Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 4, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

DOING IMMIGRATION RIGHT....Fareed Zakaria sums up the immigration issue in two sentences:

Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?

That's an argument that even the wingnuts can understand. Do we really want to be like France?

On a more serious note, the whole piece really is pitch perfect. It's about the best short column I've yet read on the immigration debate.

Kevin Drum 12:02 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (200)

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Comments

Zakaria previewed this line on Jon Stewart last week. It's brilliant.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 4, 2006 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

Haven't read the piece yet, but the other brilliant thing on Stewart was the phrasing: of all the aspects of French social policy which the US might want to emulate, we pick their immigration policy? Leaving the point open that French health-care policy (and land management, etc.) are in fact worthy of emulation. And then he goes on to rehearse the whole angry-unassimilated-Muslim Europe-as-terrorist-breeding-ground vs. America's unparalleled success at assimilation thing.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 4, 2006 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

How come Democrats wail and wail about mismanagment and the status quo e.g. taken jobs, Walmart exploitation, crime in the immigrant community, border security but once a proposal gets serious, it has to block everything?

Just like social security.

Sometimes I think Democrat policy is to raise dissatisfaction with no solutions, and resist any solution so they can get votes of those offended.

Its kinda bankrupt and reeks of hypocrisy.

Posted by: mcA on April 4, 2006 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

He has an interesting comment. I thought the best lines were: "How do we want to treat those who are already in this country, working and living with us? How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans."

Posted by: Arminius on April 4, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

Not to take away from Zakaria's brilliance, but you could have gotten his main point by talking to any American citizen who has been through the student/visitor->green card->citizenship process here.

Posted by: lib on April 4, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

Not bad. He's always on the Daily Show (is he a member of the cast?) and I always feel like he's playing a game -- pretending to be the reasonable moderate that sees the good in both the conservative and liberal positions. With Iraq that's just stupid.

Here he's actually put down his compass and tried using logic.

Posted by: toast on April 4, 2006 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

Was a good article. Assimilation is always better than creating ghettos, either demographic or real ones. Unfortunately we have had some problems with self-created ghettos lately, with people who don't want to assimilate, but want to make this country Mexico II.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

The nation-state as an effective social institution is becoming obsolete. The so-called immigation issue is but one symptom of this growing trend.

Posted by: Thinker on April 4, 2006 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

As noted in the article...

One puzzle about post-Sept. 11 America is that it has not had a subsequent terror attack -- not even a small backpack bomb in a movie theater -- while there have been dozens in Europe.

Isn't this the crux of the political problem facing Dems in the near term elections? Although Zakaria casts the European problem as one of their immigration practices, this is likely to be a key theme of Repub election campaigning, and I suspect they will make no mention of ties to immigration.

Posted by: pencarrow on April 4, 2006 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Agree, a good article. Krugman's been hitting some of these same points recently. Immigration has been a boon for this country from the beginning. It would be a crying shame if we screw it up, but with the fools in Washington all agreeing that we need to "fix the problem" I think we're likely to do that. Worse thing could happen than failing to pass immigration reform.

Posted by: JJF on April 4, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

It truly is a wonderful, heartwarming article.

Now, for something FZ forgot to include, in the same article by Stanford historian David Kennedy that FZ mentions, Kennedy warns that the "possibility looms that in the next generation or so we will see a kind of Chicano Quebec take shape in the American Southwest"

FZ also forgot to mention the goals of the Mexican government.

FZ also - dare I say it - is trying to pull the wool over your eyes regarding enforcement. He says we need more border enforcement, but he forgets to tell you that what we really - and what weren't almost completely not getting now - is workplace enforcement.

And, he forgot to mention that around 40% of Mexico's population say they'd move here if they could. I guess we're going to need to really ramp up legal immigration to accomodate them. Plus, all the billions others who'll come here to take advantage of future amnesties like the amnesty FZ supports.

There's much, much more FZ didn't cover in his wonderfully heartwarming essay, so I'd suggest a bit more research.

-- Illegal immigration news

Posted by: TLB on April 4, 2006 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

pencarrow:

I have thought long and hard about why we haven't had any more terror attacks in all this time. I don't think it has to do with the nature of our local Muslim population, or with immigration problems.

I wish I knew what the answer is. A limited attack like in Europe would be so damn easy to carry off. I expected small "bomb in the cafe" follow-up attacks, and probably a "dirty bomb" soon after 9/11 (you can make one with non-lethal waste--the panic does the job). Nothing. It's gotten to the point where it's downright weird.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately we have had some problems with self-created ghettos lately, with people who don't want to assimilate, but want to make this country Mexico II.

Evidence please.

I'll take either an iota or a scintilla. Whatever you've got.

Posted by: Ray on April 4, 2006 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

Evidence please.

Visit the Silicon Valley. Especially Fremont. All those damn Indians with their weird accents and smelly food.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

Zakaria makes a number of excellent points. The rhetorical strategy is also superb. So is Kevin's tarring anyone who is anti-immigration as a wingnut. If only that were true.

Posted by: JohnFH on April 4, 2006 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

Er, there is no debate on immigration.
There's a debate on ILLEGAL ALIENS.

My goodness....didn't you know that?

Posted by: RW on April 4, 2006 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

Evidence please

Thousands of people marching with Mexican flags, raising Mexican flags at public schools, etc.

Spend a little time here.

Any questions?

Certainly this does not represent the views of all immigrants, even illegal ones, but there is certainly more than a "scintilla" of evidence to be found.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately we have had some problems with self-created ghettos lately, with people who don't want to assimilate, but want to make this country Mexico II.


Mmmm... Maybe. I admit, it's easy to think that. But with a little reflection, it might just be sheer numbers. Consider that all immigrant groups have huddled together for comfort. And we cater (or pander, take your pick) to them too. The ballot is printed not just in Spanish, but Vietnamese and Thai and who knows what else. But I don't think anyone cares about those, because there just aren't that many Thais running around loose in California, at least compared to Mexicans.

The fundamental problem is supply and demand - and like the man says, and I know you believe, governments get in the way of markets at their peril. So we either reduce the demand for cheap foreign labor (good luck) or we reduce the demand to come north. And that, I've come to believe, can only be accomplished by improving the economy of Mexico (and the rest of Central and South America) so that staying put is what they would prefer to do.

I don't have a magic wand for that one. But as long as you have one of the world's richest countries sitting right next to one of the poorest, you've got a vacuum. And we all know about those.

Posted by: craigie on April 4, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

re: tbrosz 1:06am post...

Three thoughts...

1) Terrorists do not currently see a purpose in bombing the US. But then, I'm perplexed as to what purpose they would see in doing so in Europe, other than possibly to stir up the Muslim populations.

2) There may be a view that the US is questioning it's current situation vis a vis the Muslim world, and terrorist organizations are preferring to let such questioning continue in hopes that the US becomes more isolationist in its foreign policy, therefore less threatening to the Muslim world. An attack would incur the risk of once again focusing on retaliation against the Muslim world.

3) In spite of all the criticism and visible failures relating to the US homeland security initiatives, they may indeed be working just well enough to keep terrorist attacks suppressed. This is the angle that I suspect politicians will be focusing on in upcoming elections.

I find it difficult to see how immigration policies relate to the lack of terrorist attacks in the US, although uncontrolled border entry may well lead to a future possibility of attack.

Posted by: pencarrow on April 4, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately we have had some problems with self-created ghettos lately, with people who don't want to assimilate, but want to make this country Mexico II. - tbrosz

As someone from Boston who's upper class family refused to let my parents name my younger brother 'Patrick' on the grounds that they refused to have an Irish name in our family... you're disgusting.

Posted by: NBarnes on April 4, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

BTW, fake tbrosz: Fremont is not really in Silicon Valley. It's barely in Fremont.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

I have thought long and hard about why we haven't had any more terror attacks in all this time. I don't think it has to do with the nature of our local Muslim population, or with immigration problems.

I disagree. I think Zakaria is exactly right on this. American Muslims aren't (or don't seem, anyway) as radicalized, because they came here for a purpose, and that purpose is allowed to be fulfilled. European immigrants (not just Muslims) travel to those countries with a different set of emotions (I think it's much more mercenary, much less "oh boy, I get to go to France!"), and it doesn't help at all that once they get there, they are not welcomed in any meaningful fashion.

Anyway, that's how it seems to me. On this, though, I'm willing to admit that I could be completely and utterly wrong. I've never been wrong before, mind, but it could happen some day.

Posted by: craigie on April 4, 2006 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

NBarnes:

I don't recall any Irish immigrants trying to make the East Coast into part of Ireland.

I'm not talking about immigrants living in ethnic neighborhoods, or bringing their culture to America. Much of what is great about America has been imported from many other cultures, including our American English language.

One example: Nothing is as American as a cowboy, right? Look up where cowboys came from, and try to find any commonly-used cowboy term that isn't Spanish. There are countless other examples: our music, our foods, you name it.

Xenophobia is for pinheads. But that doesn't mean we have to become an annex of various failed nations, either, particularly when they want to import the political and social ideas that created the failures in the first place.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

craigie:

I agree with you about American Muslims, but as we found out, it only takes a dozen, or one, to carry off an attack. I know there's that much radicalism here, and even discounting that, getting imported terrorists into this country is still a piece of cake.

One theory is that al Qaeda won't attack unless they can beat what they did on 9/11. But that still leaves hundreds of unorganized and largely self-directed terrorists who would be perfectly happy with setting off a bomb at a baseball game.

I can think of a couple of almost untracable ways of doing serious damage without even using explosives or other contraband, particularly in a suicide attack. So where are they all?

Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK

If it is so easy to commit a terrorist attack and none has happened, may be there is no one who wants to commit such an act. Oh no! that can't be right! We are in a long war! Sorry!

Posted by: lib on April 4, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Let us not confuse legal immigration, which brings in screened immigrants, with illegal immigration, which results from corruption in the Democrat and Republican parties, Democrats wanting those Hispanic votes, and Republican bought by corporations. Illegal immigration brings in 10% criminals, Asian slavers and indentured servants, diseased, uneducated, ugh. Makes me shudder what future Americans will deal with.

Finding good in illegal immigration is the same thing as finding the bright side of corruption. There is, of course, a bright side of corruption, for those who benefit from it.

Let's deport Fareed Zakaria just for the hell of it.

Posted by: Myron on April 4, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

So where are they all?

I believe people have tried to answer that question for you only about a few hundred times here. Just to refresh: while there is a threat, it's overstated.

Posted by: Windhorse on April 4, 2006 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

lib, Windhorse:

Yeah, that must be it. Everybody just likes us. Or at least they must hate England and Spain a lot worse than the U.S.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

So where are they all?

Well, an armed society is a polite society.

Ok, not that. I don't know. But I do think that the word "all" is revealing. I just don't think there are that many people, worldwide, who like the idea of killing lots of random strangers. That doesn't really answer the question of "Why Bali, why not Vegas?" but I think it's part of it.

Though frankly, if I were a pissed off Muslim who longed for the 14th century, Vegas would be a very, very tempting thing...

Posted by: craigie on April 4, 2006 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

If only they were just French!

Turns out much worse - they are French MARXISTS!

Proof positive above all else is the Trotsky-con policy of world revolution through state terror. Trotsky was clearly the Napoleon of the Russian revolution.
The rest - Force de Frappe flatulence, massive deficit funding, runaway statism, centralization and bureaucratization, sexism, racism and neo-colonialism is merely embroidery around the edge of this hideous Bayeux tapestry.

Friend's we need a new D Day invasion! An amphibious assault on the East coast - then this Trotskyist French Pinko rose of Texas will have to fight on two fronts.

Posted by: professor rat on April 4, 2006 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Well what's your answer true tbrosz?

The way I figure it: it's the short work week, the government handouts, and the socialized medicine that give European Jihadists enough time to build bombs in their bathroooms.

Over here they're too busy working two or three jobs to pay off their credit card debt. They get home, flip on that America hater John Stewart or write a snarky entry on dailykos and fall asleep with a cold TV dinner sitting in their lap.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with you about American Muslims, but as we found out, it only takes a dozen, or one, to carry off an attack. I know there's that much radicalism here, and even discounting that, getting imported terrorists into this country is still a piece of cake....I can think of a couple of almost untracable ways of doing serious damage without even using explosives or other contraband, particularly in a suicide attack. So where are they all?

Hell, you don't think the threat is overstated, do you?

Surely not.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 4, 2006 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

Three comments:
1. Greencarding process. My wife went through it in 1999. It took four months, cost $6,000 and required a full audit of my own tax records back four years. I guess Zakaria is talking about a different US. I will note, however, that when my wife did go through immigration at LAX, the guy in charge complimented her for how well her papers were in order (including the huge chest x-ray we'd lugged around for a month). "We never see this," he gushed and shook her hand. "Welcome to the United States!"

2. Every immigration agency implements its country's particular policies on an la tte du client basis.

3. Mexico deserves separate status in the immigration debate. A quick read of Alan Riding's Distant Neighbors will give an idea about how prominent US regional and economic policy has shaped development of that country. Modern Mexico didn't spring from a vacuum. Zakaria finally gets to Mexico in his next to last paragraph, a sort of blurt-out of what it's really all about. Immigration problem = Mexican problem. Again, going back to 1999 when our kids entered the local grammar school, all new kids with mother tongues other than English or bilingual were tested. While our daughter passed and got into kindergarten without the English-as-a-second-language course, our son had to study English (We spoke a lot of Swedish at home at that time). His class consisted of 40 first, second and third graders. All others were Spanish speakers, and, aside from two Hondurans, all were recent arrivals from Mexico. That group represented nearly 10% of the entire K-5 school population. Talk about rapid demographic change.

Although nearly all commenters are quick to point out the economic component to the immigration debate, Mundell's "optimal currency area" theory is rarely invoked. Yet it's a good start for comprehending the broader issues. The Mexican peso and the Canadian dollar are in practice pegged to our dollar (remember Rubin's rescue of the peso in the mid-1990s). Without similar economic conditions in the US, Canada and Mexico, the effects of the imbalance will continue to blow ashore for as long as that imbalance exists.

Posted by: kostya on April 4, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

All I know is that we should probably avoid accepting large numbers of immigrants from Iraq for the next couple decades. By the looks of it, there are people there that would gladly die for the pleasure of defacing a Colonel Sanders statue. Not only that but they're organized, experienced, hardened, and have nothing more to lose.

Posted by: toast on April 4, 2006 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

Fareed is right in one sense; we do things right for IMMIGRANTS, but at the expense of the American citizenry, as low wage crud from all over comes to get our jobs.

