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ALL OF WHICH RAISES THIS QUESTION: What exactly is wrong with current law? Why did we need this whole new immigration arrangement to begin with? In the end, that more or less was the position of the Wall Street Journal: “Current policy is preferable to some vast new enforcement regime that harasses employers for hiring willing workers,” the paper editorialized. “This makes no more sense today than when it was first proposed 20 years ago.”
One of those who got it right, in my view, was the columnist Bruce Bartlett — always sound on economic matters. He is the author of a book called Impostor (2006), arguing that President Bush “bankrupted America and betrayed the Reagan legacy.” In a column in the Washington Times, Bartlett wrote that in the 19th and early 20th centuries the U.S. could enjoy the benefits of free immigration, with essentially open borders, because there was no welfare state. Now, however, overgenerous government benefits render free immigration untenable. But do we really need to do anything about those who are already here and working?p>Bartlett pointed out that the undocumented often work for less than the minimum wage, often for cash. This in turn saves both them and their employers a lot of taxes. They obviously don’t consider themselves to be exploited because all these transactions are consensual and they are free to go back at any time. In a passage that Herbert Spencer would have admired — Spencer was the first to use the phrase “the survival of the fittest” and was a great admirer of markets free of government intervention — Bartlett continued: br> /p>
Illegal aliens are not very likely to complain to the Labor Department or a union if they have some grievance. They are more worried about being deported than exploited, so they have no leverage…. It is precisely their illegal status that makes these immigrants valuable and willing to work cheaply.br> One problem now is that heedless crackdowns on undocumented workers are sure to increase. Arizona has already passed a new law imposing tough sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants. It could even cause power plants in the state to be shut down for hiring illegals. The impulse to crack down is “understandable,” says the Washington Post , because towns and counties “bear the burden of providing immigrants with health care, education, law enforcement and other services.” That is the problem right there. Who decided that they have that responsibility? The problem is the welfare entitlement, not foreigners willing and able to work.
LET THOSE WHO WANT TO WORK COME, I say. Pay them their wages, give them raises where necessary. Let them send money back home to Mexico, El Salvador, and the rest. But let’s also discourage government handouts, and keep them out of the embrace of union organizers. Let’s also make sure that they don’t vote. There is no “right” to vote. Furthermore, the present rule that foreigners become citizens if they are born here is absurdly lax. All these things should be tightened up. And voters — all voters, regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin — should have to pass a civics test before being admitted to the polling stations. (I suspect that most undocumented workers couldn’t care less about voting anyway.)
Liberals are horrified by such a worldview. They favor amnesty and legalization because for them the unpoliticized life is a life hardly worth living. The progressive minded would like to transform hardworking newcomers into union-organized, taxpaying, welfare-receiving, fully enrolled, voting Democrats, ready to file a grievance or a complaint at the drop of a hat. But that won’t happen if their potential customers are hiding in the shadows and on their best behavior to avoid attracting attention. For god’s sake, that’s the way people used to be in this country, before the 1960s, when the welfare rot and the entitlement mentality began to spread.
The trouble arose this year because the liberals saw that they had the President partly on their side. The opinion in Texas, for example, is that if the GOP can capture 40 percent of the Latino vote, the state will remain under Republican control for a long time to come. President Bush and his family have long enjoyed amicable relations with Hispanics, and he has seen it as one of the missions of his presidency to let them know that the GOP welcomes them. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s always hazardous to allow ideas about party affiliation to influence national policy.
Meanwhile, the border-enforcement lobby was strengthening, and in 2006, with Capitol Hill still under GOP control, the House of Representatives passed a measure that would have greatly increased border security. But it failed in the Senate.
By 2007, with the President essentially on their side on the issue, Democrats now controlling the Senate believed that they could cobble together a “comprehensive” package that would have legalized the illegals, and over the long haul put them on an (obstacle-strewn) path to citizenship. The bill would also have made some eminently desirable changes, such as reducing the family-reunification provision that has led to a chain migration from south of the border and increasing the quotas for skilled workers.
Do we need increased border security? I’m not sure that we do. Last year, I heard an interesting argument about this from Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, who represented a district on the Mexican border. (He has since retired.) He pointed out something that is obvious when you think about it, but almost never mentioned. We have already sharply increased the “cost” of crossing the border, he said, and one consequence is that those who are already in the United States are less likely to return home, because they are not sure that they will be able to get back in. Illegals are therefore more likely to stay once they get here. This in turn increases the pressure for amnesty. Where they had once thought of themselves as transients, moving back and forth, they are now more inclined to think of themselves as residents. (I also have my doubts about the national-security rationale for higher fences.)
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?