Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Complexities of Immigration Reform

My last blog entry on the costs of illegal immigration sparked a nice, lively debate with one of my friends.  After going back and forth for a while, he finally said something that struck me "I can't think of an ideal immigration policy."  As someone who defines himself as more of a realist, I'll sidestep unadulterated idealism for a moment.  But what I think my friend was trying to say was that the issue is not that cut and dry.  And I agree with him.  This is not a simple matter of "keep them all out (deportation)" or "let them all in (amnesty)."  Both of those extremes are, at the very least, foolish.  Finding this "ideal" is difficult because there are many factors in play here.  To name a few:
  • We are in a country that is not enforcing its own immigration laws.  At best, it is a highly inconsistent process.  When we cannot even enforce our own immigration laws, it sends a pretty clear message for those who want to cross illegally--it's not illegal if you don't get caught, and it's easier than ever.  Although the circumstances that led to their illegal entry were rough (see next point below), this sort of behavior can easily seep into all facets of life.  That is why crime is a legitimate concern brought up by opponents of amnesty.  We need to send the message that we are a nation of laws, which is why enforcement of these immigration laws would be a good place to start.  If those crossing the borders know we actually do something about it, they will more likely be deterred from crossing the border. 
  • We are in a country whose prioritization in national security is out of whack.  We care more about what is going on thousands of miles away in Afghanistan than we care about the narco-terrorism that has been going on in Mexico for the past four years.....right next door!  If you don't think this is affecting the quality of life in Mexico, think again!  If you were living in poverty and had to deal with drug dealers consistently wreaking havoc on your family, I am sure that you would want to find a better life for your family, even if that means sneaking into the United States illegally.  At the very least, we should better enforce the U.S.-Mexican border, and at most, go into Mexico and clean up their mess.  If America has to feel the need to police the world, at least it should start with its neighbors.  At least that way, Mexico would be a better place to live, which would cut out a lot of the incentive for them to move to America. 
  • We are in a country where there is a bunch of red tape.  Our immigration policy is no exception.  Do you realize that, on average, it takes four years to get a green card?  It's tough to become a legal immigrant.  Cutting out red tape would not only cut costs for budgets, but also help our nation become more vibrant with immigration.   
  • We are in a country with an entitlement mentality and a wasteful government.  A large portion of the American budget goes to entitlement programs such as welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Let's also throw in the costs that come with education simply because the amount of money thrown at public education is inefficiently spent.  Focusing on more limited government seems like a challenge since we're dependent on the "nanny state."  But if we actually focused on lowering government spending, those on the Right would have a lot less to gripe about with respects to the costs of illegal immigration and the burden they cause by increased level of taxation. 
  • We are in a country in which we like to pay as little as possible to get as much as possible.  This is especially true for businesses.  Businesses like cheap labor.  Why pay a guy the minimum wage when you can pay an illegal half of that?  Not only does it distort the supply and demand of labor, but it also makes businesses lazy.  If you cut corners in this area, then it would make sense to do it in all areas--equipment, overall quality of the work area, proper safety measures.  Profit: the only thing that matters to business owners.  Anything else is of secondary importance.  Although the cynicism might be a bit of an extreme, you have to remember that businesses respond to incentives, mainly that of how to make the most amount of profit.  In short, most businesses will cut corners in one way or the other because ethically sound businesses are a rarity in a nation whose citizenry overall believes that money buys you happiness.  Enforcing business laws, and maybe taking the typical American's focus off of money and avarice, could go a long way in the long-run.  
  • We are in a country in which you can go from rags to riches.  Illegal immigration substantially affects the job market.......if you're poor and uneducated.  If you don't like it, then you should be willing to work hard enough to get a decent education so they can't get your job.  If you're not willing to do that, I don't want to hear you whine about how "they took your job."   
  • We are in a country in which our politicians don't know what they're doing.  Congressional approval rating has been below 20% for quite some time, and the presidential approval rating is below 50%, and Arizona gives Obama a 28% approval rating.  I love this country because the great freedoms it provides are something to truly be proud of.  However, the ineptness of politicians is staggering, and even the average American can realize the poor performance level of our politicans, especially when it comes to this issue.  The difference between a Democrat and a Republican seems to be name in only because all they can bring is disappointment.  Hope and change is what I would like to see in November, but like with the rest of these suggestions, I think I'm asking for too much. 

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