Posted by: Myron on April 4, 2006 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

Not only that but they're organized, experienced, hardened, and have nothing more to lose.

Well they certainly don't have a country to lose, anymore.

...as low wage crud from all over comes to get our jobs...

Myron is obviously a disgruntled Anglo fastfood restaurant cleaner from LA, worried about his job.

The fact that NASA is now an Indian organisation appears to have escaped his notice.

Posted by: floopmeister on April 4, 2006 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

as low wage crud from all over comes to get our jobs.

Your own ancestors, of course, excepted. Thank you for helping drive the GOP into extinction.

Posted by: craigie on April 4, 2006 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK

On the Muslim/terrorism question: in my part of the US, the majority of Muslims are NE African (Somali, Sudan, Ethiopia) and some N African, S. Asian. Different background to most of the international troublemakers. France, Algerian mostly, and their history with France is bloody within 2 generations. Spain I don't know. But also Europe, and particularly France have been very tolerant of Islamic politics; the Ayatollah set up in Paris for years before returning to fill the political vacuum in Iran (that's for tbrosz, I said power vac before). UK has mostly Pakistani but variety of Muslims otherwise. Certainly in both UK and France there seems to be more space for dissafaction to fester, mostly among youth/young adults, although recent race/employment figures in UK are closing with norm. In the US muslim people seem mostly just trying to get on.

I'm not sure on the count, but dozens of attacks in Europe is a bit high I think, and the street riots in France can be more closely equated with isolation of a significant minority like Black Americans. That may come back first here, given the latest figures for Black male youth.

Immigration is always going to be a sensitive subject when assimilation lags far behind the normal first-to-second gen ntegration. There will be friction for those in competition for the low-paid work and I agree that the longer term solution is to get Mexico out of its corruption and growing fast but I'm too cynical to think that US politicians and corporates see anything more than the short-term.

Business as usual and we all get screwed by the bums in Washington.

Posted by: notthere on April 4, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: the whole piece really is pitch perfect

Well, only if you think illegal immigration is a good thing. This issue isn't about America vs. Europe; it's about protecting American jobs. The jobs we did before the influx of immigrants. The jobs I had after high school, like digging ditches, working on roofing crews, and janitorial work, don't exist for my kids, or African American men or anyone else who won't work at the lowest wages without any benefits.

It's the other side of outsourcing and H-1B visas--just another way for companies to cut cost, regardless of the consequences for American workers.

Posted by: DevilDog on April 4, 2006 at 4:23 AM | PERMALINK

There are two good articles from the liberal side in the undocumented workers and immigration debate - Fareed Zakaria's and Thom Hartmann's.

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0329-21.htm

Thom argues that too much immigration, and undocumented workers in particular, are keeping unions, wages and the middle-class down. Zakaria's, and Kevin's, argument that a guest worker program without an opportunity for citizenship perpetuates resentful, unassimilated, isolated, underclass ghettos.

They both seem right.

The Republicans have come up with two other policies - racism, jingoism and criminalization from the Right-wing base and corporate short-term slavery from Bush and the GOP corporate leadership.

They both seem wrong.

The McCain-Kennedy bill seems to marry the GOP corporate goals with enough liberal citizenship provisions to possibly squeek through the Senate but the House is doubtful. Assuming somehow that DC legislators from both parties ignore their bases to follow their corporate loyalties, haven't they done that often enough lately, is this yet another Kennedy compromise he will regret within a year? Will McCain really risk the wrath of his base he has been sucking up to?

Any bill doing more than strengthen border security and some internal security checks looks dead this election year.

Posted by: Easter Lemming Liberal News on April 4, 2006 at 4:35 AM | PERMALINK

Zakaria writes: "Tighter border control is an excellent idea, but to work, it will have to be coupled with some recognition of the laws of supply and demand -- that is, it will have to include expansion of the legal immigrant pool."

One way of reading it:

If there is a demand in this country for certain workers, let's not have the short supply result in bidding up the wages of said workers. Can't have the market work in that instance. So let's scuttle "the laws of supply and demand" in order to benefit business.

Who is in favor of that?

The other way of reading it:

Lots of people want to come here (demand) so let's just allow it. Never mind the quality of life (increased urban density overwhelming the infrastructure).

WARNING: Zakaria is a Free Trader. That's not good for the average citizen.

Posted by: Quiddity on April 4, 2006 at 6:37 AM | PERMALINK

Zakaria's line is brilliant but not, I think, accurate. I think Canada handles immigration even better (being less stingy and stuff).

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on April 4, 2006 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

Assimilation is always better than creating ghettos Agreed. Re. the US and integration, looking at two minority groups...

Rates for Marrying Out of Group:

African American females 2%
Black UK females 35%

Japanese-Americans 50%
Japanese-Canadians 90%

These statistics are about 10 years old mind.

Posted by: snicker-snack on April 4, 2006 at 7:41 AM | PERMALINK

The question of why Al-Queda has not attempted to strike in the US again can be answered easily. Why bother?

The US is still panicking from the effects of 9/11, is still doing stuff that enhances radical Islamic groups around the world by portraying them as warriors rather than criminals in the eyes of their would-be supporters. The time to strike again would be when the US stopped panicking and stopped boosting Al-Queda's prestige. They're getting enough chances to kill Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan as it is, if that is all they want to do.

Posted by: Robert Sneddon on April 4, 2006 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

Europeans are some hateful people. Nothing new here.

Posted by: Chad on April 4, 2006 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

>>By keeping wages lower than they otherwise would be, low-skilled immigrant workers effectively transfer tens of billions in income each year from labor to employers. ([George] Borjas estimates the total loss in labor earnings that results from all immigrants currently in the workforce at $280 billion annually.)

The Boston Globe http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/04/04/a_sensible_look_at_immigration/
SCOT LEHIGH
*****

Yeah, that's the real issue, folks - a vast wealth transfer of a quarter of a trillion annually derived from depressing wages.

Wealth essentially being stolen/appropriated by employers using immigrants to undercut domestic labor markets.

There's nothing 'progressive' or 'liberal' going on here, people.

Posted by: CFShep on April 4, 2006 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Zakaria previewed this line on Jon Stewart last week. It's brilliant. Posted by: brooksfoe

And speaking of Jon Stewart, the other night he called Lou Dobbs on his comment that he didn't believe Irish flags should be flown on St. Patrick's Day.

Posted by: moderleft on April 4, 2006 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding immigration policyshort-term, we need a fence (barbed, razor wire and electrified) and the person-power to patrol it. The fence will slow down movement but more importantly it will do two other very, very significant things:

1)Send a message to American employers and consumers that the holiday is over. The labor market will tighten and they will have to adjust accordingly. Yes...wages and in many cases, prices will have to rise. So sorry, no more $ 0.99 cheese burgers.

2)Send a message to the oligarchic families in Mexico that they will no longer be able to export their social problems.If they continue to operate a government that is corrupt and abusive, they will have to pay the full price as in a explosive revolution (which the US will help foment, AFTER the fences are completed). They must improve conditions for their lower social-economic classes.

That last point is so important and failure to force the Mexicans (Dont be a Mexicant -http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/onceuponatimeinmexico/index.html) to clean up their filthy act will only allow the associated problems to fester til we cry uncle! (sorry couldnt help that).

Long-term, we need to have the balls and common sense to spend the time necessary to develop comprehensive and futuristic industrial, agricultural, and labor policies.

For exampleif our society must subsidize the production of lettuce and tomatoes with BOTH government payments and a negligent immigration policy, else maybe something else should done with that land and associated resources.

If we do the above (and about 1000 other things) completely and correctly to the fence could come down in about two decades.

Anyway..just some thoughts.

Posted by: Keith G on April 4, 2006 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Zakaria's argument is weak. Nobody is advocating any fundamental change in U.S. immigration policy for legal immigrants, such as the Silicon Valley Indians he refers to. The issue is solely about illegal immigration. Whether you approve of a guest worker program or not, whether your sympathize with the plight of these hard-working people or not, one must come to terms with the fundamental problem that these people have come here illegally.

Posted by: Stephen O'Brien on April 4, 2006 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Zakaria's point on radicalisation and immigration policy would be more forceful if the UK were closer to the German gastarbeiter model than the US citizenship-through-residence model. It isn't, though, and he weakly glosses over the circumstances behind the radicalisation of certain sections of the British Muslim community.

The French and British situations are different in terms of policy, but similar in terms of background: that's to say, they're the product of colonialism. The German situation is quite different, although it does owe something to the historical relationship between Germany and Turkey.

That's to say, Zakaria makes a seemingly intelligent argument that falls apart once you look at it too closely. The treatment of Muslim immigrants in continental Europe (and, to a lesser extent, the UK) has closer parallels to the treatment of Hispanics. Which is why the saber-rattling over illegal immigration uses so much of the same language: Mexican, Muslim? They're all brown and threatening, aren't they?

Posted by: ahem on April 4, 2006 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

RW, Myron, and Stephen O'Brien:

Why not admit that SOME indeed are advocating fundamental change in U.S. immigration policy for legal immigrants as well? At the very least, it is forwarded as a "temporary moratorium while we address illegal immigration" and I think you know it. These massive demonstrations have NOT slowed that talk down, that's for sure.

Posted by: Don P. on April 4, 2006 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Unfortunately we have had some problems with self-created ghettos lately, with people who don't want to assimilate, but want to make this country Mexico II. - tbrosz"

Y'know, they said basically the same thing about my grandparents and great-grandparents (Eastern European Jews) back during the last great big wave of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th century - down to how freaky and disturbing it was to walk around and see signs in a funny language you don't know. Also about most of the other folks who came over from Southern and Eastern Europe around that time. Bit of a fuss, really . ..

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

"Unfortunately we have had some problems with self-created ghettos lately, with people who don't want to assimilate, but want to make this country Mexico II. - tbrosz"

This is new? Go to the North End of Boston (primarily Italo-Americans), Italian, German, Lithuanian, and so forth, sections of NYC, Chinatowns in too many cities to be listed, ethnic sections of Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Lost Angeles, San Francisco, and virtually every other major city--and more than a few minor cities--in the US. New Britain CT even had its Ukrainian section.

After a generation or two, they tend to assimilate.

Posted by: raj on April 4, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Greencarding process. My wife went through it in 1999. It took four months, cost $6,000 and required a full audit of my own tax records back four years. I guess Zakaria is talking about a different US.

Quite so. The current backlog on adjustment of status is nearly two years in some districts, requiring costly extensions of work authorisation and advance parole for foreign travel. And yes, I never did need to do anything with that chest X-ray.

Posted by: ahem on April 4, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

I don't recall any Irish immigrants trying to make the East Coast into part of Ireland. . . .Xenophobia is for pinheads. But that doesn't mean we have to become an annex of various failed nations, either, particularly when they want to import the political and social ideas that created the failures in the first place.

Xenophobia is certainly for pinheads - it's good we all agree - but you might want to read a bit more about Irish immigration and nativist reaction. There was just a bit of concern that they were trying to import certain political and social ideas, make a little Rome away from home, so to speak . . .

Of couse, hindsight is 20/20. I wonder what it's gonna say in our grandkid's history books?

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

The House bill would build fences along 700 miles of the border with Mexico . . .

The walls in Eastern Europe went up under conservative communist dictators.

The walls in Eastern Europe came down under liberal European leadership.

The walls in America go up under conservative American leadership.

The walls in America will come down under liberal American leadership.

We don't need no stinkin' conservative totalitarian regime in America.

Boot the Bushistas!

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 4, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Fareed is basically a good guy, but he has too much affinity for the neocon corporate network. What the heck does he mean, we do immigration superbly? Maybe the legal part, but that isn't the problem. The problem is, coddling of the business community means that the government doesn't crack down on the hiring of illegals by checking for SSNs etc. (And theAmericanist, if you're still out there: you didn't even get my point that we weren't doing enough to check and enforce the laws, getting all mixed up and simply describing what was technically available to do it as if I didn't realise that.)

Posted by: Neil' on April 4, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

"One puzzle about post-Sept. 11 America is that it has not had a subsequent terror attack -- not even a small backpack bomb in a movie theater -- while there have been dozens in Europe.

Isn't this the crux of the political problem facing Dems in the near term elections?"

Presumably you are thinking that the pubs will be given credit for no terror attacks. I doubt it; Americans seem to have caught on to what a debacle Iraq is, and they saw Katrina right on TV. My guess is that they will conclude that it is the terrorists who are controlling whether or not there are attacks, not this Republican government with its color-coded alerts.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 4, 2006 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Fareed Zakaria seems to think the illegal immigrants all want to be part of America. Maybe. But it sure is interesting that so many Mexican flags are in the protest marches. Which country is the loyalty going to?

The illegals are not here to build America. They came to make money for themselves. They aren't thinking "I want to go to America to help with the American dream of democracy, justice, freedom." They're thinking, "If I can get to America I can make 10 times more money, get medical care for my pregnant wife, get my kids educated."

Posted by: Dick Rochester on April 4, 2006 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Can we deport Cynthia McKinney?

Posted by: Jay on April 4, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Czechs in Chicago (and the Midwest) from the Encyclopedia of Chicago
"In the 1850s and 1860s many Czech immigrants settled on the Near West Side. The neighborhood, known as Prague, centered on the Roman Catholic parish of St. Wenceslaus at DeKoven and Desplaines Streets . . . Movement south and west in the 1870s and 1880s generated a second working-class Czech community, dubbed Pilsen, which included the Czech congregation of St. Procopius, founded in 1875. By the 1890s, Czechs were colonizing middle-class neighborhoods like South Lawndale (popularly known as Czech California), where they established several churches, schools, and Sokol halls. As the Czechs continued to move south and west, other immigrant groups moved into the neighborhoods they left, with immigrants fromPoland, Croatia, Slovenia, Lithuania, and other Slavic areas settling in Pilsen around the turn of the century. . . . By the turn of the century, Chicago was the third-largest Czech city in the world, after Prague and Vienna. In addition to their local concentration, Chicago Czechs lived at the center of a network of Midwestern Czech communities, including significant populations in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Missouri. . . . Chicago's Czech immigrants possessed few locally marketable skills, and in the 1880s, working at unsteady jobs, notably as lumber shovers in the lumber district adjoining Pilsen, they earned less than nearly all other major ethnic group in the city."

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

The illegals are not here to build America. They came to make money for themselves.
Posted by: Dick Rochester

Replace "illegals" with "Republicans" and the sentence is just as valid.

