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May 18, 2007

Comments

I guess I should probably add: I am so totally not the person to consider questions like: but what about all those people speaking other languages??!!, since I love foreign languages, and I love finding out about other cultures, and I tend to think of this aspect of immigration as: oh goody! I can do this even when I'm not in another country!

Which means that I just plain do not see the problem, so I can't be the right person to speak to it.

Great post, Hilzoy.

The guest qorker program drives me crazy too. We need 400,000 to 600,000 workers? Okay, fine. I'm dead certain there are 400,000 to 600,000 people from poor countries all over the world who don't want to be guests, but would like to citizens, and would be happy to do this work. Why not them?

Er, worker, not qorker. I do speak english, honest!

I'm a first generation legal immigrant and I don't agree with this bill. Hilzoy or someone noted Univision's citizen registration drive for millions of Hispanic permanent residents. Democrats should've engaged this grassroots effort instead of short circuiting it.

I'm also disappointed it appears asylum seekers won't be addressed. Two years ago I said border patrol agents weren't qualified to decide who deserved a judicial hearing and who did not, and asylum seekers would "accidentally" be turned away, two months ago a bipartisan commission unsurprisingly found that asylum seekers are being deported.

My guess is once the border patrol workforce Congress is supposed to appropriate doubles, Chertoff or the next DHS Secretary can split the workforce between patrolling the border and drug trafficking/terrorism. If this is the case in reality it means that we're not doubling border security; we're increasing law enforcement, so I find any news reporting saying we're doubling the size of the border patrol misleading. On top of this, if Bush has shown me anything it's that the executive can subvert laws that control executive agencies with impunity. He's not going to be in office forever but what if another Bush comes along?

For that matter, Democrats could have doubled patrol agents and looked into the asylum problem, increasing the federal government's immigration infrastructure and then offer a process towards naturalization and citizenship if they were dead set on it. At least you'd have the enforcement in place, ready to (hopefully) stop more illegal immigrants from crossing the border. But now there is a huge incentive to do so and the current border patrol workforce won't be able to stem the flow.

Back to Univision, Democrats have given their get-citizenship efforts less incentive. Oh demand may spike when the hatemongering piles on from the GOP, but it won’t last. If they really wanted to vote for struggling foreigners instead of business, they could have tried repealing NAFTA/CAFTA first.

I also find the emphasis on fences bizarre. I'm sure they have their place, maybe in urban areas, but do we really want to build and watch a fence along the entire border?

I would argue that the attempt to watch the entire border actively harms national security by massively diverting security resources from legitimate threats to the relatively harmless matter of 'illegal' immigration. We've got thousands of INS agents being assigned to work that (I would argue) is unnecessary and is completely futile even if one agrees with the goal; reassigning them to real security work (guarding the ports, maybe, or any of a dozen other jobs that aren't getting done) would make us a hell of a lot safer.

(b) We require them to do serious and prolonged detective work whenever they want to hire someone, and penalize them when they fail.

Speaking only as a technologist, and making no judgment as to the desirability of the unstated third alternative... Here is your work permit, roughly the size of a credit card. The device that will read the information encoded on the card, scan the person's iris (or thumb print if you prefer), match the person to the card and the combination against the national data base is, or soon will be, quite cheap. Fabricating the card will also be cheap. Phase them in over a period of years -- for example, when people change jobs, or get a new drivers license, or by 2017, whichever comes first. Set aside a few billion dollars to handle the obvious problem cases that will arise -- eg, the elderly native w/o suitable existing ID.

No hard detective work for the employer, and with a bit of care, the punishment handed out only to those employers who intentionally try to get around the system.

Yes to most of this, esp. the last bit.

Enforcement costs money. So does legalization, actually. The immigration courts are overburdened already, and I assume DHS is as well. When the immigration courts get overloaded they either try to move cases through faster--but they already devote less time to each case than almost any other administrative court in the country, don't issue written decisions, etc., and are deeply flawed in many ways; moving things through even faster will lead to even more mistakes. Or, you simply accept long delays between apprehending someone and deporting them. These long delays force you to either:
--trust someone to show up & keep showing up at court appearances despite the risk that he'll be deported at the end of the process (and the probability he won't be caught if he goes back into the shadows), or
--detain him for an extended period, which is both expensive and inhumane (especially in cases of asylum seekers who've been in prison enough, families with children, etc.), or
--deport people summarily w/o a hearing--this is called "expedited removal"--but this doesn't comply with due process unless you catch people at the border or a "port of entry". And it probably leds to people who deserve asylum being shipped home.

I remember joking last year with other people: "um, we actually kind of need you to stay in the shadows."

I'm certain there are other parts of the immigration system that need a lot more resources too; the courts are just what I know. I have no real idea what the true price tag would be, but it's not low. Extra $ in one year's budget for extra border patrol agents or a fence or contractor-built jails near the border is not really going to cut it.

Honestly, given limited resources I'm not sure to what extent this spending is cost-effective compared to, say, hiring more cops in crime-heavy neighborhoods. But if ending illegal immigration is a priority, it's going to cost us.

