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Strong reactions to Brandon Crocker's "workable solution" to illegal immigration.

4.5.06

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Re: Brandon Crocker's Be My Guest (Worker):

Brandon Crocker's article on how wonderful a guest worker program would be left one thing out:

Who does he expect to enroll in it? If, as now, there are no penalties for remaining here illegally, why would an immigrant jump through all the bureaucratic hoops and shell out thousands of dollars to join such a program? Nope. The status quo will suit most illegals just fine.

Oh, I'm sure Congress would be full of self-congratulations and hire thousands of people to sit in empty guest worker offices nationwide, but unless there are serious consequences (yes, deportation) for not joining, this is an exercise in futility.
-- Gary Long
Lubbock, Texas

I just finished reading Brandon Crocker's article about the supposed differences between a guest worker program and amnesty. He seems to miss the point that our current travails stem from active aggression by a Marxist Mexico determined to redistribute wealth from the world's most successful nation to their own which, given its squandered natural advantages, must rate as the world's most failed nation.

Mr. Crocker tries to rely on tired "market forces" arguments to justify the presence of alien workers in our midst. If he is right (and I do not believe that he is), it supports the postulate that the spectrum of political philosophy is circular, not linear, i.e., libertarians may actually be located closer to Marxists than to conservatives.

The American Spectator is to be applauded for its diversity in presentation of right-wing thought, but I do wish that conservatives did a better job at closing ranks in this current struggle. Our lack of unity in this matter, which has already largely undone American sovereignty, is distressing.
-- Timothy A. Swain
Colfax, Indiana

I, too, struggle with this problem both morally and legally. I live in a state that employs many "south of the border" workers. For the most part, they are among the most hard working and pleasant people to be living and working with. I too think they should be incorporated into our system legally. I too want our borders secure and think they should comply with our immigration laws. Both sets of my grandparents had to wait at Ellis Island to be released into society to begin their lives here. And when they were, they had a "sponsor" to help them assimilate.

Why can't we ask the employers of these people to do the same? After all, they've been employing them for years without paying their share of taxes to the government. The employers become the ones to document where all these illegals are and in return they help pay the $1,000 and get to keep a work force that is so essential to their productivity. The government gets to know where the illegals are, they get revenue from the people that employ them, we are helping the illegals become part of the system without too much hassle and everyone wins. The monies from the $1,000 (no matter which side pays it) goes to securing the borders and beefing up security. And all those hard working people doing the jobs that Americans won't do, get to stay here legally. For the ones that can't get sponsorship, perhaps churches or non-profits can be their "sponsor."

It worked for my grandparents, why can't it work for them?
-- Joan Moriarty
Stuart, Florida

I would love to see a guest worker program, but only using workers that are still in their country. Let them apply for the program, but I am not for anything that will allow someone that has come to this country to stay, fine or not. There are just too many "ifs" in your article. If business owners know they can get more workers, if the courts agree illegals do not have a right to welfare, if liberals don't feel sorry for the poor hard working illegal.

We have cities building places for illegals to go and wait for someone to come hire them. Cops are not allowed to question to see if someone is legal. So what if prices go up a little, just maybe our taxes will go down a little when we don't have to pay for schooling, health care, and welfare for illegals. The magic word here is ILLEGAL.

And as for planting sod, that is a job I did for three years. Had a crew of teenagers that worked with me after school and weekends and I would not mind doing it again. We planted 60 pallets in 12 hours and the pay my workers got was more than their parents made in the same time.
-- Elaine Kyle

I do not understand what part of the English word ILLEGAL is not understood by politicians and MSM. ILLEGAL is not having valid IDs. ILLEGAL is not paying TAX'S or SS. ILLEGAL is taking day jobs for pay under the table there bye depriving the honest taxpayer of a living. ILLEGALS use the social programs and health system off the backs of hard working TAXPAYING'S Americans. Twelve million ILLEGALS would not be here if ALL law enforcement would enforce the laws against ILLEGALS and their aiders and abettors.
-- Bob & Sam

I find Mr. Crocker's arguments utterly unpersuasive. I seriously doubt that he believes them, but just in case, lets address a few of them, then discuss real reforms.