Ok, ok, that's admittedly a bit of gratuitous Republican-bashing, but my larger point is that this objection is pointless. It's an appeal to an idealized "American" identity that doesn't actually exist. I have met immigrants (legal and undocumented) who are far more "American" (as in exhibiting a sense of civic duty and culture) than many native-born people.

Posted by: moderleft on April 4, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

[quote]Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe's mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week.[/quote]

Wrong, laughably, sadly wrong, to the point that I suspect Zakaria is being intentionally dishonest. Those rioters were not "guest workers." They were immigrants and many were French citizens because France has birthright citizenship. The upswing is that the French don't have a different system, they have a very similar system.

In fact, Britain has the same problem with its immigrant citizens in some cities in North England, like Oldham, where Pakistani citizens rioted in 2001.

OTOH, the Germans that he sneers at for the guest worker programs havent, to my knowledge, experienced such racial tension, though they seem to be on their way, too.

[quote]Whenever governments try to come between these two forces -- think of drugs -- simply increasing enforcement does not work.[/quote]

The two cases are not analogous. A drug dealer has can work incognito because he relies on word of mouth and has no fixed location. Employers of illegals, however, rely on being visible and in fixed locations. Of course, we'll never come up with an airtight solution that'll stop the problem 100%, but with a mix of border enforcement, employment verification and employer sanctions we can reduce the problem by 80-90%, which will be enough to tighten the job market and raise wages for Americans who don't have fancy degrees.

Which leads me to this:

Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly..

From the immigrant's POV, this might be true (some immigrants may disagree, though). But we also have to consider the issue from the standpoint of the natives, whose towns are being transformed, whose social expenditures are skyrocketing, and whose wages are being depressed. In the end, immigration should be designed to benifit those who are already citizens. If there's too much (legal or illegal) it should be reduced until conditions change.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with moderleft, the vast majority of immigrants are very hard working law-abiding people that deserve citizenship. Although, assimilation is the key to that citizenship. Language, culture and borders need to be respected and learned or else we risk becoming a country without identity.

Posted by: Jay on April 4, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Ooops - sorry about the never-ending link.

Dick, if I may call you that - yes, many immigrants come here for economic opportunity. That's how it's always been! (While they did have bigger things to worry about, family legend recounts that when my great-grandmother got through Ellis Island and arrived in the mainland, she threw a fit because the streets weren't paved with gold at all, and insisted the family turn around and go back . . .) Sure, we've been a haven for people fleeing oppression, and seeking democracy, justice, etc. - but frankly, most folks who came over here weren't coming to help build America, like some sort of big charity action, or that show where whole towns pitch in to give someone a nice house - one major motivation was that they wanted to make money, give their families a nice life, etc. They were here legally, and that is an important issue, but you shouldn't get carried away like this . . .

It all comes down to whether we know history or myth.

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Flanders: Unfortunately we have had some problems with self-created ghettos lately, with people who don't want to assimilate, but want to make this country Mexico II.

Replace "Mexico" with Ireland, or Italy, and that could have been written 100 years ago.

Posted by: Stefan on April 4, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Replace "Mexico" with Ireland, or Italy, and that could have been written 100 years ago.

No, it could not have been. Neither nation shares a 2000-mile frontier with the U.S. Neither nation has a prior claim on U.S. territory, nor were there ever radical groups within either group calling for a return of that territory. And, 100 years ago, you did not have all the communication and transportation technology there is today. 100 years ago Italy and Ireland were weeks, maybe months, away from the U.S. Today, Mexico is a few hours away, or just a click of the TV away.

None of this, in itself alone, argues against Mexican immigration. In fact, I myself find the whole "Aztlan" issue to be a bit overblown, and I think regional security demands some economic give an take between Mexico and the U.S. Still, we shouldn't fool ourselves by making silly claims that this group is more of the same. It really isn't.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

" . . . or else we risk becoming a country without identity."

Now, I believe in assimilation, but this does raise the question, what is our identity? Don't forget, much of what we'll cite approvingly as evidence of our rich multicultural heritage was scorned as alien, distasteful, evern threatening at one time. (Do you like garlic?) We seem to keep going through the same contoversies, just adapted slightly for different times - down to the calls for ethnic heroes in textbooks. Unfortunately, public visions of history tend to be scrubbed so squeakly clean that it's not always obvious that we're reciting the same old lines (even for those who have this sort of minimal mythologized historical awareness, to say nothing of those who essentially don't.

And putting aside the specifics, it always comes down to three main concerns:
* economics (they're going to take my job - or at least my tax money/share of services)
* ~culture (our country isn't strong enough genetically/culturally/politically - we will be overrun, and our precious institutions overthrown!)
* and plain old xenophobia

Sound about right?

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I don't recall any Irish immigrants trying to make the East Coast into part of Ireland

Nor are any Mexican immigrants trying to make the West Coast into part of Mexico, except in the fevered imagination of the right wing.

Let's recall, too, that in the 19th and early 20th century the Anglo-descended Protestant Americans were hysterical that the Irish and Italian and other Catholic immigrants were secretly trying to make America into a Catholic nation, that the "Papists" had more allegiance to the Pope than they did to America.

Posted by: Stefan on April 4, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

It isn't the immigration, its the volume of immigration that is at issue.

In the end, we expect working class American's to serve if called upon, and possibly die in places like the beaches of Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Omaha and Inchon. As our brethren, Working class Americans deserve better than to be forced to live a third world life style. Thats why Immigration has to be balanced.

To quote one pundit:
Meanwhile, Bush's party is ripping itself apart over immigration, a direct result of his own failure to secure the border against an invasion pushed by a succession of Mexican regimes that have eased their social crisis by dumping their poor onto the stupid Yankees. In America, the Mexican poor cease to be a liability and become an asset, sending back $16 billion a year in remittances to keep the gang afloat and the game going in Mexico City.

"Historians will one day marvel that, as their Southwest was slipping away from the United States demographically, linguistically and culturally Americans were fighting to keep Iraq together. Remarkable. Foreigners are invading and occupying Arizona, while Americans are fighting for Anbar province." - that from Pat Buchanon.

Never thought I would see the day I agreed with him. Democrats better not abandone the working class over this issue, if they do they will never have the numbers to gain election ever again. And the "Whats the Matter with Kansas" paradigm will be frozen in concrete until a real working Labor party emerges.

Posted by: Bubbles on April 4, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

It was written 100 years ago. The difference is that the most of the immigrants of the past came here to "be" an American. Today, many are here just for the paycheck to send back home, and rightly so.

We do need a guest worker program but more importantly, we need to think long term and to help Mexico with their economy. There are many great people in Mexico, and other countries, that deserve a better life, the fact is though we can not absorb them all. We must begin to help Mexico with economic reform, how that is done is another matter.

Posted by: Jay on April 4, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

I don't recall any Irish immigrants trying to make the East Coast into part of Ireland

Many immigrant groups in the US spent years living in self-isolated ghettos before spreading out into the wider community -- it's a rather natural part of the process. The Germans in New York, for example, formed themselves into a neighborhood known as "Kleindeutschland," in what is now the East Village, a neighborhood in which most of the stores, newspapers, theatres, etc. did business in German. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was once known as "the German Athens" there were more German-language than English-language newspapers before World War I. The Amish (who are ethnically German but are confusingly known as the Pennsylvania "Dutch" because Americans misheard the term "Deutsch" meaning German) have maintained themselves in a separate ethnic and linguistic community for hundreds of years.

And yet you hear very little these days about how German-Americans are trying to make the Midwest into part of Germany, etc. Why? Because after a certain period of separation they began to integrate, which is exactly what will happen with most Hispanic immigrants.

Posted by: Stefan on April 4, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Derek Copold and Quiddity have it right. Zakaria's article seems nonsensical.

Zakaria has no evidence immigrant violence in Europe is due to the fact that European societies "excluded immigrants". It is more likely due to the poor planning for the large scale immigration that took place. It is counterintuitive to repeat that here.

Thank you very much Zakaria for your advice but maybe we would be better off training and increasing wages and job security for the Americans languishing in places like New Orleans, or Maine or Michigan and fixing the infrastructure here before looking to enfranchise the billions from the rest of the world.

Posted by: Chrissy on April 4, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

I don't recall any Irish immigrants trying to make the East Coast into part of Ireland

Right, no Irish immigrants ever came to the East Coast and lived amongst themselves in little enclaves where they built papist churches, had large family gatherings were they ate boiled potatoes and cabbage, trafficked in holy medals and religious statues to the disgust of the "civilized" Protestant locals, specialized in low-paying jobs that no one else wanted, or identified themselves as Irish-Americans.

Nope, never happened.

And if it did, somehow it's just more palatable than the Hispanics who live amongst themselves in little enclaves and build papist churches, have large family gatherings where they eat tortillas and refried beans, traffic in holy medals and religious statues to the disgust of the "civilized" Protestant locals, specialize in low-paying jobs that no one else wants, and identify themselves as Hispanic-Americans.

Anyway, forget the Hispanics and the Pennsylvania Dutch: the true threat here is the Amish. Those bastards are trying to turn America into...into...Little Amishania or something, with their carts and their buggies and those bonnets they throw in our faces and their primitive farm cuisine.

Don't they know real Americans eat Italian food at The Olive Garden?

Posted by: Windhorse on April 4, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Thousands of people marching with Mexican flags, raising Mexican flags at public schools, etc. Spend a little time here. Any questions? Certainly this does not represent the views of all immigrants, even illegal ones, but there is certainly more than a "scintilla" of evidence to be found. Posted by: tbrosz on April 4, 2006 at 1:23 AM

Funny, I see thousands in Chicago march every year waving Irish flags, but I don't recall anyone arguing that the Irish were trying to turn Chicago into "Ireland II". At least not in the last 100 years.

Do you understand the difference between ethnic pride and sectarianism?

Did the Irish ethnic pride ever turn into a threat to national unity? I mean this was a big, big issue around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and your analogues were arguing that we were all going to be under the thumb of the "papists" if we didn't do something soon.

Yeah, and look how that turned out. I think we're facing the exact same "threat". I.e., nothing.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on April 4, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Hispanic immigration to the US since the 80s is different in scope and consequence than any other immigration in our history. Therefore, the historic impact of any policy decision, or non decision, made will have dramatic implications down the road.

Currently an estimated 1.5 million legal and illegal immigrants arrive in the United States each year. Some 43 percent of immigrant children live in low-income families, and almost one-third do not have health insurance. Each year 750,000 children are born to immigrant women
http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/24/6/1619

According to a NPR report several months ago, 50% of children living in the US who are 10 yrs and younger live in households where the predominate language spoken is not English.

We have got to decide where we want to be as a society in 50 to 100 years from now. Then we need to proactively develop policies that move us in that direction.

Posted by: Keith G on April 4, 2006 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

The only part of the immigration debate that I am not sure I agree with the Bush approach is this: those green cards, when issued, MUST reliably identify one and only one individual and the criminal history of that individual must be at least minimally researched.

The Homeland Security Department is a joke if (1) we don't know who is here, and (2) we are not even sure of the real identities of the people we are allowing to be here.

Our experience here in the "other" Washington is that Democrats in particular really like "fuzzy" registering of folks to vote with no effective review of whether the individual presenting themself is even a citizen or has had the right to vote revoked until full payment of restitution to victims.

Democrats also like "fuzzy" vote counting and don't worry over-much about why in our state it works out that in Democrat precincts there are frequently more votes cast than voters registered, while in Republican precincts it's the other way around. Republicans squeal about our votes (particularly the mail-in absentee ballots) being deliberately lost, but until we can get full-time video and manned security on vote caches, even temporary ones, we have a tough time in court proving anything.

Most of all, unfortunately, the Democrats like a nice "fuzzy" census. This predisposition can undermine the vital necessity of the proof of identity on a green card being meaningful. For national security purposes, individuals have to be real individuals with real addresses and forwarding addresses. They can't just be some type of amorphous population blob out there for whom all types of special protected status and benefits are being willy-nilly awarded.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on April 4, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

"Today, Mexico is a few hours away, or just a click of the TV away."

Like every other country.

Aways the same. Reconquista! MEChA! Aztlan (you think it's a bit overblown? That's nice). Change the terms, it could be 1916. Ever read Madison Grant's The Passing of the Great Race, published that year? The whole thing is (best-selling) racist swill, but there's this one part where he just goes off about Polish Jews and how they're everywhere, taking over, eying our women, etc. (The frightening bit is how many of the amazon.com reviewers enthusiatically endorse the book. Frickin' morons.)

Yes, there are issues - for example, proximity - that give immigration from Mexico a slightly different dynamic. So? Follow the implied argument to the end, and you end up in one of two places. Either there is a deliberate plot to take over part of the U.S. (tinfoil's in aisle 5) or our culture and institutions aren't strong enough to culturally outcompete or usefully absorb Mexico's (in which case . . .)

And while Mexican immigration, like immigration with every other ethnic group, , has its own unique features, the response is pretty much just the same, ranging from reasonableness to classic nativism.

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Guest workers are a bad idea.

We need a two-pronged policy, both carrots and sticks. This is something both Democrats and Republicans can support. It need not be partisan:

1) Sticks:

a) Those here illegally must be punished. Since immigrating without a visa is a civil offense, a fine would be appropriate. However it must be a substantial fine - the $1,000 proposed by Sen. Kennedy is way too low. I would suggest $10,000 per person. That would satisfy most peoples' sense of justice, I believe.

b) The border with Mexico must be effectively policed. I'd build a wall and police it night and day. If you don't do that, you can count on another 10,000,000 illegals coming here in the next ten minutes.

2) Carrots

The illegal immigrants here should be encouraged to assimilate and become citizens. That means paying the $10,000 per peson fine, learning English, learning some American history, staying out of trouble with the law, paying taxes. Assimilation is the key and that is why a guest worker program is such a bad idea - we want citizens, English-speaking, patriotic American citizens, not guest workers whose primary loyalties and cultural affinities are for another country.

Posted by: DBL on April 4, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Oh yes, I'd also increase the quota for legal immigation to a couple of million per year, with the emphasis on people with education and skills, but room also for peasants with strong backs.

Posted by: DBL on April 4, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

According to him the solution is to expand the pool of legal immigrants to match demand. And he wants these immigrants to become citizens.

I agree with his hostility to "guest-workers" programs. To borrow a phase from another hot-button issue: workers that are here to work as our guests, but not to become citizens, should be rare and legal.

I disagree about the quota. I don't like mass immigration of unskilled workers from third-world countries that don't assimilate. I don't want this demographic to define our destiny.

I prefer individual immigration, where the 1-2% of various nations decide on their own that they would like to abandon their homeland and become Americans in pursuit of their own personal dreams and freedoms. I have always enjoyed living in cosmopolitan places that have lots of these kinds of immigrants.