(The asylum part may actually distort my overall view--it's a relatively small # of people. But the under-enforcement of immigration laws, while not a good thing in general, is good for asylum seekers: to apply for asylum, you have to somehow get into the United States. This often requires entering without inspection, or overstaying your visa. It also helps to be able to find work while your claim is pending, since we don't give asylum seekers work authorization to avoid creating incentives to file false claims.)

I don't see why we should have to agree to a guest worker program. Is that really politically popular? Given that you have reason for strong opposition from both sides of the political spectrum I doubt it.

"If people can't find enough workers, I think they must just not be paying enough."

I imagine someone will suggest that if we favor raising the pay of all those people who pick our fruits and vegetables -- and I'm hardly opposed to that notion -- that presumably the consumer costs of our fruits and vegetables in the market will rise significantly as well.

It seems a point worth dealing with before it arrives hostilely.

"For large chunks of our history, we [...] didn't have any restraints on immigration...."

The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited citizenship, though not immigration, to free white persons "of good moral character."

There were minor changes in the Naturalization Act of 1795.

I don't recall that there were any other legal restrictions on immigration until the Chinese Exclusion Acts/Immigration Exclusion Acts of 1882, 1884, 1886, and 1888. Subhuman, opium-taking, Chinese were the menace then.

The Immigration Act of 1917, a period of tremendous nativism and anti-leftism, is when restrictions really started to come in. Asian Indians were, I believe, excluded. But no racism involved, you know!

Then rapidly followed a slew of acts restricting subhuman and threatening Japanese, Filipinos, and others, as well as Alien Land Laws restricting the brown people's right to own land, and so on.

The Immigration Act of 1924 was another huge response to immigration panic. Gotta keep out "undesirables"!

The Magnuson Act of 1934 was the first step in the other direction, followed by others.

Potted history here. Some useful links here. Some brief highlights on the history of immigration law here.
Another summary.

I tend to be dubious of immigration restrictions in general. People are people, for the most part. If you believe in freedom and the free market, you need a good reason to explain why people shouldn't be allowed to move and live where they like. There are some valid reasons for some restrictions, at certain times and places, but my approach is always skeptical until convinced otherwise.

The American tradition of the 19th century and earlier is one of free immigration, save for purely racist reasons, for what it's worth. The 20th century was marked by yet more massive racism in immigration law. It's not clear to me that the 20th century brought much improvement to our approach.

However, I would suggest that faint familiarity with the history of immigration law in the U.S. should answer the question "why bring race into it?" as regards the issue today: the observable answer is that race has always been utterly inextricable from how America approached the immigration issue, and what's inexplicable is how that could be ignored.

(Obviously, removing the issue as much as possible is a good thing, but like any other racial issue, we ain't hardly there yet.)

Thanks for a well-reasoned post that is as good as anything I've read on a difficult topic.

I'm a bit surprised, given the poor history of guest worker programs, that it was part of this bill. Like you, I think guest worker programs are terrible, for all the reasons you mentioned. Perhaps the inclusion of such a program was the only compromise possible at this time. If so my preference would be to pass nothing, and try again in a few years.

"Maybe we could make everyone wear radio ankle bracelets, so that we could tell when someone entered anyone's home or workplace, notify that person, and ask if the intruder was supposed to be there. Whatever."

I suggest GPS units.

"I also see no earthly reason why we should tolerate huge backlogs in the IRS."

I puzzled over the relevance of this briefly, until I realized you mean "INS."

Which doesn't exist anymore. It's the USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Thanks for playing Homeland Security Reorganization Bingo!

"Speaking only as a technologist, and making no judgment as to the desirability of the unstated third alternative... Here is your work permit, roughly the size of a credit card."

Yeah, this brings us back to the joys of the One Big Database system for all citizens. I, as usual, suggest looking into how brilliantly this notion is working out for the British at present.

I tend to avoid discussing immigration policy because it's not something I'm remotely expert in. I do idly wonder if anyone has done any serious economic studies of what the hypothetical results would be if we had no immigration restrictions, save on criminals. Anyone know?

Wow, hilzoy. I actually agree with all of that. I think that on more than one occasion I've stressed that the Border Fence isn't going to do squat, and we really need to be sanctioning employers, but I don't think I've ever put together a coherent set of viewpoints like you have done here.

Unfair, I know, comparing you to me. Still.

Anyway, my take on illegal immigration has long been let's remove the incentives, and it will decline.

And good point about law enforcement. Probably redundant, but: if we're going to have immigration laws, why are we not enforcing them? If we're going to have pay and wage laws, and tax laws, why are we not enforcing them? Why do we have this gigantic, balled-together group of exception where illegal aliens are concerned?

I think the newest objection to amnesty in the right blogosphere is that the newly-made citizens will most likely vote D. This isn't even on my list of worries.

"I think the newest objection to amnesty in the right blogosphere is that the newly-made citizens will most likely vote D."

This isn't a new concern; again, it goes back to the Know-Nothings of 1854, and part of the fear was votes for Democrats. This was part of the foundation of the Republican Party at that time, as well, when the Know-Nothing Party collapsed, and its remnants largely moved into the nascent Republican Party.

