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Friday, April 28, 2006

Mexican Demographics & Immigration

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Thanks to a decades-long family-planning campaign, most Mexicans are having far fewer children than was typical a generation ago... [I]n 1968, the average Mexican woman had nearly seven children. Today, the figure is just above two, comparable to the U.S.

This sweeping demographic shift has fostered hope that someday Mexico will produce a healthy middle class... Most Mexicans today are far too poor for luxuries... But the new, smaller Mexican family may help change that by allowing parents to invest more in their children's education, finally producing the generation that lifts Mexico into the developed world.

Mexico's new demographics could have a big impact on the U.S. Although the flood of Mexicans heading north is whipping up debate in Washington, the crossings may slow in future decades. That could happen simply because smaller families limit the pool of potential migrants. A slowdown would be especially likely if a growing middle class makes more Mexicans comfortable at home and averse to risking a dash across the border.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Univision Auction

From the New York Times:

Several big media companies, including the Walt Disney Company and CBS, have held meetings with Univision's management over the last week about making a takeover offer for the company, people involved in the talks said yesterday.

Univision, the largest Spanish-language television and radio company in the nation, put itself up for auction in February.

The latest negotiations appear to demonstrate that there may be more interest in Univision than some rivals have so far let on.

Multiculturalism in Decline

David Brooks (subscription):

Multiculturalism is in decline for a number of reasons. First, the identity groups have ossified. The feminist organizations were hypocritical during the Clinton impeachment scandal, and both fevered and weak during the Roberts and Alito hearings. Meanwhile, the civil rights groups have become stale and uninteresting.

Second, the Democrats have come to understand that they need to pay less attention to minorities and more to the white working class if they ever want to become the majority party again. Third, the intellectual energy on the left is now with the economists. People who write about inequality are more vibrant than people who write about discrimination.

Fourth and most important, 9/11 happened. The attacks aroused feelings of national solidarity, or a longing for national solidarity, that discredited the multiculturalists' tribalism.

Christians Split on Immigration

From USAToday:

Although Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders are voicing strong support for undocumented immigrants, recent survey data suggest that their flocks are increasingly uneasy about immigration trends. And evangelicals are proving to be divided along ethnic lines.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Newt's Immigration Plan

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a plan to deal with the immigration problem. He has set out his plan in detail.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

LatAm: The People's Choice

Analysis of the political situation in Latin America from Roger Noriega:

Recent history in the region teaches many lessons. If voters have to settle for political parties whose only principle is holding on to power, then politicians should not be surprised when populists manage to convince people that ideas don't matter. If voters are taken in by empty populist rhetoric, they should not expect government that can deliver practical results or a constructive vision. If voters choose a coup leader as president, they should not expect someone who can make democracy work. When they elect candidates who rail against the "neoliberal" model, they have no one but themselves to blame when socialist solutions strangle their economy.

But, of course, it doesn't have to be that way. Countries that choose serious and sound democrats to lead them -- regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum -- usually get accountable and responsible government. Leaders like Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Ricardo Lagos of Chile, Elías Antonio Saca of El Salvador, Alejandro Toledo of Peru, Martín Torrijos in Panama, Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay and others prove that democracy can produce able and even remarkable leadership.

President Pushes Congress

From the Washington Post:

Under pressure from Republicans to play a bigger role in the immigration debate, President Bush will begin meeting key lawmakers Tuesday to help forge a bipartisan agreement by Memorial Day to offer some undocumented workers a path to citizenship.

But White House aides emphasized that Bush has no intention for now of staking clear legislative positions on the immigration bill. He does not want to embrace a proposal, only to see it lose once House and Senate negotiators try to reach a final agreement, whose prospects are still seen as remote on Capitol Hill.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Don't Neglect Assimilation

Robert J. Samuelson:

It's all about assimilation -- or it should be. One of America's glories is that it has assimilated many waves of immigrants. Outsiders have become insiders. But it hasn't been easy. Every new group has struggled: Germans, Irish, Jews and Italians. All have encountered economic hardship, prejudice and discrimination. The story of U.S. immigration is often ugly. If today's wave of immigration does not end in assimilation, it will be a failure. By this standard, I think the major contending sides in the present bitter debate are leading us astray. Their proposals, if adopted, would frustrate assimilation.

