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The Absurdity Of The Immigration "Compromise"

Like abortion, I'm one of those folks who don't have strong opinions/feelings about immigration, but I think that Mark Steyn makes a great point here:

Is that This-background-check-will-self-destruct-in-24-hours clause for real? If the entire "undocumented" population of, say, Falls Church, Virginia wanders into the local immigration office at 4pm on Monday, the clerks have got till 5pm on Tuesday to find anything on the guys or they've got no choice but to issue the Z visa? For the agency that takes the best part of a decade to process nanny applications and which sent Mohammed Atta his visa six months after he'd died, this is, to say the least, a massive cultural change.

If the 24-hour dry-cleaner standard were to be mandated for every government agency, I might reconsider my position. But it seems curious, to put it at its mildest, that only the lucky members of the Undocumented-American community will get to enjoy the benefits of express service from the US government.

Regardless of one's opinions on immigration, legal or otherwise, we should all be appalled at how such an important issue is being railroaded through the Congress with so little review, or time for it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 19, 2007 06:58 PM
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Here in California, I've watched the Republicans self destruct over immigration. Since I'm not a big fan of intrusive government, I personally would like to see them get their house in order as the lesser of two nasties.

California didn't go irredeemably blue till the Red staters decided to push the "Save Our State" petition. This did things like defund schooling for illegal immigrants. Maybe if they'd done this 10 years earlier, it would have made sense, but I doubt it. But in 1990, the LA Times reported that the most popular name for new babies in LA was "Jose". Well those Jose's can vote now and he knows that the Red guys are not his friends.

2007: Now the Republicans somehow think that 12 million people, the majority of whom have been here over a decade should just either go back to Mexico or remain in limbo in a kind of half way citizenship. What a great idea to alienate millions of voters who might well end up as social and economic conservatives once they're past the first rungs of the economic ladder! So the choice for Republicans now is:

1. Please the folks in Tulsa by opposing ammesty while the millions of new Democrats pass ammesty anyway in the near future. Remain out of power for the next 20 years.

2. Go with ammesty, while increasing the border patrol to actual effective levels. Hope that 5 years from now the new Democrats get fed up with the taxes, the nanny state and a flacid foreign policy.

Posted by K at May 19, 2007 08:54 PM

Steyn is my favorite editorial writer. He has a way of getting to the point.

Posted by Bill Maron at May 19, 2007 09:01 PM

Meanwhile, while we sit here jaw-jacking about the ones already here, the flood over the border continues.

Guess what will happen when the bright light of Amnesty gets lit?

Posted by Rich at May 20, 2007 08:41 AM

The nation has less than five percent unemployment and falling. Who's gonna mow your lawn, bus your tables, clean your house and office, build your house and office, pick the crops, work the meat packing plants and untold other jobs. Immigrants reduce our cost of living and allow us more valuable leisure by doing our chores. If they weren't here you would pay more for everything and have less. I am astounded by the stupidity of the nativists and immigration control advocates. Immigrants are here because we demand their presence. Amnesty only changes de facto to de jure.

Posted by Jardinero1 at May 20, 2007 12:51 PM

I mow my own lawn, thank you very much. My wife and I clean our own house, too. She's an immigrant, a legal one who became a US citizen. So are my stepsons and my daughter-in-law. Bills like this current abortion make those who actually complied with the law look like a bunch of chumps.

My father was a carpenter. It now sounds like some are claiming that's a job "Americans won't do anymore." Bull. They just won't do it for $10 an hour under the table. You see, this current bill doesn't even make them liable for back taxes that they've evaded all along.

Posted by Larry J at May 20, 2007 02:39 PM

From K: Here in California, I've watched the Republicans self destruct over immigration...

Good point. The primary ire about illegal immigration should not be directed against those who came here in response to de facto invitations (the letter of the law notwithstanding), but against those in our ruling class who issue the invitations and refuse to enforce the law.

Did California Republicans beckon to prospective illegals with one hand to attract campaign contributions, while the other hand smacked down illegals to get votes?

From Jardinero1: Immigrants are here because we demand their presence.

Illegal immigrants are here because powerful people in the shadows are undermining the rule of law. They lie and scheme to implement illegitimate policies--beneficial to them, harmful to the country--which could not be justified in open debate.

Posted by gs at May 20, 2007 02:46 PM

The 24 hour rule is much more insidious when you read the Federal Computer Weekly article ( on the HSPD-12 regulation that requires ALL federal employees and most contractors to have complete periodic background checks. OPM (Office of Personnel Management) is already months behind getting security checks on people, and one of the main reasons why is that law enforcement agencies are up to their eyeballs already with requests for background checks.

Posted by Orville at May 20, 2007 07:38 PM

Muchos Gracias Senor Bush!

Posted by anon idiot at May 20, 2007 08:42 PM

I'm not qualified to address the legal issues here. Many undesirables come here obviously.
Many more come here to build a better life than is possible in their country of origin.

People that will risk their lifes to come to this country to work for a better life for themselves and their families are the kind of people that built this country. Some of them even without papers are better Americans than many native born citizens. To me, America is an idea and way of life more than a place of birth.