I know you said "in the right blogosphere," but there's no discontinuity in the history of these beliefs from when the blogosphere began, or the online world.

As I said before, this debate didn't start in 1980, or 1960, or 1900. Discussing it absent context makes no sense.

(Again, you can see the issue -- and specifically the relationship to voting -- dramatized in Gangs of New York, in a fictional way, though dates are played with, stuff rearranged, and so on; it's not a documentary.)

I've seen it, and am at least grazingly aware of the history. Decent movie, if one can swallow Daniel Day Lewis or Leonardio DiCaprio as physically intimidating.

"Decent movie, if one can swallow Daniel Day Lewis or Leonardio DiCaprio as physically intimidating."

Opinions varied. I'm a Scorsese fan, and a history buff, and I love good long movies, so I liked it. I wouldn't find fault with anyone who didn't, though.

It never occurred to me to not find Day-Lewis physically intimidating, and actually it never occurred to me about DiCaprio, either, but I find the latter more understandable. (Granted one might not find his character in My Left Foot physically intimidating.)

But at 5' 4", I'm probably apt to find almost anyone who isn't crippled who is 6' 1½" to be physically intimidating, let alone when they're filmed the way Bill 'The Butcher' was.

Gangs definitely got a mixed reception, to be sure.

But there isn't a Scorsese picture I don't like: they merely vary between whether I like them somewhat, or a lot.

Which reminds me, I have to get around to Age of Innocence, and Kundun. Still haven't caught up to those two.

On the low end of my scale, I wasn't excited by his version of Cape Fear, though it had interesting work, as always; and The Last Temptation of Christ wasn't really a film for me.

Well, I can't comment on Day-Lewis's portrayal, but the real-life Bill the Butcher was more annoying that intimidating. Just look at this 19th century drawing:

http://www.herbertasbury.com/billthebutcher/bb-knifeScene-DP.jpg


One of these days, Hilzoy is going to post on a major social issue and I'll disagree with her. I mean, statistically, it has to happen sooner or later. But it hasn't happened yet, and this isn't the time. I have been ranting along these lines on occasion for years (people are usually nice about it and occasionally throw me change if I'm carrying a coffee cup at the time), and Hilzoy tied it up in a nice little bundle w/ a bow on top. Yay, Hilzoy!

A few thoughts:
a) If you want a REALLY cheap and easy way to stop employers from hiring illegals, create a bounty system: an illegal who turns in his employer gets, say, $5,000 (to pay for the loss of work) and a green card. The problem with this solution is that, as Hilzoy notes, if you discourage border-state employers from hiring illegals without giving them a good way to distinguish, they'll distinguish on the basis of race. This is not only bad for legal immigrants, it's also terrible for the employers, who must choose between prosecution for hiring illegals and courting a Title VII claim by disgruntled applicants. So a national-ID system makes sense. Which leads me to...

b) Can anyone explain what the problem is with a national ID? I used to be against it, back in the 1980s, but these days information on everyone is so widely available that it seems pointless to cavil about one more source. And it would help solve various problems.

c) Perverse consequences of Hilzoy's plan: there will still be a LOT of poor people on the other side of that border. Some will turn to crime. Drug smuggling may increase. On the bright side, this might reduce the street price enough to make drug-related burglary and mugging less common.

d) Our whole agricultural economy is messed up, and needs a top-to-bottom overhaul. Making this change might actually trigger people other than agribusiness lobbyists to take a look at the Farm Bill, which might end up with us paying LESS for food -- and maybe, less in taxes as well.

Ezra has an informative post here, including this:

First, expect the temporary guest worker program to tumble from 400,000 to 200,000 workers, as Jeff Bingaman and Dianne Feinstein's amendment passes yet again.
My first observation on the bill, the other day, was that what the House, and conference committee, and full Congress, do, is going to matter a lot more than what the current state of this agreement is, and Ezra has more specifics.

Wow! One of your best Hilzoy. There is a lot of meat here. A lot I agree with. Darned little I don’t. This seems like a really serious effort on your part, and I for one appreciate it. Some stuff here I never quite got into the right words.

Thank you for putting the effort into this.

Something that puzzles me a bit about the immigration debate in recent years is the enormous emphasis on citizenship.

Historically, it was highly unusual for immigrants to seek citizenship. The vast hordes who arrived here in the 19th and early 20th centuries (my ancestors among them) came here for the exact same reason someone swims the Rio Grande in the dead of night today; to work. It was taken as a given that if you came here from the old country, you were here to work. And they did work, hard, long, grueling hours such that even if they had been educated enough to try and seek citizenship (many could not read or write; my great-grandfather went to his grave a little over a decade ago still unable to sign his own name) they wouldn't have had TIME to. It was their kids and grandkids who became citizens, thanks to being born here.

Skimming over the press releases, and what I saw on the cable news channels and other news stories about this bill and other times ones like it have come up for debate, it seems like every third word is 'citizenship.' 'Path to citizenship.' 'How many new citizens can we absorb?' 'How will these new citizens vote?' ad nauseum. Why? It seems like someone who trudges across the border to work in the fields (or cooking food) for twelve hours a day, seven days a week, will be taking the citizenship exam anytime soon.

