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May 18, 2007

More On The Immigration Bill

In which I do reporting. Additionally, has anyone else noticed how upset the folks are over at The Corner? They're worried about the enforcement strength, Hannity is "more upset at Republicans than Democrats," joking that Kyl and McCain's apostasy means they "really should be boycotting Arizona," advising that "conservatives on principle ought to be opposed to any kind of "reform" labelled as "comprehensive", and calling the whole thing the "J. Wellington Wimpy plan."

May 18, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

I think that "Right-wing Republicans hate it" isn't an acceptable reason. Right-wing Republicans will hate any bill that recognizes undocumented immigrants in any way.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | May 18, 2007 5:32:37 PM

This is a horrible bill for American workers. It allows more H-1B indentured servants in to compete for the dwindling supply of American IT jobs. And it allows more "guest workers" in to drive down blue-collar wages still further.

Quite simply, you can't be both pro-immigration and pro-labor.

Posted by: Josh G. | May 18, 2007 5:35:06 PM

That said, that was a nice bit of reporting. I'll have more comments this weekend I imagine.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | May 18, 2007 5:39:02 PM

Yeah, this is not a zero-sum game between two players. It's a game between three players. People who want the border closed. People who want the border open to cheap labor. People who want the border open to future citizens.

The closed border crowd is getting totally screwed. Hence Corner screaming.

The cheap labor crowd got everything they wanted.

The citizenship crowd might be marginally happier than they are with the status quo.

Posted by: Consumatopia | May 18, 2007 6:27:13 PM

As I discussed in an email, Prospect has blocked one set of my available IP addresses for some reason, so I can't read it. Perhaps you could suggest they deal with that.

As for the bill, it's good you appreciate its "delicious" side.

As for the not so "delicious" side:

- it will give even more PoliticalPower inside the U.S. to the MexicanGovernment. I highly doubt that Ezra Klein knows much about that, so here are some of the dozens of links I could provide: tinyurl.com/8u2jm, tinyurl.com/23xg52, tinyurl.com/yo2j95, tinyurl.com/yns9zd, tinyurl.com/ysnpd2.

In fact, instead of listing all the other hugely negative impacts of the bill, I'll stop with that point. If Ezra Klein wants to speak knowledgably about this issue instead of spreading disinformation as he has in the past (tinyurl.com/2u8v4d), then he should tell us that a) we don't need to worry about Mexico gaining even more PoliticalPower inside the U.S., or b) how he intends to prevent that from happening.

Posted by: John Edwards is going to help stop amnesty | May 18, 2007 6:27:20 PM

I'm definitely feeling happier about the bill reading what you've heard, though.

Posted by: Consumatopia | May 18, 2007 6:30:38 PM

Current thinking is that Bush will sign just about anything that emerges from the process, be it far to the left, or, as with the Sensenbrenner bill he approved last year, far to the right. He needs the accomplishment.

I give very little weight to that idea, and I hope its unreality won't end up sinking this. Good investigation, though.

Quite simply, you can't be both pro-immigration and pro-labor.

Phooey. How about pro-people?

The closed border crowd is getting totally screwed. Hence Corner screaming.

How? They may not be content with anything short of the Great Wall of the Rio Grande with Berlin Wall type security, but there's plenty enforcement in the bill.

The citizenship crowd might be marginally happier than they are with the status quo.

The citizenship crowd that cares about those already here is getting a very important step forward.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 18, 2007 6:43:18 PM

How about pro-people?

What of the billions of people who are worse off than Mexicans? What about the legal applicants whose applications will be delayed while trying to legalize millions of people? Any concern for them?

As for the enforcement in the bill, remember that the *legalization comes first*, followed by a promise of enforcement. Most likely, those forces that are currently pushing this will push for reduced enforcement, including racial power groups, business groups, and the MexicanGovernment.

Posted by: John Edwards is going to help stop amnesty | May 18, 2007 7:40:49 PM

I think we should open our country to unskilled immigration when, and only when, there is so much upwards pressure on wages for the unskilled that it is clear that there is a worker shortage.

We have far too many throwaways as it is: poorly educated, people out of prison, etc. Employers would much rather hire docile non-english speakers who are illegal than people who have been trampled by American capitalism.

Until we get to the point of clear upwards pressure on wages, fierce employer sanctions.

Same thing for H1B.

Only a fool would believe the politicians on this amnesty for 12 million - last time it was amnesty for 3 million, and that was supposed to be the end of it. Fool me once, shame on me: won't get fooled again.

Posted by: dissent | May 18, 2007 10:16:36 PM

What of the billions of people who are worse off than Mexicans?

What about them? As far as I can tell this bill doesn't address them.

What about the legal applicants whose applications will be delayed while trying to legalize millions of people? Any concern for them?