On the one hand, we have the "cop" school. It adamantly opposes amnesty and would make being here illegally a felony, as opposed to a lesser crime. It toughens a variety of penalties against illegal immigrants. Elevating the seriousness of the crime would supposedly deprive them of jobs, and then illegal immigrants would return to Mexico, El Salvador or wherever. This is a pipe dream; the numbers are simply too large...

On the other hand we have the "guest worker" advocates. They want 400,000 or more new foreign workers annually. This would supposedly curtail illegal immigration -- people who now sneak into the country could get work permits -- and also cure "shortages" of unskilled American workers. Everyone wins. Not really.

GOP Wedge Issue

You guessed it, it's immigration:

The immigration reform debate has highlighted a long-standing fissure in the GOP between the elitist Rockefeller business wing and the party's conservative populist base. Whether the two groups can continue to coexist and preserve the Republican majority is increasingly doubtful as conservatives begin to consider -- and in some cases cheer -- the possibility that the GOP may lose control of Congress this fall.

Hillary Wants More Fences

From AP via Newsday:

A barrier at parts of U.S. borders is "obviously important" as part of dealing with illegal immigration, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

Clinton endorsed using technology, like a fence that could recognize when people were coming near it while they were still a few hundred yards away, the Daily News reported in Sunday's editions.

"A physical structure is obviously important," Clinton told the newspaper. "A wall in certain areas would be appropriate."

But while in support of border security enforcement, Clinton also reiterated a position she has stated previously, that she supports some kind of legalization process for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.

LatAm - A Community of Democracies

From Mexidata:

Latin America's embrace of democracy represents a profound shift in political culture that bodes well for the region's future, despite the serious challenges ahead, according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Speaking at an April 19 media roundtable in Chicago, the secretary noted that since the 1980s, the Western Hemisphere has transformed itself from a region prone to military coups into a community of democratic nations, excepting only Cuba.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dean Talks Tough on Border Issue

From the Washington Times:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean yesterday called border security his party's top immigration priority for November.

"The first thing we want is tough border control," he said. "We have to do a much better job on our borders than George Bush has done. And then we can go to the policy disagreements about how to get it done."

Republicans reacted with surprise to Mr. Dean's announcement, which puts the DNC chief's views at odds with those of many Democrats in Congress.

"If Dean means what he says about border enforcement, that would put the Democrats somewhere to the right of President Bush on immigration," said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican.

A spokesman for the Republican National Committee dismissed Mr. Dean's "newfound commitment to border security" as "not believable."

Immigration in Colorado

Fred Brown:

Most Coloradans think of themselves as open-minded, independent, live-and-let-live sorts. But the explosion of controversy, anger and even fear about illegal immigrants flooding into the U.S. from the south has revealed a less-accepting side of the Colorado state of mind. There is a gathering concern about the tide of unassimilated newcomers, and little consensus about solutions.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

LatAm Dictatorships & the U.N.

From the Miami Herald:

The Bush administration is battling to stop Venezuela and Cuba from gaining seats in important U.N. posts in a confrontation that has many Latin American nations caught in the middle, diplomats and analysts say.

Most observers believe Washington faces an uphill battle to keep Venezuela out of the Security Council and Cuba out of a newly created U.N. Human Rights Council.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

More Work Visas

Brendan Miniter:

Perhaps the most significant contribution this Republican Congress can make is to keep stoking the economy with tax cuts. With the national unemployment rate under 5%, immigrants are clearly not sinking the economy, and most are contributing to what can rightly be called the Bush boom...

The solution is to create respect for the rule of law by making it possible for foreign workers to come here and fill the jobs the economy needs filled. Immigrants will use legal avenues to enter this country if they are open to them--even at a small cost--for the simple reason that it is more profitable to live outside the shadows than inside barrios where hustlers can take advantage of them without fear of the long arm of the law. That means vastly more work visas than the U.S. now issues, and it is why President Bush is pushing for a guest worker program.

