Friday, May 12, 2006

A terrific article in The New Republic about the immigration debate:
"If I were in their shoes, I’d be doing the same thing—coming across that border and trying to better things for myself and my family." These are the words volunteered—almost verbatim, sooner or later—by just about every Border Patrol agent we have interviewed over the past decade....Border Patrol agents detain illegals wherever and whenever they find them, but an awareness of the moral ambiguity of the “crime” they are fighting pervades their efforts.

....To those leading the charge to seal our borders, illegal immigrants are lawbreakers who should be prosecuted and sent home. These restrictionists see no ambiguity in the situation, even though our economy depends upon the labor of illegals, and the millions of Americans who hire them are complicit in their offense.

....Immigrants do not typically arrive here intending to settle down....Migrants today, especially those who do not need to cross an ocean, move between the United States and their homeland with greater frequency. Most come here to work hard, save money, and then go home and invest their savings in a tractor, some land, or a house.

....University of California–Irvine anthropologist Leo Chavez reports that such sojourners are “target earners,” focused singlemindedly on maximizing earnings and minimizing expenditures. So they put up with overcrowded living quarters, sharing beds, and sleeping in shifts. And they work more than one job, often enduring substandard or dangerous working conditions. Many employers exploit such workers. But the well-kept secret about immigrants is that they are also willing to exploit themselves.

....What is bothering Americans most about immigration, legal or illegal, is that it frays—and threatens to rip—the social fabric; it makes them feel that things are out of control.

....Over time the opportunistic strategies of immigrants do change. Whatever their original intentions, many develop social ties on this side of the border. They start families, and their children born here are American citizens. They buy houses. A Pew Hispanic Center survey indicates that hundreds of thousands of illegals are homeowners.

....The best way of coping with immigration would be to encourage newcomers to settle down. Yet adjusting the formal legal status of immigrants won’t go very far toward meeting this goal. Indeed, the various guestworker proposals now being debated would actually institutionalize immigrant transience by facilitating constant movement back and forth across the border. Instead, we must address the behavior of immigrants and encourage them to become responsible members of our political community....We should avoid sending confusing signals to immigrants—with permissive policies on dual citizenship, for example.
The fact is our immigration problem is a very complex one, in need of and requiring careful thought and study -- in other words, exactly what this administration has neglected to do time after time when it has come to crafting effective, sensible policy. Rather than assemble noted experts, methodically debate the issues on the topic, weigh the pros and cons, and design fact-based measures to best resolve the problem, BushCo instead resorts to what they know best: framing issues as a means to divide and conquer, to cause national uproar to purposefully excite their blood-thirsty base. Doing so also provides convenient fodder for the rightwing talk shows, all the while diverting attention away from other, more pressing problems. They don't wish to truly solve long-standing predicaments, choosing instead the more politically-motivated route of obtaining emotion-filled (and misguided) votes.

No comments: