Bring Back Old Immigration Reform


C
onservatives say that violence and crime has gone up
, but it hasn’t. According to the

Immigration Policy Center:

Supporters of Arizona’s harsh new immigration law claim that it is, in part, a crime-fighting measure.  However, people like Republican State Senator Russell Pearce of Mesa, the bill’s author, overlook two salient points: crime rates have already been falling in Arizona for years despite the presence of unauthorized immigrants, and a century’s worth of research has demonstrated that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born. Furthermore, while much has been made about kidnappings in Arizona, law-enforcement officials indicate that most of these involve drug and human smugglers, as well as smuggled immigrants themselves—not the general population of the state.

Supporters of the immigration law say a rancher got killed by an illegal immigrant when,
in fact, it was likely done by a drug runner. The Arizona Daily Star reports:

The killing of a Southern Arizona rancher that sparked an outcry to secure the border was not random, and investigators are focusing on an American suspect, the Arizona Daily Star has learned.

High-ranking government officials with credible information spoke to the Star, citing a desire to quell the fury over illegal immigration and drug smuggling set off by the shooting death of longtime rancher Robert Krentz on March 27.

They said Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever is investigating a person in the United States, not in Mexico, in connection with the shooting."

It was likely something to do with drug runners, not illegal immigration. A drug runner doesn’t cross the border and stick around to cut people’s grass; they run back across the border. These laws wouldn’t do anything to fight the drug problem–that’s something that would require getting rid of drug prohibition to fix.

Supporters of the law point to an April 30 shooting against a police officer by what is suspected to be an illegal immigrant. The problem is they forget to mention one aspect of the shooting:

"State and federal law enforcement agencies deployed helicopters and scores of officers in pursuit of the suspects after the deputy was shot with an AK-47 on Friday afternoon, and the search continued into the night."

This sounds more like drug runners, not illegal immigrants. An illegal immigrant will avoid being noticed so as to avoid being caught illegally residing on the wrong side of the border.

The federal government hasn’t done much to fix the problem with illegal immigration.

This is very true. The federal government can do more and does have the power to do more but it hasn’t and it won’t. According to Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal:

Just four years ago, 62 U.S. senators, including 23 Republicans, voted for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. That bill was co-authored by Arizona Republican John McCain and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy. President Bush strongly supported it. The Republican supporters also included such conservative senators as Sam Brownback of Kansas and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The 39 Democratic supporters included a freshman senator from Illinois named Barack Obama.

FOUR years ago. It could have been over and done with. Ronald Brownstein:

The bill attracted substantial support from business, religious, and civil-rights groups. The measure almost certainly could have attracted the necessary 218 votes to pass the House. But it died when House GOP leaders refused to bring it to a vote because they concluded that it lacked majority support among House Republicans.

They had the votes in the House but it was polling badly for the Republicans so they killed it. They had the opportunity and bipartisan support but they decided to go with politics instead of fixing the problem. Brownstein again:

Since 2006, Republican support for comprehensive action has unraveled. In 2007, Senate negotiators tilted the bill further to the right on issues such as border enforcement and guest workers. And yet, amid a rebellion from grassroots conservatives against anything approaching "amnesty," just 12 Senate Republicans supported the measure as it fell victim to a filibuster. By 2008, McCain declared in a GOP presidential debate that he would no longer support his own bill: Tougher border enforcement, he insisted, should precede discussion of any new pathway to citizenship.

The problem is that the solutions for the illegal immigration problem are unpopular. People just want to spit on illegals, not really fix the problem. That’s why Arizona is doing this even though illegal immigration isn’t a real problem. If anything, illegal immigration is a good thing for the economy and the communities. Why? Because not only do illegals work and stay out of trouble (illegals will try to stay out of trouble so as to not attract attention to themselves; this is also why higher illegal populations have led to lower crime in Arizona).

As a matter of fact, illegal immigrants are good for the economy and the future of the

country. Eamon Javers of Politico reports on Bill Clinton:

In a panel discussion with moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News, Clinton said that the United States has become an “older society” and needs newcomers to provide the labor force and pay the taxes necessary to finance the retiring generation. His remarks came at a summit convened by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to discuss ways to deal with the runaway national deficit.

“You’ve got to have more immigrants. You’ve got to reverse the age ratio,” Clinton told an audience heavy on Washington policy wonks and media types.

Calling the United States an “aging civilization,” Clinton cited nations throughout history in which “older societies become obsessed with security.” Now, in the U.S., he said, that’s driving interest in national defense, Social Security and Medicare.

The reason Medicare and Social Security (M/SS) are going to break the back of the economy is because while there are plenty of people working and paying in to M/SS for each person getting the benefit a decade ago, now there are only 2 for each beneficiary. In the future it’ll be one person paying in for each 3-4 retirees getting the benefits. This means the federal government is going to have to subsidize M/SS heavily and increase taxes to do it. The reason for this is because of the Baby Boomers. We need more people in the US (through immigration) so we can have more people working, paying in to M/SS so we don’t have 2:1 ratios and instead go back to 5-6:1 ratios. The higher the ratio, the less the federal government has to subsidize M/SS.