Once immigrants are allowed to live outside of the shadows, it will be much easier for the nation to assimilate them and then target drug traffickers and others who still sneak across the border. The strongest fence is the economic opportunity of a life out in the open. It's about time this nation started using economic incentives to its advantage.

Georgia Immigrant Law

From the New York Times:

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a sweeping immigration bill on Monday that supporters and critics say gives Georgia some of the nation's toughest measures against illegal immigrants.

The law requires verification that adults who seek many state-administered benefits are in the United States legally. Employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants face sanctions, and companies with state contracts must check employees' immigration status.

The law also requires that the police check the status of people they arrest.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Waldo Benavidez

Liberals against immigration! Here's another reason to support comprehensive immigration reform:

Mr. Benavidez has spent most of his adult life working on behalf of the poor. For the last 25 years he has managed the community center and a food bank here on Denver's west side, where low-income families can get groceries. He marched for civil rights in the 1960's and relishes the memory of his first vote for president, for John F. Kennedy, in 1960.

But immigration's tangled implications have pushed him out of his comfortable old political box with its predictably liberal labels and causes. Supporting the poor in America, he said, now means shutting down the system that has created a flood of even poorer immigrants from Mexico...

Mr. Benavidez, whose ancestors have been in the West for 250 years, since the days of the Spanish empire, supports sealing the Mexican border, and is working for a proposed ballot proposition here in Colorado that would deny government social services to illegal immigrants.

He rails against multinational corporations that he says have rigged the political systems of the United States and Mexico to keep the border porous as a tool for suppressing wages and labor unions.

Argentinian Wine

From the Washington Post:

Quality winemakers are fast erasing last century's image of Argentine wineries as sleepy ventures with a reputation for unadventurous and often overripe table wines served up to a large but captive domestic market. Whether it's Bressia's small winery or the sprawling plants of far bigger wineries such as nearby Familia Zuccardi, the mantra is quality control.

"In 1992, Argentina exported less than 1 percent of its harvest," said Jose Alberto Zuccardi, director of the business started by his father in the 1950s. "In 2005, we are exporting in values above 16 percent. Today Argentina is seen as a country of the new world of winemaking . . . and its wines are very appetizing on the international markets."

Personally, I'm a fan of Chilean, Spanish and Argentinian wines.

Mona Island

People fleeing Cuba have found another way to make it into the U.S. - Mona Island.

Reaction to Protests

From the New York Times:

As lawmakers set aside the debate on immigration legislation for their spring recess, the protests by millions around the nation have escalated the policy debate into a much broader battle over the status of the country's 11 million illegal immigrants. While the marches have galvanized Hispanic voters, they have also energized those who support a crackdown on illegal immigration.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Request, Not A Demand

Charles Krauthammer:

The principal crime involved in the immigrant crusade is the violation of immigration laws by the illegals themselves.

To be sure, that is not a high crime. But it does not behoove one who has stealthily stolen into another's house to then make demands about rights -- or to march under the banner of "The National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice."

Justice? On what grounds do those who come into a country illegally claim rights? They seek good will and understanding. And Americans might give it -- but on request, not on demand.

Martin Luther King had a case for justice that was utterly incontrovertible, yet he always appealed to the better angels of America's nature. It is all the more important for illegals, whose claims rest not on justice but on compassion, to appeal to American generosity, openness and idealism.

Polling on Immigration

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard:

In a national survey in early April, the Washington Post/ABC News uncovered an astonishing level of backing for major reform. Asked whether they favored earned citizenship, only a guest worker program, or a sharp crackdown on illegal immigrants, 63 percent preferred earned citizenship, 14 percent a guest worker scheme, and only 20 percent for charging illegal immigrants with a felony and denying them work.