Posted by: Bob on April 4, 2006 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: It's about the best short column I've yet read on the immigration debate.

What immigration debate? The only debate that's hot right now is about illegal immigration.

Fareed Zakaria: Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration ... Guest workers ...

I'm opposed to guest worker programs. So when do we get rid of the H-1B program?

penalties, sanctions and deportation

If you have any immigration laws at all, you're going to have penalties, sanctions and deportation. I think he needs more detail here.

The U.S. green card, by contrast, is an almost automatic path to becoming American (after five years and a clean record).

Yup, pretty much the same naturalization path laid out in the first naturalization law passed by the first congress. One of our greatest strengths. Who was talking about changing it?

massive demand in the United States and massive supply from Mexico and Central America. Whenever governments try to come between these two forces -- think of drugs

That old red herring. Expensive illegal drugs sell because there is no legal or inexpensive substitute. By contrast, the substitute for cheap illegal labor is readily available - the slightly more expensive legal labor. Immigration enforcement need only raise the cost of illegal labor a bit by regularly imposing fines on those who employ illegals.

Posted by: alex on April 4, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK


All quotes are from the article
"How do we want to treat those who are already in this country, working and living with us?"

The ones who are here illegaly we treat as criminals. That is what is at the heart of the matter.

"How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans."

Presently there IS a path to becoming an American. The Guest Worker program (even though I disagree with it) is based on Mexican illegals never even WANTING to become Americans. they only want the money which they send back to mexico. That's why Pres. Vincente Fox won't do his part in stopping them from crossing. Because of all that american money comming into his country. *Fox even has made it EXTREMELY hard to enter our country legally. (*Heresay based on a personnal discussion)
When working as a carpenters helper a few years back there were alot of El Salvadorians hired by this company. None of them wanted to stay. They were working for American dollars, saving American dollars and were going to go back to El Salvador to live richly.
This isn't really OUR idea. It's theirs.

"Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans"

If their first act inside america is to break our immigration laws then They ARE unfit to be Americans.

Posted by: Lurker42 on April 4, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Why have there been no terrorist attacks? Well, actually, there have been, but the big answer is that there have been few attacks because there really aren't a lot of terrorists.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 4, 2006 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Follow the implied argument to the end, and you end up in one of two places. Either there is a deliberate plot to take over part of the U.S. (tinfoil's in aisle 5)...

You're trying to avoid the issue by using an unjustified smear. I grew up on the border, and went to school at a border college. 95-98% of the Mexican-Americans I knew then had no secessionist desires, quite the opposite. But there was an element that did. I knew some of the guys in the local MEChA chapter, and they were fairly blunt about their separatism. Yes, they are marginalized radicals, but if you bring in a large amount of people, and they remain linguistically cut off from other Americans--as tends to happen these days more and more--and you have an economic downturn (something that you can count on), you could be looking at serious problems.

I know it's out there on the range of possibilities, but a responsible policy has to take these things into account. Things do go wrong, and a country should take care to limit the damage when disaster strikes.

...or our culture and institutions aren't strong enough to culturally outcompete or usefully absorb Mexico's (in which case . . .)

Long term, I think we can come out just fine. But the problem is the short and medium term. Whose neighborhood are you going to transform? Whose municipality is going to get socked with the social expenditures? Whose wages are going to be depressed? You're talking about a lot of upset and turmoil, and it's not always the kind of disturbance that can be taken care of by writing a check.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Some caveats: Canada does not have the illegal immigration problem that the US has, nor is it anywhere near the population level of the US.
That being said, Canada's immigration policies and procedures are SO much more straightforward than the US's. First, there is a straightforward way of getting a work permit. Second, one can determine in advance whether one will be able to become a permanent resident (=green card). Why? There is a point system. Different criteria: speaking english, french, having an education, having relatives already in the country, having a job lined up, having seed money, etc etc, are each assigned points. If you have a certain point total, you are in, provided you pass the criminal recond check and health screening. The process is transparent and straightforward.
Can this model be molded to address the illegal immigration of undereducated, unskilled workers? I don't see why not. If employers need unskilled laborers, they can apply for a certain number of work permits. Those work permits could be granted to immigrants. In virtue of being here on a work permit, the immigrant could gain credibility, and then apply for a green card, and then apply for citizenship. The criteria for a green card should be clearly articulated, the process transparent. Requiring work permits is not equivalent to a guest worker program.

Posted by: LisainVan on April 4, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

"DBL: I would suggest $10,000 per person. That would satisfy most peoples' sense of justice, I believe."

You might call it justice. Insanely disproportionate vengence against poor families might be another definition for it.

"The illegal immigrants here should be encouraged to assimilate and become citizens. That means paying the $10,000 per peson fine . . . ."
You think this is a carrot?

Jay says "The difference is that the most of the immigrants of the past came here to "be" an American."

see my 10:31 post.

Although I agree that helping Mexico is very important.

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

We need a two-pronged policy, both carrots and sticks.

We did this in 1986. It failed. Big Time. The carrots were dispensed, but the stick was only rarely, and reluctantly, used. In fact, when it was, Congress intervened to stop it. The same thing will happen to the next "mixed package" and we'll be back here in another 20 years arguing about yet another "earned legalization."

If this country is serious about this issue, and I'm not convinced it is, enforcement needs to happen first, and it needs to happen in a clearly effective way, before we even begin to talk about "normalization." Otherwise, we'll dispense the goodies and dispense with the hard work.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

DBL,

Don't forget that very few of the illegal immigrants would be here in the US if there weren't business that hired them.

So I'd apply that $10,000 fine per illegal alien to the business that hired them. And then deport the alien.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on April 4, 2006 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Zakaria makes another careless American slur against the French?

According to Wikpedia, Immigrants to France can apply for naturalization after 5 years of residence, and children born in France regardless of parentage are entitled to citizenship at age 18. Seems very similar to the U.S. green card system.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_nationality_law#Birth_in_France

Posted by: chew2 on April 4, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

LisainVan: If employers need unskilled laborers, they can apply for a certain number of work permits.

Oh, like the H-1B scam. How do these employers demonstrate that they can't find people already in this country (legal permanent residents or citizens) to do this work? Why are you opposed to simply letting wages rise to the point where such people can be found?

Requiring work permits is not equivalent to a guest worker program.

Same thing, different name.

Posted by: alex on April 4, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

If we are going to junk our health care for the French system, we might as well import their Islamic militants as well.

Posted by: Matt on April 4, 2006 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Derek Copold: If this country is serious about this issue, and I'm not convinced it is, enforcement needs to happen first, and it needs to happen in a clearly effective way, before we even begin to talk about "normalization." Otherwise, we'll dispense the goodies and dispense with the hard work.

Yay verrily. I fell for the 1986 scam. Fool me once ...

Posted by: alex on April 4, 2006 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK
Er, there is no debate on immigration.

Yes, there is.

There's a debate on ILLEGAL ALIENS.

The existence of illegal aliens is a consequence of immigration policy; any response to them is a component of immigration policy, hence, any debate on illegal aliens is, ipso facto, a debate on immigration.

Your claims, therefore, contradict each other. Logically, either there is a debate on immigration (which is the case in fact), or there is not a debate on illegal aliens. The latter is the former, they are not opposed and exclusive concepts.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Derek, I'm not saying you do go down that path, I'm saying that's where it logically leads (given how people think) and indeed, it's a path that is being increasingly well-trodden, with more and more connections to better lit roads - such as mainstream media - being constructed.

" but if you bring in a large amount of people, and they remain linguistically cut off from other Americans--as tends to happen these days more and more--and you have an economic downturn (something that you can count on), you could be looking at serious problems."

Or, if you have a large amount of people, and they remain (relatively) residentially, economically, and socially cut off from other Americans, and you have an economic downturn, you could have the Nation of Islam running portions of several cities. In theory.

I definitely agree with the things go wrong approach (see Iraq) - but even the direst predictions of trouble in postwar Iraq didn't involve giant manga-style mecha rising from the desert and attacking. Your scenario is certainly more reasonable, but . . .

"But the problem is the short and medium term. Whose neighborhood are you going to transform? Whose municipality is going to get socked with the social expenditures? Whose wages are going to be depressed? You're talking about a lot of upset and turmoil, and it's not always the kind of disturbance that can be taken care of by writing a check."

That's certainly true. As it would have been a century ago (except for most of the social expenditures bit, which is a real point, and a good reason to spread around certain kinds of funding . . .)

OK, so we have a possible radical insurrection following an economic downturn (hey, I worry about this in context of rightwingers convinced of a left/democratic stab in the back that lost us Iraq . . . what can we do?!)

Any other entries in the 'How a large population of recent Mexican immigrants could hurt our country' contest, people? I'm not talking economically - that's a diffferent topic. I want to hear, since it was brought up, what kind of political/social/cultural damage is imagined might reasonably result. Something like 'making this country "Mexico II" is too vague. Be specific.

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Why can't I manage HTML? I should be deported . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK
We need a two-pronged policy, both carrots and sticks.

We did this in 1986.

No, we didn't. Backward looking normalization provides no carrot prospectively. The problem with the 1986 amnesty -- and that applies to some of the quasi-amnesty provisions proposed in this round of the debate, as well, is that they don't actually streamline the legal immigration process for immigrants that aren't individually undesirable prospectively, they only apply to retrospectively to illegals. Repeatedly doing that encourages illegal immigration (because it creates the prospect that it will be repeated in the future), whereas streamlining the legal process and making it more accessible decreases the incentive to immigrate illegally.

Forward-looking improvements to the legal immigration process to make it practical for more of the people who want to come here to do so legally are necessary.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK
What immigration debate? The only debate that's hot right now is about illegal immigration.

The debate about how to correct the problem of illegal immigration spans the entire length and breadth of immigration policy, it is not a separate issue, or even a narrow isolated slice of a broader question.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Four points:

1) I too think that Zakaria's comment is a cheap shot (again) at the French. Cute if your intended audience is American know-nothing rightwingers, but still a cheap shot.

2) The immigration debate in US and Europe is very different for a few reasons. First, Europe needs labor due to shrinking popululations. In the US it might be nice to have more labor, but the US really doesn't "need" it.

Second, US culture is an immigrant culture, but European countries much less so. This makes the cultural, religous clashes much sharper in Europe. How do you integrate a Moslem minority in a Catholic country? It's not easy.

3) Cmdicely's right - there is a debate about legal and illegal immigration. They are two sides of the same coin. People who can't come in legally go illegally.

But also there are also lots of sub debates: how should we get more skilled people for tech or health care? What about unskilled labor? Language, etc.

4) As a political ploy the immigration issue is working wonderfully in the short term by distracting attention from Iraq, the deficit, and scandals.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on April 4, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Backward looking normalization provides no carrot prospectively.

They get to stay in the U.S. and enjoy all the benefits thereof. That's a huge, f***ing carrot. This is amnesty. It may be covered with all sorts of conditions, fees and pretty verbiage, but in the end, it's amnesty.

And for it to even work the way it's advertised, we have to believe that our government will all of a sudden become serious about enforcement and, more importantly, stay that way once the issue has receded from the front pages. Not a good bet.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I was wondering why it suddenly popped up again . . . (along with campaign politicking . . .)

But it (in its fouler manifestations) a boil that's been filling with pus for a good bit now . . . while I have almost no hope that the real issues will be dealt with responsibly, usefully, and decently. Ah, well . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

"But it's . . ." I meant to say . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Everybody go read David Neiwert at Orcinus, of course . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK
They get to stay in the U.S. and enjoy all the benefits thereof.

"They" being people already here. It provides no prospective carrot because it provides no positive change in the equation for the people that might in the future want to come to the United States and consider how to do do so.

Normalization for past illegals, particularly when repeated, without fundamental reform of how illegal immigration is done, is simply an incentive to illegal immigration, not a carrot to encourage following the rules.

Streamlined legal immigration coupled with stronger enforcement is a prospective carrot and stick approach.

Normalization coupled with stronger enforcement is an all-stick approach with a self-defeating subtext that, if the stick doesn't serve as an effective corrective and deterrent, we'll accept people in later with minimal consequence.

This is amnesty. It may be covered with all sorts of conditions, fees and pretty verbiage, but in the end, it's amnesty.

What "this"? If you are referring to the current proposals, you might note that if you read what I wrote, I characterized them as quasi-amnesty and said they have the same problems as amnesty and don't provide a prospective carrot-and-stick approach, as they need to, either.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Derek, I'm not saying you do go down that path, I'm saying that's where it logically leads...

Yeah, the slippery slope, which always ends with "And then Hitler 2.0 comes to life!"

Noting the obvious fact that we border with Mexico and that we are taking in a large proportion of Mexico's population (20% to be exact) is over here, and that bordering countries are often driven to conflict and war by these demographic issues is not on par with arguing for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

As to your point about blacks, many black areas are effectively cut off from the rest of the country, a phenomenon not helped by forcing blacks to compete directly with low-wage workers from Mexico and Central America.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK
And for it to even work the way it's advertised, we have to believe that our government will all of a sudden become serious about enforcement and, more importantly, stay that way once the issue has receded from the front pages.

No, even if we believed that, it would still be self-defeating. Which is why, you'll note, I'm firmly opposed the the stick-plus-retrospective-normalization approach.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Streamlined legal immigration coupled with stronger enforcement is a prospective carrot and stick approach..

I'm sorry, I didn't catch you point in the first post.

Look, in the context of our inadequate enforcement capability "streamlined" is just another fancy word for "lax" or "negligent." That's why I say we fix this problem first before we even thing about "streamlining" anything.

And even if we did "streamline" our process, you are going to have to deal with those who still won't wait and with employers willing to undercut prevailing wages.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: any response to them [illegal aliens] is a component of immigration policy, hence, any debate on illegal aliens is, ipso facto, a debate on immigration

You're right! Such cogent logic.

Similiarly, any debate about immigrants is a debate about people. So why aren't we talking about people policy? Hold it. People are mammals, aren't they? And mammals are vertebrates, which in turn are animals, which are life forms (do you think viruses are in this category?). Life forms, and the (debatably non-exclusive category) of viruses are composed of matter. So shouldn't we avoid needless specificity and have a debate about matter?

Oh, Latin, right. Despite my firm belief that the Roman Empire is dead and gone forever, I'll add "reductio ad absurdum".

