With the immigration reform debate some lawmakers are misdiagnosing the immigration problem; they are acting like doctors who are trying to treat the cold with cancer treatment. We would question the doctor, especially given the costly nature of the treatment and the potentially ineffective results. Within the immigration debate, we must question lawmakers, in this example GOP lawmakers, given the nature of their treatment and the potentially ineffective or counterproductive results. The Christian Science Monitor ran a brief article, “Immigration reform bill: Top 8 changes GOP senators want,” and looking at those points is a good place as any to look at what is going on.
I will note that the use of the term undocumented is done by the CSM. I prefer the term unauthorized since many of the “undocumented” do in fact have legally recognized documentation, albeit none which authorizes their stay.
Point 1: No US citizenship for the undocumented, period.
This point reeks of the punitive nature that underwrites much of this discourse. Why are we punishing people who are acting exactly as many of our ancestors acted in the past? What gets lost in the immigration shuffle is that most migrants migrate based on a rational decision. Many seek a better life when they face economic hardship, violence, political turmoil, abuse, and other push factors. This is something that we can understand with a simple historical analysis beginning from the time of the Founding Fathers. We are punishing people for behaving rationally and making a similar decision as our ancestors. There are exceptions, the Native Americans and slaves jump to mind, but even in these instances; but, many of these people, once granted a degree of civil rights and freedom, moved within the US in quest for better opportunities.
From a political perspective, this move is incredibly shortsighted for the GOP. Once we get down to understanding the demographical breakdown of the unauthorized populations, we realize that the epithets that are used to other unauthorized immigrants, such as calling them criminals, terrorists, or welfare queens/kings, represent a very, very small minority of the estimated 11-12 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the USA. From my research, it is clear that many unauthorized Hispanic immigrants have an economic and social political outlook which aligns itself better with the GOP than the Democrats. Any doubters should ask New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez why she is a Republican.
Point 2: More border security, please. (And no one gets 'legal' until that happens.)
Wayne Cornelius wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times not too long ago indicating that we have reached a saturation point in terms of border security and efficacy. He argues that the border, as it is, is quite possibly as efficient as it will be. Further investment in border security would be financially wasteful, a very un-Republican thing to want to do. His position is backed up by Jeffery Passel and colleagues’ paper that indicates that we either have net zero, or possibly even negative immigration from Mexico.
Point 3: DNA before green card;
Point 4: Fewer illegal immigrants eligible for legal status.
Once again, these points seems to be an overreaction to the supposed threats that unauthorized immigrants pose and/or an adamant demand that we punish people for making rational decisions. Obviously the DNA program would cost money but there does not seem to be a clear purpose for why we would be spending that money. Another potential problem is that the DNA requirement could scare unauthorized immigrants out of coming forward. Moreover, by greatly restricting eligibility for legal status, the US could still face spaces where it has a limited ability to affect control and have a shadow population that it knows relatively little about. The rational calculation of those who would be ineligible would not qualitatively change. In short, these measures will add a layer of bureaucracy that will undermine the objectives of immigration reform.
Point 5: A lot more guest workers;
Point 6: Tie guest workers to the unemployment rate.
These demands seem to paradoxical. The first demand is there to appease agricultural firms while the second is designed to temper the number of people who can legally migrate by reinforcing the idea the unauthorized workers take jobs away from American citizens. We have seen that American citizens have not actively gone to fill the agricultural jobs that are filled by unauthorized workers . When taken together, these two policy demands seem to be little more than lip service in order to appease two different constituency’s interests. If they were both adopted, their paradoxical nature would create a mess.
Point 7: Continue with deportations.
Here we have yet another indication of a misdiagnosed problem. What are these deportations achieving? Yes, unauthorized immigrants are being removed, but families are being torn apart and the communities that are affected are ever less likely to cooperate with the police. Arizona HB 1070 wrote about the threats of drug trafficking as an afterthought at the end of the bill. These measures may very well compound the difficultly level that law enforcement already faces in acting against drug trafficking organizations.
Point 8: Echoes of the Boston bombing.
If lawmakers think that the restrictions on refugees will eliminate lone wolf terror attacks, there are fools. We need to be careful with these reactions. They can be classified as moral panics in which we think that there is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with. Well, that is not the case when it comes to terrorism. It has been and remains a rare event; such measures will ultimately not change that.
In looking at these eight points, it is clear is that we have problems with identifying the problem. Yet these issues seem to be dominant in the current discourse. In order to question lawmakers and hold them accountable, we must first fight to understand the diagnosis.