To begin with, his hair-splitting sophistry about the word "amnesty" is unworthy of a serious article. The $2,000 fine, in the extremely unlikely case that it is ever actually enforced, is negligible compared to the benefits the border jumper has gained. Technically, it may not be amnesty, but then neither is sentencing a murderer to ten weekends of community service. To most of the illegals, citizenship is a meaningless abstraction compared to legal status and the right to stay for a decade or more. Any children they have in the interim will be granted citizenship automatically anyway, and that is a major part of the problem.

Next, let's address the issue of jobs Americans won't take. Sod laying and strawberry picking are both hard, unpleasant work, but they share a more important characteristic: if they stopped being done, it wouldn't make any real difference to America. In the rare case where sod laying is essential, the employer should be willing to pay a hefty premium. As for strawberries, I like them as much as anyone, but when I was growing up, we picked most of our own. Commercial strawberries could probably be supplied by Chile, along with their excellent grapes. I bet even Mexico could do it if their government got out of the way.

A lot of the jobs that exist only do so because of an unlimited supply of cheap labor. We sustain them by importing third world poverty to the United States. A major flaw in the arguments of the pro immigrationists is that the problem will somehow go away if all the illegals are made legal. This ignores the reality that we don't need millions of unskilled laborers anymore. Given our tax structure and the realities of our welfare state, they will ultimately consume more resources than they add. This winds up being a huge taxpayer subsidy to the employer of the unskilled worker.

Finally we really need to look at the problem I alluded to above. The average illegal immigrant at least has a clear idea of what he is escaping from when he comes here, and that knowledge along with a marginal status helps keep resentment in check. Second and third generations grow up surrounded not by poverty, but by (relatively) wealthy middle class natives, and a sense of entitlement. They have vastly higher expectations, but only modestly better skills, and no shortage of demagogues willing to tell them it's somebody else's fault. All this might be possible to overcome in a world where the native country was a three-month sea voyage away, and no international phone service existed. In a world where the homeland is a few hours drive, broadcasts daily into their homes, preaches an irredentist, frankly anti-American line, and actively encourages massive flouting of our laws, it is unsustainable.

Here is what I want, but don't really expect: First, seal the border by any means necessary. Don't tell me a fence won't work, or can't be built. We all know that is crap. Second, start enforcing the laws against hiring illegals. Enact a practical method for verifying status and insist it be used. Third, allow Illegals who self-report and are currently employed six to twelve months to leave, without prejudice to their future status as legal immigrants, while instantly deporting those who have to be caught, and denying them any chance to apply for legal immigration in the future. With these provisions in place "rounding up twelve million people" will not be necessary.

Fourth, stop printing ballots in Spanish. An absolute prerequisite to the right to vote must be fluency in English. While we're at it, let's insist on meaningful identification to cast a vote, or even receive any services outside of strictly emergency care.

After a generation or two, we can decide what changes we want to make in this policy. I don't pretend this won't cause some turmoil, only that it is preferable to the alternative. Mexico will either have to clean up its act, or collapse. I'm betting on the latter, but hoping for the former. If they stop pretending we are the source of their problems and start working with us instead of against us, they could be a first world economy in that span of time, and we could have open borders. If we do have to go to war with Mexico, I'd rather do it on their soil than ours.
-- unsigned

My own thoughts on the illegal alien problem have revolved around some
things.

An economy needs certain inputs to produce wealth. Capital, raw materials, ideas, and workers. In recent times we have allowed for the easy and legal international transfer of capital, ideas and raw materials. This is the essence of free trade. Workers are a different thing and so have been a difficult problem. Some work can be done of
course by telecommuting, but much of work is hands on and needs someone on site. The United States in its founding recognized that the states would need to allow free movement of all four of these inputs so as to maximize the wealth and freedom of the USA as a whole.

Back in the '70s, my state had policies and laws that drove business away. I remember the saying, "Will the last one in Michigan please turn out the lights?" Michigan had to change to bring the people and jobs back. People from bad places will "vote with their feet" and move to a better place even if it is difficult to do so. The problem is that people want to leave Mexico not that they are attracted here. Pressure in some form must be brought to bear on Mexico to change so that their citizens will want to stay there not move here. Right now Mexico is benefiting from the money illegals are sending back. This has to change or they will continue to encourage the illegal immigration. Perhaps a tax on remittances to pay for border security and other costs of illegal immigration?
-- Geoff Bowden
Battle Creek, Michigan

Wow, now I know we have a problem.

