Category Archives: Immigration

Feds Fighting War On Immigration Like War On Drugs

Idiocy. That’s all I can use to preface this:

The 26-page draft obtained by CNN attempts to woo GOP senators in part by calling for “concrete benchmarks” to secure the border before granting illegal immigrants the opportunity to gain legal status.

Those benchmarks include: increasing the number of border patrol officers and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, increasing the number of personnel available to inspect for drugs and contraband, and improving technology used to assist ICE agents.

At the same time, “high-tech ground sensors” would be installed across the Mexican border. Officers would be equipped with the “technological capability to respond to activation of the ground sensors in the area they are patrolling,” according to the draft.

Fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant biometric Social Security cards would be issued to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants. Fines for knowingly hiring someone not eligible for employment would be increased by 300 percent. Repeat offenders would face time in prison.

So paragraph 2 above is a huge new federal jobs program, and paragraph 3 is a huge new federal spending/procurement program. I’m sure the public sector unions and military-industrial complex are cheering.

The final paragraph is an enhanced version of e-Verify, a colossal failure of a program on many levels. In addition, as Doug says, it’s a bit too much like a national ID card for his liking.

The economic reality in this country is that we need the immigrant workforce we have today. The government’s creation (by making this immigration illegal) of a black market brings with it a host of unintended and completely unnecessary consequences. But this “secure the border first” approach is fundamentally backwards. As it was so eloquently said by Daniel Griswold of Cato:

It’s like saying, in 1932, that we can’t repeal the nationwide prohibition on alcohol consumption until we’ve drastically reduced the number of moonshine stills and bootleggers. But Prohibition itself created the conditions for the rise of those underground enterprises, and the repeal of Prohibition was necessary before the government could “get control” of its unintended consequences.

Much like the drug war, when you have demand, you will have supply, regardless of whether the product is legal or not. Much like the drug war, the Senate seems to think that if you merely step up enforcement, you can repeal the laws of supply and demand, instead of merely shifting the margins. Make no mistake — illegal immigration CAN be curtailed through enforcement, but it will require laws and penalties so draconian as to make what’s happening in Arizona look liberal. America will not (and should not have to) stomach it.

Liberal immigration policies and secure borders aren’t mutually exclusive. After all, the end of prohibition reduced all the associated unintended consequences of the moonshine & rum-running trade, and dramatically reduced the organized crime element to protect that trade. But notice that it was the end of prohibition, not the increase in enforcement actions, that solved the problem. Likewise, with immigration we need a way to get immigrants into this country legally in a way consistent with our economic needs, and then we can work on securing the borders from the trickle of attempted entries left over.

This immigration proposal shows Congress doing what they do best — spending lots and lots of money, growing the size and scope of government, and leaving the root causes of the problem pretty well untouched.

Quote Of The Day

From Matt Welch, @ Reason:

I have also “knowingly employ[ed] an unauthorized alien,” and “intentionally employ[ed] unauthorized aliens” (or at least, I had a pretty good idea that the dudes in front of Home Depot had a non-trivial chance of being “unauthorized”). Speaking of which, “unauthorized” is my new favorite illegal/undocumented term of art.


I love it.

“Illegal” implies criminality, and as we all know, only unsavory characters break the law. Except for all the laws that we break daily — those don’t count. “Illegal” aliens are bad people, or they’d not be doing something illegal.

“Undocumented”, on the other hand, implies a paperwork snafu. Don’t worry, boss, we’ll get the contract signed once my secretary faxes it over. Gotta get the documents right, but we need to wait on the corporate signature-trail to come in line. Don’t worry, we’re all trying to get things done, but why wait on the paperwork when we need to make progress here?

But “unauthorized”?

No, nothing but “unauthorized” can correctly describe what we’ve got going on here. While “illegal” implies an impartial rule-making system under which we all fit, “authorized” implies an authority figure, an in-group, and an out-group. No term better signifies a society where your rights exist at the pleasure of the State, a society where you’d better fall in line, or your authorization might be terminated. An arbitrary and capricious regime who holds in its grasp the very ability to approve or deny your existence as an economic actor.

We’ve left the impersonal confines of appeal to law or appeal to process. Now we’re straight on to appeal to the king rule of men. You’d best make sure those men are your friends, not your enemies.

A Modest Proposal For Immigration Reform

Via Twitter, I came up this 2007 Examiner article by Dan Riehl of Riehl World View that offers what seems like the beginning of a way out of what has been little more than three year long shouting match over the subject of immigration, illegal immigrants, and immigration reform:

As with current and past generations, future generations will comprise peoples from all over the globe. But there must be a traditional America to which they can emigrate, or we risk becoming more a reflection of various other nations, than one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Shoring up our borders, along with our institutions, is a good start, as is the enforcing of current immigration law as written. But then we should also allow for some compromise on decent, hard-working individuals who, while perhaps entering illegally, have honestly contributed to America in the best of ways.

As Americans, we’ve significantly benefited from their labors, whether we like to admit it, or not. And having secured said benefits through lower costs in goods and services, it would be hypocritical to turn our backs on them now.

That looks like a reasonable compromise from here.

And from here, too.

There are really too two different issues at play in the immigration debate, but they’ve become tangled together so much that it’s become impossible to have a reasonable discussion about the issue.

On the one hand, we’ve got the issue of border security. Even before September 11th, the idea that our southern and northern borders, along with the ports and the airports, should be secure was something that should have been self-evident. After 9/11, it’s a matter of national security. The idea that someone could walk across the border virtually undetected is something that everyone should be concerned about.