"Historically, it was highly unusual for immigrants to seek citizenship."

Do have some data to support that assertion?

Regardless, why would that mean that illegal immigrants now, or at any other time, wouldn't want to be citizens?

Posted by: Michael Cain | May 18, 2007 at 05:47 PM

Here is your work permit, roughly the size of a credit card....

I only skimmed the responses so apologies if this point was made.

You're underestimating the complexity and the civil liberties issues involved because you're falsely inferring that it's sufficient for such a system to distinguish illegal immigrants (or those not authorized to work) from immigrants with a work permit.

But in fact, you not only have to make that distinction; you have to distinguish them from all kinds of citizens, both naturalized and native-born. I don't have a work permit for the United States. I'm a US citizen by birth and no one's ever said that I need one, although of course I do need documentation for the I-9 form upon getting hired.

Maybe this distinction isn't really more arduous than the current I-9 process, but most of the jobs hiring illegals are the ones not complying with the present process anyway. Forged docs might be part of the problem, but having known several illegal immigrants I don't think most of them were working jobs that even put forth an effort to verify I-9s.

So yeah, its an employer enforcement issue.

Gary: I do not have anything easily linkable or otherwise available in digital form,, unfortunatly. I'd refer you to the excellent works of Irene Bloemraad of UC Berkely, though, if you want to read some excellent but still accessible texts on historical trends.

I can tell you that of all immigrants to come here ever in our 230 or so years of history, approximately one in three became naturalized, that the 'peak' of the naturalization 'rate' came in (I believe) 1920 with a rate of 49% of all living immigrants naturalized, and that we're currently hovering around 35%. The most people ever naturalized in raw numbers in one year was in '96, with one million.

Google can probably confirm those facts if my word is insufficient for you, which being how I post here maybe twice a year in a good year, it probably isn't, and with good cause. :)

Anyway, one out of three isn't a very high historical average. It's perhaps not HIGHLY unusual, but I'd definitely say unusual.

And to answer your question, Gary... of course it wouldn't mean that. I imagine that most people living in this country on a permanent or semi-permanent basis would WANT to be citizens. Whether they WILL BECOME or are CAPABLE of becoming citizens is a different thing. My point was that if not very many people will become citizens even if we threw the gates open entirely and granted full amnesty to those already here, it seems silly to focus so much of the debate on it.

Uncontrolled, illegal immigration, yet another infringement on our rights by the gov't. Add it to the ever-growing list of violations:
They violate the 1st Amendment by opening mail, caging demonstrators and banning books like "America Deceived" from Amazon.
They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns during Katrina.
They violate the 4th Amendment by conducting warrant-less wiretaps.
They violate the 5th and 6th Amendment by suspending habeas corpus.
They violate the 8th Amendment by torturing.
They violate the entire Constitution by starting 2 illegal wars based on lies and on behalf of a foriegn gov't.
Support indy media.
Last link (unless Google Books caves to the gov't and drops the title):
America Deceived (book)

On point 1, I disagree. Guest workers come of their own volition and voluntarily agree to their terms of employment. If they don't like it, their homeland beckons. But I could go with not having a guest worker program at all and paying more for produce.

On point 2, how can anyone disagree. The tricky part will be whether the new law is crafted well enough so that the benefits from executing it exceed the costs. Since we don't know what the Senate version looks like and there's only a brief outline from White House, we have little to go on.

On employer sanctions, I think the Z visa would address that issue. If an employer hires folks without those visas, debilitating sanctions await.

On border security, fences work in concert with more agents and better more monitoring. Why make it easy for someone to cross illegally? Like with the drug problem, I believe the best way is to confront both the supply AND demand aspects.

On point 5, agreed.

On point 6, once you've come to the conclusion that the cost of deporting all illegals is enormous and impractical, then some provision needs to be made to bring them out of this weird limbo and into official recognition by our society. A huge majority are hardworking, productive and willing to take risks and make sacrifices to be here. Those are desirable American traits. This is why I favor the Z visas. They pay a fine, go through a security check and learn English (it may be a cheap price but it's not amnesty as my more theatrical GOP colleagues claim). They should also pay a chunk of money if they decide to renew after four years (I don't believe that's in the bill). Assuming that forging the visas is prohibitively costly and difficult, those without the visas get tossed. After that, it comes down to the question of whether we're willing to enforce it all.

On point 7, agreed.

"On employer sanctions, I think the Z visa would address that issue. If an employer hires folks without those visas, debilitating sanctions await."

I haven't studied this much, but I'm interested to learn that it's your assertion that all Americans who desire to work will need to get a Z visa. How will that work?

"On point 1, I disagree. Guest workers come of their own volition and voluntarily agree to their terms of employment. If they don't like it, their homeland beckons."

It's bold to stand up in favor of braceros and guest-worker programs: don't let facts stand in your way as to how they work! Just declare that it is too just, and brazen it out.

Is there some practical reason you expect it to work out differently this time, or what?

Well, let me amend that to non-citizens without Z or other valid visas, Gary. You OK with that?

