Thursday, May 17, 2007

Open Letter: Immigration Reform

Dear Congressmen and Senators,

I am writing today to urge your support of comprehensive reform of United States immigration policy. A number of proposals are floating around Washington, the most famous of which is the ridiculous “wall” supported by many Republicans. I must emphasize that you should support reform that addresses all aspects of the issue, and not catchy white elephants.

Of course, when immigration is discussed the focus is primarily on illegal Mexicans. Let me be clear in stating that I do not harbor ill will towards Mexicans, Latinos in general, or any other group, and that any bigotry encountered during this policy debate should be thoroughly denounced. The focus on Mexicans actually distracts from the fact that illegal immigrants come from many countries and arrive in a variety of ways, including overstaying legal visas. However, I must also point out that the relative ease that Mexicans have in emigrating to America reduces pressure on the Mexican government to enact meaningful reforms, and an unreformed, highly unequal, and thus unstable Mexico is not in America's best interest.

Foremost in any bill should be enough funds to staff Immigration and Naturalization Service workplace inspectors at much higher levels. Current levels of INS inspection staffing are not sufficient to create a credible enforcement threat. Crucial to any enforcement process is the belief by lawbreakers that they are likely to be inspected. INS should be able to regularly inspect industries where illegal immigrants are concentrated – food service, janitorial, and construction. The INS should also have sufficient resources to be able to track down those who overstay legal visas because history has shown this class of people can be dangerous to America.

Second in any bill should be much stronger penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants. Current penalties are so low that a simple cost/benefit analysis makes hiring illegal immigrants a rational move for many companies. Penalties need to be raised to a much more punitive level, and any conspiracies to hire illegal immigrants should be subject to additional levels of punishment.

What should not be included in any immigration reform bill is an amnesty program for illegal immigrants already residing in America. America is a nation of laws and that should apply to everyone who wishes to live in America. Many thousands of people are waiting around the world for the chance to enter America legally, and to allow those who entered illegally to jump ahead of those who respect the legal process is unfair, inappropriate, and a bad moral lesson. However, I am not in favor of mass deportations or anything draconian. Once illegal immigrants realize that their prospects for employment are much poorer than for legal immigrants they will leave on their own, or they will be caught in normal INS sweeps.

In conclusion I hope you support a bill that addresses root causes via law enforcement, while ignoring calls to flag-wave at the border. I am confident you will support good policy.

Thank you for your time.


Tex Reed said...

The American Experience is but one incoming wave after incoming wave of humanity--their belongings tied in a knot held tight under their arms...rushing, hurrying, climbing over each other...fleeing from famine, desperation, poverty, and war…one Guernica after another.

What genealogical or cultural symbolism you and I may associate with America's identity--other than those few words engraved on the Statue of Liberty--are just so many footprints in the sand of freedoms shore.

PeakVT said...

That's nice and all, but the American can't save the world by accepting all of its poor - there's just too damn many. I don't mind immigration but it should be a) legal, b) limited, and c) allowed from a wide range of countries.

Besides, it's pretty well understood by now how to make a country rich: the population needs to get educated and be honest. Korean, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong have all learned this and have gone from being very poor to quite well off by world standards. There is nothing preventing other countries from doing the same.