Amnesty might well seem unfair to someone who is working through the system and waiting patiently for a green card. That's really neither here nor there. America's policy with respect to immigration can't be guided primarily by what is or isn't fair to foreigners. America's immigration policy must be guided primarily by what is in the national interest. Bringing twelve million of the country's residents out from the underground is in the national interest.

Most likely, those forces that are currently pushing this will push for reduced enforcement...

Maybe so, but the number of persons trying to sneak in from Mexico each year should, in theory, decline by a half million or so (ie., the size of the guest worker program). Reducing the size of the job we require of the ICE should make its work more effective -- and that's not even taking into consideration its larger size and bigger budget if this legislation passes. Of course, we could get an even larger "enforcement dividend" if the guest worker program were less of a guest worker program and more of a straightforward immigration program for Latin Americans.

Posted by: Jasper | May 18, 2007 10:21:33 PM

What of the billions of people who are worse off than Mexicans?

We should help them too, to the extent we can.

As far as I can tell this bill doesn't address them.

Sure it does. We just don't have as many illegal immigrants from other places, so they aren't being talked about specifically.

What about the legal applicants whose applications will be delayed while trying to legalize millions of people?

I sure hope we can avoid longer delays than the 10- and 15-year delays we have now.

I think we should open our country to unskilled immigration when, and only when, there is so much upwards pressure on wages for the unskilled that it is clear that there is a worker shortage.

There's more likely to be upward pressure with legal immigrants than illegal ones.

Only a fool would believe the politicians on this amnesty for 12 million - last time it was amnesty for 3 million, and that was supposed to be the end of it.

I don't think many people believed that, but it did last for 20 years. If this one lasts that long, that will be plenty long enough to punish those who work here.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 19, 2007 12:58:30 AM

As I said over at Tapped, nice reporting, but your sources seem overly optimistic, and I don't buy the logic that this passes now because no better set of circumstances will exist down the road. These are lousy circumstances, if one steps back and looks clearly at them... and this is a terrible bill. It is a lousy compromise effort that loses sight of every real problem for a set of imagined problems that can't really be solved. Moreover, since almost no one has shown any real leadership in challenging American's worst instincts, the field has been wide open for xenophobes and isolationsists to whip people into a frenzy about border crossings and Mexican immigration. If right wingers seem wildly John Wayne, border Democrats do not seem much better, and that's made for an ugly set of circumstances where little good can be done. So much of this is unrealistic, and so much of it ignores the fact the central agency responsible for all of this is currently a dramatic failure (the INS), that if it did pass, it would probably be largely meaningless... but it shouldn't pass. I'm convinced, for now, that the combination of right wing rage (really, they're furious), liberal wishy-washiness, and inertia will sink this bill, and it should. Bush shouldn't get another accompishment - especially one as desperate and lousy as this one; only a litany of failures that will sum up his disastrous Presidency on just the right note.

Posted by: weboy | May 19, 2007 12:59:57 AM

Weboy, you've managed not to mention any specific problems with this bill, or why the part of Ezra's analysis you refer to is wrong. I think it's correct.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 19, 2007 1:12:52 AM

I'm tired of all the well-meaning alleged liberals who want to "help" the rest of the world. When does it come time to help the AMERICAN worker? The American worker who for the past 6 - no, the past 30 years - has seen his wages plummet, his unions busted, his jobs shipped overseas, and his health care benefits dwindle while their price soars?

Fuck the world. I care about American workers and the rest of the world can go to hell.

Posted by: Josh G. | May 19, 2007 1:38:22 AM

Sorry you're so tired Josh. Maybe you need some rest.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 19, 2007 1:46:36 AM

I think it's entirely possible to be both pro-immigration and pro-labor. But you have to be for the liberalization of immigration laws, not the creation of slave labor through a guest worker program.

There is no doubt that this bill is so hostile to the American worker that nobody who is no supporting it should ever claim to be their ally in the future. Even if the guest worker program drops to 200k before it's passed, it will be raised repeatedly when nobody is paying attention. Those workers will not be allowed to unionize, and they will depress American wages. This bill will be the end of working and middle class unions in America. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.

Sanpete- What analysis? Right wingers hate it, that's not analysis. I haven't seen a whole lot of substance on that side of the debate at all. How will a guest worker program help anyone but corporations that want to make use of cheaper workers because they don't want to do what you're supposed to do when you can't attract workers at current wages.

Posted by: soullite | May 19, 2007 7:24:05 AM

Sanpete - If I were to pick one thing - and I would pretty much reject almost every piece of this bill - I'd start with the additional border guards and beefed up security and penalties. This is the sop to the right that's most egregious,and we have really nothing to prove that all these measures - the walls, the guards, etc - are really doing anything substantial to stop the flow of people (while we have considerable evidence to suggest that added risks are hurting more people). I don't want the border to be porous, but a police state on the southern border won't fix it.

