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Saturday, May 21, 2005


What IS The Problem Definition Here?

The question posed by CO introduces the subject by unintentionally (I hope) framing the issue, thereby inadvertently establishing the parameters for the discourse. It may have been better to simply state “what is your opinion on the immigration laws of the U.S.?” I mention this because this issue simply cannot be encapsulated into a one-size-fits-all answer; the multiple dimensions of our national immigration policy are far too many and exceptionally complex. Are we discussing Canadian border issues? Mexican? International boundary lines at sea? Are we discussing trade? Workers? Students? Diplomats? Visitors? There are many reasons for, and routes of, entry into our country and we as a nation utilize differing approaches for each of them because of political, economic and cultural nuances.
I suspect very few of us have ever read U.S. immigration policy (The Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA, arose out of the McCarran-Walter bill of 1952, Public Law No. 82-414). I certainly haven’t but I know it’s been around since 1952 and it’s been amended a good many times to address the changing face of immigration (no pun intended) needs and issues in this country. Do we know there is a problem? By whose definition? Where is the quantitative data? The only numbers I’ve seen on this issue—although I must confess, I haven’t looked real hard—arise from an article written by Jason Ackleson, Ph.D, from the American Immigration Law Foundation. His article, “Fencing in Failure: Effective Border Control is Not Achieved by Building More Fences” provides some empirical evidence about our efforts at controlling the Mexican border “problem,” and I suspect this is the area of focus most have had as they have responded to CO’s initial question. Ackleson data illustrates that the peak of border arrests actually occurred in 1999, with approximately 1,600 individuals; by 2004, this number had dropped to around 1,200, and this is not because of a lack of money or personnel. Indeed, from 1994 through 2004, border patrol agents increased by about 1,000 agents per year, from 4,200 to about 11,000 during that time. There was a dip in the funding for INS in the latter half of 2001, from about $400 million to about $350 million, but this was because a boatload of additional money was given directly to Customs & Border Protection--$600 million to about $650 million at the end of 2004.
I’ve reviewed the arguments on the site; most are the standard issues related to the idea of “foreigners” arriving into a “home” country; it is difficult to escape xenophobia, I suffer from it myself at times. We can debate whether foreign labor adversely impacts the citizen’s ability to find employment (NAFTA created an economic system that chiefly serves the interests of large U.S.-based multinational firms such as agribusinesses). Conversely, we can argue that business owners—especially those who make their living off agriculture—would be run out of business if we were to stop their supply of inexpensive labor (I picked apples for a summer once when I was 17, in Empire, Michigan to earn some spending money. I can unequivocally state that I would never ever do it again, especially not for the pittance I was paid, and I’ll bet there isn’t one person on this board who would do it, either).
We can claim that national security is an issue and that we must stop terrorists from easy access. I could point out however, that the majority of the terrorists responsible for 9/11 were here legally and the Bush administration recently relaxed the visa standards for Saudis. I would also add that visas and closed borders wouldn’t have stopped Tim McVeigh.
No, we’re approaching the immigration issue from too many angles and attaching far too many problems that arise from other policies onto the back of immigration.
The idea that America is home to the “huddled masses” should not be forgotten. I doubt any of the readers here would qualify as aboriginal, but one has to keep in mind that we’re looking at the problem from a very narrow, ethnocentric and ignorant point of view, no offense intended. I doubt anyone—even those who specialize in immigration issues—are able to fully grasp all the issues related to this subject. It is clear that completely closed borders are not an option, so we must find a way to address what we perceive are the problems. For that, we must first turn to those who can do something about it and second, we’ll need decent data and a good problem definition.
Once we have that, for governmental policymakers, there are three methods of approach; regulate it, tax it, or spend on it—and that’s it. When we debate how to correct the policy, we’ve got to keep these restrictions and parameters in mind. Ackleson points out that policymakers should be reviewing alternate approaches that; “take into account the transnational nature of trade and migration, as well as terrorism.” His suggestions here are good ones: “This could be accomplished through a revised version of NAFTA that includes three additional elements. First, an agreement on security cooperation should be implemented among the United States, Mexico and Canada which approaches terrorism as a North American, rather than simply a national, issue. Second, migration must be addressed in a humane way that acknowledges the contributions of migrants and the economic needs of all three NAFTA partners. Finally, an investment fund should be created that builds infrastructure, protects the environment and encourages economic development in Mexico. Re-evaluating U.S. border security policy does not mean abandoning important counterterrorism and homeland defense priorities. To strengthen these efforts, policymakers should consider a more intelligence-driven approach that builds a trilateral security relationship between Mexico, Canada and the United States. This would involve sharing key information on threats, additional law-enforcement cooperation and the establishment of “virtual borders” away from the physical frontier, where inspections would take place and goods or people would be pre-cleared to cross. Counterterrorism policy is most effective before a terrorist hits the vast mix of people and commodities trying to expeditiously cross into the United States. There has been some progress on these issues – the meeting of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, U.S. President George W. Bush, and Mexican President Vicente Fox on March 23, 2005, was positive – but much remains to be done. The three leaders, for instance, did not address migration. An accord on migration would allow law enforcement agencies to focus their attention on the very small proportion of non-migrants with criminal objectives in the United States” (2005).
I know this doesn't answer the original question posed by CO, but how can we answer what hasn't been defined as a problem in the first place?