Posted by: alex on April 4, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

To solve the ILLEGAL immigrant problem,

1.You also need to build a wall and man it.That's going to be as expensive as hell, but unless you physically stop the flow, they will just keep coming, no matter what laws are passed. The economic incentive is just too great

2.Civil libertarians may not like this, but you need a copy-proof national ID card to make employer sanctions work. Right now employers have deniability.They can just claim they were shown fake documents that looked like the real thing.

3. Once a copy proof ID card is in place, you have to throw a bunch of employers who hire illegals in jail. Otherwise the economic incentive is just too great.

None of this will be easy, but heck, you don't solve a problem that's gathering for a generation easily.

Now, if you conclude like Zakaria that there isn't a problem, why lets just go ahead with toothless enforcement policies.

Unfortunately, there a LOT of Americans who think there is a problem and there will be a big backlash come the next economic downturn. Then there really WILL be a serious attempt to round up 11 million illegals and sent them back-along with big curbs on LEGAL immigration.
people like Zakaria in their happy clappy globilization world just don't realise that a there still IS a business cycle or that there a LOTS of people who actually are being hurt by illegal immigration.


Posted by: carib on April 4, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a name for self-Godwin's Law-ing?

And I don't think it's on par with arguing for the Protocols. It's a somewhat higher-powered version of worrying how New York was going to deal with all those shabby, strange-looking, very alien Eastern European Jews. (or any other turn of the century immigrant group that came in substantial numbers, or all together . .. ) And it's a valid concern that calls for concrete action (hopefully sane and people-friendly). It's just that we've been in very similar (if not identical, sure) situations before, and people got all worked up, and the world didn't end. Demographic-driven conflict and war? Sure. It happens, especially when the majority stamps down hard. These sort of things can be self-fulfilling prophecies . .

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Talk about confusion,

All I could think of was how aghast I was that I completely agreed with Kevin Drum on something.

In my opinion the correct process has to include both better enforcement and accessible paths to citizenship.

Amnesty will definitely not work. Unfortunately, there are some on my side of the aisle ( Republicans) who poison the debate by calling any approach to citizenship "amnesty". Citizenship availability at a proper cost to buffer the demand/supply problem is the most reasonable solution.

Hopefully the amount of private aid generated by Mexico's citizen workers up here can eventually cut through the corruption and one party rule which stymies the growth of the Mexican economy.

But, I am confused. I thought market and free-trade solutions were the millieu of the conservatives. I think most true conservatives have always excluded the ideas of the Pat Buchanan isolationist camp from their core beliefs.

And also, if you study his excellent speeches, you will find the biggest proponent of a solution similar to what Kevin seems to be recommending is none other than George W Bush.

Kevin are you suggesting that Bush is right on this?

Posted by: John Hansen on April 4, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'm an American expat in France, and I've had my run-ins with the French immigration bureaucracy. It's not fun. Tbe French are very demanding and often seem totally capricious (``sir, we need yet another copy of your last electric bill, and your housing tax and your income tax bill and your ...''). But is it really any different from what people must go through to emigrate to or work in the U.S.? I doubt it.

What the US should NOT do is institute a guest-worker program like that in Germany. Millions of Turks who immigrated as guest workers decades ago and their children still live in Germany but have never been eligible for citizenship, and so many of them feel alienated from mainstream German life. That is a shame on Germany, and such a program would be a shame on the U.S.

Posted by: Evan on April 4, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Why are so many of the people so incensed by one group waving the Mexican flag so rabid to defend another group flying the Confederate flag?

Posted by: sal on April 4, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Because waving the Mexican flag signifies ethnic pride (or at worst, a sort of cultural disloyalty), while the confederate flag signifies, ah . . . certain other things.

This really is a stumper for you?

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Oh crud, that's what happens when I don't pay enough attention and just skim . . .

*Hides under desk in shame*

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Amnesty will definitely not work. Unfortunately, there are some on my side of the aisle ( Republicans) who poison the debate by calling any approach to citizenship "amnesty".

What you calling "poison[ing] the debate" I call cutting through the bullshit. If a mass of people break the law, and they're allowed to enjoy the benefits of said law-breaking, we're talking amnesty. Sure, there's some conditions, some fees and some hemming and hawing, but in the end, it's amnesty, and it's going to add something like 30-40 million people to population once you factor in things like family reunification.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK
Look, in the context of our inadequate enforcement capability "streamlined" is just another fancy word for "lax" or "negligent."

No, its not. In fact, making the process easier for qualified immigrants (i.e., the kind of people who aren't categorically prohibited from entering the country) by itself reduces the needed enforcement capacity by reducing the incentives to illegal immigration.

And even if we did "streamline" our process, you are going to have to deal with those who still won't wait and with employers willing to undercut prevailing wages.

Yes, there will always be some violations. Which is why I prefer allowing legal immigration at a cost to those who are unwilling to wait (rather have them paying the US Treasury than coyotes), so that enforcement resources can be more effectively targetted on those real problems.

You still need a stick along with the carrot, of course, and that stick is strict enforcement of the rules applying to employers, and to those prohibiting certain people from immigrating in any case.

But the carrot of streamlined legal process goes along with -- makes more practical -- the stick of sticter enforcement. Done right, too, it might provide a context to divide the interests of illegal immigrants from those of their law-breaking employers, to further advance enforcement.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

According to a NPR report several months ago, 50% of children living in the US who are 10 yrs and younger live in households where the predominate language spoken is not English.

If you think about it for even five seconds you'll realize that can't possibly be true.

Posted by: Stefan on April 4, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK
Unfortunately, there are some on my side of the aisle ( Republicans) who poison the debate by calling any approach to citizenship "amnesty".

Any approach which involves normalization of present illegal immigrants is a form of amnesty.

And, while perhaps a necessary component of reform, will be self-defeating without very substantial reforms which give future immigrants better choices for legal immigration, since, on their own, amnesties create an incentive for illegal immigration since they demonstrate that when enforcement fails, we will throw in the towel and accept the formerly illegal immigrants.

Hopefully the amount of private aid generated by Mexico's citizen workers up here can eventually cut through the corruption and one party rule which stymies the growth of the Mexican economy.

Mexico doesn't have one party rule. Heck, Mexico has more parties seriously contending for national power than the US.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Derek,

This whole debate needs to be centered on a cost analysis to the illegal immigrant. Right now the benefit to the illegal immigrant of American jobs is so great that Americans are not willing to pay the incredible cost it would take to enforce illegal an effective border policy.

In other words work desiring Mexican citizens are willing to pay a higher cost to make it here illegally, than Americans are willing to fork over to prevent them from coming here illegally.

Calling any plan to mitigate this situation by bringing down the cost of coming here legally amnesty is truly poisoning the debate because it pleads for a solution that will never be supported.

We must bring in to proper balance the cost for a Mexican citizen to come here legally, with the amount that Americans are willing to pay to keep ones from coming here illegaly.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 4, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

In regards to the cultural consequences of today's immigration, I was wondering if anybody might have evidence about how today's rates of immigration, foreign-born percentage of the population, and percentage of people who cannot speak English compare to that other period of intense immigration at the turn of the century. As I recall, the 1910 census numbers are quite startling.

...and yes, I do understand that the fact that Mexico borders the U.S. changes the dynamic. On the other hand, the fact of the matter is that many people who emigrate from Mexico, especially from northern Mexico, are already partially acculturated to American culture. There's all sorts of evidence that acculturation is going both ways. In Mexico, Halloween is beginning to replace Dia de los Muertos. Santa is conquering Mexican department stores. U.S. transgenic corn is rapidly replacing native varieties in
what many believe to be the birthplace of the grain.

If Mexican migrants do not want to assimilate, then within the US, what percentage of second or third generation Mexican-Americans do not know English? Why do Spanish teachers that I speak to complain about the inability of students from these homes to read or speak Spanish? How many thousands of migrants are on waiting lists for ESL programs? Why do many thousands come from work and go to their local school or church to attend English classes?

To those worrying about the Mexican invasion of the southwest, I wonder who you think might lead this invasion. Most Mexicans that I have met have little love for their government.

...and also, I would hasten to point out that the phenomenon of viewing the U.S. economy as a huge cash machine to be exploited with transient labor has long been an immigrant ideology. Large percentages of Italians who worked here early in the twentieth-century never settled, and moved back to Italy (Insertion of anecdote: some of my ancestors were Sicilian sojourners. In fact, my great-grandfather never learned English). The same strategy was employed by Greeks, Chinese etc. etc. As for the peacefully assimilating Irish migrants, does anybody happen to recall the stringent citizenship requirements of the 1850's, 1860's, and 1870's? Democratic alderman routinely exchanged votes for citizenship in Eastern cities. Who were the Fenians?

None of this is a suggestion to desist from debating the impact of illegal immigrants on wages, penalties for disobeying the law, nor the legality of migration, nor what the process should be for granting citizenship. I simply feel as if the debate is too important to sully by distorting and idealizing the U.S. past.

El-P

Posted by: El-P on April 4, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely

From the very little I know about Mexican politics, I have heard that Mexico suffers the effects of the long term rule by one party PRI. The fact that this has been broken recently does not fully mitigate the effect of the corruption it put in place. I am just hoping that this break up has been in reality and not just in name only.

However, I admit ignorance about the current state of affairs.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 4, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Though I like FZ, and agree with him most of the time, his eight paragraphs don't solve illegal immigration in any way. (Though he's right that GW programs are bad policy.)

I hope that whatever comes out of the so-called "debate" in Congress is a secure physical barrier (note that FZ seems to like that idea) and the manpower to guard it. Anything other than that, including enforcement against employers, is a joke, since, as is quite apparent, we have plenty of laws now that are not enforced.

Second, I hope Democrats have the sense to get off the fence and support THAT Fence for several reasons. First, it is pro-worker, pro-African-American, and pro-Union to stop illegal immigration. Also, if they will work with Republicans who support this (I know it's risky. Opposing Illegals only gets like 75-80% support among registered voters), it may get their log rolled on other issues and serve to drive a small wedge between moderate Republicans and the Rabid Right.

Third, if you want to settle who goes back and who stays, base it on whether they can provide US birth certificates for their kids. Unmarried males and females are the most mobile, most expoited, and, in some ways, the most problematic portion of the population.

Fourth, send a few million Mexicans back to Mexico with no possibility of return and watch how quickly the Mexican Government gets its shit together. Illegal immigration is a substitute for building a viable middle class in Mexico.

Posted by: I'm with Stupid on April 4, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

In other words work desiring Mexican citizens are willing to pay a higher cost to make it here illegally, than Americans are willing to fork over to prevent them from coming here illegally.

Actually, Americans are more than willing to fork over the money. It's their government, particularly the Senate and the White House, that's refusing to do its damned job.

Calling any plan to mitigate this situation by bringing down the cost of coming here legally amnesty is truly poisoning the debate because it pleads for a solution that will never be supported.

But the reforms out there aren't just talking about making legal immigration easier, which is another debate. They're talking about legalizing the status of illegal aliens who are here. That is Amnesty. If we offer that, then there will be Mexicans (and after them Central Americans, Chinese, Indians and others) who will STILL find this "easier" process too long and burdensome, and will STILL go around the law because they'll bank on yet another amnesty to take care of them, and with good reason.

As for opening up legal immigration, the ICE isn't properly processing the legal immigrants we have now. We have all sorts of undesirables entering the country because of incomplete background checks. What makes you think this problem won't get worse when you increase the workload?

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

As I recall, the 1910 census numbers are quite startling.

Yep, and its effects were mitigated by the 1924 Reform, which accelerated assimilation by cutting off the flood. So the only way today's immigration will be equivalent to yesteryear's is if we impose a similar restriction. It certainly will NOT be made more similar by increasing the already massive inflow.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK
I hope that whatever comes out of the so-called "debate" in Congress is a secure physical barrier (note that FZ seems to like that idea) and the manpower to guard it. Anything other than that, including enforcement against employers, is a joke, since, as is quite apparent, we have plenty of laws now that are not enforced.

The logic here is faulty. In fact, the laws were enforced quite well, which is why the farms often no longer directly employ illegal immigrants, instead hiring labor through fly-by-night contractor firms that are able to do the job quicker than the farms good through regular employment (often, by employing illegal immigrants, to be sure.)

Now, admittedly, its impractical to successfully enforce the laws we have now in that context, which is why we need a better approach.

But a "secure physical barrier" is a very expensive approach, and there is very little reason to believe that the cost of constructing, maintaining, and manning it will be less than the social costs it averts in prevented illegal immigration. But it is a simplistic idea with a nice sound if you don't think about it much, which means it makes a great "seem like you're doing something" soundbite -- so I see why some politicians love it.

Second, I hope Democrats have the sense to get off the fence and support THAT Fence for several reasons. First, it is pro-worker, pro-African-American, and pro-Union to stop illegal immigration.

Which is certainly a good reason for Democrats to be behind the most cost effective means of controlling illegal immigration and its undesirable effect on workers, African-Americans, and union members.

But not, absent a showing that a fence is likely to be cost effective, a good reason to support a fence.

Third, if you want to settle who goes back and who stays, base it on whether they can provide US birth certificates for their kids. Unmarried males and females are the most mobile, most expoited, and, in some ways, the most problematic portion of the population.

The second sentence seems like a nonsequitur, unless you are confusing childbirth with marriage.

Fourth, send a few million Mexicans back to Mexico with no possibility of return and watch how quickly the Mexican Government gets its shit together. Illegal immigration is a substitute for building a viable middle class in Mexico.

Those are interesting fantasies with little relation to reality.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK
As for opening up legal immigration, the ICE isn't properly processing the legal immigrants we have now. We have all sorts of undesirables entering the country because of incomplete background checks. What makes you think this problem won't get worse when you increase the workload?

Well, clearly, you need to increase the resources assigned to handle the workload, as well. Which is easier when you make the additional workload more revenue producing than the existing workload.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: In fact, the laws were enforced quite well, which is why the farms often no longer directly employ illegal immigrants, instead hiring labor through fly-by-night contractor firms

That falls within your definition of "enforced quite well"? I'd call it "most easily skirted".

Let's see ... an estimated 7 million illegal aliens are employed in the US, and in fiscal 2004 there were a whopping three (no multiplier there - you don't even need all the fingers of one hand) notices of intent to fine employers of illegal aliens.

Not a bad afternoon's work for an ICE agent, but I think we could do much better if we let the agent responsible work on it for an entire day.

Posted by: alex on April 4, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

What the US should NOT do is institute a guest-worker program like that in Germany. Millions of Turks who immigrated as guest workers decades ago and their children still live in Germany but have never been eligible for citizenship, and so many of them feel alienated from mainstream German life. That is a shame on Germany, and such a program would be a shame on the U.S.