But what I really object to is the way we're going about this overall, so yes, I'm less about specifics. I want to know that we're going to reorganize the INS - that we're going to get them to take less time processing applications, stop making applicants jump through absurd procedural hoops, and improve the INS visa tracking systems so we don't "lose" visitors who become untraceable. I think we need to face that most - if not all - of the people who are already here need a process to apply for citizenship that admits that since they're here, we don't have a lot of choice but to put them in a sensible process to become citizens, or to have them leave (I'm not talking amnesty, but many conservatives will call anything that happens just that, and someone has to take them on for it).

Finally, it strikes me that the absolute worst thing we can do is go from family-based immigration to worker-based. "Guest Worker" programs are a terrible idea. Not allowing families to reunite in a coherent, sensible fashion (which is very broken now) is inhumane and would be worse if this bill became law. What I think we've done in these fairly ugly times is lose sight of the value of immigration and immigrants, and our correction is built, right now, on our worst impulses - business over people's needs, closed doors over open ones, fear over acceptance. Like so many things about the Bush Administration, I think, as political watchers, we've lowered our bar of judgement so low that we accept the mere fact that Democrats and Republicans emerged from a room agreeing on something as actual progress; rather than looking askance at anything that could get this awful Administration and this okay, but not great Congress on the same page. I don't trust this disastrous administration to come up with a sensible plan to walk the dog, never mind solve an intractable problem over immigration that's taken years to devolve to this. I'm sorry if I don't seem to dwell on specifics. I think the problem here is bigger than that.

Posted by: weboy | May 19, 2007 7:30:46 AM

America's policy with respect to immigration can't be guided primarily by what is or isn't fair to foreigners. America's immigration policy must be guided primarily by what is in the national interest.

A lot of people supporting the immigration plan are arguing the exact opposite... that no matter how much it might hurt American workers, it might end up helping poor Mexican workers, so it is overall a positive. Not an argument I'm sympathetic to, but that's what some bloggers are arguing.

Posted by: Constantine | May 19, 2007 9:18:09 AM

Constantine, it's an argument that will lead to political irrelevance. To be honest, that's the way it should be. A movement or leader that refuses to look out for it's own people first isn't fit to prosper or lead. You help others when you can afford to, not when it hurts the weakest and most vulnerable in your society. It's not people like Ezra that will poorly off because of this. It's not people like Atrios. That fundemental fact is one that's missing from this argument.

They are not offering self-sacrifice to help others. They are sacrificing people they don't know or care about so that they can feel better about themselves. In doing so, they reveal themselves not only to be self-serving hypocrites, but also to be unfit to lead or shape opinion.

Posted by: soullite | May 19, 2007 9:34:14 AM


They are not offering self-sacrifice to help others. They are sacrificing people they don't know or care about so that they can feel better about themselves. In doing so, they reveal themselves not only to be self-serving hypocrites, but also to be unfit to lead or shape opinion.

Now that's funny.

Posted by: Sandals | May 19, 2007 12:55:05 PM

Jasper doesn't understand my reply to the faux-humanistic argument sanpete was trying to make.

In any case, the "national interest" is not having millions of people here who have allegiance to foreign countries, largely one country with an extremely aggressive stance towards the citizens that they send us. We need to reduce that number by enforcing the laws; simply waving a magic wand and changing their status will do little positive about the issue, and will do much negative by showing weakness and thereby encouraging even more to come here illegally.

He also says: "Maybe so, but the number of persons trying to sneak in from Mexico each year should, in theory, decline by a half million or so"

You're high if you think that. 86% of Mexico's workforce still lives in that country, and there are hundreds of millions in the rest of Latin America. All of those will see this as an amnesty, and many will try to come here one way or another.

sanpete says: "I sure hope we can avoid longer delays than the 10- and 15-year delays we have now."

Yes, dumping 12-20 million people on an already overburdened system is going to really help that. Plus, I'm sure we'll be able to do thorough background checks to make sure that none of those 12-20 million people are actually Islamic extremists posing as Mexicans.

Posted by: John Edwards: get ready to help us oppose amnesty | May 19, 2007 1:15:31 PM

Those workers will not be allowed to unionize

Again, baloney. You're just making stuff up, soullite. Guest workers are certainly no worse for unions than illegals, probably better.

Sanpete- What analysis?

Can't tell what you're referring to.

How will a guest worker program help anyone but corporations that want to make use of cheaper workers because they don't want to do what you're supposed to do when you can't attract workers at current wages.

Cheap labor is actually good in some sectors, such as food production, where the costs for essential goods are passed on to consumers, including the low-income. As it is now, it's often cheaper to buy machine-produced crap than fresh fruit and vegetables, which are labor intensive products at harvest. That's in part because the labor for harvest is actually pretty well paid, but it would have to be far more highly paid to work without guest workers and illegals. In short, cheap labor can help consumers, especially the poor.

