What About Immigration?
A little more than a year ago, immigration was one of the most important issues facing the nation. Politicians on both sides to the aisle promised comprehensive immigration reform, and voters made immigration a major issue. The issue very nearly sank John McCain’s campaign (due to his support of amnesty for illegal immigrants), and a botched answer to a question regarding the wisdom of issuing drivers licenses to illegals marked the beginning of the end of Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes. Voters cared about immigration, and most politicians promised change, saying that the immigration issue was an important, pressing issue that required immediate action.
Guess not. No one cares about immigration anymore. Republican voters forgave John McCain for his amnesty support; they didn’t care enough about the issue to even bother asking Sarah Palin for her position. To my knowledge, neither campaign has released any ads about the immigration issue. The issue is now irrelevant.
It shouldn’t be. There are still at least twelve million illegal immigrants in the country. They don’t pay taxes, cause crime (Hispanic gangs such as MS-13 are taking over some border towns), and take jobs from legal Americans. (Is the “taking jobs” concern just jingoistic propaganda? Not really. The people who lose out the most from illegal immigration are those at the bottom of the economic ladder, and those people are often first-generation immigrants). The Border Patrol cannot keep up with the flow of immigrants, and the INS is powerless to do anything about the millions that are here.
There isn’t any good way to solve this crisis. America can thank George W. Bush for this state of affairs; for years, he simply stood by as illegals streamed across the border. (And conservatives, inexcusably, mostly remained silent). But blaming Bush is futile—it won’t serve to solve the problem.
Two facts are indisputable. One, having twelve million people in our country illegally is unacceptable and dangerous. Two, it is impossible to deport them all, or even deport a significant percentage of them.
A third indisputable fact, which is nonetheless hotly disputed, is that it is impossible to fully secure our southern border. It’s just too long. Duncan Hunter claims to have built an impenetrable fence in his San Diego district—the fence is only a few miles long, and cost millions of dollars to build. Building a comparable fence across the border would cost massive amounts of money, and probably wouldn’t work that well anyway as long as people retain the ability to climb over fences. A secure border fence sounds like a good idea—but it wouldn’t work.
So what to do? We can’t keep illegals out, and we can’t deport them, but we can’t keep them here. So what can we do? We can remove the incentive that keeps them coming here—low-paying, menial jobs from employers who don’t care what immigration status their workers have. There are laws against hiring illegal immigrants, of course, but evidently few bother about them. (Farmers seem to hire particularly large numbers of illegals—there is no minimum wage for agricultural work, and it requires next to no training, making it ideal for illegal immigrants). Obviously, the penalties for hiring illegals are not nearly stiff enough—and must be raised until it stops becoming profitable for farmers and corporations to hire illegals.
Sadly, this probably won’t happen. The Democratic party won’t do anything that risks offending Hispanics—why antagonize a perfectly good minority voting bloc? And Republicans really are in the pocket of big business—they won’t do anything to end the flow of corporate money. And, of course, Republicans are also concerned about antagonizing Hispanics (who tend to be social conservatives), and Democrats get money from corporations too.
Neither party will act to fix the immigration problem. It’s much easier and more politically advantageous to simply ignore it, and hope voters won’t notice. (Which they aren’t). But eventually we will have to fix, and the future price of doing so will be enormous.