New Arrivals

Mary Anastasia O'Grady of the Wall Street Journal (subscription), reporting form a backyard pig roast in Florida celebrating the arrival of Cuban refugees:

Anyone who truly wants to understand why walls and border guards and threats of felony charges aren't likely to change the dynamics of U.S. immigration really ought to spend some time with new arrivals, as I did last Saturday. What you learn from migrants is that escaping the dead-end life of privation and bad government is only part of what pushes them to set sail. An equally powerful force is the irresistible attraction of America, a pull so strong that it brings the voyagers through perils they are extremely lucky to survive. What you learn from their American employers is the unequaled value placed on these tenacious and grateful newcomers as employees.

Immigrants Rebuilding New Orleans

From the Seattle Times:

Hispanic workers have gutted, roofed and painted houses, and hauled away garbage, debris and downed trees. Illegal immigrants have installed trailers to house returning evacuees at New Orleans City Park, their pay coming from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) subcontractors.

"It's all illegals doing this work," said Rey Mendez, a FEMA trailer subcontractor from Honduras.

No one knows how many Hispanic immigrants are in New Orleans, but John Logan, a Brown University demographer who has studied the city since Katrina hit, said, "There must be 10,000 to 20,000 immigrant workers in the region by now, and the number is going to grow."

As the Senate debates new immigration laws and marchers demonstrate across the country, these immigrants offer another reminder of the country's reliance on illegal immigrants from Latin America.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Soft Heart, Hard Head

Peggy Noonan:

To love immigrants is not to believe America has no right to decide who can come to America and become a citizen. America has always decided who comes here. That's why it all worked.

While the marchers seemed to be good people, and were very likable, the march itself, I think, violated the old immigrant politesse--the general understanding that you're not supposed to get here and immediately start making demands. It would never have occurred to my grandparents to demand respect. They thought they had to earn it. It would never have occurred to them to air mass grievances, assert rights, issue a list of legislative demands. Especially if they were here unlawfully.

I happen to think America in general has deep affection for immigrants, knows they are part of the dynamic, a part of our growth and our endless coming-into-being. But when your heart is soft, and America's is, your head must be hard.

We are a sovereign nation operating under the rule of law. That, in fact, is why many immigrants come here. They come from places where the law, such as it is, is corrupt, malleable, limiting. Does it make sense to subvert our own laws to facilitate the entrance of those in pursuit of government by law? Whatever our sentiments and sympathies as individuals, America has the right, and the responsibility, to protect the integrity of its borders, to make the laws by which immigrants are granted entrance, and to enforce those laws.

I think open-borders proponents are, simply, wrong.

Immigration NOT a Felony

From USAToday:

A pledge by Republican leaders that they will not push to make illegal immigration a felony is unlikely to defuse opposition to proposed immigration and border security legislation, lawmakers on both sides said Wednesday...

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, one of five Hispanic Republicans in the House, hailed the promise to eliminate a plan that was "offensive, excessive and demonized hard-working immigrants."

Election Issue: Immigration

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

While the fight over illegal immigration roils Washington, the issue is spilling out into local, state and federal races across the country. But the response isn't monolithic. Even as a number of House Republicans are expected to face a backlash from Hispanic and other voters for their tough approach, some candidates are adopting hard-line positions in a bid to portray incumbents as weak on illegal immigration. For now, the issue is percolating largely in Republican primaries but is expected to affect campaigns across the board as the November midterm elections approach.

"It's coming up everywhere and at the very least, there won't be a debate where this is not a big question," said Jennifer Duffy, of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

In past campaigns, immigration has been an issue in border states like Arizona and places with a high percentage of Hispanics. But political observers say recent mass demonstrations by immigrants, an influx of foreign-born workers into the heartland and the political divide in Washington have caused voters to focus more on it than in the past.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Demonstrations

From the Economist (U.K.):

There are reasons for hoping that calmer voices will prevail. First, the demonstrators have shown themselves sensitive to non-Hispanic America's fears. After complaints that too many Mexican flags appeared at previous marches (which some Americans said hinted at divided loyalties and perhaps even at plans for a stealthy reconquista of the parts of the south-western United States that used to be Mexican), the organisers this time persuaded most flag-carriers to wave the Stars and Stripes. Some formed human pyramids to wave it higher.

