Humane & Fair Immigration

There has been a noticeable lapse of any discussion here about the hot-button issue of immigration. I don’t know if that’s because it is not viewed on the left as that big of a deal or whether there is a reluctance to discuss something on which our views may be divergent. Yet, given that Bush is bringing this issue to the forefront tonight, I thought I would post a piece I recently did on my blog with some of my general thoughts regarding immigration.

Immigration from Mexico has been a politically contentious issue for, at least 30 years (it now also includes a greater immigration coming from Central and South America). Over the last couple decades, an unacknowledged compromise of political convenience set in. Politicians would occasionally pound their chests about being against illegal immigration and about restricting large-scale legal immigration while at the same time they underfunded border enforcement and have looked the other way when it came to the massive use of undocumented workers by American businesses. Indeed, in 2004 under Bush, in a dramatic decrease from past lax enforcement, only 3 employers were served with notices of intent to fine.

The obvious result is that a wave of immigrants making the dangerous crossing over the Mexico-U.S. border to obtain the better paying jobs in the U.S. has continued largely unabated.

Opponents to this wave of imigration argue that it is causing those of us already here adverse economic impacts. But there does not appear to be a good argument that this wave of Mexican and Central American immigration is causing economic damage to the American worker. In my view, the other burdens on society – emergency room visits, the increased expense to our criminal justice system to deal with immigrants who commit crimes, etc. – are outweighed by the daily benefits we receive from these immigrants – loving and cost-effective day care for our children, a hard-working labor force that creates more affordable products and sevices, people willing to take on the risks of hazardous military service, etc.

We are a nation of immigrants that is a beacon to the world because of the opportunity we have provided to peoples of all races and nationalities. In my view, the Latino immigrants who have come to this country over the last few decades have added greatly to our cultural vibrancy as well as our economy. I believe legal immigration has been unduly and unfairly restricted to this wave of Latino immigration and, because of that, I believe there needs to be a broad amnesty program for many of those immigrants who came here illegally but who have been productive members of this society. Additionally, I support reform that expends upon the guest worker programs already in place and that provide for a realistic path to citizenship for those who come here and contribute to our economy and society.

If – and only if – the avenues for legal immigration that leads to citizenship are expanded would I support more money being applied to stricter border enforcement. A plan to send 5,000 reserve troops to the border for two years is pure political pandering which places an additional undue burden on our military strength and fails to reach a long-term solution. Bush is simply looking to score some quick points while hoping this issue simply goes back to the way it was.

The fears that Mexican immigration would collapse our society have been voiced for decades and have not been borne out. It is time to recognize the great contributions that have been made by the Latino immigration and to provide a more humane immigration policy.

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