On the guest workers, I'm also OK with not having it at all. The two years on and one year off part of it looks unrealistic and unwieldy, and I don't like the thought of our government determining what market demand will be.

"You OK with that?"

Better.

"On the guest workers, I'm also OK with not having it at all."

Yes, but do you still stand by this? "On point 1, I disagree. Guest workers come of their own volition and voluntarily agree to their terms of employment. If they don't like it, their homeland beckons."

Let me make the question more explicit, Charles: why would you want to bring in hundreds of thousands of "guest workers" who will be given no pathway to citizenship, who will then naturally bug out and become illegal immigrants here?

Saying "they can go home if they don't like it" will accomplish what, exactly, to prevent these hundreds of thousands of new illegal immigrants?

I don't get it.

Gary wrote:

"For large chunks of our history, we [...] didn't have any restraints on immigration...."

For large chunks of our history we had open frontiers, and small populations: in 1790 only 3.5 million; a hundred years later in the 1890s about 63 million. It was a time when most American earned their living by bending their backs and working with their hands - and we needed them to fill the open spaces and build the nation. Now we have 300 million people here: we don't need more foreign construction workers, truck drivers, house painters, building maintenance workers, nannies to fill those jobs -- we have an under-paid or unemployed work force who will do it for a few bucks more a week.

The Immigration Act of 1924 was another huge response to immigration panic. Gotta keep out "undesirables"!

The Immigration Act of 1924 also restricted immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans (Whites) but set no limits on immigration from Latin America (darker-skinned people). And although some of the strongest supporters of the law were indeed bigots influenced by stupid racist beliefs, many others proponents were concerned about maintaining an ethnic balance in the country (in the same way Liberals in the U.S. should be concerned about an ethnic influx of Mexican Catholics who, in general, are anti-Gay, anti-Abortion, pro School-Prayers). Those politicians were also concerned about protecting American workers whose jobs were being undercut by a seemingly unending wave of low-wage immigrants, especially in the big industrial cities, where (gee, who woulda thunk it) the now established children of recent immigrants (Irish, German, etc.) were vociferously in favor of the Immigration Act. This same attitude is expressed in a recent Pew survey I read that showed a majority of native-born citizens of Mexican descent were in favor of either maintaining the current level of 'legal' Mexican immigration, or reducing it.


"If you believe in freedom and the free market, you need a good reason to explain why people shouldn't be allowed to move and live where they like."

Sounds like the same rationale the Huns used when they sacked Rome.

"The 20th century was marked by yet more massive racism in immigration law. It's not clear to me that the 20th century brought much improvement to our approach."

In 2005 the total number of people who obtained legal permanent resident status (green cards) in the US was 1.1 million. Of those, about a third came from places like China, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Korea Israel, the Philippines, Syria, Taiwan, Turkey, and Vietnam. 85,000 were from African nations. Another 376,000 came from Spanish-speaking countries, not including Mexico, which had an additional 157,000. Only 180,00 came from Europe.

http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/yearbook/2005/OIS_2005_Yearbook.pdf

What problem do you have with that mix, Gary? As of 2006, the U.S. has been taking in more 'legal' immigrants as permanent residents, than all of the other nations combined.

impressive post -- i'm still weighing things, but i think i'm increasingly inclined toward the 12 million trumps 400,000. guest worker program is terrible, but the greater good seems (to me) to be a strong argument

why would you want to bring in hundreds of thousands of "guest workers" who will be given no pathway to citizenship, who will then naturally bug out and become illegal immigrants here?

I don't have a strong opinion about it, Gary, but you've convinced me that we'd be better off not to have a guest worker program at all. However, even with a dysfunctional GW program, I think the overall benefit of the immigration bill (at least the WH fact sheet version) will outweigh the drawbacks, or as publius said, that 12 million trumps 400,000.

I think it's grand of publius and you to give up and go for four hundred thousand guest workers, when the Democratic House bill is apparently apt to have only two hundred thousand, and we have no idea how the final version of their bill will come out, let alone what can be done in conference committee.

I live in a world in which if one thinks something is a bad idea at this stage that one fights it, rather than surrender in advance, and rather than negotiating, but yours and publius' mileage may vary.

I'd like to convince you both, though, to hold off on surrendering on having a large guest worker program -- or any guest worker program, until we have to.

For now, it seems to me there's plenty of sentiment -- for good reasons that people from both right and left can agree on, even if we perhaps disagree on other aspects of the bill -- against a guest worker program, and that this is the time to fight it.

If necessary, at the end, to include some guest worker aspect to pass the bill: well, why not wait to cross that bridge until we've got an evacuated hurricane city at our backs?

These are early days on this bill, for now.

Hope you'll both think about it.

Jay Jerome: "Now we have 300 million people here: we don't need more foreign construction workers, truck drivers, house painters, building maintenance workers, nannies to fill those jobs -- we have an under-paid or unemployed work force who will do it for a few bucks more a week."

Really?

