Immigration Comments

With today’s rally bringing the issue of immigration to the forefront, and 180,000 people expected as part of the march down 16th St. past the White House to the Mall, it brings the question to the forefront of the DC area: How do we treat immigrants as a community? Should there be an amnesty? Should there be a wall? What’s too far, when it comes to legalization or amnesty?

What’s your take on all this? Please tell us in the comments.

Were you there for the protest today? Tell us your thoughts or post your pictures.

11 Comments so far

  1. wayan (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 2:33 pm

    First let’s recognize that the US economy, as its currently working, needs a pool of cheap immigrant labor. There is a real demand, and we, in demanding affordable agriculture, hospitality, and construction products create this demand.

    Second, there is a supply of this labor to our south. Not just Mexico, but all the way to South America, and to a lesser extent across the seas to China and India. Labor that comes here primarily to work and remit a portion of earning home to family still in the home country, and has a high degree of desire to return to that home country one day.

    Now how to manage the interaction of that supply and demand is the crux of the issue at hand.

    I for one say that we should have a guest worker program that can handle the demand and the supply for immigrant (cheaper) labout. And then those workers that wish to stay must qualify in some way to start the immigration process in line with everyone else. Those that want to return home should have the ability to do so during their guest worker time, and when they finish and return home, have credit for working hard the first go-round if they apply again.

    Then we should have a strong enforcement, focused on businesses as much as workers, that fines those that hire outside the guest worker program and deports those who come here illegally. Again, the guest worker program should be large enough that there isn’t a need by normal business to go outside the process. We should also have a solid enforcement of our borders, but if the guest worker program handles enough of the demand/supply, there will not be the need to worry about the volumes of trespassers we see today.

    Last but not least, we need to recognize that the 11+ million illegals currently in the USA, hardworking people who are building our homes, picking our food, and cleaning our dishes, should be in a guest worker program (not an immigration program) already. They have already proven they are here to work. Once they complete the guest worker program (say 5 years?) then they can apply for immigration, but again, in whatever place they apply, not at the head of the line.

    Sound reasonable to you?

  2. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 3:00 pm

    Economic realities aside, wouldn’t that be awarding lawbreaking with something other than punishment?

  3. Don (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

    I think it’s worth mentioning – because it seems often glossed over – that the illegal immigration ‘problem’ is really a problem of tax enforcement and minimum wage enforcement. The force driving the use of immigrant labor is that they’re cheaper, and their willingness to settle for lower wages is really a minority of this driving force.

    Immigrant labor doesn’t have social security withdrawn and many times they’re paid a flat-rate for a a job, something you can’t do to an hourly employee in your office building if you’re unhappy with the quality of their work. Even if they WERE given 1099-MISC forms so they could file with the IRS, they don’t, and because they don’t they can accept a lower wage.

    For example, if my employer came to me and said “we’re going to get rid of all direct employees, but we’d like you to be an independent contractor. We’ve taken your annual salary and divided it by 2080, which is 52 weeks of 40 hours a week. We’re going to pay you that per hour from now on, okay?” I’d tell them to jump in a lake. Because when they hand me $1, they’ve already sent the social security administration $0.08 which I’d have to pay as a direct employee. And I get various benefits that have a value.

    So someone who was willing to work under the table can compete with me by demanding payment that’s $1 for my $1.08 (at least).

    Unfortunately the immigration battle is one where, just like the War on Some Drugs, we’re shooting at the wrong folk. In the WoSD we spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the supply while rarely addressing demand. Immigrant workers are just the supply; the people who employ them under the table for financial gain are the real lawbreakers.

  4. Joseph J. Finn (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

    Open up the borders, eliminate the INS and hand over their resources to the FBI to police everyone who comes to live here. The only real reason to have border patrols is to stop drug smuggling and that’s pretty much a DEA deal anyway, so let them worry about it.

    Unrealistic? Perhaps. But so was the nutty idea of closing our borders in the early 20th century and making becoming a resident of the USA a torturous exercise in paper-pushing that actively encourages people to skip it and immigrate illegally.

  5. Tiff (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 5:11 pm

    While I’m sympathetic to the argument about rewarding lawbreaking, it seems to me that there’s lawbreaking like murder, and lawbreaking like doing what you have to do to put food in the children’s mouths. Yes, they’re breaking the law, but it’s a poorly thought-out, poorly executed, and poorly enforced law. It’s not like it’s simple for a low-skilled worker to get into the country legally- if you want a work permit here, you have to prove you have some kind of skill the government deems “in demand,” and apparently drywall-hanging and fruit-picking aren’t on that list. And yet we need people to do those jobs, probably even more than we need H1-B programmers. That’s the thing no one is addressing- right now, there’s no realiable way for a low-skilled worker to get into the US legally, so all the “well they just should have gone to the office to do the paperwork” is sort of facile and doesn’t address the reality of what it means to do that paperwork.

    My concern is that a guest-worker program must include the option to apply for (and reasonably expect to get) a permanent resident card or something, otherwise we end up with the risk of creating what Europe has- this permanent, revolving underclass of foreign workers who will never be citizens and therefore have no incentive to learn the language or assimilate themselves into the community. Look what it’s gotten Paris.