Second, the immigrants have aspirations most Americans can relate to. A new survey found that 92% worked, 98% wanted to learn English and 96% were happy to be fingerprinted and subjected to a criminal background check as part of a process that might lead to them becoming legal citizens.

Thirdly, as the marchers put it: “Today we march, tomorrow we vote.” Illegals can't vote, of course, but many have relatives who can. Some politicians, from both parties, are eagerly courting the Latino vote. “I look across this historic gathering and I see the future of America,” boomed Ted Kennedy to the marchers in Washington.

Backlash

From the Washington Post:

In the wake of this week's massive demonstrations, many House Republicans are worried that a tough anti-illegal-immigration bill they thought would please their political base has earned them little benefit while becoming a lightning rod for the fast-growing national movement for immigrant rights.

They're right to be worried!

Undocumented Students

Interesting article about students without permanent status and the Dream Act:

Marisol Conde-Hernandez had big ambitions after graduating at the top of her class at South Brunswick High School in New Jersey.

She wants to attend Princeton University and she'd eventually like to earn a master's degree in sociology.

But Conde-Hernandez, 19, is in the United States illegally, even though she's spent most of her life in New Jersey. She stands little chance of realizing her goals unless Congress changes immigration law.

"That's the only real chance I have," she said.

Small Businesses & Immigration

From Small Business Review:

What do small business owners want to see? It depends on where they stand politically and economically—and, often, geographically. According to a study released last week by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, business owners are evenly split on whether to create an amnesty/guest worker program that would allow undocumented aliens who are employed to remain in the country.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cheat Sheet

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez deals with some misconceptions about Hispanics and immigrants.

American Flags

Nathan Smith (again):

We're used to seeing swarthy, foreign-speaking young men burning American flags to vent their rage. It doesn't affect us anymore. But to see swarthy, foreign-speaking young men -- and women, and children, by the thousands -- waving the American flag, proudly, to see them draping it over their shoulders, and wearing it on T-shirts -- are you ready for that? I wasn't. It almost brought me to tears.

Immigrants and Hypomaniacs

Some thoughts on immigrants' genes from Professor John D. Gartner:

America is an amazing natural experiment -- a continent populated largely by self-selected immigrants. All these people had the get-up-and-go to pull up stakes and come here, a temperament that made them different from their friends and relatives who stayed home. Immigrants are the original venture capitalists, risking their human capital -- their lives -- on a dangerous and arduous voyage into the unknown.

Not surprisingly, given this entrepreneurial spirit, immigrants are self-employed at much higher rates than native-born people, regardless of what nation they emigrate to or from. And the rate of entrepreneurial activity in a nation is correlated with the number of immigrants it absorbs. According to a cross-national study, "The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor," conducted jointly by Babson College and the London School of Economics, the four nations with the highest per capita creation of new companies are the United States, Canada, Israel and Australia -- all nations of immigrants. New company creation per capita is a strong predictor of gross domestic product, and so the conclusion is simple: Immigrants equal national wealth.

Colonia Dignidad

From BBC News:

A Chilean judge has indicted 18 people linked to a former German colony in southern Chile over human rights abuses committed during military rule.

Among them are two former commanders of the Chilean secret police, as well as Paul Schaefer, the colony's founder.

The judge says the security services used the sprawling property to hide kidnapped dissidents.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Rudy Giuliani

Some think Rudy Giuliani is the only hope the GOP has of reconciling the feuding factions on the issue of immigration:

The hard-line positions on both sides of the immigration debate are untenable...

Giuliani is uniquely qualified to reconcile these two positions.

I'm less sanguine.

LatAm: Populism = Corruption

Dr. Martin Krause:

After reviewing a number of indicators such as indexes of economic freedom, globalization, transparency, rule of law, regulatory opacity, human rights, competitiveness, access to technology and others, it seems clear Latin America lags behind in many of these, with the exception of Chile.

The common factor among all these countries is an old disease by the name of "populism." What is that exactly?...

Populism is the absence of constraints, of rules of conduct in the public arena which is the other side of corruption. Populist leaders built their own constituencies, their own political structures, and their own mafias at the same time.

