What to Do About Immigration?

The GOP just released a set of principles that it considers necessary as preconditions to the passage of an immigration reform bill.  There are many commonalities between the House document – which is only a page long and speaks generally about what would be necessary for them to pass any such reform – and the “bipartisan” Senate immigration bill backed by such strategic geniuses as Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio, but addresses two of the most important flaws with that (once again gargantuan) Senate bill.

1) Border enforcement in the Senate bill was handled through spending increases promised AFTER amnesty was granted by a full decade.  This presages a massive rush of illegal immigration that would flood the country with 30 million people who didn’t respect our laws enough to come here legally and who would overwhelm the workforce with unskilled labor that would put the working poor in America out of jobs.
2) Incredibly, the Senate bill would have made it extremely difficult for border patrol officials and state police in border states to do their jobs – ending, for example, the practice of deporting people found in the commission of serious crimes without legal citizenship.
The House agenda on immigration, however, is not satisfactory to this commentator either.  They wish to create a class of illegal, undocumented workers through reforms that say that if you got here illegally, you would be granted legal status, but not citizenship.  The GOP is thinking of this as compromise…but all this will accomplish is to exaggerate the already existing state of class duality between illegal immigrants and American citizens.  It will encourage people to come here illegally on the promise of access to the services provided by our more robust government and by a healthier job market, but never grant them the vote or access to social security or medicare or any of the other big ticket items that make living here attractive to legal immigrants.  Strategically, this will result in a long string of rhetoric from Democrats about how the GOP wanted minority immigrants to be second class citizens all along and cost the GOP any support it might think it’s winning by participating in bipartisan reform among Hispanics and other minority groups.
So…what sort of compromise will maximize happiness in Hispanic communities without giving the Democrats a gigantic political victory that would cripple Republicans for years to come?  What is fair in a society that respects the rule of law, but also respects the personhood of all within its borders?
On the humanitarian score, “pathway to legal status” is not a solution.  It will create a wedge issue that will destroy the GOP brand among Hispanics, and for good reason.  Why on Earth would we give illegal immigrants legal status but make them second class citizens as the price for their initial act of illegality?
The libertarian answer is to create a pathway to citizenship, enforce the laws we have more aggressively, and massively expand the guest-worker program.  But this, too, seems unsatisfactory – and exploitative.  Let them come here to work and benefit our economy through cheap labor (and cripple the American citizens’ job prospects, oh BTW), but do nothing to improve the paths people have to reach citizenship?
The tea party is, predictably, naive on this issue, insisting that the GOP take a hard line stance and begin deporting illegal immigrants while building giant border walls as though we live in Soviet Russia.  I want to be sympathetic here – I understand that in border states, there’s a big problem with crime associated with illegal immigrants who come to the country for person gains and do not respect our laws.  But not every immigrant comes here illegally because he or she does not respect our laws.  Many illegals come here because they are just flat desperate – desperate to live the American dream and escape the harsh criminal elements that dominate police forces and city streets throughout the developing Hispanic world.  They’d do it legally, but the process of obtaining legal citizenship is even more byzantine than the process for a legal citizen to obtain a driver’s license or supplemental security income (trust me…I have experience with the latter…it is brutally complex and takes forEVER…and immigration is even worse).
This is a major political headache for the GOP – one that they are trying to cure while they have momentum.  Many are asking why the GOP is even taking up the issue now while the democrats are reeling and prospects for a GOP takeover of the Senate are excellent?  I believe it’s because they don’t want to have to keep dealing with this issue and figure now is a good time to handle it while their political capital for the upcoming election is massive (the Unaffordable “Care” Act will see to that).
But they’ll need to tread lightly.  They’ll need to pass something that the base can swallow while still wishing to end Obamacare and replace it with something better.  So this is what I would do:
  • FIRST: enforce the borders.  Not in a decade, not in five years, not with promissory notes for future spending that could be nixed at the whim of the democrats when they again have control.  Now.
  • SECOND: Grant legal status (but not citizenship right away) to all those here illegally through the guest worker program after two years following the passage of the bill.
  • THIRD: Create a pathway to citizenship for those who received a guest worker card, but require that they get in line with everyone else attempting to emigrate here legally, that they learn English, and that they pass a basic citizenship exam like everyone else who comes here legally.
  • FOURTH: Massively increase the authority of the border patrol, the FBI, and state and local police forces to immediately deport guest workers convicted of a crime – we expect that all people, including those arriving through immigration, will respect the rule of law.
  • FIFTH: Extend some critical benefits to all guest workers…give them a hand up with job placement programs, education credits so they can learn the language and train themselves with new skills, access to health services – but do not give guest workers access to the hand out portions of the social welfare state.  Do not grant them unemployment or social security (and do not tax their work for social security until they are legally citizens – we want to be fair here) or SNAP cards.  We want to create an environment that makes sure the basic needs are provided for that give all immigrants a real chance at the American dream without turning the country’s welfare programs into a blank check for non-citizens who arrived illegally for the purpose of obtaining those benefits.
  • SIXTH: Revoke guest worker status and deport those who fail to continue looking for work and do not possess gainful employment for more than one year.  We also expect that if you come to America, you not contribute to the problem of unemployment, and we do not view deportation is cruel in that case (if you’re not finding work here, perhaps you should try elsewhere?).
  • SEVENTH: Dramatically increase the limits currently in place for legal immigration…make it easier to come here legally.
I’m trying to find the balance between a desire to be welcoming to all people who would wish to share in the American way of life and the need to make sure that everyone here respects the rule of law and blends successfully with our culture so that they will not be exploited as cheap labor.  This represents a first draft of my thoughts on the issue, and I would welcome constructive criticism.

