Sunday, January 06, 2008

Immigration

Didn't get to see the debates on CNN last night so I'm watching the rerun tonight. The Republicans are up first... the big topic is (of course) illegal immigration. Most of the candidates don't seem too wildly apart in their ideas (illegal immigration is bad, amnesty is undesirable, can't realistically deport 12 million people) but they sure did spend a lot of time trying to foul each other up on the details.

I used to be rabidly anti-illegal immigrant. I remember sitting on the deck with my conservative brother a few years back, chatting about illegal immigration. He was commenting on the inhumanity of deporting illegals who have lived here their whole lives, who don't know anyone in Mexico, who don't even speak Spanish. I believe I shocked him a bit when I said that was too damn bad, that they've got to go.

I've softened my position considerably since then.

For one thing, I'm trying hard to separate my pissed offedness about the impact of greed fueled globalization from my thoughts about general immigration policy. It's been inappropriate to let one issue cloud the other.

It's true that sealing the border is a matter of national security... a porous border in this day and age seems unbelievably stupid, no matter how much business *hearts* the low cost labor. I also think migrant workers creeping back and forth across the border is a really bad idea culturally. If they're still calling Mexico home while working in America then they're not really incented to integrate like previous generations of immigrants were.

In the end I agree that illegal immigration is bad, that we've got to seal the borders, and that we can't realistically deport 12 million people. So what do we do with them? It serves no one to maintain a shadowy subclass. Undocumented people are a logistical and security nightmare... it seems very naive to insist on principle that we shouldn't try to document them.

IMO, the only way out of this mess is to seal the border, integrate the people who want to stay (amnesty doesn't bother me as long the borders are sealed first), and adjust our immigration quotas to mirror our labor requirements (those boomers are going to leave a gaping hole when they drop out of the workforce in a few years).

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