The result of this is what is usually called "lack of institutions." Governmental decisions are at the whim of the populist leaders, subject to his ideas or his interests -- undermining legal stability. Things can change radically from one day to the next.

Elections in Venezuela

From Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post:

Hugo Chavez, who is up for reelection as Venezuelan president this year, kicked off his new campaign with an old tactic: criminal trials of his leading opponents.

We're Losing the Brain Race

Steven Clemons and Michael Lind:

Congress seems to believe that while the United States must be protected from an invasion of educated, bright and ambitious foreign college students, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, we can never have too many low-wage fruit-pickers and dishwashers.

In making immigration laws, Congress caters to cheap-labor industries like agribusiness and sweatshop manufacturing while shortchanging the high-tech, high-wage industries on which the future of the American economy depends. Witness the Senate bill's provision to admit 400,000 temporary workers a year, or roughly four million a decade, in addition to the 12 million mostly low-wage illegal immigrants already here, many of whose status would be legalized. Few if any of those guest workers would go to universities, corporate campuses or innovation clusters like Silicon Valley. They would head straight to restaurants, hotels and plantation-like farms.

While the United States perversely tries to corner the market in uneducated hotel maids and tomato harvesters, other industrial democracies are reshaping their immigration policies to invite the skilled immigrants that we turn away. Britain is following Australia and Canada in adopting a points system that gives higher scores to skilled immigrants with advanced education and proficiency in English. British, Canadian, German and even French universities are overflowing in undergraduate and graduate enrollment as they absorb the foreign talent that America is repelling.

The Governator Speaks

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

I salute the members of both parties in Congress who are conducting a civil, serious discussion on this issue. I urge them to agree on legislation based on a simple philosophy: control of the border . . . and compassion for the immigrant. These are the twin pillars around which we must construct a new immigration policy. They are both essential elements in our overall immigration strategy. Without both, our strategy is destined to collapse.

LatAm Leftists Hurt Markets

From MarketWatch:

[Latin American] Governments – driven by pressure from poorer voters who feel they are missing out on the prosperity – are seizing a bigger share of the action. "Latin America has become the prime stage for resource nationalism," says Michelle Billig, analyst at PIRA, a New York-based energy consultancy.

If Mr [Ollanta] Humala does win Peru's election and then carry through threats to intervene it will be the latest blow to international companies and raw materials producers, with examples of radical action coming thick and fast...

Earlier this year Venezuela's radical anti-American government imposed new tough operating contracts on more than two-dozen foreign oil companies. Last week it took control of two oilfields operated by Eni and Total after the Italian and French companies refused to comply in time with the new rules. Bolivia's newly-elected President Evo Morales has already benefited from cash generated by a new 50 per cent "take" (tax and royalties) on gas output imposed in 2005 on gas output and says he will nationalize the industry – which controls South America's second largest reserves of natural gas – later this year. Argentina's Néstor Kirchner has imposed export taxes and other restrictions on exporters of soya, wheat and meat. And the Ecuadorean legislature is discussing new rules that will significantly increase its take from oil contracts.

Guest Worker Programs Don't Work

Ruben Navarrete:

There are practical reasons why guest-worker programs don't work:

• Workers don't leave. While the workers are supposed to be temporary, they stick around. They get married, have kids and put down roots. As former U.S. senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming used to say, there is nothing more permanent than a temporary worker.

• Backlash never abates. Because these temporary workers never leave, a guest-worker program doesn't really put an end to the thing that gets Americans all worked up in the first place — the changing culture and complexion of towns and neighborhoods.

• Exploitation happens. Guest workers are ripe for abuse because if employers were to provide things such as housing, prevailing wages, health care and worker's compensation insurance, that would undermine the whole idea behind the program: cheap labor. Once labor isn't so cheap anymore, expect employers to lose interest.

• Illegal immigration continues. Most guest-worker plans deal in the hundreds of thousands. As long as millions of immigrants want to come to the USA and can fill millions of jobs, such a limited approach would never end illegal entry.

Congress should forget about importing new guest workers, or granting a wholesale amnesty to all 12 million illegal workers already here, and focus on reforms that stand a chance of working.

