More thoughts on Immigration

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on June 20, 2018

Ross Douthat, the New York Times’ token conservative columnist, wrote some in the NYT Sunday edition something with which I agree, up to a point, and which, like me, he has been advocating for a long time.

(I respect Douthat, even though I seldom agree with his positions. He has a cogent, intellectually consistent personal philosophy and can articulate it clearly. Also, Douthat is capable of creative thinking, which is not to be found among typically ideological conservatives.)

Specifically, Douthat argues to strengthen the E-Verify system and mandate its use for every hiring. He opines this is less cruel than Trump’s current deterrence policy of separating children from their parents. Duh!

Immigration is like the drug trade, or any other classic supply and demand market. There is demand for drugs in the U.S., so people smuggle them in to meet it, at great risk. Likewise, there is a demand for labor (read job opportunities for immigrants) in the U.S., so people smuggle themselves in to meet it, at great risk. Cut off the demand – the jobs – and the supply – the immigrants – declines.

When I wrote above that I agree with Douthat up to a point, I did not mean that he has gone too far. Rather, I mean that he has not gone far enough. It is insufficient to leave it there.

First, there have to be real teeth in the E-Verify mandate. Employers who violate it must pay a heavy price, by which I mean jail, not fines.

Cutting off the supply of job opportunities is easy with a robust E-Verify law (though I would prefer a more robust, technologically advanced national identity card). The reason we don’t have one now is because many employers want the labor and the penalties for violation lie more heavily on the immigrants than the violating employers. Send a few business owners to jail, including some big agribusiness owners, and it will reduce employment opportunities for illegal immigrants to near zero rapidly.

Note: with this done, we won’t need is an expensive border wall. Control of the labor supply will render it superfluous. We can invest the money in national identity card technology.

So, now comes the tough part. We must still come to grips with how much immigration we want, and what kind, decisions that have bedeviled us for years. And, we must come to grips with the workers and their families who are already here, as well as the Dreamers, and children who are piling up at the border as I write. If something isn’t done about the child abuse we are inflicting on those children, President Trump’s prediction will come true. We will end up with a bunch of immigrants who may be socially unfit for our society when he is done with them.

(I had drafted something here about Trump’s intransigence, but it is out of date as of today. He has been, as always, playing to his base, which is among other things, virulently xenophobic. But that base is shrinking, at least at the margins (read suburbs and among mothers), and if Trump couldn’t see it, others in his party could, and took action. (I suspect what we were hearing from Republican Congresspersons in public is far different from what Trump was hearing in private.)

Perhaps this is the time to relate a personal experience. During an extremely acrimonious divorce, two of my children were withheld from me for a brief time – three weeks, maybe four or five; it seemed longer. Fortunately for me, justice prevailed quickly, but the experience was one of the two most painful and agonizing of my life. I can appreciate vividly how those parents whose children were taken from them feel.

Now we’re hearing that some of the parents and their children may never be able to be reunited, almost predictable given the incompetence of the Trump administration. If this is the case, some high ranking members in the administration need to go to jail, maybe for as long as those parents and children are suffering, which would be a long time indeed.

Immigration law is the job of our legislature, which, unfortunately, hasn’t been functioning for almost two decades for any purpose much beyond naming post offices. We must elect people willing and able to resolve this. (Perhaps the one and only bright spot in the Trump presidency is that it may shift the composition of the Legislative branch to the point it will fulfill its function again, but it is still a long shot.)

The solutions to our immigration policy are as obvious to me as I assume the solutions of the xenophobic Trump base are to them, and we are poles apart. But we must thrash this out. If it were easy, anybody could do it. Well, it’s not easy, so it will take capable people, of whom we have too few in Congress today. There are some out there. Let’s sift through the résumés carefully and hire better ones this November. Sadly, solutions may have to wait until then, maybe longer.


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