think the majority of reasonable people in both parties would agree that our southern border is far too porous, and that it's desirable to strengthen those borders and to stem the steady flow of illegal immigrants into this country.

Likewise, I think most would agree that we also have to offset this policy by increasing the number of legal immigrants into this country, providing our economy with the influx of workers on which it has come to depend.

So I guess the real sticking point, then, is what to do with the illegals who are already here. Automatic deportation of undocumented workers is a non-starter. It would be politically non-viable even if it were desirable. Think, for example, of how many illegals have had children since coming here. Those children are U.S. citizens, and we're not about to start breaking up families. On the other hand, a blanket amnesty, even a de facto amnesty, doesn't exactly sit right with our fundamental sense of fairness and the rule of law.

Clearly, some middle path is desirable, but it's hard to know what that should look like. Maybe undocumented workers could be given a choice: return home and apply for "guest worker" status under the new, more lenient statutes, or pay a fine and stay here, but forfeit your right to apply for citizenship.

Or something else. I just made that up as an example, to help illustrate that it is possible to come up with a fair, humane compromise and simultaneously reinforce our borders in the process. I don't know what the best solution is, but I am confident that reasonable answers can be found.

So why am I so pessimistic about the whole thing? Why can't I shake the feeling that, with passions so inflamed all the way around, that nothing good will come from this current debate?

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14 Comments »

  1. Deportation has been politically suicidal for some time now, and for whatever reason, enforcing the law is apparently an act of bigotry, and the INS is evil, etc.

    I sympathize with illegal immigrants, but to come into another country, against that country’s laws, and then start making demands–is reprehensible. They obviously haven’t been here for more than a generation, because once you have a child on American soil, they are natural-born citizens and you’ve a legal in to citizenship yourself. So who do they think they are to tell a government that they do not vote in how it should be doing business?

    I think that breaking the law should be a punishable offense, but I also see both the benefits of, and a need for, a reforming of both the law itself and the nature of the punishment.

    Deportation just can’t be done on the scale that it would have to be for the law to be upheld. Some other form of punishment should be utilized–first of all, any business that hires them should feel the full force of the law. They are less sympathetic to the public, and so are easier politically to go after–and punishing them discourages businesses from working outside of the law.

    There should also be a method for working with the law; though some should still be deported, there ought to be a point after which people have the option of getting residency, but they have to work their asses off for it. Steeper taxes, a no-tolerance policy for any criminal activity (one crime and you’re out), etc.

    Reform is needed in order to balance both the current political landscape and the need for rule of law.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — March 31, 2006 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

  2. The idea of rule of law informs both opinions expressed above. The law stems from a policy, but in fact the law is severely flawed and largely unenforceable, perhaps because the policy itself is poorly formed. I lack the wisdom to formulate a solution and share Bazzer’s pessimism. There is a sort of defeatism that goes with that, too, as devoting so much energy and resources to this endless morass, like the so-called War on Drugs, only results in wasting energy and resources. Perhaps some new idea or attitude towards immigration will form over time. I don’t see it just yet, and calls to enforce our current laws and reinforce our borders promises mixed results at best.

    Comment by Brutus — March 31, 2006 @ 8:15 pm | Reply

  3. Reducing illegal immigration is fairly simple. It just requires us to reorient the incentives set up by our tax system.

    Here’s how I’d do it. First, I’d change our income tax system into a consumption tax system, and I’d make that tax pretty high. Then, we create a refund system for citizens only that covers a great deal of that tax. (So poor citizens wouldn’t end up being screwed by the fact that they have to buy groceries.)

    Illegals wouldn’t be able to access the refund, so they’d pay enormous prices for ordinary goods. That would in turn make it impossible for them to take low-paying jobs and still live in more comfort than they would have back home, so the incentive to come here is greatly reduced.

    This wouldn’t eliminate illegal immigration, but it would take the wind out of it.

    Comment by bobhayes — March 31, 2006 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

  4. Here’s how I’d do it. First, I’d change our income tax system into a consumption tax system, and I’d make that tax pretty high. Then, we create a refund system for citizens only that covers a great deal of that tax. (So poor citizens wouldn’t end up being screwed by the fact that they have to buy groceries.)