That’s where immigrants come in. We need more people in this country, not less.

On top of that, immigrants actually grow the economy. The more people there are in the

country, the more people there will b

e to buy things within our economy–meaning we’ll have strong growth. Strong growth means higher tax revenue. Higher tax revenue means smaller deficits. Smaller deficits means less debt. It’s a positive.

Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute explains:

The evidence favoring immigration reform is stark in a way that ought to appeal to Republicans. A robust temporary-worker program would reduce illegal immigration and add billions of dollars in productivity to the U.S. economy.

The economic and demographic realities that have fueled illegal immigration are still in place. In normal years, the U.S. economy produces hundreds of thousands of new jobs in retail, landscaping, food preparation and service, and home and commercial cleaning, all of which attract immigrants with limited job skills.

At the same time, the number of native-born Americans satisfied with such jobs continues to decline as the population becomes older and better-educated. The number of adult Americans without a high school diploma is expected to drop by another two to three million over the next decade. Yet our immigration system offers no means for a sufficient number of foreign-born workers to enter the country legally and fill that gap. So they enter illegally.

[…]

Allowing more legal workers to enter the country would also boost the productive capacity of our economy by allowing important sectors to expand, creating more middle-class employment opportunities for Americans. A 2009 Cato Institute study predicted that a sufficient temporary-worker program would boost the real income of U.S. households by $180 billion a year. A January study by the Center for American Progress came to a similar conclusion.

This is from a 2003 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas:

The pace of recent U.S. economic growth would have been impossible without immigration. Since 1990, immigrants have contributed to job growth in three main ways: They fill an increasing share of jobs overall, they take jobs in labor-scarce regions, and they fill the types of jobs native workers often shun. The foreign-born make up only 11.3 percent of the U.S. population and 14 percent of the labor force. But amazingly, the flow of foreign-born is so large that immigrants currently account for a larger share of labor force growth than natives.

Now, see how I went from talking about illegal immigrants to regular immigrants? The illegal immigrant problem exists because the federal government has failed to act. This is because it’s unpopular to go anywhere near the word amnesty. The illegals already in this country will eventually be given amnesty because it would be much, much simpler and cheaper to just do that. If anything, they can be given an opportunity to sign up for legal, permanent residency (green card) so they’re not illegal any longer. They’ve been here; as long as they do not have a criminal record (of course they won’t, if they did, they would have been deported), there should be no problem–except for those who just want to spit in an immigrant’s eye.

The illegal immigration problem is an illusion. It’s a fake problem. Will Wilkinson’s words are

full of wisdom on this:

The best way to get rid of the bad external effects of unlawful immigration is to bring what is lawful in line with what is right. A common North American labor market would bring cross-border labor migration within the rule of law, thereby establishing order and peace where there is now disorder and violence. All this while increasing liberty and encouraging rather than discouraging cooperation and the efficient production of wealth!

Wilkinson is saying that instead of fighting immigration with immigration law, we need to change immigration law to deal with the reality of the situation. Don’t fight what you can not defeat. Increasing border security will not stop immigration unless we build a super wall–something that not only would cost a lot as an investment but would also have a negative effect on trade. We’ve already established that immigration is actually a good thing for the economy, building a physical wall on top of the legal wall of immigration would simply make things a whole lot worse.

The immigration reform that was proposed and shelved would have done a lot of good. Brownstein elaborated on the reform bill proposed in the Senate four years ago:

It established a guest-worker program to regulate the flow of immigrant labor. (Under an Obama amendment, that guest-worker program would be suspended whenever unemployment reached 9 percent.) And it provided a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who pass a background check, pay a fine, and learn English.

Not only would the English-only crowd get what they want but the security/safety crowd would also be assured no illegal immigrant given amnesty would have a criminal record. People worried about job competition during economic downturns such as The Great Recession which we are in would have been happy to see Obama’s amendment at work.

Border security is important, no doubt. We should know who is coming across our borders–and we can make that happen. Brownstein notes the shelved reform bill “would have toughened enforcement of immigration laws, devoting additional resources to guarding the border and policing employers who hire undocumented workers.”

Griswold from Cato piles on:

We know from experience that expanding opportunities for legal immigration can sharply reduce illegal immigration. In the 1950s, Congress dramatically expanded the number of temporary-worker visas through the Bracero Program. The result was a 95 percent drop in arrests at the border. If Mexican and Central American workers know they can enter the country legally to fill jobs, they will be far less likely to enter illegally.

A workable temporary-visa program would allow border agents to concentrate their efforts on intercepting real criminals and terrorists at the border. It would also reduce the temptation to hire illegal workers, in turn reducing the need to raid workplaces and impose national ID cards, employment verification systems, and other burdens on American citizens.

It could have been done if the GOP had not blocked immigration reform four years ago. The racism and anti-immigration voters, however, don’t want real, positive, reality-based change. They simply want to applaud Sheriff Arpaio for each immigrant he handcuffs, starves and beats in his jails.

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