Monday, February 06, 2006

Lunch with Chris

I was at lunch with Chris Cannon on Saturday by virtue of me being part of the Utah County Republican Machine leadership, and we all had quite an interesting discussion. While he talked about various legislative things, the subject that we kept coming back to was immigration. Most of the rest of the leadership was somewhere between against and virulently against immigration, specifically Hispanic immigration.
I understand the need to combat illegal immigration. It causes all sorts of problems, so I think that almost everybody agrees with it. The problem comes in the implementation of how to eliminate illegal immigration. The person who I have the biggest disagreement wants to militarize the border, throw a wall up, and force draconian punishments on businesses who dare to help illegals.
I, on the other hand think that because this problem is caused by the market, let's let it sort the problem out. The first thing we should do is completely eliminate immigration quotas. If someone wants to come into the US, they can, as long as they can get a visa. Visa requirements include not having a criminal record and not having any health issues. That's pretty reasonable. Anyone who wants to come here should be able to, and if they're from Mexico, they generally make it - legally or otherwise. With quotas gone, suddenly every illegal who comes across the border is a criminal in every sense of the word. They can't get a visa because they are engaged in criminal activities, so they are legitimate criminals. There will be a lot less of them, and we will be able to step up prosecution and have an aggressive program to eliminate illegal immigration - and we will have the people to carry it out.
Another benefit to this is that it will stop the ghettoization of the Hispanic population. While it's natural for immigrants to gather in one geograpic location (it happened with the Irish, the Chinese, the Poles, the Italians, and I could go on), but because of the high number of illegals (estimated at somewhere around 22 million) a thriving shadow economy that caters to illegal immigrants has popped up. People in this shadow economy are shady by nature, and it results in higher crime in the US. Eliminate the shadow economy by eliminating 95% of illegal immigrants and you will have a much smaller problem.
The problem with just taking all of our illegals and shipping them to Cuba is that they have an inordinately large impact on industries that matter to people in the US. Agriculture is one area where you'll find a very high percentage of illegals, as is construction. If we were to deport 22 million workers, food and construction prices would shoot through the roof because demand would far outstrip supply. In the long run, farms would close, and we'd get our lettuce and tomatoes from Brazil instead of Arizona. Our chicken would come from China instead of Arkansas, and so on. Our economy runs in part on the minimum wage jobs these people take. Therefore we can't feasably do it right now. If instead we punish these businesses (my friend's recommendation is to take away their business licenses) then you would end up with serious shortages and a lot of pain as banks defaulted on loans, people's deposits didn't get honored, and we ran out of food.
"But what about security?" and "9/11!" come the cries from the xenophobic right. "They're stealing our jobs!" come the cries from the xenophobic left - as Rep. Cannon calls them, the immigration horseshoe - going through the bottom of the political spectrum, connecting right and left. Is this really the case?
The 9/11 hijackers got into the country legally. I think that if we closed the Mexican border somewhere around 1/1/2000, they still would have hijacked those airliners. Visas would weed those people out, and we wouldn't have to chase after people who are pretty decent other than that they snuck across the border. We could focus our efforts on those who are trying to sabotage the nation. Meanwhile, all those jobs that are being "stolen" are already staffed - by illegals. They're taking jobs that nobody wants. I don't see how that's stealing jobs. Not to mention that we're going to have a employee shortage here in the next 5 years without all those immigrants.
The other reaction, one that is much more xenophobic is that they'll take over our country, making everybody speak the Spanish and watch unpredictable Mexican sitcoms. However, that is also a red herring. Assimilation among legal Hispanic immigrants is on par with every other group who has come into the US. The first generation has problems, but the second generation is as American as Taco Bell. Among illegals, it's much lower. Again, by loosening immigration laws, we'll be able to toss them in the Melting Pot and let them simmer into full Americanity.

1 comment:

Gordon S. Jones said...

In general, I agree with your analysis. I would add that the unemployment numbers make it very hard to argue that illegals are taking jobs from citizens who would otherwise be employed.

In fact, the pool of available low-wage workers entices entrepreneurs to create new jobs, some of which are available to citizen teenage and other first-time workers as well.

Disclosure: I work for the taxpayers at the direction of Chris Cannon, whose views on immigration largely coincide with mine, and I dislike anonymous posts.