    It seems to me that people who want to come here, get jobs, pay taxes, and stay out of trouble are the stuff model citizens are made of. Why are we working so hard to keep those people out instead of welcoming them with open arms? That said, clearly there’s a practical limit to how many new people our social services and infrastructure can comfortably absorb in a year, so if we’re going to be more generous in allowing legal immigration (which we should), we clearly have to do something to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Maybe it’s a big wall, maybe it’s more border patrol agents, I don’t know, but our ability to invite more people in legally rests on our ability to keep people from coming in illegally.

  6. jen m. (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 5:27 pm

    along the lines of what don says, the current situation of immigration law IS rewarding lawbreakers – it’s rewarding employers who break tax laws, labor laws, manipulate the immigration law to their advantage, etc.

    even if it were prudent to crack down on millions of immigrants currently in the country illegally, it isn’t feasible. i think the war on drugs is a good analogy. on the other hand, it would be feasible for the government to design and enforce federal tax and labor law in a manner that does not allow employers to exploit undocumented immigrants and flout the law to help turn a profit. but our current government leaders have shown little interest in taking on that fight.

    by the way, wayan, the people you are speaking of are people. they are not “illegals” any more than tom delay or martha stewart are “illegals.” that is to say, their status of being is not of an illegal human being. they are accused of violating a federal law (as martha and tom have been convicted and indicted of doing) but that does not make them “illegals.”

    you might not mean anything negative by it, but how we talk about other people is meaningful. using certain terms is disrespectful and undermines a person’s right to human dignity. calling a person on the street a “bum” is disrespectful and offensive. calling a person an “illegal” is disrespectful and offensive. applying anti-gay stereotypes like “limp-wristed” is disrespectful and offensive.

    believe me, i hate the p.c. police and i would never chide people for using “wrong” words just for the sake of being p.c., but if you want a diverse audience to respect your opinions and appreciate your posts, you should consider having more respect for the subjects you are blogging about.

    i also hate the idea that people from other cities or countries who read this blog might think that your disrespect is representative of DC in general. because i really don’t think it is.

  7. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 5:56 pm

    I don’t think Wayan is classing “illegals” as illegal people, but as illegal immigrants, which they most certainly are. They’re here without documentation, visa or citizenship and have no legal reason to be in the US.

    Should this sort of lawless behavior be rewarded with a path to citizenship? Generally that’s the sort of question that leaves me scratching my head a little bit. Part of me says, well, No, they shouldn’t. But part of me also says, well, they’re earning their living here, we should get to put them on the books and treat them like any other employee/citizen.

    I remember the amnesty in the 80s, when I was growing up in California and all the clamor that surrounded it. It was a chaotic time for a 10 year old, not knowing what it’s all about, makes me want to go see what I missed then.

  8. Don (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 6:09 pm

    As a former Miamian I have come to the conclusion that a sane, sensible and even-handed immigration policy is simply impossible. Not because it can’t be done, but because it won’t be done. You remember the amnesty in CA, I remember all the Mariels getting a pass. I remember the Cubans being political refugees (you can stay) and the Hatians being economic refugees (get out), a polity that everyone INSISTED has nothing to do with which group’s skin reflects less light.

    I also remember the still-in-place “dry foot” policy – talk about a system that sends a questionable message with regards to law enforcement! If you’re sneaky enough to make it past the coast guard and get in – you can stay! Yay! Get picked up while still in the water? Home you go!

  9. steven (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 9:23 pm

    It’s great to see this country passionate about something again. Today’s rally was refreshing.

  10. Jon (unregistered) on April 11th, 2006 @ 11:04 am

    Illegal Immigration is similar to H1 Visa Immigration. Wake up middle class and follow the money. The reason is because it is cheaper for business to hire a mexican to paint, an indian to program, and a chinese to manufacture. That’s it, don’t complicate things by getting into detail discussions about such a simple subject.

    So, if we continue this path, that means that most American will either be out of work or they will be reengineered/resourced into managers, architectures, inventors, educators, trainers, and so on. The idea is that American will become a workforce of hands-off CEO/Managers and Foreigners (Illegals and H1 Visas) will do the grunt work for much less.

  11. Swagy (unregistered) on April 11th, 2006 @ 2:42 pm

    The whole issue of immigration is one that is complex and involves many issues.

    The simplistic solutions from the extreme right and left will never work; there are enough laws on the books right now to enable effective control of the problem the real issue is the will to enforce the laws already in place.

    As I have stated in other forums one real way to effectively control the problem is to cut off the supply of illegal jobs, this would encourage people to get in line and immigrate legally.

    The scumbags that want a cheap maid or gardener or picker of crops are the ones that perpetuate this inequitable system. They in turn need to be the ones to pay the price. Prosecute those low lifers and most of the problem will go away.

    The heat and fire generated by this issue is, I believe hiding the true tragedy of this issue that is the human toll that the whole thing is generating, from the people who loose their lives crossing the borders, to those that are persecuted once they get here to those that are suffering in sub standard conditions of work. Additionally at the other end the costs to the whole community in providing health care, education and law enforcement, these are cost borne by us all.

    Prosecute the employers first, stop people from risking their lives crossing and make available a workable immigration system that is the way to end this whole mess.

    In My Humble Opinion

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