Here's a four-point plan to add to the mix:

1) Stiffen penalties against employers, including jail time, and enforce them for a change.

2) Beef up the ranks of the border patrol by 25%.

3) Increase the allotment of green cards and work visas to allow people to come in legally.

4) Grant legal status to some but not all illegal immigrants, the preference going to those who have been here the longest and who have immediate family members who are U.S. citizens.

And, lastly, let's accept the idea that, in this debate, there are no easy solutions or free lunches.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Immigrants Pay Taxes

Linda Chavez:

[The] overwhelming majority of illegal aliens pay taxes, including Social Security, Medicare and property taxes, not to mention sales taxes. The chief actuary of the Social Security Administration estimates that three-fourths of all illegal aliens have Social Security (and Medicare) taxes deducted from their wages. How? It's simple.

Since it is illegal to hire someone who does not present a Social Security number (and show other documentation of legal residence), many illegal aliens use phony numbers or cards to get jobs. In 2002 alone, the Social Security Administration reported it had collected $7 billion in payroll taxes and $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes from workers who could not be matched with valid Social Security numbers.

In addition, illegal aliens pay property taxes just like everyone else, either directly, if they own homes (and surprising numbers of illegal aliens do), or indirectly through their landlords' property taxes in the form of rent. Most illegal aliens pay income taxes -- since these, too, are automatically deducted -- but they fail to claim any refunds since they are fearful of drawing attention to their illegal status.

Enforcing Immigration Laws

Alan Reynolds:

Those who talk tough about enforcing our immigration laws need to first understand just how ridiculous those laws really are. Then they need to explain just how they would go about enforcing those ridiculous laws and why tough enforcement would not simply increase the incentive to hide.

The House wants to declare illegal immigration a felony. Did the House actually expect law enforcement to attempt arresting an estimated 5.4 million men and 3.9 million women and sending them to federal prisons? What would we do with their 1.8 million kids?

Many illegal immigrants can hardly imagine a more luxurious life than a federal prison. If Congress invited Central America's poorest young men to a prepaid vacation at Club Fed, they would gladly volunteer by the millions.

More Visas for Skilled Workers

Nicholas Kristoff (subscription):

The 1986 immigration amnesty ended up bringing in waves of unskilled workers. They care for our children and mow our lawns. But as they raise living standards for many of us, they lower the living standards of [poor] Americans...

That's a trade-off we need to face squarely. The impulse behind immigration reforms is a generosity that I admire. But the cold reality is that admitting poor immigrants often means hurting poor Americans. We can salve the pain with job programs for displaced Americans, but the fundamental trade-off is unavoidable...

So let's go ahead and regularize longtime illegals, rather than leaving them forever in the shadows. But instead of bringing in a new flood of guest workers, let's recast our generosity more toward biologists and computer programmers. The H1-B visa program enriches America by bringing in high-tech workers, but the nominal ceiling on these visas has dropped to 65,000, after temporarily rising to 195,000 in the 1990's. That's the immigration flow to expand.

OpinionJournal has an excellent response to the argument that immigrant labor hurts poor Americans.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Protecting Our Borders

Nathan Smith:

Critics of immigration from the right like to say they support "defending our borders." This is a clever phrase, because it erases the distinction between peaceful workers and invading armies. Every state must defend its borders against invading armies, to protect its citizens' lives and property. But states have generally permitted the entry of peaceful traders, who do not threaten the lives or property of citizens. In any case, they know the difference between the two. By pretending not to understand it, right-wing opponents of immigration may score rhetorical points, but they fail to make the case for the widely-disobeyed laws.

That said; the case for restricting immigration in order to "defend our borders" is more legitimate in the wake of 9/11. America is in no danger of armed invasion from Mexico or Canada, of course -- the idea that Mexican immigrants pose an irredentist threat to the Southwest is sheer fantasy -- but we are threatened by jihadi terrorists, who could potentially filter in across our southern border. If counter-terrorism were the good-faith motivation for our tight border controls, the case for US citizens to cooperate with them would be strong.