True. It's been a disaster. As a Swiss labor minister whose name I forget once said, "we invited guest workers but we got human beings instead." You can't treat people like commodities to be exploited and then thrown away when they're no longer useful.

Posted by: Stefan on April 4, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK
That falls within your definition of "enforced quite well"? I'd call it "most easily skirted".

Maybe you need to pay attention -- there is a reason "were" was used instead of "are": the laws were enforced quite effectively, producing a change in behavior so that the problem was one which the existing laws did not provide effective means to practically address.

The problem is not so much the absence of enforcement, as that the laws are not tailored well to the present problems, because they are easy to skirt.


Let's see ... an estimated 7 million illegal aliens are employed in the US, and in fiscal 2004 there were a whopping three (no multiplier there - you don't even need all the fingers of one hand) notices of intent to fine employers of illegal aliens.

The problem with enforcing the existing laws is that there is a problem of evidence: its very easy for illegal immigrants to have false-but-passable documents that satisfy the I-9 requirements, and if they don't, it can be very hard to prove that they were employed by a particular employer (as, if the I-9 documentation doesn't exist, unlawful employers will be circumspect.)

Combined with the fact there is little incentive for anyone involved who would have direct knowledge to cooperate with authorities, this makes it very hard to enforce the laws, particularly when the firm benefiting from the labor is protected by an intermediary whose existence may well be transient.

One thing reform needs to do is address the pragmatics of enforcement, not merely demand "more" of it.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Well, clearly, you need to increase the resources assigned to handle the workload, as well. Which is easier when you make the additional workload more revenue producing than the existing workload.

Make these improvements and show that they can stick for a few years, then get back to me. Otherwise, it's just pie in the sky.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

And if the DEMS would protect American workers from Illegal Mexicans they would also win a HUGE chunk of the right who is also xenophobic.

Dont start ranting about liberty for all... that's bullshit. The ONE issue that will win votes for Dems is protecting American jobs for Americans.

The GOP will sate the racists with rhetoric - but they open the borders for the multinationals who want us all working for minimum wage.

WE have been betrayed by the GOP -- but are the DEMS any different?

Preparation H seems to love Mexicans.

I don't think there is a dimes difference in the parties... they all work for Israel, Big oil, cheap labor and run away spending.

Any difference?

Posted by: sarah on April 4, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: the laws were enforced quite effectively, producing a change in behavior so that the problem was one which the existing laws did not provide effective means to practically address.

Hardly the first time that people have found new ways to break the law or avoid enforcement. Simply throwing up your hands and claiming that that shows they're unenforceable is evidence that someone isn't serious about it.

The problem is not so much the absence of enforcement, as that the laws are not tailored well to the present problems, because they are easy to skirt.

Ah, so we need to change some laws and enforcement procedures. I agree. Electronic verification of SSN's has often been mentioned. Making ID documents harder to forge is another. A $20 bill is a lot harder to forge than any ID document I know of, because the will was there to make them hard to forge. We have the technology.

Also, what enforcement is there of the production and sale of false ID's? That's criminal behavior. And, while generally not as serious as production or sale, the use of such documents should be (and perhaps is) a more serious offense than simply living or working in the country illegally.

One thing reform needs to do is address the pragmatics of enforcement, not merely demand "more" of it.

Yes, and a standard bureaucratic/political tactic to avoid doing something is to perpetually claim that it "can't be done". Just like when I deal with sub-contractors there comes a certain point when you have to say "you're full of it, you haven't really tried".

The fact that enforcement has been declining for years, while illegal immigration has been climbing, shows that there is no serious effort to enforce the immigration laws. No matter how clever the dodge's that have been developed, I suspect that ICE could have found more than three employers in violation.

The cheap labor lobby is winning.

Posted by: alex on April 4, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Those here illegally must be punished. Since immigrating without a visa is a civil offense, a fine would be appropriate. However it must be a substantial fine - the $1,000 proposed by Sen. Kennedy is way too low. I would suggest $10,000 per person. That would satisfy most peoples' sense of justice, I believe.

The reason the fine proposal is for a fairly paltry $1,000 is that the point of the program is not to punish illegal immgrants, it is rather to get their presence in our country regularized. A $10,000 fine would be too onerous, and would backfire because many (most?) illegals would not be able to afford the price of admission, and they would therefore stay in the shadows. An amnesty program doesn't make any sense unless it is characterized by a high compliance rate.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on April 4, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Alex:

The fact that enforcement has been declining for years, while illegal immigration has been climbing, shows that there is no serious effort to enforce the immigration laws.

It may show this. It may also show that the absurdly low legal immigration admissions the US permits from its closest neighbors simply doesn't comport with reality, and that, predictably, a large black market has developed in response.

The "serious effort" you say is required I suspect would be interpreted by most Americans as too draconian and too expensive. So, despite the bellyaching we hear from the nativists (with their allegedly deep pool of support), little is done. You might say that's the victory of the "cheap labor lobby" but I think a lot of it has to do with simple American virtues: Americans don't want to live a police state where poor people trying to make a living are faced with landmines and barbed wire, and where our security apparatus spends much of its time hassling brown people with funny accents for "their papers".

The only answer to this problem, as with all problems flowing from prohibition, is decriminalization. And no, that does not mean "open borders". It merely means a healthy increase in legal immigration admissions to arrive at a number that comports with reality.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on April 4, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

EL-P

If Mexican migrants do not want to assimilate, then within the US, what percentage of second or third generation Mexican-Americans do not know English?

This article might answer some of your questions.

Posted by: TangoMan on April 4, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that enforcement has been declining for years, while illegal immigration has been climbing, shows that there is no serious effort to enforce the immigration laws. No matter how clever the dodge's that have been developed, I suspect that ICE could have found more than three employers in violation.

The problem goes beyond ICE. I can think of two instances where the ICE tried to seriously enforce the law, once in California and once in Nebraska. Both times they did this, local business interests called their Congressmen, Governors and Senators, who immediately raked the ICE over the coal. The man who spearpointed the Nebraska effort was pushed into retirement. Can you blame them for not doing their job under these circumstances?

Quite frankly, I fully expect this Congress and this President to betray the country--and especially working class of this country--once again with some bastard of a mixed carrot-and-stick law which will wind up being 99% carrot and 1% stick, and even that will be effectively rescinded after a few months.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

This article might answer some of your questions.

Especially if you're in the mood for some "answers" provided by America's Xenophobe-in-Chief, Samuel P. Huntington.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on April 4, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK
Hardly the first time that people have found new ways to break the law or avoid enforcement. Simply throwing up your hands and claiming that that shows they're unenforceable is evidence that someone isn't serious about it.

I'm hardly throwing up my hands. I'm saying that merely asking for "more" enforcement isn't adequate, the laws must be tailored to deal with the present problems and the opportunities to evasion. The current problem isn't negligent enforcement, it is poorly crafted -- for the present situation -- laws.

Ah, so we need to change some laws and enforcement procedures. I agree. Electronic verification of SSN's has often been mentioned. Making ID documents harder to forge is another. A $20 bill is a lot harder to forge than any ID document I know of, because the will was there to make them hard to forge. We have the technology.

That will certainly help dealing with the problems that involve illegals duping employers, since that is what the false documents are mostly for.

It won't deal with the under-the-table dealing in cash with people that often don't have bank accounts. Of course, you could simply outlaw cash entirely and adopt a national electronic currency system with recorded transactions, I suppose...

The fact that enforcement has been declining for years, while illegal immigration has been climbing, shows that there is no serious effort to enforce the immigration laws. No matter how clever the dodge's that have been developed, I suspect that ICE could have found more than three employers in violation.

I don't mean, at all, to suggest that the most recent enforcement has been serious; just that the present situation in which truly effective enforcement is impractical is a result of the law being enforced and behavior changing. I'm not saying that the status quo effort is ideal, I'm saying if it was, it wouldn't deal with much of the problem because of the pragmatics, which need addressed.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Derek Copold: I can think of two instances where the ICE tried to seriously enforce the law, once in California and once in Nebraska. Both times they did this, local business interests called their Congressmen, Governors and Senators, who immediately raked the ICE over the coal.

You're right. Like I said, the cheap labor lobby has lots of clout.

Posted by: alex on April 4, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

It may show this. It may also show that the absurdly low legal immigration admissions the US permits from its closest neighbors simply doesn't comport with reality, and that, predictably, a large black market has developed in response.

This answer is crap. There are five billion people out in the world who are poorer than those living in Mexico. Even if we had open borders with Mexico, there would STILL be people trying to get in because of better salaries, and there would STILL be employers willing to skirt the law for the sake of shaving a few bucks off the payroll. And there would still be people telling us that our legal immigration rate (which is now 1 million a year, more than any other country on earth) saying our immigration rates are too low.

Everyone needs to get this into their f***ing heads: The only way the demand will be lowered is if the U.S. becomes about as poor as your average Third World. Otherwise, we are always going to be faced with people wanting to come here, always.

That means we need effective border enforcement, and until we can control the borders, and increasing the numbers is not a solution. Not only because the demand will still exist, but also because the presence of legal aliens often paves the way for illegal aliens, who now have a cousin or uncle with whom they can stay and a community within which they can hide.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK
The reason the fine proposal is for a fairly paltry $1,000 is that the point of the program is not to punish illegal immgrants, it is rather to get their presence in our country regularized. A $10,000 fine would be too onerous, and would backfire because many (most?) illegals would not be able to afford the price of admission, and they would therefore stay in the shadows.


OTOH, instead of instant, permanent regularization, you could offer a temporary visa with an annual fee, and make them eligible for permanent status after a number of years of legal presence.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK
Everyone needs to get this into their f***ing heads: The only way the demand will be lowered is if the U.S. becomes about as poor as your average Third World.

The idea is not to lower demand. The idea is that when people are willing to pay high costs to relocate to and work in the US, it is better for the US if those costs are paid, either in cash in advance or taxes after the fact, or some combination, to the US Treasury than in the form of physical suffering in the act of crossing the border or payments to coyotes to be smuggled across and domestic criminals in the US for false documentation, and to the degree that it is practical to acheive that, the social costs of high levels of immigration can be better addressed and exclusions of truly undesirable immigrants more effectively enforced.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

As I recall, the 1910 census numbers are quite startling.

"Yep, and its effects were mitigated by the 1924 Reform, which accelerated assimilation by cutting off the flood."

Ah, that wonderful victory of racist/nativist hysteria. But more importantly, can you support this statement? It's not necessarily unreasonable, but do you have actual evidence? And if so, can we measure to what degree did it accelerate assimilation? A generation? A decade? Five years?

It's hard to imagine that drastically limiting the immigration of those ~scary~ Eastern and Southern European people (often considered to lack the ability to function in a democratic society, although perhaps over generations, some thought, it might sink in . . .) had no effect, but it's also hard to imagine the Depression, WWII, and finally the government's postwar decision to help subsidize homebuying for all sorts of white people didn't either.

" 95-98% of the Mexican-Americans I knew then had no secessionist desires, quite the opposite. But there was an element that did."

I grew up in New York, and 95%-98% of the leftists I knew had no radical revolutuionary desires. But there was an element that did . . .

Or . . . 95%-98% of the Christians I know have no theocratic desires. But there was an element that did (ok, so that only works by including people I've read about, etc rather than knowingly met in person, but still . . ..

. . . And with the rise of new media fracturing the consensus mediasphere of earlier years, and homeschooling, and etc., they're increasingly culturally isolated, and if there's ever an economic downturn . . .

In other words, there are all kinds of potential fault lines. Frankly, this just doesn't seem particularly likely to me, at least compared to other worst-case scenarios. Now, massive epidemics of mutant viruses . . .

-Dan S.

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

P.B. Almeida,

Can't you do better than that? Dispute the arguments and the data, don't attack the man.

Posted by: TangoMan on April 4, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: It won't deal with the under-the-table dealing in cash with people that often don't have bank accounts.

I can think of lots of situations where it won't help. Live-in help, illegal relatives working in a family business, etc. Nothing is perfect. Nevertheless it would help with the very large numbers of illegal immigrants working for established and supposedly legitimate businesses.

I don't mean, at all, to suggest that the most recent enforcement has been serious

Which means they aren't even trying. I think that's due to political pressure rather than lack of success. Note Derek's comments on what happens when they try to enforce the laws.

just that the present situation in which truly effective enforcement is impractical is a result of the law being enforced and behavior changing

I think enforcement is less practical today precisely because of a lack of enforcement over the years.

We've reached a point where we have 11M people in the country illegally. I'm not pretending that you can throw them all out tomorrow. Heck, I'd be in favor of giving amnesty (not a dirty word) to every illegal alien without a criminal record if I believed that the effort would be made to stop future illegal immigration. That's the line I fell for in 1986.

However, the last 20 years have shown that the cheap labor lobby is winning. Only after serious enforcement has been demonstrated for several years would I consider amnesty for those that remain.

Posted by: alex on April 4, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

"The only way the demand will be lowered is if the U.S. becomes about as poor as your average Third World."

Hang on, we're working on it . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, that wonderful victory of racist/nativist hysteria.

You do know that Samuel Gompers was a principal proponent of the law, don't you? And even if the law was passed with the most wicked of intentions (and it wasn't), that does not refute my point.

I grew up in New York, and 95%-98% of the leftists I knew had no radical revolutuionary desires. But there was an element that did . . .

And we stomp down on them to discourage anyone else so inclined from finding those ideas attractive.

Or . . . 95%-98% of the Christians I know have no theocratic desires.

Yet, somehow, liberal-leaning freakouts over the religious right are perfectly okay, while those over separatism are sneered at as bigotry.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

The idea is not to lower demand.

Unless you want to let anyone wanting to come into the U.S., come into the U.S., yes, it is a matter of demand.

The idea is that when people are willing to pay high costs to relocate to and work in the US...

How many? I'm going to ask this again and again, because that's the question that needs answer. There are literally hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people who would happily scrap together the dollars to come here. So how many of these people do you want to let in Almeida? 10%? 25%? 50%? All of them?

it is better for the US if those costs are paid, either in cash in advance or taxes after the fact, or some combination, to the US Treasury...

These are people are low skilled. By definition, their labor won't be worth very much in the market place. That means--unless we drastically cut government benefits--they will wind up being, on balance, tax consumers, not producers. The ultimate cost won't be paid by them, P.B. It will be paid by the American taxpayer and the low-skilled native worker, who will see his wages crash.

...than in the form of physical suffering in the act of crossing the border...