Illegal immigration is, pardon the pun, the elephant in the living room of the Republican Party. As a self professed addict of talk radio and The American Spectator and National Review Online sites, I feel very comfortable in my Republican skin and every time I want the red meat that Pat Buchanan's wing of the party offers, I return to the Spectator for sound, calming, and thoughtful counsel.

But Brandon Crocker's Guest Worker piece did not give me respite like almost all American Spectator pieces do.

There is a substantial number of clear thinking, (I was going to say "right") conservatives like Mr. Crocker and Ben Stein and George Will for that matter who see the illegal alien situation much differently than I. Usually, I am persuaded by these gentlemen when there is disagreement. But not on this issue.

I'll save you the Mark Twain line about statistics, but let's just stipulate that Brandon Crocker's stats didn't convince me. For example, how many unemployed people but of the legal and illegal variety aren't even being counted or have fallen off the rolls altogether.

As smarter people than I have said, and I live in the sprawling suburb of Los Angeles known as the San Fernando Valley (about a population of a million or two people) we are most definitely importing a lot of poverty from south of the border. As our economy becomes more refined and more technical (think Silicon Valley), we allow tens of thousands of people with very little formal education into the country.

And as far as a guest worker policy goes... Who runs it? Homeland Security who OK'd the visa so the spokesman for the Taliban could attend Yale? And why would an illegal alien willingly step forward and pay a fine? What happens if he or she doesn't? My guess is nothing. It may not be called amnesty but when President Bush first floated this lead balloon many months ago, the people of Mexico voted with their feet and border crossings spiked. These people understood what was being offered.

One last piece of personally collected data. Before I got the day job I have now, I worked out of my home and like any writer worth his salt, I would do whatever it took not to write. That meant many trips in the middle of the afternoon to my local big home improvement store to work on some project around my house.

On multiple occasions I would be at this store in the mid to late afternoon. And I would have to drive through a phalanx of day laborers. Now I have no proof all of these young men were illegal. Maybe they were all graduate students from Dartmouth working on their Ph.D.s. But, if they were illegal, as I suspect, and they were still at the Home Depot in the middle of the afternoon, then they hadn't been hired by the construction guys in the early hours of the morning which is the time work in the construction business begins.

So what we have now is a glut on the market and a growing number of idle, under-educated, young men standing around. And that has a very large and potentially very negative social cost attached to it.

I never thought supporting the defense of our border and laws that were democratically established made me some kind of anti-immigrant troglodyte. But I see a very serious rift coming within the Republican Party and it could have devastating consequences.

And one last shot about the free marketers and these people are hard workers and that should be good enough. The guys who used to dry wall and frame houses were hard workers too before the flood of illegal immigration drove down the wages. So it really isn't a case of jobs Americans won't do, but rather, jobs American companies refuse to pay for.
-- Robert Brennan

Brandon Crocker's "Be My Guest (Worker)" piece outlines the thinking of those that seek compromise in this matter as well as any one could. I think it makes several valid points but I have several problems with the thrust of what he suggests nonetheless.

There are four main problems with this thinking that goes against what I think is traditional American values and understanding of Justice and this approach does not address these adequately.

First, if any American committed similar crimes in the home countries of these illegal aliens, they would be thrown under the jail and the U.S. government would do nothing to get them out of being punished for their crimes. They certainly would not provide documentation on how to break the laws of a foreign government as Mexico does. Simply being here illegally is not the crimes I speak of but things like tax evasion, falsifying employment documents, obtaining social welfare benefits (free health care via emergency room, free education, meals for their children without paying to support the system), etc. are serious offenses that simply can not be brushed aside for the benefit of a head of lettuce. Being here illegally is just the beginning of the slope to more serious criminal behavior.

Second, American citizens get huge fines and serve jail time for breaking the same laws here that some are proposing be washed away by a couple thousand dollar fine and paying back taxes. Does anyone truly think that someone that has worked here for say five years and not paid income taxes and alike is going to come clean and have the means to pay both a $2000.00 fine and all the back taxes? Even the current modest "punishment" for breaking a laundry list of laws represents a considerable hurdle I think most illegal aliens simple will not do without some considerable incentive for either complying or leaving to avoid something worse which by most proponent's admission we will not follow through on.

Third, the primary economic benefactor for illegal immigration is the home countries of the illegal aliens. The bulk of those here are here to provide economic benefit for their families back at home, not become Americans. Numerous examples of this exist.

Fourth, we are at war and securing the border is a national security issue that should not be subject to the emotion of the moment by those that see no problems with wide open borders and rampart criminal activity at the borders day in and day out.