But a counter-terror borders policy would look totally different from what we now have. For a start, we would probably permit the unrestricted entry of passport-carrying nationals of Mexico, which is not a terrorist source, and then cooperate with the Mexican government to prevent fraud, and thus prevent a flood of job-seeking migrants from camouflaging terrorist infiltrators. At present, there is not even a pretense that counter-terror is the major motivation for our border controls. The main challenge for applicants for US visas is to prove, not that they have no ties to terror, but that they don't intend to stay and work.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ollanta Humala

From the New York Times:

MOQUEGUA, Peru, March 28 — In a presidential campaign filled with symbolism, the front-runner here found a perfect image for his hard-charging crusade: on Tuesday, he jumped on a chestnut mare and, with his followers sprinting behind him, galloped to the central plaza to promise to revolutionize this Andean country.

The candidate is Ollanta Humala, 43, who was seeking to evoke the image of the authoritarian man on horseback known as the caudillo. He says that if elected on April 9, he will waste no time before cracking down on the multinationals he says cheat citizens and arresting the crooked politicians he says have plundered Peru. As the leader of the newly formed Nationalist Party, he also says he will ally himself with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who wants to form a bulwark against the Bush administration.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

George Will on Immigration

A conservative's conservative likes the President's plan:

Conservatives should want, as the president proposes, a guest worker program to supply what the U.S. economy demands -- immigrant labor for entry-level jobs. Conservatives should favor a policy of encouraging unlimited immigration by educated people with math, engineering, technology or science skills that America's education system is not sufficiently supplying.

And conservatives should favor reducing illegality by putting illegal immigrants on a path out of society's crevices and into citizenship by paying fines and back taxes and learning English. Faux conservatives absurdly call this price tag on legal status "amnesty." Actually, it would prevent the emergence of a sullen, simmering subculture of the permanently marginalized, akin to the Arab ghettos in France. The House-passed bill, making it a felony to be in the country illegally, would make 11 million people permanently ineligible for legal status. To what end?

Assimilation Is Key

I don't always agree with his conclusions, but I respect Victor Davis Hanson a great deal for his willingness to talk about all the things that make the immigration issue so tough to resolve:

Illegal immigration is so embedded in issues of history, exploitation, race, class and money that the mere discussion of it has a way of turning surreal.

So we talk of a guest-worker program as if the million willing Mexicans a year who won't qualify for it will smile and stay home. And, even for those who do qualify, a guest-worker program is a bad idea, for it perpetuates the notion of "good enough to work, not good enough to stay." We should evolve from, not institutionalize, the two-tiered system of "them and us."

We also talk of deportation as if it were feasible to send back 11 million people to Mexico in the largest population movement since the British partition of India.

And we don't talk of the greatest collective violation of American immigration laws in our history.

But there is still a solution to the immigration problem: It involves supporting any practice that leads to the assimilation of legal Mexican immigrants into the American mainstream -- and opposing everything that does not.

Economic Realities

John Tierney of the New York Times (subscription):

The Border Patrol has tried building fences and adding thousands of agents, and in some places it has made smuggling harder. Yet the overall flow of immigrants hasn't slowed. No matter how hard they work, the agents can't outlaw basic economics...

It's the same kind of economic quandary that has stymied the war on drugs. For more than a quarter-century, federal and local authorities have tried to solve America's drug problem by making smuggling and dealing prohibitively expensive.

They've stepped up enforcement at the borders, promising that more agents and new technology would make a difference. They've taken the fight to countries supplying drugs. They filled prisons with dealers and addicts. But even though they raised the cost of smuggling and dealing, the increase was never enough to make a difference...

I'm not suggesting that stopping drugs is the same as stopping the flow of illegal immigrants. In many ways the drug war is easier because it enjoys more popular support. Most people would like to see less drug use. No one wants a drug market on the corner, and people will urge the police to round up dealers and addicts there.

They're not about to turn in the illegal immigrants working in their stores, their neighborhoods and their homes. They know how hard immigrants work and how much they contribute. They may tell pollsters there's too much immigration, but they like the immigrants they know.