Sunday, July 14, 2013

Immigration Insanity

This article is part of a continuing series on the insanity of many of our national policies.  As immigration reform is debated in Congress, one has to wonder how we ended up with a policy whose chief results are:

  • Most immigrants come here illegally with low skills and consequently contribute little in taxes for both reasons.
  • Difficulty in bringing in skilled immigrants.  
  • Border enforcement that funnels the illegals to the most inhospitable climates resulting in many deaths.
Before we think that just changing this policy is easy, we should head the words of Machiavelli:
“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones. ”
― Niccolò Machiavelli
I have analyzed the forces arrayed against border security and immigration reform before.  Fortunately, however, it seems that reform is in sight, but the sticking point is over enforcing the border.  Given that lack of enforcement undermines the rule of law, and results in immigrant deaths, I can see why conservatives and libertarians would be in favor of this as part of any deal.  However, I wonder if it won't be a moot point soon.  First, an expanded guest worker program would reduce the number of laborers who would be finding work when they crossed the border illegally, as more of those jobs would already be filled.  Second, Mexico's fertility rate is plummeting, which should soon be relieving pressure on the border.  

The root cause for the failure to compromise is that we just don't trust the federal government and the different branches of the federal government have good reason not to trust each other.  One solution to the border control issue was to tie citizenship for current illegals to a certification of border security; but we have seen the administration choose not to enforce provisions of the ACA, so who believes in this option?  Another Republican idea is a "border-surge" which would put additional resources into border security. Since when do more resources equal better results when it comes to the feds.  Ideally, the DHS should be held accountable by the Congress for border enforcement against actual performance measures.  But as we saw in the IRS targeting of tea party and conservative groups, apparently no one can hold any part of the government accountable, it's just too damn big.  At least that's what Obama says.

In fact, government can be held accountable, but the Congress has to do its job and must do so, year after year.  To keep the DHS accountable, if illegal crossings weren't reduced each year, the Congress should cut the budget for the immediate staff of the Secretary of DHS, and impose a hiring freeze on all portions of the DHS budget except border control.  Such ruthless tactics work; I know, because I work for the government.  But the Congress is never willing to hold agencies accountable. And frankly, part of the problem is that government is so huge.  Obviously its size needs to shrink.

In the mean time, we still need to reform immigration policies.  We are going to have to accept a bill that improves border security, but without guarantees.

What You Should Be Reading

  • KT at the Scratching Post has the latest in a series of posts about Detroit.  In my view there is a theme of passivity and learned helplessness that permeates each article.  How does that happen to a whole community?
  • Dean posts the video clip of the day in which a twelve year old is more articulate than me.  The basic conundrum in Egypt is that the Islamists are unwilling to concede that anyone has rights that cannot be abrogated by Sharia.  Until the Islamists are willing to tolerate freedom of speech and the checks and balances of a constitutional democracy, there will continue to be bloodshed.
  • Who knew that social security's disability fund would be the first entitlement account to run out of money?  Apparently Michael Boskin does.  Interestingly, it is benefits per person, not demographics driving this fund to bankruptcy.

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