The other issue, though, is the fact that America has always been a nation of immigrants, and that immigration has, despite the social disruption it often causes when first-generation immigrants struggle, been a net-plus for our country socially and economically. Yes, there have always been those who have wanted to shut the door to immigrants, but the truth of the matter is that most of the things being said about immigrants from the south today were being said in the past about immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italy, Germany, and Ireland. Like those earlier immigrants, though, most of the people who come here do so to make a better life for themselves and their families, and that’s something we should welcome, not condemn.

Brad Warbiany, one of the co-bloggers at The Liberty Papers, summed it up quite well more than four years ago:

In all situations, the rationale is the same. We got ours, and now we’ll stop you from getting yours. I can’t live with that. By most accounts, I’m pretty privileged. I’m not the son of rich parents by American standards, but by world standards, I grew up in luxury. I was lucky enough to be born in America, and even luckier to be born to educated parents and live in a highly-regarded school district. But does that give me any more right to the American Dream than Francisco Patino? Does it give a Warbiany any more right to the American Dream than a Hernandez? Of course not.

Last, we do still have the security issue. But liberal immigration policies and secure borders are not mutually exclusive. We can secure the borders and still find to keep tabs on who is coming into this country and how. Perhaps that’s a guest worker program, perhaps that’s a new take on our INS and its goals. That may include a combination of things, with a guest worker program combined with restricted social services for a worker’s family. Either way, the nuts and bolts aren’t insurmountable. If we focused half the energy we spend screwing around with the tax code for special interests on developing coherent immigration and security policies, we could get it done and still have secure borders.

Immigration is a thorny issue. But when we stand around and say “we don’t want you here”, I have to break ranks. When they say “these immigrants are damaging our economy”, I have to break ranks. I don’t have all the answers as to how to fix the problem, but I know that I refuse to close our country to people who want to live the American Dream. We have to enforce our laws, but when our laws are contrary to the very fabric of America, those laws need to change.

So where does that leave us ?

Well, let me suggest these starting points:

  1. Secure the borders — From a national security perspective, this seems essential. We don’t need to put an Army on the border, and we sure as heck don’t need to build the Rio Grande Wall. But, there’s no reason we can’t develop a system of monitoring stations and drones to make sure that people aren’t slipping across the border, no matter what the reason.
  2. Commit a serious crime, get deported — Whether you’re here legally or illegally, if you break the law in such a way that you’re a threat to the rest of us, you’ve just lost permission to stay. You’ll serve your sentence in one of our comfortable prisons, but once it’s over, you’re going home. By “serious crime,” I mean any crime of violence; I don’t think we need to be deporting people who run a red light, or pass a bad check or two.
  3. Forget about deporting the peaceful “illegal” immigrants — Call it “amnesty” if you want, but the fact of the matter is that we’re never going to be able to deport everyone who’s here illegally. For one thing, some of them are married to, or parents of, people who are here legally, and breaking up families is not something Americans do. For another, if someone is here working an honest living then they need to be encouraged to come out of the underground economy, not scared into thinking that ICE could be knocking on their door at any moment.
  4. Make it easier to come here legally — Current American immigration law places absurdly low limits on the number of people who can come here legally, and places even more absurd quotas on how many people can come from specific countries. Additionally, the law makes it harder for someone who to come here and start a business to immigrate than it does for someone who just happens to be related to someone who’s already here legally. We should liberalize immigration procedures generally and, more specifically, make it easier for people from Mexico and Central America to come here as temporary workers. That alone would have a significant impact on illegal immigration.

Anyway, that’s just off the top of my head. It requires compromise on both sides.

Which, of course, means that it’s a non-starter in modern America.

LP’s Wes Benedict on ‘Limited Government’ Conservatives

Those of us who truly believe in limited government* tend to be simultaneously amused and irritated hearing the folks at CPAC speak of limited government as though it’s a principle they truly support. Yesterday, the Libertarian Party’s Executive Director Wes Benedict, monitoring the CPAC festivities from afar, said some of the things that many of us have been thinking:

Unlike libertarians, most conservatives simply don’t want small government. They want their own version of big government. Of course, they have done a pretty good job of fooling American voters for decades by repeating the phrases “limited government” and “small government” like a hypnotic chant.

It’s interesting that conservatives only notice “big government” when it’s something their political enemies want. When conservatives want it, apparently it doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants a trillion-dollar foreign war, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants a 700-billion-dollar bank bailout, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to spend billions fighting a needless and destructive War on Drugs, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to spend billions building border fences, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to “protect” the huge, unjust, and terribly inefficient Social Security and Medicare programs, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants billions in farm subsidies, that doesn’t count.

It’s truly amazing how many things “don’t count.”

Benedict went on to point out the lack of concern these same people had with the government expansion of President Bush and the health care mandates of another CPAC favorite – Mitt Romney.

While I’m by no means a supporter of the Obama Administration, the idea that many Conservatives seem to have that all the problems we are faced with started on January 20, 2009 is completely ludicrous**.

These are the same people who would gladly support Sarah ‘the Quitter’ Palin, ‘Mandate’ Mitt Romney, or ‘Tax Hike Mike’ Huckabee – none are what I would call ‘limited government’ by any stretch of the imagination.

» Read more

United Liberty Podcast

Many readers here are also familiar with the United Liberty blog, not least because our contributor Jason Pye is the editor-in-chief of that blog, and co-contributor Doug writes at both locations.

They (Jason and UL Assistant Editor Brett Bittner) recently honored me be asking that I join them as a guest on their podcast, which you can find here or on iTunes.

Topics ranged from the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke, to health care, to home weatherization (a topic where I nearly defect from doctrinaire libertarianism), immigration and Copenhagen. All in all, I had a lot of fun and hopefully some of you may enjoy the listen.

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