If you want to stop this suffering, seriously want to stop it, then we need to beef up both border enforcement and interior enforcement to the point that it simply won't pay to take these risks. Otherwise, it's still going to continue--unless, of course, you want to open the borders to everyone.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if, in the future, New Orleans becomes much more hispanic.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on April 4, 2006 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

" And even if the law was passed with the most wicked of intentions (and it wasn't), that does not refute my point."
True. Doesn't support it, though. I'm actually curious to know if you have studies backing this up . . .

"And we stomp down on them to discourage anyone else so inclined from finding those ideas attractive"

For just having those ideas? ( Oh crap, I crossposted into another alternate reality Political Animal again! Darn multi-dimensional-wide-web browser! They told me it was a beta version, but did I listen? No . . . and now I have to put up with reading the New York Times articles about how President Gore is going ahead with international global warming accords and all . . .)

Which isn't to say we haven't, but I wasn't aware that was going on now . . .

"Yet, somehow, liberal-leaning freakouts over the religious right are perfectly okay, while those over separatism are sneered at as bigotry."

I'll admit I'm rather concerned about how ethnic separatists have passed a law in South Dakota banning English . . .

Oh wait, that's wrong - it's an alternate reality website again. Ok, let's see - this version of the news looks about right, and there's no such law there . . Wait! They banned what?! With no exemptions for rape or incest!!?

Well, I was amusing myself, but not so much anymore, think I'll stop now - hopefully point is made.


Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey Ward: I wonder if, in the future, New Orleans becomes much more hispanic.

Who cares? I wouldn't care if I lived in New Orleans either. The only question is how many of those people are in the US illegally.

Posted by: alex on April 4, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Illegal immigration is a substitute for building a viable middle class in Mexico."

I agree with I'm with Stupid on this account, but would extend it further.

Illegal immigration is a substitute for building a viable middle class in America, too.

In other words, it's a typical Republican't program to suck dollars up from the bottom to the top. Pay less than minimum wage. Pay no Social Security tax. What could a Republican't like more?


Posted by: Cal Gal on April 4, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder if in the future, New Orleans will become more Hispanic? Well, Jeanne wonders why the LA Times wrote such an oddly tone-deaf (and politically naive) piece.

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

True. Doesn't support it, though. I'm actually curious to know if you have studies backing this up . . .

It's pretty common historical knowledge that after the immigration shutoff, assimilation accelerated. I think it's more proper to ask if you have something to refute this common knowledge.

For just having those ideas?

I don't mean we throw people in jail, I mean that such people are marginalized. Today, one of the biggest lobbying groups around is called "La Raza" and that means pretty much what it looks like, and its efforts are largely seperatist and anti-assimilation. If a similar white group were formed, we'd all be having conniption fits.

It would be much easier to accept the idea of more immigration if such sentiments were loudly and repeatedly condemned, but they aren't, and that does add to the general uneasiness of a lot of Americans, particularly those in the Southwest.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

TangoMan,

EL-P

If Mexican migrants do not want to assimilate, then within the US, what percentage of second or third generation Mexican-Americans do not know English?

This article might answer some of your questions.


I read the article and while I saw references to level of education attainment, I did not see evidence about language acquisition.

El-P
El-P

Posted by: El-P on April 4, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

" and its efforts are largely seperatist and anti-assimilation"
You know, I missed that section on their website . . . just boring stuff about family wealth building and education and housing, and talk about reducing poverty and discrimination . . . where do I go to get the bit about turning the Southwest into Mexico II? (I know, I know, you didn't say that . . .)

"If a similar white group were formed, we'd all be having conniption fits."
Well, my wife keeps getting the Czechoslovak Society of America Journal, which is kinda creepy, if only because I have no idea how they tracked her down . . .

See, at this point a similar white group isn't going to be similar. Most likely it will be a bunch of white supremicists, because whites aren't a disadvantaged minority, and the kind of folks reacting as if they were should give folks conniption fits . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

"It's pretty common historical knowledge that after the immigration shutoff, assimilation accelerated"

So . . . common knowledge provides us with correlation. Pretend I don't know much (ok, so that's not much a leap, fine . . .). Can you give me anything a bit more concrete?

Posted by: Dan S. on April 4, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

You do know that Samuel Gompers was a principal proponent of the law, don't you?

Gompers union activities do not preclude his advocacy of racist ideas. I think it's important to mention that the passage of the 1924 Immigration Reform Act was influenced by the enormous tide of organized racism in the United States, from the eugenics movement to the revival of the KKK. Sadly, some of these racist arguments for changes in immigration policy still resonate. It would be preferable to base changes on proven threats to wages and the rule of law rather than nebulous fears of threats to the always protean "American culture."

El-P

Posted by: El-P on April 4, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK
Unless you want to let anyone wanting to come into the U.S., come into the U.S., yes, it is a matter of demand.

But, except for people who are personally unacceptable (violent criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers, etc.) I do prefer to make it legal for anyone who wants to come into the US to do so; its a matter of setting the terms so that this is mutually beneficial.

How many?

As many as want to come here under terms that result in a non-negative net social cost.

I'm going to ask this again and again, because that's the question that needs answer. There are literally hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people who would happily scrap together the dollars to come here.

Far fewer who would and could, however.

So how many of these people do you want to let in Almeida?

I don't propose letting any of them in Almeida; I thought we were discussing letting them in the US.


These are people are low skilled.

This is certainly not universally true; one of the big drives for immigration from Mexico is that Mexico has a very young workforce and a labor market wherein older workers, even highly skilled ones, find themselves unemployed.

By definition, their labor won't be worth very much in the market place.

Perhaps.

That means--unless we drastically cut government benefits--they will wind up being, on balance, tax consumers, not producers.

Those of the people who'd like to be immigrants most able to pay any cash cost, of course, would be those for whom this is least true. How you structure immigration incentives effects what kind of immigrants you get.

The ultimate cost won't be paid by them, P.B.

My name isn't P.B.

It will be paid by the American taxpayer and the low-skilled native worker, who will see his wages crash.

Compared, perhaps, to the mythical unrealistic fantasy world where there were no immigrants and no costs to prevent immigration, but the outside world still existed to sell products too, perhaps.

Compared to the real status quo, I don't think so. More of the immigrants competing with Americans for jobs being legal immigrants with the same access to enforcement for workplace condition, wage & hour violations, etc., without fear of immigration enforcement means better wages and conditions for the American workers, not worse.

Now, it may mean more costs for the American capitalist -- and the consumer -- and more drive to off-shore businesses and exploit cheap labor in its home markets. And that's something the policy has to consider how to address as well; this is one reason why I will always argue that free trade (based on low barriers) must also be fair trade based on common labor and other standards. There is a reason that free trade works better among US states than among most groups of economically and socially disparate countries.

If you want to stop this suffering, seriously want to stop it, then we need to beef up both border enforcement and interior enforcement to the point that it simply won't pay to take these risks. Otherwise, it's still going to continue--unless, of course, you want to open the borders to everyone.

As stated before, I do want to open the borders to everyone who isn't individually undesirable and who is willing and able to make it worthwhile for the US to allow them in -- and to use the resources their admittance makes available to provide the tools to enforce the exclusion of the rest.

Those who put interior and border enforcement first miss the point -- its a lot easier to enforce the rules when there is less incentive to break them, and more revenue to use to enforce them. So deal with that first, and use it as the lever to deal with enforcement.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's important to mention that the passage of the 1924 Immigration Reform Act was influenced by the enormous tide of organized racism in the United States, from the eugenics movement to the revival of the KKK.

I'm sure these things had their part, but the law actually went a long way towards undermining them by aiding assimilation. And it also increased wages and encouraged automation.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Pretend I don't know much (ok, so that's not much a leap, fine . . .). Can you give me anything a bit more concrete?

Actually, I'd have to pretend you're obtuse.

I don't know what information you're looking for. Every major immigrating ethnic group of the period assimilated, something that was not happening nearly as fast before the 1924 law. The reason for this is pretty obvious: when these groups weren't being constantly reinforced with newcomers from the old country and were not having their wages undercut by newcomers, they prospered and adapted to the American mainstream, and vice versa.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK
Today, one of the biggest lobbying groups around is called "La Raza" and that means pretty much what it looks like, and its efforts are largely seperatist and anti-assimilation.

Wow. This is wrong on so many different levels. Actually, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of separate activist groups, and quite a large number of businesses, that use the words "La Raza" in their name.

The large lobbying group you are thinking of is called "National Council of La Raza", there website is here, and I'd be interested in any evidence that they are "separatist" and "anti-assimilationist".

You've apparently been duped by plenty of right-wing propaganda which (1) ignores the genesis and meaning of the term La Raza, (2) pretends that everyone who uses it is part of a single organized groups, (3) picks the writings of one or another of the myriad groups that use the term (often, not even as part of their name), to highlight radicalism, and (4) then tries to ascribe that radicalism to the larger groups like NCLR that have no connection with the group actually involved with the writing except that both use the term "La Raza".

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

See, at this point a similar white group isn't going to be similar.

Of course, they'll be white, and thus safe for you to hate.

You know, I missed that section on their website . . . just boring stuff about family wealth building and education and housing, and talk about reducing poverty and discrimination...

For Hispanics. That's the key. They also oppose any effort to curb illegal immigration and to foment assimilation. I guess you didn't hear about the memo they circulated in response to Lamar Alexander's amendment to encourage English-language training.

. . . where do I go to get the bit about turning the Southwest into Mexico II? (I know, I know, you didn't say that . . .)

I did use the word separatist, which implies that. At this point they wouldn't go that far (openly), but they certainly want to maintain a separate and unassimilated identity, and this is nowhere near comparable to something like a Czech society.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

The large lobbying group you are thinking of is called "National Council of La Raza", there website is here, and I'd be interested in any evidence that they are "separatist" and "anti-assimilationist".

Here's a link to the memo they circulated in response to Lamar's amendment:
http://www.nationalreview.com/images/micheleletter.gif

Of note: "while it doesnt overtly mention assimilation, it is very strong on the patriotism and traditional american values language in a way which is potentially dangerous to our communities."

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

ignores the genesis and meaning of the term La Raza

I am aware of the genesis of the term, and it's still exclusionary and separatist from an American point of view. It essentially exalts mestizaje at the expense of others.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

"I wonder if, in the future, New Orleans becomes much more hispanic."

Well, it was pretty hispanic back when it was owned by Spain. :)

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 4, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

But, except for people who are personally unacceptable (violent criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers, etc.) I do prefer to make it legal for anyone who wants to come into the US to do so...

You either have not thought this through, or you're insane.

As many as want to come here under terms that result in a non-negative net social cost.

Well, that would make you a restrictionist in effect, since low-skilled immigrants are a net-negative.

Compared, perhaps, to the mythical unrealistic fantasy world where there were no immigrants and no costs to prevent immigration, but the outside world still existed to sell products too, perhaps.

Just because you've embraced a radical position, doesn't mean I've embraced the opposite position.

More of the immigrants competing with Americans for jobs being legal immigrants with the same access to enforcement for workplace condition, wage & hour violations, etc., without fear of immigration enforcement means better wages and conditions for the American workers, not worse.

And when we create this perfect enforcment environment, Hell will host the Winter Olympics. But even if that were possible, you don't understand the basic economics of the situation. An unlimited labor pool gives employers a tremendous advantage. You could mandate a min wage, but that's where it would stay, because any unsatisfied employee could be easily replaced by several others. And...Whatever min. wage you could impose would be wiped out by inflation.

Now, it may mean more costs for the American capitalist...

Which is why the socialist Wall Street Journal advocates basically the same border policy you do.

So deal with that first, and use it as the lever to deal with enforcement.

Deal with what? You're trying to get rid of the crime by defining it out of existence and relying on a bunch of counterfactual scenarios to account for the negative consequences.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK
They also oppose any effort to curb illegal immigration

That's not true. They endorsed the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 by Sens. McCain and Kennedy and Reps. Kolbe, Flake, and Gutierrez, which would have enhanced immigration enforcement as well as providing new routes to legal immigration and a quasi-amnesty.

They oppose proposals to curb illegal immigration that they think are ill-conceived, but doesn't everyone?

I did use the word separatist, which implies that. At this point they wouldn't go that far (openly), but they certainly want to maintain a separate and unassimilated identity, and this is nowhere near comparable to something like a Czech society.

Sure, they support preservation of a cultural heritage. But, at the same time:

The work of NCLR and its affiliates on behalf of immigrants builds on America's identity as a nation of immigrants by promoting fairness in the law and advancing a number of ways to help immigrants fully enter the mainstream of American life. We strive to align our work with the highest aspirations of Latinos immigrants and natives alike which is why education, homeownership, health, and economic security dominate NCLR's efforts throughout the country. By advancing these issues, NCLR and its affiliates are promoting the full economic and social integration of immigrants into the mainstream of American life. In addition, more than half of NCLR's affiliates are engaged in the work of helping immigrant adults learn English; many are also engaged in efforts to increase civic participation in immigrant communities. Nationally, NCLR works to increase funding streams and capacity for this kind of work, for which the demand for services far outstrips the supply. NCLR and its affiliates are on the front lines of carrying out the work that has always been essential to America's success as a nation, ensuring full respect for the contributions of immigrants and full access to the American Dream.

Certainly sounds like a group that wants to push separatism and linguistic and cultural isolation.

Here's a link to the memo they circulated in response to Lamar's amendment: http://www.nationalreview.com/images/micheleletter.gif

Of note: "while it doesnt overtly mention assimilation, it is very strong on the patriotism and traditional american values language in a way which is potentially dangerous to our communities."

And, so? Its discussing changes to naturalization process and particularly the test required and associated standards. Whether or not one supports assimilation as an ideal, its quite easy to see that the way evaluation of assimilation, or patriotism and traditional american values, are written into the law governing standards for such an exam could be problematic.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK
I am aware of the genesis of the term

Ok, so you are practicing deception rather than being taken in by it.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

These are people are low skilled. By definition, their labor won't be worth very much in the market place. That means--unless we drastically cut government benefits--they will wind up being, on balance, tax consumers, not producers.

This is the crux of the issue isn't it?

Does immigration help or hurt us? In the long run, in the short run, skilled, unskilled, whatever.

The same questions can be asked about progeny. Is a new baby a new hope or a new resource sink?

Me? I gotta go with the 'hope' and 'help' side.

In general.

But then I like people.

In general.

Posted by: Tripp on April 4, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, so you are practicing deception rather than being taken in by it.

There's nothing deceptive about what I said. Promotion of "La Raza" did and, to some extent, makes sense in Mexico due to her history. To some extent it was an assimilationist idea. Unfortunately, once it crossed the border, it took on a different meaning. What was used to combat a powerful and elitist minority, is now being used to maintain an ethnic and linguistic minority as such.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK
You either have not thought this through, or you're insane.