[...] The demand for H1-B employees is so high that American corporations have filed for H-1B applicants, six months in advance of issuing the visa in 2007. USCIS has received over 130,000 applications from U.S. corporations for the 2007-2008 year quota of 65,000.
Moreover, every new citizen pays taxes, and pays for Social Security; they're a net economic benefit, not a drain.

"in the same way Liberals in the U.S. should be concerned about an ethnic influx of Mexican Catholics who, in general, are anti-Gay, anti-Abortion, pro School-Prayers"

If you think liberals (no caps, unless you're referring to the Liberal Party of NY, which isn't particularly) should be prejudiced against Catholics, your grasp of liberal principles is a touch lacking, I'm afraid.

"If you believe in freedom and the free market, you need a good reason to explain why people shouldn't be allowed to move and live where they like."

Sounds like the same rationale the Huns used when they sacked Rome.

That's quite brilliantly correct, save for the whole part about the free market and freedom being like Huns sacking Rome, and the other part about how immigrants move so they can find jobs, and thus pay taxes, and be law-abiding citizens, and thus everyone gains, which I believe is slightly different from the Huns' practices, though I could be misinformed.

I'm fighting the good fight over at Redstate, Gary, trying to convince the hardliners that the bill isn't amnesty and that it's better to support the bill and go for 854 miles of fence rather than 360 miles. I don't have a problem inserting a dump-the-guest-worker-program effort to the mix, and I may very well do so when I get the urge to write something.

Strange to say, I'm leaning against the bill, on the grounds that this one is just an awful compromise. In reading around, besides noticing Charles fighting the good fight (of course it's not amnesty, and bravo Charles for saying so), I couldn't help but be struck by the number of people saying: ha ha, they say all these somewhat nice things about enforcement, but look what happened last time. I do not want to add another round to that, and since I think that more border guards will have a marginal effect absent employer sanctions, I think that this is quite likely to fail, and thus to make it harder to do this right next time we have a chance.

The guest worker program sticks in my craw, the touchback provision is ridiculous, and I suspect the fines will be hard to manage for a lot of people, so it will end up conveying the message that you can come here illegally and get to be a citizen without helping some of the people who are actually here and need it most. Whereas I want to opposite: big help, small signal. (Or in my case, outweighed signal.)

the touchback provision is ridiculous

Keep in mind that one potential compromise would be for the "touchback" to be to the point of entry, NOT to the home country. I.e., if you flew into JFK or Denver International Airport, you touchback there. A rather significant difference.

This is an instance where it's worth considering Gary's point about when to pragmatically accept that a bill is the best compromise you're going to get, and when to keep fighting.

Something that has been under-mentioned is the role of push factors in immigration. Yes, millions of people are being pulled here by the opportunity for work. But solutions that focus primarily on this factor overlook the fact that a lot of people are leaving their countries because of push factors -- natural disasters, war, famine, gender or sexual orientation or HIV-status discrimination. A handful of those factors are even directly caused by the US.

We could have no jobs at all for immigrants, and we'd still have hundreds of thousands of people a year (if not millions) wanting to come here. There isn't a single solution for this, but it's important to remember when we talk about people coming here for jobs. Sure they are. They're also coming here to not get killed.

Great post and great comments. Some reactions (sorry, they are extensive):

#3: The one article of faith I have about any immigration bill is that there will not be any serious employer enforcement. I think the glue holding together the bipartisan coalition in the Senate is not so much hope for future Hispanic votes as concern for the needs of the business community. The draft bill contains stiff penalties for employers (see below), but the real question is not what is on the books, but what will be enforced. There are penalties on the books now, but they’ve generally not been enforced.

The bill is here on the AILA website:
Section 302(e)(4): civil penalties for employers of up to $75,000 per violation and Section 302(f) criminal sanctions for employers of up to 6 months in prison.

I see the guest worker program as a quid pro quo for legalization. Without the former, I don’t think this bill would contain the latter. However, I agree with Gary: many guest workers are likely to simply disobey the law and stay in the U.S. illegally.

Real enforcement of immigration laws would make the guest worker program even more desirable for businesses, since in the absence of illegal workers who can be paid very little, employers would simply have to pay higher wages. Therefore they need a guest worker program so they can pay guest workers lower wages. The business community might accept stepped-up enforcement if there is a guest worker program; it will not accept stepped-up enforcement and no guest worker program. And without the support of the business community, there is no bill.

#5: I agree that sibling petitions are a marginal issue. The current wait for a visa number in this category is 11 years and if you’ve been here illegally or worked without authorization, you are ineligible to get a green card from a sibling petition anyway. Losing this category is not the end of the world. I am not against the idea of moving towards a merit-based system—it seems to have worked well for Canada.

CIS is underfunded because Congress decided to fund it through fees charged to immigrants. The only practical way to eliminate backlogs is to have citizens bear more of the costs. That will be a serious political challenge for whoever attempts it, and I don’t know whether it’s included in the current bill.

Continuing …

#6: Believe it or not, lots of people would like to stay where they are born and grew up, where people speak their language and don’t despise them as outsiders. Some immigrants come here to start new lives in the U.S., but many others don’t come here for citizenship. They come here to work hard for 5-10 years, then go back home to buy a home or start a business there. Denying a path to citizenship for those already here won’t do much to stop lots of Mexicans and Central Americans from coming here to make money and then go back home.

