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August 09, 2007

Backwards on Immigration

The New York Times has a very sensible editorial on immigration today, lamenting that the failure of the comprehensive reform bill has not led to more humane or constructive solutions, but a retreat to enforcement-only strategies and xenophobic local policies. Instead of not going forward, we've actually gone far back. I remain sadly pessimistic on the chances of a more enlightened policy coming to the fore in the near future -- the real question is whether we can keep the situation from becoming much, much worse. Particularly if current fears bear out and the collapse of the credit markets leads to a general recession. Immigrants rarely do well in times of economic pain...

August 9, 2007 | Permalink


You all could have tried passing a bill that wasn't so terrible that most people who actually cared about the issue would be able to support it. But that didn't happen. Instead you wanted to pass a bill to import workers to take jobs away from people who already had no other alternatives to those McJobs. You wanted to import a slave class to do your bidding, and America said no. The people who could have immigrated to this country under that bill could already immigrant by paying the same 1.5k to an immigration official in bribes. The other people couldn't afford to try to live on even less than they already are, and would have remained illegal immigrants.

I fail to see how that bill actually helped any American that wasn't wealthy. If you want a lot of people to support a bill, try tailoring it to something other than the needs of 2-3% of the population.

Posted by: soullite | Aug 9, 2007 11:14:50 AM

Soullite, the people who care about the issue who didn't support the bill weren't facing the realities involved in getting an amnesty. The bill was pretty much the best shot at this, no better bill would have had a better chance at passage--it would have had even less chance to pass. The refusal to face reality about this has cost illegal immigrants and their families a great deal.

One thing I mentioned after the failure of the bill was that the worst parts of it were the most likely to become law independently, both worsening things for illegal immigrants and making a future bill to help them increasingly less likely, as the carrots for Republicans would already be used up.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 9, 2007 11:47:36 AM

I think the focus on enforcement is right, but aimed at the wrong folks. It's the businesses which make extensive use of illegal labor to maintain a class of bullied workers they can exploit who should be the target of enforcement actions.

Posted by: TW Andrews | Aug 9, 2007 12:56:25 PM

I think Sanpete was right all along - the bill that was proposed was probably the only bill that could pass this Congress and get signed at this present time; I'm just the one who maintained that this was an argument for letting it fail, not for accepting a host of highly problematic "improvements" to immigration policy that would likely have made things much worse. I tend to disagree with the notion that some of these heavy enforcement bills can actually pass on their own or that they can make it to the President's desk in a form he'll find acceptable - and conservatives will surely be more pissed if all they get are more platitudes about adding border patrol agents and fencing while not providing any money to fund it, as could easily occur (it will look enough like doing something to get the heat off most members). I do think there are enforcement measures (like actually deporting known felons and some business crackdowns) that could be done without passing anything, and that would reflect a seriousness about drawing some sort of line that would at least be a start. But I continue to believe that until we start getting more people to think about this differently - to focus on getting and improving a workable process for all immigration - will we be able to move past the twin problems of overzealous punishment, and overly lenient amnesty. The big bill's failure proved that tying one to the other isn't a solution; I suspect the failure of much of the punitive proposals alone will prove that "enforcement alone" is no winner either.

Posted by: weboy | Aug 9, 2007 1:59:09 PM

I'm just the one who maintained that this was an argument for letting it fail, not for accepting a host of highly problematic "improvements" to immigration policy that would likely have made things much worse

As I pointed out at the time, your most central objections were based on misconceptions about how immigration already works, especially in regard to why there are such long delays. If you had given anything even remotely like a better alternative that could realistically pass in the next ten years, you might have had a point. As it is, we'll have something worse for everyone, including those with 10- and 15-year delays, for the foreseeable future. Too many people wanted some impossible better and not enough wanted the realistic best.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 9, 2007 2:09:57 PM

I don't see the point of going round and round too much on this, though I'll simply say this - the point where we largely agree is that current immigration policy doesn't work, which you define as not working for a certain set of reasons, and I see as not working in other ways (ways that, really, are not outside of the view of a variety of critics of current immigration policies and process). As for "realistic best," my argument has never been over whether or not you are realistic, simply over defining that bad bill as "best." In any case, the whole debate over who was right about that bill is essentially moot - it's dead, and we all have to figure out what we will do in the interim and where to put our energies. Aside from naturally opposing most of what's currently under consideration in Congress, it strikes me that there's really no point in going back to that "compromise structure" envisioned in the last 2 go-rounds of the immigration bill; there simply is too much opposition in too many quarters to a combination of regressive punitive measures, a poorly thought out guest worker program, and new limits on existing visas. That's before the underlying issue of the amnesty/path to citizenship debate, which really needs (my take) a fresh perspective and a de-emphasis on solely looking at immigration through the lens of the Southern border. I would pretty much guarantee if we go back, yet again, to having a debate that focuses on Mexico, fences and blanket undifferentiated acceptance of Southern border crossing we will be right back where we were and where we are now. My argument is not with you, sanpete, and my only point is your biggest problem in getting better immigration reform isn't with me; all I want is something that makes better sense. You've got much worse out there to deal with, and I'm more curious about your thoughts on dealing with those problems, then rehashing something that's pretty much past.

Posted by: weboy | Aug 9, 2007 4:11:40 PM

all I want is something that makes better sense

Like what? As I keep saying, you've never come up with anything substantially better that would have a prayer of becoming law.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 9, 2007 4:51:17 PM

Sanpete, you know what I want... the question at this point is what do you want, since I'm prepared to accept that not everything I want is doable now (or even, as you suggest, ever; though I remain hopeful that Democrats will get better on this), but it's the thing you were in favor of that failed. So now what? If you don't have something you can support at this point, or that you would at least find acceptable, then I ask, who's got the bigger problem? You're the self-defined realist in this discussion - what, realistically, then, is doable?

Posted by: weboy | Aug 9, 2007 6:09:46 PM

Weboy, the most realistic bill, as I keep saying, is one very much like the one you opposed, which failed in part because progressives didn't support it as they should have and were thus completely out-shouted by the opponents. Progressives needed to be educated and sane about the realities involved. Unfortunately, as I said at the time, I don't foresee another shot at this anytime soon. When Democrats have control, no compromise will be possible due to lack of Republican leadership on this, and no non-compromise will be possible either, due to lack of Democratic willingness to take the heat, along with obstruction from Republicans. I'm afraid any comprehensive reform is toast for a long time.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 9, 2007 7:22:50 PM

Sanpete do you still believe that the executive branch will actually enforce any kind of "enforcement measures" supported in a comprehensive immigration bill?

They havent been serious about enforcement since the 1960s. There's no reason for them to suddenly give a damn and follow EXISTING LAWS.

We dont need to deport a single illegal and we can disband the border patrol and leave the borders wide open. As long as we make the punishment on businesses so severe and so lethal to any thought of profit or productivity to hire illegals, thats all we need.

Posted by: joe blow | Aug 9, 2007 7:38:03 PM

Joe, I've answered that question from you several times with reasons, so this time I'll just say yes. I agree that employer enforcement would be the most effective deterent. I disagree that existing law is practically enforceable, and I don't think there will be the will to enforce it until there is comprehensive reform.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 9, 2007 7:46:00 PM

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