...or you are wrong. I think those three are in increasing order of likelihood.


Well, that would make you a restrictionist in effect, since low-skilled immigrants are a net-negative.

That rather strongly depends on the terms and the alternatives, including the cost of exclusion. But, yes, I've never denied that I favor immigration restrictions -- I just happen to favor workable ones that are well-adapted to the problems they address, not stupid ones.


And when we create this perfect enforcment environment, Hell will host the Winter Olympics.

I've never referred to a perfect immigration environment. I've talked about taking reasonable, practical, and simple steps that would improve the environment.

But even if that were possible, you don't understand the basic economics of the situation.

Yes, I do.

An unlimited labor pool gives employers a tremendous advantage.

No one is proposing an unlimited labor pool.

You could mandate a min wage, but that's where it would stay, because any unsatisfied employee could be easily replaced by several others.

Sure, in an unlimited labor pool. In the proposal I make, OTOH, an additional foreigner would face the same costs as a similarly technically skilled American, plus an additional costs imposed as a condition of immigration, plus any costs imposed by language difficulties, social/cultural unfamiliarity, etc.

Deal with what? You're trying to get rid of the crime by defining it out of existence and relying on a bunch of counterfactual scenarios to account for the negative consequences.

There is no crime, and creating additional routes to legal immigration doesn't define illegal immigration out of existence. Its still possible to immigrate illegally, and enforcement is still necessary. There is just less reason to immigrate illegally, more incentive for those who are willing to pay costs to do so within the system and thus contribute to dealing with the burdens imposed by the level of immigration, and greater ability to focus enforcement efforts on the individuals who shouldn't be allowed in any circumstances and employer violations.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Whether or not one supports assimilation as an ideal, its quite easy to see that the way evaluation of assimilation, or patriotism and traditional american values, are written into the law governing standards for such an exam could be problematic..

There was nothing problematic about Lamar's proposals to anyone interested in assimilation. La Raza recognized this itself once this memo was outed and issed the perfunctory smokescreen about a "miscommunication", which of course, it wasn't.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK
What was used to combat a powerful and elitist minority, is now being used to maintain an ethnic and linguistic minority as such.

That's strange, considering how its used so much by people who are actively involved in teaching English to their fellow Latinos.

Seems a pretty counterproductive way to maintan a linguistic minority.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK
There was nothing problematic about Lamar's proposals

I don't see any evidence that your judgement as to what is an isn't problematic is reliable.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

France has a population of about 62 million people, including probably at least 4 million of Muslim descent. Since the fall of Vichy It is forbidden to maintain statistics on ethnicities, so there is no census of Muslims-- best estimates range from about 6 to 8 percent, with maybe a quarter of those being observant. The idea is that there is no official recognition of a French ethnicity, anyone born and living for a period in what is now France qualifies-- the policy is full assimilation. Most Muslims in France are pretty frenchified and quite chic and do not throw bombs. Many others are young punks who get bored and set fire to cars. Up until indepencence in 1962 Algeria was considered part of Metropolitain France, along with Corsica and places like Paris. Lots of Algerians, many of whom are Muslim, were left over in France and were French citizens, plus there were cultural ties and children of immigrants born in France qualifiy for citizenship. Since the Algerian war, the French have had consistent experience with Arab terrorists, and of course they have experience in the whole area going way back. That is how they knew Bush was mugging a tar-baby when he attacked Iraq, and why they irritatingly pointed this out. Jacques Chirac, the current president of France, was wounded as a young lieutenant in the Algerian war, which was basically an Arab and Berber insurgency fought with terrorist tactics on both sides.

For some reason, the topic of France and terrorism attracts a lot of attention from American wing-nuts who think there is some lesson for them in what goes on there. But there is no French lesson for American wing-nuts, and you can be fairly certain that anything they say on the topic will be lunatic raving. What is interesting is that this guy Zakaria doesn't seem to be a wing-nut, so why is he raving?

Posted by: quinnat on April 4, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

No one is proposing an unlimited labor pool.

You just said you support letting anyone in who wants to come. You've since modified that position with a few qualifiers, but in effect THAT is what yor are doing. If the borders are essentially open to anyone who is crime-free (as if we could really determine such a thing for the multitudes who'll want to come), you will create, in effect an unlimited labor pool.

Now, I'm sure you'll come back with a new set of modifications to your prior statement, but what it really looks like is that you want the happy-clappy sentiment of letting anyone who wants in in, but you avoid the consequences of this decision by positing imaginary, counterfactual measures, which run counter to experience.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see any evidence that your judgement as to what is an isn't problematic is reliable.

From the guy who wants to leave the door open, I find this a compliment. At any rate, since NCLR backpeddled from the memo, I'd say that's evidence of my position alone.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

That's strange, considering how its used so much by people who are actively involved in teaching English to their fellow Latinos.

Sure, they just get touchy when others do it, as we saw with the Lamar Amendment.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK
You just said you support letting anyone in who wants to come.

No, I didn't. I said anyone willing and able to pay the price (which, of course, is true in any policy, whether its legal or not; the only difference is I want to recognize that and redirect where that price is being paid, for anyone we don't want to absolutely exclude because of personal characteristics.)


You've since modified that position with a few qualifiers, but in effect THAT is what yor are doing.

You seem to be confused. You've claimed that I am, in effect, arguing for restrictionism and that I am, in effect, arguing for unlimited immigration. Those two positions are not compatible.

If the borders are essentially open to anyone who is crime-free (as if we could really determine such a thing for the multitudes who'll want to come), you will create, in effect an unlimited labor pool.

Crime doesn't have to be the only criterion; I'm saying that absolute restrictions should be based on personal characteristics, not numbers of immigrants. Control of level of immigration should be through the imposition of costs which produce revenues, not through hard caps.

Adjusting the level of legal immigration than becomes a matter of setting the cost appropriately based on assessment and policy judgement about costs of alternative policies.

Now, I'm sure you'll come back with a new set of modifications to your prior statement, but what it really looks like is that you want the happy-clappy sentiment of letting anyone who wants in in, but you avoid the consequences of this decision by positing imaginary, counterfactual measures, which run counter to experience.

Well, don't give up your day job for a career in mind-reading, as I want neither the "happy-clappy" sentiment of letting anyone in who wants in nor to avoid the consequences of that moronic decision by "imaginary, counterfactual measures".

Although, I guess any new policy proposed is, in a sense, an imaginary, counterfactual measure until it is adopted.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK
Sure, they just get touchy when others do it, as we saw with the Lamar Amendment.

Well, they get touchy when money gets handed out for doing it, but they think their affiliates will be excluded from receiving it.

That doesn't signal to me an interest in maintaining a linguistic minority, it signals an interest in being compensated for the work they are already doing if someone is going to hand out money to people doing that work. Which, while perhaps crass, materialistic, and self-interested (or perhaps not, it could just be a concern for good policy, if they think they have developed a unique cultural competency that lets them be more effective than others would be at the same job), doesn't point to anything you've accused them of.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

"One puzzle about post-Sept. 11 America is that it has not had a subsequent terror attack -- not even a small backpack bomb in a movie theater -- while there have been dozens in Europe."

Dozens?

london (twice, though one foiled) & madrid.

Unless he's counting chechen terrorist attacks in russia and even then 'Dozens' is a ludicrous overstatement.

And none in France or Germany. Hmm, guess they're not so radicalised after all.

Hmm, it's almost as if the terrorists are attacking countries that joined america's attack on iraq.

Posted by: kb on April 4, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Crime doesn't have to be the only criterion; I'm saying that absolute restrictions should be based on personal characteristics, not numbers of immigrants.

Again, unless you have the powers of God Himself, you will not be able to determine this for every individual coming in. Mistakes are made, and the higher the inflow, the greater the number of mistakes.

Secondly, you ultimately have to come up with a number if you're going to determine what constitutes a net-negative. Otherwise you risk creating gluts of certain skillsets. Without such a number, your policy is suspended in a fog, and wage rates go through the floor...oh, wait, unless again we implement your perfect enforcement policies, which, again, require a godlike omniscience.

Well, don't give up your day job for a career in mind-reading...

If reading what you've written isn't a form of reading your mind, I don't know what is. I'm looking at what you've written, and I've described what I see. A big, happy sounding proposal that dodges and hides behind woulda-coulda-shoulda when objections are raised.

Posted by: Derek Copold on April 4, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone needs to get this into their f***ing heads: The only way the demand will be lowered is if the U.S. becomes about as poor as your average Third World. Otherwise, we are always going to be faced with people wanting to come here, always.

Um, Derek Copold, the idea is not to worry about lowering the demand burning in the hearts of people all over the world for the better lives they could have by immigrating to rich countries.

The idea is rather to manage this demand so as to maximize the advantages and minimize the costs of the immigration created by this demand. And the point is, by allowing a level of immigration that comports with reality, we can undercut the incentive to immigrate illegally, and at the same time have a level of immigration that is eminently manageable and moderate by historical standards.

The US currently allows negligable numbers of Latin Americans to immigrate for economic reasons. IIRC the current quota for Mexico is a completely absurd 10,000. By establishing a more realistic number (say, 300,000-400,000) we can undercut the incentive to immigrate illegally to the US, and this in turn will allow us to minimize the costs, and maximize the benefits that immigration brings to the US.

Currently, a semi-skilled Mexican or Central American essentially has zero chance of legally immigrating to the US, and thus he has nothing to lose by trying his chances with a coyote. Change this reality by giving him the opportunity to some day come to the States in compliance with the law -- even if he has to wait in the queue a number of years for his number to be called -- and you'll have a fighting chance at reducing the hordes of people attempting to sneak into the US.

Sure, the number of legal immigrants will have increased, but the total immigration number shouldn't increase at all, and may even decrease.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on April 4, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK
Again, unless you have the powers of God Himself, you will not be able to determine this for every individual coming in.

No shit. Since the current system also relies on the same kind of controls, and since you haven't proposed abandoning them, this is a moronic objection.

Mistakes are made, and the higher the inflow, the greater the number of mistakes.

Presuming the resources expended per applicant are constant, this is a reasonable expectation, but the presumption itself is flawed; part of the purpose of the fee-based rather than cap-based control regime is to provide additional resources so that is not the case.

Secondly, you ultimately have to come up with a number if you're going to determine what constitutes a net-negative.

You certainly don't have to fix a single, fixed number. You do have to make a policy judgement about the marginal costs and demands at different levels of immigration to decide where you expect the fee structure to produce a non-negative net benefit, of course, and that is something you expect to change over time. But that's the kind of judgements government regulators (e.g., at the Fed) make and adjust all the time.

Otherwise you risk creating gluts of certain skillsets.

As if massive illegal immigration and employment in the status quo doesn't do that already; you've provided no reason to believe that the policy I've outlined would be likely to make this worse, rather than better.

Yes, compared to a mythical ideal state where no one immigrates for any purpose, it will increase the supply of labor in many skill sets and depress wages. But, usually, its more productive to compare policies to what they are to replace than to fantasies.

Without such a number, your policy is suspended in a fog, and wage rates go through the floor.

Inasmuch as there is a problem with gluts in specific skillsets, a simple number--an overall cap--won't fix it. What you'd need is a far more detailed approach that either set caps or fees for immigration based on personal qualities of the applicant, including skill sets. While I'd certainly support that as a component of reform, there is really nothing in it to suggest a preference for caps over fees.

oh, wait, unless again we implement your perfect enforcement policies, which, again, require a godlike omniscience.

I've never mentioned any perfect enforcement policies. I've merely suggested that providing new legal methods -- with a price tag associated with them -- for people who are not individually undesirable to immigrate would provide new resources for enforcementand allow it to be improved compared to the status quo.

The fantasies of perfection are yours and yours alone.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, the number of legal immigrants will have increased, but the total immigration number shouldn't increase at all, and may even decrease.

And, even if it does increase, tax revenues will increase, and the negative effects on American workers will decrease, since the immigrants will have the same rights and protections as US workers and no disincentives to assert them.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 4, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

And, even if it does increase, tax revenues will increase, and the negative effects on American workers will decrease, since the immigrants will have the same rights and protections as US workers and no disincentives to assert them.

Indeed.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on April 4, 2006 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

Last week I became a hard-working Republican candidate for state office here in Washington. In the course of going door-to-door in a legislative district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about two to one (but the independents lean conservative often enough to make many races competitive) I come across one issue where traditionally working-class Democrat voters like to tear my ears off--immigration.

One wealthier guy in particular was giving me hell on his doorstep for Bush catering to the Hispanic vote with the green card thing when I rather innocently remarked: "Nice landscaping, you do it?"

BANG! Good thing I never put my foot in a door.

Actually, Mexico has its own policy for dealing with what the Mexican government apparently considers an undesirable flow of immigrants from Central America seeking to settle in Mexico. If all else fails, the USA perhaps could just copy that policy word-for-word and then let the Mexican government say about it what they will.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on April 5, 2006 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

It's a little late to add another thought but here goes. I suggested a $10,000 fine because that seems substantial enough to satisfy justice - there has to be some significant punishment for violating the immigration laws - and because it's affordable. The average illegal Mexican worker in his 20s will earn over a lifetime in the US hundreds of thousands of dollars more than he would staying in Mexico (why else do you think they come here?) Surely we can tell him to borrow that $10,000 and pay a fine that will bring him a green card and attendant higher wages (instead of remitting all his savings back home he'll have to pay some of his savings to whatever sub-prime lender steps up to the bar to make these loans).

Posted by: DBL on April 5, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK
Surely we can tell him to borrow that $10,000 and pay a fine that will bring him a green card and attendant higher wages (instead of remitting all his savings back home he'll have to pay some of his savings to whatever sub-prime lender steps up to the bar to make these loans).

Seems to me that credit's going to be a problem here. Lots of the people involved are going to have little to know documentable credit history, and if they do become insolvent, are particularly likely to skip back to their country of origin where it will be nearly impossible to collect.

Seems more sensible, therefore, instead of a huge one-time fine for total regularization to have an annual renewable visa with a lower annual fee (perhaps $1,000-2,000/year) that must be renewed for several years before being eligible for permanent residency (which, for those coming from the "normalization visa", whatever its called, may involve, at that point, a final, heftier additional fee.)

Posted by: cmdicely on April 5, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of a small fine, why don't we criminalize hiring an illegal worker with a $100,000 fine, then advertise that any illegal worker who turns in his employer will get a $10,000 cash reward.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on April 5, 2006 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK


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