What now causes many who would otherwise leave to stay illegally is that once they leave (to visit family, for instance) they can’t get back in.

In general, the causes of illegal immigration are not insufficient border security or lack of employer sanctions, they are structural imbalances in the global economy. Poor nations will always bleed workers into richer nations. Until those fundamental issues are addressed, each new bill passed every 10 years is just fiddling at the margins.

On the other hand, if history is any indicator, each new generation of immigrants will soon forget what it was like to immigrate and move to keep out later immigrants. Given the needs of the global economy and the persistent social need to exclude the “other”, I think the problems we face now will be around until we (1) seriously revisit our conceptions of citizenship and nationality and (2) move to rectify global economic imbalances. 1 and 2 are intricately related. That said, this bill is as good a temporary fix as we are likely to get. No bill is going to solve the major problems because immigration is itself caused by factors this legislation doesn’t begin to address.

yave begnet: Agreed on the need to do something about global imbalances. In the long run, the solution to this is a prosperous Mexico (and Central America.)

Also agreed on people not wanting to leave their homes. Someone earlier said: but serious immigration reform will hurt poor Mexicans, to which my basic answer is: surely there have to be better ways for us to help, as I think we should, that don't involve people uprooting themselves from their community and family and moving thousands of miles away to work illegally. There are people working here who haven't seen their kids for years. This cannot be the best thing for them.

I should also say that what really tempts me to support this bill is that, bad as it is, the bad parts have serious interests lined up behind them, and I don't know that any alternative bill will succeed if it defies those interests. I mean, is it supposed to be an accident that so little real enforcement of employer sanctions has occurred so far? And is there any earthly reason for the guest worker program other than its being good for agricultural interests and other businesses that want to cut labor costs?

And is there any earthly reason for the guest worker program other than its being good for agricultural interests and other businesses that want to cut labor costs?

As several people have pointed out, we've had sojourners for as long as we've had the U.S. So yes, there are actually people who want to come here and work and then go home again. (The phrase that sticks in my mind from Princeton sociologist Doug Massey is: "In the absence of a functioning mortgage market in Mexico," people come here to earn money to build/fix up homes.)

A good immigration system would allow them to be legally, straightforwardly admitted, fairly paid and protected while here, and free to return to their countries as they wish. In addition, those who did end up wanting to stay would be able to get in line for eventual permanent residency and citizenship. (N.b. If we got truly comprehensive immigration reform, I genuinely think the percentage who want to stay would be low. Folks who wanted to come permanently would apply that way to begin with.)

A lousy system, which we have seen around the world and in the several previous US guestworker programs, will combine the worst of both worlds -- barriers to easy entry, lack of protection (eg worker's comp) while in the US, and restrictions on ability to travel easily. Result: You get a permanent underclass rather than a flow of workers.

Yes, it's pie in the sky, but I don't think the mere idea of a temporary worker program is a disaster. Just most of the versions we've seen to date.

I read everything posted on OBW and rarely post any response. I need to congratulate all of you on a highly thoughtful, decent, and stimulating website. You give me hope for our democracy during these dark days of creeping autocracy.

It seems to me that the immigration compromise is just that, a compromise between what makes sense and what feeds our greed and what reduces our fear of anyone who appears to be different.

Y'all keep up the good work. I LOVE OBW!

I'm honestly skeptical of how we can cheaply, reasonably change employer incentives. After all, punishments impose a risk on employers.

Unless enforcement is very, very good (and how can it be), you'll have to scale up the punishment to Draconian levels to make the expected liability (some product of the punishments and the likelihood of getting caught) sufficiently disincentivizing.

The real problem here is that you are putting employers in a position where they are forced to accept a liability, while the other side -- illegal prospective employees -- is going to be motivated to deceive them.

If there were a national identity database that were nearly costless to access, how would we prevent identity thieves from trawling against it?

You're underestimating the complexity and the civil liberties issues involved... I don't have a work permit for the United States.

What I was pointing out is that a system which is hard to fool and easy for employers to use is both technically feasible and relatively inexpensive, so is an option that hilzoy could have considered. While a national ID system makes me very nervous, it may be relevant to point out that we require ID to purchase firearms and will be requiring ID in order to vote. If ID can be required for these constitutionally-protected activities, why not for work?

If there were a national identity database that were nearly costless to access, how would we prevent identity thieves from trawling against it?

There is a difference between access to the full content of the database, and a yes/no response to a query that asks (for example), "Does the person with this iris-print and this card number have permission to work in the US?" The iris-print matches the card to the person, and the database verifies that the card (with a specific iris-print) has a valid entry in the system. There may be an argument for giving law enforcement (using physically secured terminals) access to more data, but employers need only that yes/no response.

The demand for H1-B employees is so high that American corporations have filed for H-1B applicants, six months in advance of issuing the visa in 2007.

H-1B visas are for foreign nationals with 'specialty occupations'-- doctors, engineers, professors, computer programmers, etc. They have no relevance to the issue of American truck drivers, house painters, and maintenance workers losing their jobs to immigrants, legal and illegal.