    Can you imagine the kind of corruption that would breed, though?

    Even assuming it could be crystal clean or tolerably on the straight and narrow, it’d be terrible for the economy. I mean, sure there’d be a refund, but you’d have to have the money to pay for the overpriced stuff right then and there.

    I dunno. I do think that the whole thing needs to be redesigned, though.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — March 31, 2006 @ 10:32 pm | Reply

  5. Issue a citizen ID card that you can present to have the bulk of the tax taken off right there at the register, maybe.

    Comment by bobhayes — March 31, 2006 @ 11:04 pm | Reply

  6. Interesting. ID card or Social Security card; have a tax for the people who can’t produce either. People have gotten used to needing a photo ID for the bank or for when they use their credit cards; seems like that’d be easy to adapt to.

    Yeah, I can see that.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — April 1, 2006 @ 3:10 am | Reply

  7. Yeah, that way would work better than my rather Byzantine arrangement.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 1, 2006 @ 3:20 am | Reply

  8. Sweet.

    Let’s do it.

    Um…I’ll go…uh…get elected…now…

    Comment by Adam Gurri — April 1, 2006 @ 3:40 am | Reply

  9. Snap to it, boy!

    BTW, I don’t know what setting you need to twiddle, but I’m pretty sure we’re aren’t actually having this conversation at 3 AM. IOW, the timestamps on comments and posts are kerflooey.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 1, 2006 @ 5:52 am | Reply

  10. Yeah, I think Adam has the timestamps set at GMT +2 or something. Or it’s just WP wonkery. Just set it as Eastern Time, we non-right-coasters are used to it.

    Oh, and Adam. Don’t bother running for Congress. I’ve a much better set-up here in CO-7 with the D/R/L/I spread at 31/32/31/6. Let me set myself up as a big-L Libertarian, and I’ll take the social issues away from the Democrats, the tax base issues from the Republicans, and absolute personal freedom issues from the Libertarians. I can win with 10 points over the incumbent and really throw the political picture into a loop.

    Bob can be my Chief of Staff, Adam for my Director of Communications (traditional job for the snarky college student), and Brutus can be my equivalent of Scooter Libby. Bazzer can… Ummm… Well, I’ll figure out something.

    Comment by offcolfax — April 1, 2006 @ 7:19 am | Reply

  11. Someone has to go get donuts. Bazzer can be the guy who gets donuts.

    It worked for Xander Harris.

    The only way you’ll sell it is to be tough on the war. Say “we’re at war and we should be acting like we’re at war” and you’ll pull in a lot of security parents, too.

    As your signature issue, you can advocate renaming the DoD as “The War Department” like in the good old days. Popular, costs very little, and sets the right tone at the Pentagon.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 1, 2006 @ 7:27 am | Reply

  12. Well, I can’t really do the “at war” meme, seeing as how I’ve already publicly stated my opinion regarding our alledged state of war over on that other blog. You can’t successfully run on a position you’ve publicly stated you’re against, regardless of what the Capitol Hill Two-Step says. I can run with a “They say we’re at war, but they sure as hell don’t act like it.” plank to the platform. Damn sure.

    And I’m sure I could figure out a better slot than “donut-fetcher” for Baz. Maybe campaign coordinator? Let the volunteers fetch donuts, and Bazzer can give them directions.

    Hmmm… Maybe I should start thinking about an exploratory committee…

    Comment by offcolfax — April 1, 2006 @ 10:20 am | Reply

  13. Well, I can’t really do the “at war” meme

    I don’t work for hippies.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 2, 2006 @ 5:54 am | Reply

  14. Oh, and Adam. Don’t bother running for Congress. I’ve a much better set-up here in CO-7 with the D/R/L/I spread at 31/32/31/6. Let me set myself up as a big-L Libertarian, and I’ll take the social issues away from the Democrats, the tax base issues from the Republicans, and absolute personal freedom issues from the Libertarians. I can win with 10 points over the incumbent and really throw the political picture into a loop.

    Well, you have my vote.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — April 2, 2006 @ 9:07 pm | Reply


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