November 13, 2012 1 Comment
I’ve been watching the Republican circular firing squad for the last week, as many many folks have written on the topic of immigration and/or courting the “Hispanic vote” (with the unfortunate monolithic implication that it carries), and I think that nobody’s quite got it right.
I wrote about this in dec 2007, in june 2007, and april 2006, but I’m not sure I said it clearly enough then: the problem is not amnesty or enforcement, the problem is the whole broken immigration system.
The right immigration policy for the United States can well be summed up (in my opinion) by the words of Emma Lazarus’s poem The New Colossus engraved on the Statue of Liberty:
…”Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
So then – if we’re getting oodles of people from points South, why not pick a few places and treat them the way Ellis Island was treated in the past? You get in, stand in line, get your provisional ID card (no government benefits for a few [3 perhaps?] years, but other than that, you’re an American now). We want people to come here and be Americans – this is the country which is founded on the idea that life here can be better (by dint of greater economic and religious freedom) than elsewhere: that’s why people keep trying to come here. It’s a good problem to have.
We should not indulge the nativists and those who cloak nativism in technocratic solutions: we don’t need H1-B, guest-worker, or any other funny temporary programs – we have plenty of people who want to come here and stay here, becoming Americans in the process.
Where we have gone off the rails is that we have built a system which is easier to evade than it is to follow. This is somewhere between foolishness and madness. Obviously border security is important: if the Canadians ever decided to invade, you’d better Beliebe that we’d be in for a world of hurt. We do need to be able to have a clear and coherent border security process where the folks allowed in are allowed in and the folks not allowed in are not.
HOWEVER, this foolishness needs to stop. The party of small government, of individual freedom and responsibility, of equal justice, and of civic duty, desperately needs to quit wallowing things that drive away people who want to (a) be left alone, and (b) build a better life for themselves and their families.
It’s time to fix the system. Let’s make a new covenant – “El Paso Island” perhaps – where we can normalize all of the hardworking, decent people who just want a better life. I don’t care if they don’t have any particular skills*: I had plenty of ancestors who came here from Europe without any particular skills*, and so did pretty much everyone else. Come on in, the country is fine, and we’re better for having you here.
* – that is, no particular skills except for the desire to work extremely hard.