Moreover, every new citizen pays taxes, and pays for Social Security; they're a net economic benefit, not a drain.

No, not true. The majority of Mexican immigrants (including those who were granted amnesty last time) consume more in public service dollars then they put in. This is because a disproportionate number of them remain low-skilled workers who pay negligible amounts of federal and state income tax.

Here in California, for example, we suffer billions of dollars in annual shortfalls for services rendered compared to the money the federal government returns to us. And of course those deficits don't include the cost to dispossessed American workers who continue to be screwed by immigration policies that marginalize them. In California, Blacks are among those who have suffered the most economic harm from the influx of low-wage Mexican immigrants. Compared to Latinos they have higher unemployment, higher poverty rate, own fewer homes, and substantially fewer businesses. How will providing additional amnesty to another twenty or so million low-wage workers help them? Or does your 'thus everyone gains' assertion mean everyone gains but blacks and the white working poor? In fact, they won't gain: they'll get painted into an even tighter corner. According to a recent study posted on the Pew site, between now and 2020 the non-Hispanic labor force is projected to increase by 9%; while the Latino labor force is projected to increase by 77%.

if you think liberals (no caps, unless you're referring to the Liberal Party of NY, which isn't particularly) should be prejudiced against Catholics, your grasp of liberal principles is a touch lacking, I'm afraid.

Fear not-- I can see you're an intrepid blogger, with a inclination for editorial condescension. Therefore, let me quote an equally prejudiced anti-Catholic article from the Pew Hispanic Center:

"Beyond the strictly religious realm … the roles Latinos play in U.S. politics and public affairs are deeply influenced by the distinctive characteristics of their religious faith... Religious expressions associated with the pentecostal and charismatic movements are a key attribute of worship for Hispanics in all the major religious traditions -- far more so than among non-Latinos. Moreover, the growth of the Hispanic population is leading to the emergence of Latino-oriented churches across the country."
http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=75

And here's a relevant survey on some of those Hispanic views:

76% of foreign-born Hispanic Catholics support prayer in public school classrooms. 67% support school vouchers for private religious schools. 64% are against gay marriage.

http://www.catholicvote.net/research_polls/catholic_vote/2004_report/findings_issues_hispanic_catholic_vote.pdf

So if you're an Agnostic like me who doesn't want prayer in public school, or you're gay and want to marry your partner, or believe school vouchers are a bad idea, you might want to consider the advisibility of extending citizenship to a large group of people with adverse ideas on those subjects, especially in light of the fact that Second and Third Generation Hispanics (don't like the caps, ah well) are quickly reaching voting age, and by 2020 the Hispanic population will increase 25 million (independent of the current amnesty proposal, which probably will inflate the number even higher).

Just a comment about Jerome's comment that
In 2005 the total number of people who obtained legal permanent resident status (green cards) in the US was 1.1 million.

Is there any way to determine how many are actually living in the country? I know a large number of spouses here in Japan who have a green card and make a yearly trip (Guam is the destination of choice here) to renew their green card, though many are giving it up because of the attitude of officials. I'm not sure what the numbers would be or how one would go about teasing them apart, but if a large number were green card holders because they were the spouses of American citizens (and I don't know how this works domestically), the situation may not be as conclusive as it suggests, but I don't know for sure.

Call me old-fashioned. I think the idea of iris-printing someone to hire them as your gardener is a little ridiculous.

Hope the government passes out free iris-scanners.

We once had a War on Drugs. Now we'll have a War on Employment.

To Ara's earlier point (draconian punishments): I'm hoping that more serious enforcement would do the trick. Hire a bunch of inspectors, let them loose.

About iris-scanning: I read somewhere that what they're trying now is something such that you (employer) scan in the person's permit number and get back a photo, so you can tell whether the person with the permit is in fact the person s/he says s/he is. Sounds lower-tech, and thus better, than requiring every McDonalds to have an iris scanner.

In general, though, I am clueless about what the right technology is, and so have no views about what specific system one should use, so long as it meets certain criteria, like allowing employers to verify work permits easily and reliably.

Jay, as a liberal who's opposed any sort of government-imposed prayers in school (I have no problem with other forms of "prayer in school" including Bible clubs, kids saying grace at lunch, etc.), the idea that we should turn down immigrants based on whether or not they share my political views turns my stomach, just as I'd object if right-wingers insisted we should reject Catholics, Muslims and Hindus in favor of Protestants.

In California, Blacks are among those who have suffered the most economic harm from the influx of low-wage Mexican immigrants. Compared to Latinos they have higher unemployment, higher poverty rate, own fewer homes, and substantially fewer businesses. How will providing additional amnesty to another twenty or so million low-wage workers help them?

The problem with this argument is that the immigrants are already here. They have already affected the labor market. I suspect that legalizing them would tend to raise wages and improve working conditions, if it has any impact at all. Employers' ability to cut corners on safety, overtime rules, etc. would be reduced.

In addition, I object to the use of the word "amnesty" in the context of this bill. A $5000 fine charged to a low-income worker is not, by any reasonable definition, amnesty.

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