On balance, I do not think the bulk of the illegal aliens here now will take the "carrot" offered even in its modest form. By our own admission, at very high levels, we will not use the "stick" for those that don't comply. For those that do comply they will find out what "paying taxes" is all about and demand higher wages to compensate so some of the ill gotten benefit from cheap(er) illegal Alien labor will be gone. Our social welfare state programs will continue to feel the burden and those of us that pay the bulk of the income tax burden will continue to subsidize an illegal jobs program that benefits foreign government more than us. Rewarding those that break laws that get American citizens, heavy fines, legal cost and jail time with a modest fine, a get out of jail card and just paying back taxes may not fit the text book definition of amnesty but by the standards of our laws and consequences it is. Been there done that several times in U.S. history.

I think the bulk of the people that have a problem with this "guest worker" proposal do so because it is pragmatic in nature and heavy on the "carrot" and light on the "stick" compared to the consequences that American citizens face for similar offenses. These people are not "guest" in any shape, form or fashion in this country. Waving the Mexican flag at protest rallies goes a long way in defining just exactly who they are and want to be. Brandon has made a well thought out proposal that deserves consideration but what's missing is the same sort of pragmatic amnesty being offered to American citizens that could benefit from the same reasoning. Every time I look at the taxes I pay and my marginal tax rate I'm reminded just how much it cost being an "American" and playing by the rules over a life time. For most Americans it might be worth not paying income taxes and alike for five to ten years and then paying a flat $2000 fine and back taxes just to get the benefit of being able to invest and make money on those taxes over a decade. Works for me, probably works for our illegal alien population too.

I have no problems with a guest worker program for those that play by the rules. Rewarding law breaking is not consistent with being an American citizen and there is a long list of laws being broken that go beyond just being here illegally. Basically, I'm tired of politicians justifying not doing anything effective about this problem on "pragmatic" grounds while those that pay the freight in this country, get the law and its consequences shoved in our face 24/7. We don't need another costly and useless government program like FEMA to handle a guest worker program if we aren't going to enforce the existing laws fully and secure the borders tomorrow. It is that simple.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

Mr. Crocker is correct, the guest worker program is not amnesty. Unfortunately, the explanation about fines and other requirements falls woefully short given the lack of enforcement for other "tough" immigration legislation.

The proper analogy is the one where I introduce my friend Andrew Jackson to a traffic cop to make a speeding ticket disappear. In both the guest worker program and my speeding ticket example, money changes hands and a government official looks the other way. That, as Andrew Jackson would attest, is bribery. Of course that's not surprising since politicians and bribery are like peas and carrots -- they just naturally go together.

The financial penalty noted by Mr. Crocker is not a fine since the illegal immigrant gets to keep the ill-gotten gains -- namely the opportunity to stay in this country. Nope, it's bribery plain and simple, bribery with cash and prospective votes. Peas and carrots.

Or, am I to believe that the goals of the legal and illegal immigrants are different? The illegal immigrants want jobs and the opportunity for a better life while those on the legal immigration path are just coming for the opera? Peas and carrots.

What about the complaints that the illegal immigrants don't assimilate into the unique American culture? How, exactly, does the creation of a permanent class of temporary and transient workers help assimilation? It doesn't, it just harvests the peas and carrots.

If we recognize the need for increased immigration, and presumably by all this discussion we do, why don't we just grant immigration to the first 5 million following the legal immigration path that are wait-listed? We'll then tell employers that if you have an illegal immigrant on your payroll June 1, 2007 significant fines will be assessed and repeat violators will be jailed. With no job opportunities the illegal immigrants will self-deport. Simultaneous with the new immigration plan we'll implement regime change in Mexico to replace the corrupt and incompetent government. Maybe the Irish can offer some insights on tax and business incentives. I'm sure we can find enough experts on corruption in Washington, whether we can find anybody with the expertise and will to stop corruption is an open question.

I don't know about the rest of the law-abiding and taxpaying public, but I've had as much of the daily pork special served with peas and carrots in a fatuous sauce as I can stomach.
-- Chris Sweigart

I was wondering when someone would get around to addressing the question: If it is decided to round up and then deport 11 million people, where does anyone propose to detain them, with our jails and prisons already packed to the rafters?
-- Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

For the rest of today's Reader Mail, including tributes to Cynthia McKinney, click here.

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