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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigrants and Security

Professor JAGDISH BHAGWATI, writing for the WSJ (subscription):

Illegal immigrants, especially the ones who cross the Rio Grande, are overwhelmingly poor: Surely, the likelihood of finding 9/11-type terrorists among them is farfetched. Everyone knows that the 9/11 terrorists were middle class and educated; and recent analyses of terrorist groups such as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Irish Republican Army, the Red Brigades and the Palestinian suicide bombers confirm that an unschooled, indigent terrorist is rare indeed. In short, as economists say, which policy is "assigned" to which objective is important: Tight enforcement against illegal immigration, as distinct from stricter examination of containers at our ports, for instance, is mis-assigned to the antiterrorism object.

In fact, the proper objectives of American immigration reform -- as was the case with IRCA, and as is the case today -- are twofold: to "gain control of the border" (i.e., to have the inflow of migrants determined exclusively by legal admissions) and to treat immigrants humanely. If we manage to eliminate illegals from our midst, both objectives would be satisfied. Immigration flows would reflect legal immigration policy. Moreover, with no illegals around, immigrants would be treated with humanity, thanks to the principle of equal protection under the law, which is substantially extended to legal aliens.

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