Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dealing With the Illegals Already Here

It is commonly believed that there are about 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. today.  Dealing with that in a rational manner is worth discussing, and I'm glad that Newt Gingrich brought up the subject.  I would like to caveat all discussions with my belief that securing the border is the down payment necessary by the Congress and the President to allow any other discussion to occur.  Depending on whom you believe, the number of border crossers may have already significantly decreased.  From the LA Times.
Arrests of illegal crossers along the Southwest border dropped more than two-thirds from 2000 to 2010, from 1.6 million to 448,000.
The article goes on to describe bored border patrol agents falling asleep on the job because there's "no action." The hyperbole leads me to believe that the article might be propaganda, and fellow tea partyers have anecdotal evidence that the border is not so secure. It seems likely that the increase in border patrol agents and the fewer border crossers are verifiable, but even at 448,000 apprehensions, and who knows how many get away, we can't really say the border is secure. Thomas Sowell takes exception to Newt Gingrich's ideas, and doesn't so much rebut them as make the case for securing the border. His key points.
When you import people, you import cultures, including cultures that have been far less successful in providing decent lives and decent livelihoods. The American people have a right to decide for themselves whether they want unlimited imports of cultures from other countries.
. . .
Moreover, in an age of terrorism, everyone who comes across the border from Mexico is not Mexican. It is the height of irresponsibility to leave that border open and the people who cross it a protected group.
Fair enough, and even true.  But Sowell doesn't really address the issue of what to do with the illegals already in the country, which is what Gingrich was addressing.  
Pushing back against the charge that he supports “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, Newt Gingrich outlined another immigration reform proposal that would have “citizen juries” to decide whether illegal immigrants are fit to be granted legal status—but not citizenship.
On the trail in Florida on Friday, Gingrich explained that he would grant “path to legality” to upstanding illegal immigrants with deep family ties who could prove they could support themselves without federal welfare or other benefit programs.
I like two things about Gingrich's plan.  First, there will be no citizenship for those who have come here illegally.  Second, those here illegally will have to show their ability to support themselves and their families.  Gingrich's full immigration plan is here, like me, he starts with "secure the border."  He has sensible ideas that are worthy of examination by those in the tea party movement.

I'm not sure what those who oppose Gingrich's plan would do with the current illegals.  They need a legal status and deporting 11 million people is frankly impracticable.  Do conservatives really want a government powerful enough to round up 11 million people for deportation?  Do we really want the federal government getting practice at interning that many people?  If not, then we better deal with the situation at hand.  We need these people out of the shadows and paying taxes and drawn into a law abiding culture.  Isn't that a worthwhile conservative or libertarian goal?

Finally, from a political perspective, getting this issue fixed is in the long term interests of the Republican party.  When Hispanics see that we are willing to allow legal immigration, with proper controls, for workers from Latin America, the belief that Republicans are racists will disappear.  Peter Skerry has this to say in yesterday's WSJ.
Liberals may advocate the maximalist position of full citizenship rights for illegals, but they're content with the status quo. They know that keeping illegals in limbo works to the political advantage of liberals and Democrats. Republicans ignore this at their own peril. 
. . .
Whatever the plight of individual illegal immigrants, the problem of 11 million of them constitutes a blemish on the body politic that taints us all—and one that certainly won't be healed by the draconian policies most Republican candidates seem to advocate. Mr. Gingrich's proposal, or something like it, could actually address this genuine dilemma while acknowledging the legitimate anxieties that many Americans have about illegal immigration.

From Gingrich's web site.

1. No “comprehensive” plan can work. President Bush could not pass one during six years with a Republican Congress.  President Obama could not pass one with a Democratic Congress. Immigration reform can be outlined as a complete proposal but has to be passed in a series of steps, with each one understood and passed on its own merits.
2. Under no circumstance can a path to citizenship be created which would allow those who have broken the law to receive precedence over those who patiently waited to become residents and citizens via the legal process. Those who adhered to our immigration law cannot be usurped by those who violated it.
3. We must reconcile the goal of legality with the reality that there are millions of immigrants currently here outside the law, some with a long set of family and community ties, and some with no ties. A system has to be established that establishes legality but no citizenship for those with deep ties, repatriates those with no family or community ties in a dignified way, and quickly sends home those who have committed criminal and other destructive acts.


  1. I've always liked Gingrich's plan since I heard about a few months ago before it was widely publicized. I even forwarded it to Sam Farr, who wrote back somewhat interested. I don't necessarily think that the system of local boards would be fair, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was struck down on equal protection grounds, but beyond that problem I find the plan to be uniquely 'dooable,' in that it would satisfy local concerns and there would still be large areas where illegals could be legalized easily. I think that dooable anything is better than status quo.

    As for the status quo, how does keeping it help democrats? We figure if they were granted citizenship most illegals would join their children and relatives in voting for the Democrats.

    As for the racist thing--i'll ask you, is the democratic party ideologically socialist? Many people would say yes. They would be wrong, though a minority of active democrats are, and some can sound that way at times. Is the Republican party racist or nativist? No- though a small minority are and Haley Barbour's nostalgia for the White Citizens Councils can sound that way some times. Thanks to the echo-chambers in which we operate- this perception can continue for a long time. The democrats can cut taxes after the republicans nationalized all the banks, and the democrats will still be called socialists...

  2. I think the numbers reflect the lowered demand for workers, and perhaps a reaction to recent anti-illegal legislation, rather than any change in the border security.

    Its fine to talk about border security, but realistically how do you secure something the size of our southern border, let alone both the southern and northern borders? I ask this as a completely serious question.

    East Germany never could do it and their wall was a infinitesimal fraction the size of what we'd need. On top of that the terrain along the border is extremely difficult. If it were so easy you'd think we'd have been able to secure Afghanistan's borders. And then there is the cost. Where is the funding going to come from? I suppose if we pulled all of the US troops from around the world and placed them on our borders that might work, but that eliminates our ability to project force around the world.

    As a practical exercise I just don't see it happening.

  3. Calivancouver,
    Democrats are helped because Hispanics see the antipathy to the illegal status of their fellow members of that ethnic community and assign racism as the cause. They then vote Democrat. Democrats can claim to be for the illegal immigrants on the cheap, because there are no votes to be lost by failing to deliver on the promises, but there are votes to be gained by demonizing the Republican position.

    I agree that some of the lowered numbers reflect lower demand, and the article says so, if I recall correctly. As to border security, it doesn't have to be perfect, just good enough. We have not applied a fraction of the technology available to the problem. I am aware of a little of this because of my work at a federal lab. In Afghanistan, we don't have near the resources available that we have here in the United States.