Friday, May 20, 2005


Nativists and Tammany Hall

So the spectrum's general consensus is that American immigration policy is looser than a sorority girl at a party with an open bar.

That is true, and it has been true since America first became appealing to the huddled masses in the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Then, there were the nativists, who argued that immigrants didn't have “American values” and that they would slowly erode the country from within. They argued that a flood of uneducated immigrants would never become a useful part of the American society and economy. What the nativist leaders were really worried about was losing their next election to hostile immigrant voters.

Then, there were the immigrant leaders, who argued for the dignity and humanity of the immigrants, and for every effort to be made to accept these immigrants into our rich national heritage. These leaders, such as Boss Tweed, were just as corrupt as the nativists, and were mostly opportunistic Americans interested in riding the tide of immigration to power.

Two hundred years later, not much has changed. Those who benefit from the immigrant vote want guest worker programs; those who do not want more Border Patrol agents. It's still really about politics.

Since 9/11, today's nativists talk about national security. Caohaoim claims, “there is an urgent need to control our borders...driven by our need for increased security.” This is a red herring. First, many of the hijackers were in the country legally. Second, of those who were not, not one slipped across the Rio Grande with the gentleman cleaning the toilets at your local multiplex. Third, the key to preventing another hijacking was simply to lock the cockpit door and beef up security at the airports. Finally, the most important national security concern today is to begin X-rays on the cargo containers arriving daily at our ports.

But what of our economy? Ryan fears “the negative effects immigration is starting to have on the economy. When cheaper labor comes in from Mexico, U.S. citizens loose their jobs.” Another red herring, and not only because the illegal immigrants usually take service jobs Americans refuse to do. If we did not saddle our children with a fourth-rate educational system, they wouldn't have to compete with Mexican immigrants for jobs at McDonalds while we run desperately short of nurses and computer technicians. As for Ryan's claim that the illegal immigrants “*usually* take the money back home and the U.S. ends up loosing the money that would have been spent in its borders,” that statement is completely without meaning in today's economy. The U.S. “looses” most of the money you spend at the mall, because the shareholders in all those corporations are Saudi holding companies, Japanese conglomerates, Rupert Murdoch, and Wall Street tycoons with their own private islands—all of whom turn right around and pay the salary of anyone who doesn't own their own business or work for the government. Welcome to capitalism.

Look: Today's pro-immigration activists are often just as exploitative as Tammany Hall was. But they have a point when they say that immigrant labor is essential to our economy and that we will be more secure by working with these illegals to weed out the truly dangerous and assimilate the vast majority who come simply for a paycheck. And they have another point when they say that, in this century of corporate power and trchnological marvels, we cannot afford to think of ourselves as a sovereign nation separate from the globe.

But most importantly, we need to remember the promise of America. There is a children's book about my great-grandmother's arrival at Ellis Island which was read to me as a boy. I know, at least a little, what that seven-year-old girl felt when she saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time.

Some of us don't have such a book, and cannot remember who crossed the ocean or why. They have the luxury of thinking of themselves as “real Americans” and of seen the Latino aliens as, well, alien. For me, it's not that easy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Relaxation of Immigration Standards: Not My Cup of Tea

First of all let me preface anything I say by noting that we are all immigrants, even if your heritage is Native American, your family would have immigrated from Asia across the Berring Straight. I feel with this said, the issue of restricting someone else's access to this country becomes difficult...because what if your ancestors had been restricted?

I think as of late, Democrats and Republicans alike are pressing for tighter immigration policies and tightening the actual borders themselves. Personally, I am for this, because of the negative effects immigration is starting to have on the economy. When cheaper labor comes in from Mexico, U.S. citizens loose their jobs and are placed on welfare and S.S. for their children which ultimately takes money out of other Americans Pockets. These cheap laborers *usually* take the money back home and the U.S. ends up loosing the money that would have been spend in its borders.

