Skip to comments.Bush Offers Migrant Plan Conservatives Can Support
Posted on 01/17/2004 6:54:51 PM PST by Reaganwuzthebest
President Bush's immigration initiative has sparked a great deal of discussion across the country. Perhaps the most interesting debate centers on whether the president, in announcing the initiative, has embraced conservative principles or abandoned them. I believe a temporary worker program is consistent with conservative principles, and here's why.
First, conservatives value national security, and the status quo encourages anything but national security. The presence of 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens within the confines of our borders should prompt the type of reform the president has suggested.
President Bush's proposal will ensure smarter border enforcement by redirecting resources for border security and the war on terrorism away from the dishwashers and landscapers who are trying to cross the border illegally and toward the smugglers and terrorists who are attempting to cross the border for purposes far more nefarious than filling jobs that American workers are not taking.
We can try to tighten up border enforcement even more than we already have (we've already increased spending on border enforcement six-fold over the past 20 years), but as long as the United States offers foreign workers more opportunity for work than their home countries do, people will risk their lives to cross the border.
According to Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, "A real effort to control the border with Mexico would require perhaps 20,000 agents and the development of a system of formidable fences and other barriers along those parts of the border used for illegal crossings."
It should also be noted that some 40 percent of those illegally in the United States first entered the country legally and then overstayed their visas. Even if we did manage to seal the border from illegal crossings, the problem would still be with us. Clearly, we can't solve this problem through border enforcement alone.
A temporary worker program, coupled with serious workplace enforcement, would bring those who are in the shadows out into the open. Temporary workers would be registered. We would finally know who they are, how long they've been here, and when they must return to their home country or change their status.
Again, the "carrot" of a temporary worker program must be coupled with the "stick" of workplace enforcement. With a reasonable legal avenue available, workers should have no excuse for not utilizing it and employers should have no excuse for hiring those who do not.
The latter point is important. Conservatives respect the law. Our current immigration laws, everyone will agree, are so convoluted and out of touch with how people actually organize their lives that it does not foster respect for the law. If we want the law to be enforced, we need to have a law that can realistically be enforced given our labor needs. Which brings me to another point.
Conservatives recognize that America has a need for labor that Americans are unable or unwilling to fill. This is the case today, and will increasingly be the case in years to come as our workforce becomes older and better educated. Now, some will dispute this, noting that "there are some 10 million unemployed in this country, and some 10 million illegal aliens - do the math!"
This math adds up only if you accept that it is the federal government's role, for example, to persuade an unemployed fisherman in Maine to take a job as a landscaper in Phoenix. Or to move an unemployed schoolteacher in Indiana to the lettuce fields in Yuma. The former Soviet Union tried and failed with this type of economic planning for decades. Cuba is still trying. Neither are examples that conservatives should seek to emulate.
Third, conservatives are compassionate, despite what liberals will tell you. The fact that hundreds of illegal aliens, many of whom are women and children, die in the desert each year should compel us to action. Because a temporary worker program would allow workers to enter and exit the country through border checkpoints, the incentive to risk one's life in the desert would be diminished considerably. Under the current situation, those illegally crossing the border in search of work must make the calculation of whether to endure long periods, even years, without seeing their families, or to attempt to bring their families with them. The latter choice often leads to deadly consequences.
Finally, we conservatives are called conservatives because we want to "conserve" practices and principles that have withstood the test of time. There is little about the status quo in immigration policy that is worth conserving. Bush recognizes this. We conservatives, whether we agree with every detail of his plan or not, should applaud him for it.
Nobody has said that simply granting illegals legal status will fix the problem. We've said that we have a way to fix the problem and we'll allow illegals to participate in it if they cooperate and that's not the centerpiece of this proposal.
Well jeez hopefully not. I have personal experience with the suckitude of the H1-B program. And it's possible this could be just as bad but on a grander scale. But we've had a guest worker program in the past without demolishing the middle class so I'm going to guess it's possible.
No that is looking at the present situation and a possible re-evaluation of how to do things. I don't think this proposal will do anything at all to stop future illegal immigration. I don't think there is any remedy short of an "illegal immigration martial law" for the period of time it would take to actually round them up followed by militarizing the borders. That is not going to happen as bad as some may want it.
Very good. Now, if we can agree that the majority of illegal immigrants from south and central America are working in minimum wage level jobs and that once they register those employing them will have to at least meet that minimum standard as this proposal lays out then we have something to discuss and debate. The problem so far is not having anyway to determine who is legal and who is not.
I don't know that I can agree as to the wages earned by illegals. I suspect that you might be right that they are minimal, but I read too many stories of illegals in construction work paying 20-40 per hour. There are also lawn services down here that pay exorbitant rates. Legal landscapers are going out of business because they are being undercut. But for the sake of argument, let's assume your statement is correct.
You state that the proposal calls for minimum wages. I read Bush's speech and did not see that in there. In fact, I remember thinking about whether they could get around minimum wages laws somehow. Correct me if I am wrong here.
You further assume that the illegals will register. I posted an article tonight from the Naples Daily News where the illegals talk about not registering. In fact, they kind of like the way it is with the exception of getting caught. Only a complete amnesty would get them to come out of the woods.
Another assumption is that everyone (workers and employers) will play by the new rules. Why should they? They don't now and we do nothing about it. I know that Bush promised strict enforcement in the future, but quite frankly I don't believe that either. There is no desire to enforce our immigration laws. We are told that it is not feasible to do so right now, but it will be in the future? I don't buy it. Let the government show they can enforce the laws first.
Think about this for a moment. If we truly need a guest a program, why not offer it only to those who are NOT here? You want to get enrolled, go back home and sign up. The reason: We can't enforce the laws we have now. We are hoping that the illegals will walk into the INS office and give themselves up. That is what this program is all about and the illegals are not that stupid.
It doesn't need to be carried out that way. You should read up on Operation Wetback which was implemented in 1954 to round up illegal aliens. We didn't have to physically round up all of the illegal aliens (most left voluntarily), we didn't house them in concentration camps, and we didn't march the illegal aliens home in great masses like battlefield refugees
Thus my "pessimism" regarding the proposal. This is not a fix. I laid out the most draconian fix which is never going to happen but there is another one less draconian but also stands little chance of working.
The INS has a grand total of 2000 field agents to enforce the immigration laws over the entire country. Do the math 2000 divided into anywhere from 8 to 14 million depending who is publishing the numbers. The Feds could boost the number of field agent a hundred fold and still not make a dent. It is obvious that without the help of the State and local governments the Feds alone cannot make the difference. The problem is that the Bush administration has already ask for state cooperation and even after 911 almost to a man they told him to kiss off. The ugly truth is that these illegal aliens are not only tolerated by the states they are protected from the Feds. That is why I am pessimistic. That is why nothing effective will ever be done until the states themselves get involved.
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