April 7, 2006
Prospects for passing a meaningful immigration reform bill faded today when Democrats in the Senate balked at the terms conservative Republicans were demanding. See Washington Post. I must say, McCain's and Kennedy's complicated formula for treating immigrants differently on the basis of how long they have been in this country seemed totally unworkable, another invitation to fraud. When you add the abnormally bitter partisan hostilities of recent years to normal election year politics, the chances for passing anything truly significant are not that great. The main question is whether passing some paltry half-measure this year would be preferable to doing nothing until next year, when legislators will be less confined by the calculus of reelection.
Referring to the huge demonstrations across America last week, Wednesday's Washington Post, "A sleeping Latino giant has awoken." Indeed. The huge Anglo giant woke up first, however, and their superior numbers are made stronger by the widespread conviction that they are on the right side of justice.
Speaking of which, the letter to the editor on immigration which I wrote appeared in today's Staunton News Leader. I was a bit irritated that they deleted some key words in a few places, such as "and in others" after "Xenophobia is a real, enduring problem in our country." That really changed the whole thrust of what I was trying to say. I drew an ironic parallel between Bush's contention that our economy needs illegal workers and his lament that we are "addicted to oil." Closing line: "The only people who really "depend" on illegal immigrant workers are those who think that low, low prices are an American birthright."
On the same page, coincidentally (?), there was a column by Linda Chavez, who strives to clear up some of the misconceptions. Most of her points were on target. She points out something I mentioned in my letter, that many if not most illegal aliens are "otherwise law-abiding." Likewise, most of them do pay their taxes. I would take issue with the way she equates the current flood of immigrants to earlier periods in our history. In particular, there was never a time when the influx literally overwhelmed the ability of our patrol officers to guard the southern border. But she correctly insists that "It's bad for all of us when laws are so wantonly flouted," calling for stiff fines, tighter border controls, and "more flexible" immigration laws. That's fine, but the problem won't go away until we reform the entitlements in this country that undermine the incentive to work and save.
President Bush has said that his "guest worker" proposal would encourage undocumented aliens to register their presence so we can keep track of who is actually here. Why do they need to be "encouraged"? Simple: It's because, generally speaking, they have no respect for the United States or its government. They probably wouldn't take seriously any registration deadlines, either. Unless Congress enacts laws on immigration and labor standards that are reasonably consistent, and therefore likely to be observed, America's global prestige will continue to erode.
Bottom line: Get in line, and Speed up the process.
I may be wrong, but I really don't think Reps. Tancredo or Sensenbrenner want to "release the hounds" and make every illegal alien in the country subject to immediate expulsion. That would be a recipe for a mass uprising, possibly even unleashing a civil war. On the other hand, no reform could contemplate mass amnesty or "guest worker" program, either, so what are we to do? Sen. McCain is not far off base when he talks about a very thorough, rigorous screening procedure that would put current illegal residents on a path toward eventual legality. The problem is that it would be very tempting to ease up on scrutiny and make all sorts of exceptions for a variety of flimsy reasons. What I say is, offer illegal residents a one-time-only opportunity to register their presence, providing as much documentation as they can regarding their employment and tax payment history. In return, they would be obliged to pay a small ($100?) fine to help cover administrative expenses, plus interest on any back taxes, and would be "sentenced" to probation, five or so years, depending on their circumstances. As long as they stay out of trouble, notify the authorities of their whereabouts, and only take legitimate jobs that pay at least minimum wage and adhere to applicable labor laws, they should be left alone and accorded the respect that is due to all human beings. If not, adios amigo.
But let's not kid anyone. This problem would never have gotten out of hand if our political system were not so terribly dysfunctional, letting our proud "free market" economy become corrupted over the years by massive cheating. All scams involve two willing parties, and the status quo in America's labor market amounts to a colossal, hideous scam that simply cannot be tolerated any longer. That is why I think our so-called "leaders" in Washington should refrain from piously scorning those new arrivals who flaunt our laws when they themselves are so lax in carrying out their solemn duties.
What could explain the puzzling cooperation on pushing for higher taxes to fund transportion between Democrat Governor Tim Kaine and the Republican (?) Senate leader John Chichester. I have no clue, but there are signs that it is nothing more than old-fashioned tacky cronyism, as Michael Shear suggests at Washington Post blog (via Commonwealth Conservative). He notes that Kaine and Chichester will appear as featured guests at a fund-raiser for the Foundation for Virginia on April 18, one day before the legislature reconvenes. Former Governor Mark Warner set up that foundation as a vehicle for promoting his vision of a hyperactive state government colluding with big business on various futuristic projects.