Tuesday, March 28, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

Here’s part of the problem: it is impossible to extract 12 million people from the US. The cost is prohibitive and the logistics a nightmare. Further, the extraction of said individuals from the economy would have a substantial effect on a number of industries, such as the produce industry in California.

These are facts, and facts are stubborn, sometimes unpleasant things. Facts often clash with the way we want reality to work.

Another fact is that the economic forces at work here, the pull of jobs and the push of Mexico’s economic underdevelopment, are more powerful than rules passed by Congress or even physical walls. At the moment those forces are sufficiently powerful to induce large numbers of persons to risk death (and to even die) in making the attempt to cross the border as it is.

If one denies these facts, one cannot formulate a feasible border/immigration policy.

Yes, in simple black and white terms, those persons in the US of whom we are speaking are here illegally, and rewarding illegal behavior should be rejected. However, reality often clashes with simple views of the world. Further, the truth of the matter is we have contradictory policies and processes in place that encourages the inflow of immigrants, both legal and illegal. To deny that economic reality is the main issue at work here is to approach this question from a perspective of total unreality.

So one can bemoan that the Senate’s willingness to pass a guest-worker program is just a capitulation to illegality (such as here, here and here) is to ignore the real forces at work here. I am not unsympathetic to the basic notion, but policy has to be practical and this is not a simple issue. As such, a guest-worker program is not a simple capitulation to illegality, it is a capitulation to reality.

Indeed, there is no way to stop the flow of illegals into the United States from Mexico short of a very serious militarization of the border (which would divert a substantial number of troops and resources that we cannot currently spare)–and it simply isn’t going to happen anyway. Further, the effects on trade that would take place under a truly “controlled” border would be economically devastating. As such, the only possible policy solution is to try and manage the border through a guest worker program, or some similar measure. And even that will not “solve” the problem.

Further, those who see this as a reconquista or some dire alteration to our country need to stop and think about what happens when integration of immigrant populations does not take place. See, for example, France (or, to a lesser, but still important degree, Germany). Isolation and xenophobia leads to far more negative consequences than what we currently have happening.

We have to acknowledge reality, and from there we need to set up policies that work to integrate these populations into US culture and society. And there is absolutely no reason that immigrants from Latin America, whose cultural foundations are not that radically different from those of the US, cannot be fully and completely integrated into one big happy US family. Anyone who lives in California, Texas, Arizona or New Mexico (and other parts of the country as well) knows that there can be an elegant and wonderful blending of things Latin into the existing culture. Further, ours has always been an evolving, malleable culture to begin with, and I think that that is a good thing.

If one is really worried about the idea of immigrants from Mexico seeking to exist in separate conclaves, and to pursue radical ideas of reconquest—then the best way to accomplish that is to tell them that they aren’t welcome, and that they should hide from the view of the rest of the country while they continue to clean the local McDonald’s or pluck chickens at the local poultry processing plant. Isolated groups are the ones that eventually cause serious problems. Groups that can integrate into the broader society are ultimately a boon to that society. One wants the children of immigrants to be vested in the United States of America, not steeped in the anger and frustration of isolated and rejected parents.

At a minimum, to make this debate into a simple issue of legality v. illegality is to wholly ignore a massive, complex issue–and not one that has simply been created by Mexicans crossing the borders in defiance of our laws.

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3 Responses to “On the Immigration Debate”

  1. Jake Jacobsen Says:

    Wow! I haven’t bumped up against this many ill thought out ideas since…

    Why can’t we remove “these people”. On what do you base that? I hear this presented as a priori, but of course we could, Ike did in ’53. Are you suggesting we have less right to jealously guard our country and border than we did then?

    Also, as to your constant reference to “reality” and being “realistic”. This is a loser with conservatives. There was this guy once, umm what was his name, Oh yeah, Reagan!

    This is a loser all day long, keep trying to sell it and you look not only like a fool, but an unAmerican prick as well.

    Thank you for selling out your countrymen so big business can continue fat and happy to screw average Americans. You prick.

    This has already cost the president (whom I voted for twice) and this party my vote and loyalty, I wonder how many more feel exactly as I do?

  2. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    I don’t recall Eisenhower rounding up 12 million people and deporting them. Perhaps you could reference that one for me.

    Ironically, there was a guest-worker program with Mexico during the Eisenhower administration–it was called the Bracero program and was started in WWII and ended in 1963. So perhaps you are thinking of that, but it certainly wasn’t a mass deportation program.

    And I am unclear on your reference to Reagan–you are aware that he granted amnesty to thousands of undocumented workers in 1986?

    So, Eisenhower presided over a guest-worker program, and Reagan over an amnesty. I assume that you are opposed to both such programs (based on your comment), so I am baffled as to why you brought up those presidents.

    I would be helpful, I should think, to know what one is talking about before one starts declaring others to have “ill thought out ideas”

  3. Mark Says:

    Dear Steven,
    Interesting post. We do not have to round up all the illegals and remove them. We do need to control our borders. You suggest this would take the military. I agree. No society can continue if it will not do the things necessary for its security and border control is one of those things. If we control the border over time the number of illegels will drop. The alternative is to not control the border and let the drug dealers, terrorists, and others control it. This is not acceptable for many reasons.
    Most of what you say is interesting and always thoughtful.

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