This is another one of those issues where a botched execution converts an assett into a liability. Properly handled, immigrants are a huge win for the country. Poorly handled they are a liability.

And around here, immigrants seem to average higher income than natives.

Posted by john hare at May 20, 2007 08:45 PM

"I mow my own lawn, thank you very much. My wife and I clean our own house, too. "

Wow. Why?

Seriously, I don't have staff in the US, but in the UK I had Eastern Europeans and it was great. My wife and I worked 10+ hour days 6 days a week and the last thing we want to do is waste our free time cleaning a house when I can get it done for little money.

Won't work for $10 an hour tax free? But don't you guys have a minimum wage that's something like half that? Aren't people meant to work for it?

Posted by Daveon at May 20, 2007 09:19 PM

Please, *please* tell me that was a joke, along the lines of anti-gun stars who think that's what bodyguards are for.

Posted by Big D at May 20, 2007 10:19 PM

I think what it boils down to is that some people in this thread really hate Mexicans. I can't figure out why they hate them so much. And I can't figure out why they want to keep them out. They make lame excuses about how they don't come here legally. What is that? How many "citizens" in this thread actually earned their residency or citizenship. How many are winners of the sperm lottery and just happened to be lucky enough to be born here instead of some third world cesspool. Where did they "earn" the right? It's like living off a winning lotto ticket and then complaining because no one else is working hard enough.

Posted by Jardinero1 at May 20, 2007 10:29 PM

I think what it boils down to is that some people in this thread really hate Mexicans. I can't figure out why they hate them so much. And I can't figure out why they want to keep them out. They make lame excuses about how they don't come here legally. What is that? How many "citizens" in this thread actually earned their residency or citizenship. How many are winners of the sperm lottery and just happened to be lucky enough to be born here instead of some third world cesspool. Where did they "earn" the right? It's like living off a winning lotto ticket and then complaining because no one else is working hard enough.

There's some good, old-fashioned racism in the anti-immigration movement. But I personally get tired of people who can't be bothered to understand why anti-immigration exists aside from the minor racism angle.

Let's start with the obvious. Mexico is more screwed up than the US is. There is a legitimate concern that people who immigrate from Mexico will make the areas they immigrate into more Mexico-like in terms of adopting failed policies from Mexico. There's just a natural tendency to do things like they were done in the home country. I've seen it with all sorts of immigrants (eg, New York, California, and Florida to name three domestic sources of large scale immigration) not just foreign immigrants from Mexico.

Second, adding lots of immigrants dillutes the value of citizenship for the existing citizens. Infrastructure is used more and the existing citizens have reduced power to preserve their society and political desires (through such things as vote dilution). Ie, if a group wants to maintain its purposes and goals, it usually has to control who enters the group. I've seen groups (from small clubs to large states) that have changed for the worse from outsiders taking over the organization and directing it to purposes alien to its original goals. The Sierra Club is a good example. It's gone from being a conservation-oriented organization to another mouthpiece for the Green movement.

Third, the politics of importing votes can be a very destructive dynamic. Namely, political forces that benefit from immigrant votes have a strong incentive to import more immigrants in order to increase their vote share. Even to pay to import them so they can grow their voting block. I think this is a fairly common strategy that probably dates back from the early days of the US (and colonies). This, of course, will trigger defensiveness from the political forces that are threatened or harmed either by immigration directly or by the political forces that exploit immigration.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at May 21, 2007 12:23 AM

Does this legislation also cover four year degree qualified workers that currently get knocked back on H1-B's?

Posted by Adrasteia at May 21, 2007 12:47 AM

I think what it boils down to is that some people in this thread really hate Mexicans. I can't figure out why they hate them so much.

What Karl said. I don't see it boiling down to that at all. In fact I see zero evidence of it, and consider it a slander on the commenters here, even if I don't necessarily agree with everything they write.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 21, 2007 05:13 AM

I think what it boils down to is that some people in this thread really hate Mexicans. I can't figure out why they hate them so much.

I don't hate Mexicans and I certainly don't hate immigrants. I hate ILLEGAL immigration. Mexicans make up a substancial percentage of illegal immigrants but there are a lot of other people (including Europeans and Asians) who came here on a tourist or student visa and stayed on after it expired. They're just as illegal as someone who slipped across the Rio Grande.

Like I said, most of my family are immigrants. I'd prefer an expanded program of legal immigration. My wife and I have a large circle of friends who are legal immigrants. These are some of the hardest working people I know and most are the living embodiment of the American Dream.

Don't come here, break our laws, then whine about being discriminated against. I don't hold a high opinion of criminals in general regardless of race.

As to why we mow our own lawns and clean our own house - we do it because we can. When we no longer can do those things for ourselves, then we'll look at other options. As for now, hiring someone to do things that I can do for myself is just a waste of money.

Posted by Larry J at May 21, 2007 06:51 AM

This is a complex problem with many roots. Unfortunately, we demand that "something be done now", and our elected officials try do so. It doesn't matter that much what they do or what the consequences will be: they simply must be seen to be "doing something".