I don't want the border to be porous, but a police state on the southern border won't fix it.

So what do you want, weboy? Saying we need to fix the INS is a bit vague where border security is concerned. Maybe the extra border security won't do any good at all (it does appear to move the points of entry to the less guarded areas), but I'd happily trade that ineffective effort for legal status for 12-million. This is a compromise, because there isn't enough support to do the immigration reform without the added security. Pass this up, and there will very likely be no citizenship for those already here. Just dismissing that is no argument.

Same with the guest worker program, which is supposed to substitute legal workers for illegal ones. You don't say why you object to it, but it's part of the compromise package needed to attract enough conservative and moderate support to pass. The family stuff is a separate issue. Not sure what you think the changes will be, but spouses and minor children will still be given the same preference as before, and other family ties will be considered alongside other factors.

I see no reason to wait until the INS is fixed to change the laws about immigration.

Your explanation of the lack of specifics in your complaints doesn't amount to a good argument.

A lot of people supporting the immigration plan are arguing the exact opposite... that no matter how much it might hurt American workers, it might end up helping poor Mexican workers, so it is overall a positive.

No one has said that. The idea is to weigh the good to others as part of the consideration, which some people want to ignore completely. The idea some have that this bill will harm the poor in any significant way they aren't already being harmed is pretty thin. It also ignores the fact that it helps those already living among us, the illegals who have been here for years working for us. I don't see the supposed moral superiority of caring only about the citizen with the full benefits of the social safety net and ignoring the noncitizen with even less who lives in the same building.

In any case, the "national interest" is not having millions of people here who have allegiance to foreign countries, largely one country with an extremely aggressive stance towards the citizens that they send us.

This couldn't worry me less. You're paranoid about this.

More staff can be added to the INS. This isn't that hard to do. The people are already here, so your terrorism fears are silly.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 19, 2007 1:42:57 PM

Interesting. Not a single comment on Minimum Wage, or pass me the smelling salts Living Wage.

If your markets are not clearing it is a sign that you are not priced right. If you don't want immigrants crossing the border then raise wages until markets start clearing among legal residents. Employers love to cling to the notion that wages are set at leavels dictated by marginal productivity and so they are forced to hire illegals but really this is nonsense. It implicitly builds in the notion that whatever your profit margin is a natural result of market forces rather than a conscious decision on how to divide gains from productivity.

Don't want undocumented Mexicans flooding your labor markets? Pay wages that will draw American citizens and documented immigrants. Or show how those costs would drive your return on capital below equivalent investments. Then maybe we can allocate you some H-1B visas. But frankly I don't see a lot of employers passing this test. Illegals and H-1B are good for profits, they are the result of conscious choices on how to slice the productivity pie.

Posted by: Bruce Webb | May 19, 2007 1:48:11 PM

"That's in part because the labor for harvest is actually pretty well paid, but it would have to be far more highly paid to work without guest workers and illegals. In short, cheap labor can help consumers, especially the poor."

You might want to tighten that up. You can either be pretty well paid or be cheap labor, maintaining within adjacent sentences that you can be both is kind of odd. Any time I hear an argument that suggests that wages are set from some concern about prices for the poor I want to reach for my pistol. It is the whole 'minimum wage increases costs jobs' nonsense. So? How many jobs? Is there a net loss of labor income? If not why should we care? Employers show no concern when they cut jobs, instead they give themselves bonuses. Yet when you turn it around suddenly labor has some huge collective responsibility.

This line of thinking is thoroughly dishonest, it is an attempt to use liberal beliefs in social welfare as a club, to argue that any negative effect at the margin should be resisted whatever the benefits to the larger number within. Well this is complete and total nonsense, increase workers share of the pie and we'll find a way to take up the slack. We'll even give it a snazzy label. Has the 'New Deal' been taken?

Posted by: Bruce Webb | May 19, 2007 2:03:53 PM

Cheap is relative, Bruce, as I think you already knew.

Any time I hear an argument that suggests that wages are set from some concern about prices for the poor I want to reach for my pistol.

No one suggested that. I was addressing the effects of wages, not the reasons employers have for setting them. But hold your pistol anyway if it makes you feel good.

It is the whole 'minimum wage increases costs jobs' nonsense.

Not even close to what I said.

This line of thinking is thoroughly dishonest

Bullshit. It's a lot easier to sloppily misread and dismiss other views as dishonest than to deal with the actual arguments rationally, isn't it? I answered the point about the benefits of cheap wages factually. You may not like the facts, but that doesn't change them. You can argue that other facts are more important, something you haven't even begun to show, but that wouldn't make what I said untrue or the least dishonest.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 19, 2007 2:31:16 PM

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