I think recently with the terrorist attacks occuring and the questions revolving around global terrorism, that it is time we shut the doors. I feel quotas would help protect the United States' economic and national security concerns by limiting the number of immigrants to the county. I am apalled that some of the 9/11 terrorists actually were here in the United States on expired Visas and a few even held driver's liscenses in the States of New Jersey and New York. Hopefully I am not the only person who feels that someone who is not a legal U.S. Citizen should not have the right to have a drivers liscense. And when a visa expires...shouldnt these people be forced to either have the visa renewed or leave the country? Why are there so many cases of people being in limbo as to their status in this country. My Proposal: Totally Revamp Immigration Policies and create a deparment in the governmen that overseas Immigration and Naturalization Policy and Legislation. I am not sure as to which department this falls under but with the recent problems with these issues, I feel it needs to have a larger light in gov't.



The path we are currently treading with respect to immigration leads, literally, to the de facto destruction of the United States as a country. We have laws regulating immigration and naturalization, but we are not enforcing them. All sorts of crazy rulings from dictators in black robes have not made the situation any better. Combine that with the Bush administration’s apparent unwillingness to enforce our current laws and we are on a trajectory to losing our very country. A country that cannot (or does not) control its borders is simply not a country.

So what needs to be done? As has been stated in the two previous responses, enforce the existing laws. If they are too restrictive, have an open and public debate in both Houses of Congress and, if need be, change the laws.

This will only happen, however, if politicians find enough backbone to take the chance that they might piss of people in this country of Mexican descent (or Latino descent in general). They're so afraid of losing votes to the other side that they are willing to keep our borders dangerously porous.

Since I have no particular faith that our pols are going to suddenly calcify vertebrae, the alternative is that we need to have a serious swing in public opinion/culture. Currently we are turning into a country of wimpy crybabies. Somehow many people have gotten to thinking that simply by being born they are entitled to something for nothing. They think that money grows on the Tree of Government and that there's plenty, not only for them as citizens of the US but also for anyone who wants to break our laws and sneak across the border. It absolutely floors me that anyone who is legally a citizen of the United States of America would be angry at a politician for securing our borders. That is not discrimination against Mexicans. That is fulfilling their oath.

What will it take to affect this swing in public opinion? I used to think that it would take a horrendous attack within the borders of our country. 3,000 dead didn't do the trick for more than a week or so. I shudder to think what it might actually take.


Immigration Policy is an Act of Will.

There are already laws on the books. They do no good if they are not enforced in a strong and consistent manner. This has been the case for generations.

Today there is a great and urgent need to control our borders. The urgency is driven by our need for increased security. The greater need is driven by a more subtle reason. We are a nation of laws and when a large percentage of the resident population is living in defiance of those laws and there is no effective enforcement of the laws they are defying it diminishes our ability to enforce all other laws.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Immigration: Casually done

While there is no doubt America’s immigration condition is flawed. One must ask where and how is it flawed?

Immigration is flawed in the intent. The intent of immigration should be to keep America vital by allowing in hardworking, honest, productive law abiding people who want to become Americanized. This does not preclude harboring refugees who one day intend to return to their own nations. It does not and should not keep us from allowing people to come to America on work visa’s or for educational purposes. This is America, we and our ancestors built a nation that if here built to our ideals. If you like it, live with it. If you don’t like it, Canada, the United Kingdom and other places have relatively open cultures and you might find a better fit there.

Immigration is further flawed in execution. One example, and by now means the only is our southern border. Not only do we have a southern border that is virtually unguarded, we have a President who while simultaneously claiming to be tough on terrorism and committed to security has worked against funding the additional men, women, and equipment that are desperately needed to protect our southern border and keep illegal immigrants out. We have a former Secretary of State who authorized armed INS agents to storm the house of a family in order to retrieve a child who’s mother died to get him here, but again failed to protect our borders properly.

Many people assume that if you are strongly nationalistic you must be some sort of racist or xenophobe, in some cases this is true, in mine it most certainly is not. There are a lot of reasons to wish for stricter immigration controls. The first is simply that no one who can not respect the laws of this nation enough to enter it legally belongs here, period. The second is national security. With the events of 9/11 and the “War on Terror” unfolding around the world, as terrorist organizations lose the ability to strike back in a military fashion, strikes within the country similar to what is seen in other countries will rise if we don’t do something now. The third reason is to protect these people. There are unscrupulous, and downright evil people ‘helping’ them get across the border. Often at the cost of thousands of dollars, which they will have to come up with in advance or work off at jobs where they have none or few of the protections legal immigrants and Americans enjoy, they will in effect be chattel or slaves. They will not have medical benefits, and if they do so much as get a parking ticked they could end up getting deported and possibly have to leave their family behind here without one, or perhaps the only bread winner. There are other reasons, but those are the most important ones to enter legally.

So while there are certainly people in the Immigration and Naturalization Services who could probably have found their spiritual homes under Pot Pol, Stalin, or Andrew Johnson the majority are simply hard working Americans doing a job in a flawed system. What needs to be done is an overhaul of the agencies focus, and this top to bottom emphasis needs to cover directives from the President, Congress, and Supreme Court down to the newest police officer or under strength border patrol trainee.