May Day! May Day!
Why Immigration Reform is Not Rocket Science
Jay B. Gaskill
May 2, 2006
Look at a map. Just south of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, there lives a population where the following four conditions obtain: (a) an abysmal unemployment rate, (b) a high corruption index, (c) terrible quality medical care access (by any measure), and (d) a very low annual net income. Conditions there are and will remain for at least three decades more Third World than not.
Yet north of that same boundary, there is a shortage of willing workers in a number of low skilled labor markets. There are several natural and predictable results:
We have an annual northward flow across that the Mexican border of job-seekers that (by any measure) approaches a million persons a year. Almost all of these people enter without passports or visas. As a result of our failure to control this influx, the US has acquired a growing sub-population of people who:
(1) are not here legally;
(2) do not speak English with any degree of fluency;
(3) remain mostly unassimilated.
Obviously, this is problem that, left unsolved, will dramatically challenge the capacity of this country to absorb an alien population. The economic and social impact of the influx is already being disproportionately felt in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.
Any immigration “reform” must confront these three facts of life:
(1) The “Anglo” birthrate is below replacement or sharply trending to that number.
(2) The wholesale deportation of our ten to eleven million “illegals” (i.e., of the sub-population of predominantly Mexican nationals who arrived here illegally, and remain embedded in the warp and woof of American life) is neither practicable nor remotely humane. An additional ten million people would far exceed the current jail capacity in the US for criminals. The practical and human impact of actually bussing ten million additional prisoners south of the border, assuming they could be rounded up, blinkers the imagination. Imagine the staging areas, the crying children, the thousands of busses, the thematic comparisons with the Nazi trains. I suspect that the real purpose of yesterday’s demonstrations was to generate mass images to graphically demonstrate this point with out explicitly making it.
(3) But the continuation of the present “migration” pattern, if unchecked, will swamp our capacity to assimilate and absorb non-indigenous populations, eventually producing a foreign country within the US, ultimately destabilizing the political and social order.
Even the selective deportation of selected “undesirables” (think individuals posing a heath or security risk, for example) is a laughably ineffective remedy, a catch and release sham. As long as the US-Mexican border is fully permeable and the Mexican government remains unwilling to cooperate, relying of the threat of deportation is like shoveling a sidewalk during a blizzard.
Unless we are prepared to simply give up on the notion of the US-as-nation, the logic of our situation is irresistible:
(1) The border between the US and Mexico must be credibly secured before even a modest program of selective deportation will ever be effective.
(2) In the meantime, a convergence of humane policy and economic logic requires that we step up the assimilation of the “not-undesirable” sub-population of “not-legal” migrants. This has implications for a number of politically correct policies that are barriers to rapid assimilation, among them the overuse of bilingual education instead of the aggressive teaching of English.
(3) And we will need to quickly regularize and regulate the flow of workers from the south. The current work-visa process is absolutely ineffective, given the magnitude of the population flow involved. This will require a great deal more accountability than people are presently accustomed to.
When I said that the solution is not “rocket science”, I was not suggesting that it would be easy or cheap to implement.
First — three guiding principles:
Security. No nation under sustained attack by an international terrorist network can afford to leave its most vulnerable border essentially unsecured, yet this is exactly the case with respect to the US Mexican border. Equity. We are a nation composed largely of immigrants who came into the country under far more rigorous controls. It is patently unfair and politically untenable to reward illegal immigration with an easier path than that followed by those who played by the rules. Realism. The rate of illegal entry can be dramatically reduced only through a combination of measures that couples more effective enforcement with a sharply increased legal flow of well identified and vetted temporary workers.
Second – the nine principal elements of viable reform:
No cut rate citizenship. The path to earned citizenship must be toughened up to include several elements: (a) rigorous language facility requirements; (b) a track record of demonstrated good citizen behavior; (c) the equivalent of a high school level knowledge of basic civics. No baby-citizen hostages. The incentive for illegal entrants to plant infant citizens here must be repealed. Citizenship through birth on US soil should be limited to those with permanent lawful residence. Children born here can be grand-fathered and grand-mothered in after mom or dad achieve that status, but not before. A deeper and much more robust border: (a) Using eminent domain, the entire border region should be federalized on our side to provide a buffer zone up to several miles wide when feasible, and a wall in places (like the border towns) where a wider zone is not practicable. No private landowner should have an immediate border with Mexico. (b) State authorities, with federal matching funds, should be empowered to erect additional barriers on the American side whenever, in the judgment of the state, the federal barriers are not sufficient. (c) Two electronically monitored fences, a mile apart, should be established within the border zone to serve as a trip wire band along the entire border. (d) More substantial barrier technology and structures should be emplaced as funds are available, starting with the gateway cities. Establish a path toward legalization-without-deportation for the embedded alien population with a strong emphasis on regular and continuous employment and measured progress towards assimilation. Require that all drivers’ licenses clearly and boldly indicate immigration status. Unlicensed persons would be required to have identification cards. Both would use a common numbering system and would enter a massive data base. Require all employers, even casual ones, to inspect the licenses or ID cards of employees and to report the employment status of all non-citizen employees (legal and otherwise) at point of hire, the end of employment, and otherwise at quarterly intervals. INS and Homeland Security would maintain a common data base. Temporary worker permits would routinely be issued based on annual quotas. Toughen criminal laws. Illegal entry would be punishable by a short jail term to be served in the US. Illegally returning after deportation would be subject to felony prison penalties to be served in the US. Any illegal entry (including a first entry) by those with an illicit purpose (such as drug trafficking, terrorism, or to escape justice for criminal offenses) would be a serious felony. Finally, the four affected states would be involved in planning, policy formation and implementation at every level.
This is not rocket science because all of the elements of the solution are common sense and easily understood by the great mass of voters who – it must be pointed out – are strongly in favor of stemming the tide of illegal in-migration.
When will the politicians catch up?