One place to start (and it's just one) is with overhauling our outdated immigration policies. But that's a slow, bureaucratic review-and-change approach and is unlikely to either appease those who want "something done now" or to make elected officials appear important and useful.

Another area that must be addressed is Mexico itself. We must find a way to get Mexico to fix its problems. Take away the reasons so many Mexicans prefer to live here, and you'll take away the flood of illegals desperately searching for a better life.

Posted by MJ at May 21, 2007 07:30 AM

Count me as one who mows his own lawn, cleans his own house, and washes his own clothes (unless they need dry cleaning). Sure, I make enough money to hire a legitimate maid service and can make even more money working 60 hour weeks, but I choose not too.

At the same time, I don't support allowing people to simply cross our borders, gain full citizenship by simply paying a fine, and then be allowed the full privilege of vote in this country and their home country. I don't have such a privilege, but that's exactly what Mexico thinks its citizens should have. That's not racism against those of Mexican ancestory, but rather a comment against the politics of the US and Mexican government and politicians, who stand to benefit financially and politically from granting extraordinary legal rights to individuals while forgiving previous transgressions.

This would be absurd at anytime for any sovereign country. It is more absurd during a period of great conflict and shortly after illegal immigrants killed thousands of people in one horrific event. As for the macro economic benefit, one need only look at the ongoing riots in France to see the folly in that logic. We may benefit from importing cheap labor from Mexico or Algeria, but failing to properly nationalize these immigrants (as current legal immigration policy calls for) will result in a clash of cultures once critical mass is reached.

Posted by Leland at May 21, 2007 09:00 AM

Perhaps the following is something to think about?

I think it's a mistake to be discussing illegal immigration the way it has been in the US because it automatically distracts from the real issue if one wants less illegal immigration. There's only one way to achieve less illegal immigration and that's more control.

Instead of talking about illegal immigration (even if it's the problem one is really motivated by) one should simply talk about border security. One shouldn't even say "first things first" because everyone will say "what's second and how?" and then the circus is back in town - as usual.

Illegal immigration (both present and future) is a complex question to most people.

Border security is a straightforward question to most people.

Avoid tying the two together unless you want to get bogged down in shady politics (the aforementioned circus and yeah it's true; they do have the best clowns).

I doubt many politicians would survive having to publically and repeatedly voice a clear "no" to increased border security so the question and topic must always be clear and inescapable and strictly on border security.

So "forget" anything else and push for outright border security - don't tie it to other stuff because in effect it will only muddy the waters.

Framing the debate correctly is half the victory; border security, every border.

Posted by Habitat Hermit at May 21, 2007 01:55 PM

The current bill is truly an example of someone trying to fool all of the people, all of the time. Contrary to the solemn assurances given by the perpetrators, both the 1965 immigration act and the 1986 amnesty resulted in an unprecedented increase in illegal and legal immigration of unskilled people. (A small minority composed of various ethnic and libertarian ideologues thinks this was a good thing.) Last year's defeat of another immigration "reform" was a good sign that the voters are developing just a tiny bit of common sense.

Posted by Artemus at May 21, 2007 04:28 PM

It is absolutely absurd to reward illegal immigrants with a path to legality shorter than those who have been patiently in line for over ten years.

This isn't about hating Mexicans, this is about the fact that we need to control who is and isn't in this country. We are, like, a nation you know, so we have borders. Borders should mean something. They aren't going to with this stupid bill.

Posted by Offside at May 21, 2007 06:45 PM

Hermit, I don't think border security ultimately will be effective. A lot of illegal stuff crosses the US borders, be it drugs, illegal immigrants, animals, or other things. As I see it, there are several ways to reduce it. Improved border security will work, but I think it's expensive for what you get out of it. I think a more effective approach is to punish businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at May 21, 2007 08:55 PM

Karl, yes it costs money but it seems to be very effective if you do it right.

San Diego built a real border fence and it's existence is almost assuredly decreasing other expenditures and thus paying for itself over time. Might even be doing so pretty fast according to what I've heard.

Posted by Habitat Hermit at May 22, 2007 06:55 AM


these guys shouldn't _be_ voters. You understand that, right?

Posted by Rick C at May 22, 2007 09:51 AM

"I think what it boils down to is that some people in this thread really hate Mexicans. "

No, we hate criminals. Perhaps you're too stupid to understand the distinction.

The company I work for is full of Mexicans, because it's a Mexican-owned company. They're all here legally. That's fine by me.

Posted by Rick C at May 22, 2007 09:54 AM

Oh, and my boss at the last place I worked was a legal immigrant from the Middle East. He's been here probably 20 years, and has been on the citizenship path for probably 10. He should be taking his oath this summer, finally.

Another coworker at that job just became a citizen of the US last fall after spending many years on the citizenship path.

Tell me, jardinero1, how you think my ex-coworkers feel about people sneaking in over the border, using public services, driving down wages, when they had to spend thousands of dollars and years of their time to do things legitimately. Sure enough--both of them despise illegal immigration, but neither of them hate Mexicans.

Posted by Rick C at May 22, 2007 09:59 AM

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