On Being Catholic & Politically Conservative

Sub Spike not-so-subtly requested over email that I comment on the following WaPo editorial (and because he is my father, I shall oblige him):

Catholic Republicans’ political beliefs, challenged by their faith
by Michael Gerson

The Catholic tradition asserts the necessity of limited government. The establishment of justice and acts of compassion should be done at the lowest, most human levels of society, instead of by distant, centralized bureaus – a perspective fully consistent with the designs of America’s founders. But gaps in the justice and compassion of a society require government intervention to secure the common good, which is not common until it includes the poor, the immigrant, the sick, the disabled, the unborn. Catholic teaching elevates the primary importance of families, charities and strong communities – while rejecting the simplistic notion that such institutions render government unnecessary. In determining the proper balance between civil society and government, there is much room for political debate. But the search for that balance is a source of sanity in our political life, involving the rejection of both collectivist and libertarian utopias.

So how will Catholic Republicans respond to these arguments? The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, after all, has no canonical standing, just a moral authority that has been recently diminished by scandal.

But there will probably come a point when red lines get crossed and Catholic and other religious leaders declare: Contempt for immigrants, even illegal immigrants, is not a moral option. Or, cutting AIDS and malaria funding violates pro-life principles. Or, health-care repeal without a serious alternative is not responsible.

At that moment, one hopes, the faith of politicians has sunk deeper than the skin – and that they will be less nasty than they otherwise would have been.

Gerson is basically right about Catholic teaching. That’s why you will never see me espouse the kind of radical libertarianism which declares that government is good for nothing but mustering a police force. I don’t object to the existence of a basic social safety net.

Where Gerson goes wrong, I think, is in his assumptions about the Tea Party movement. There are hardcore libertarians and militia members who attend Tea Party rallies, but I think most Tea Partiers are just like me. They’re not opposed to government full stop. They are opposed to the bloated and wasteful government supported by Obama and his coterie of followers in the Congress.

The paragraph I highlighted above reveals Gerson’s incorrect interpretation of the Tea Party movement most distinctly. When he declares, for example, that contempt for illegal immigrants is not a moral option, he simultaneously implies that we Tea Partiers are guilty of such contempt. In my case at least, the exact opposite is the case. I believe we should curb illegal immigration not because I hate Latin Americans, but because I care for them.

Allow me to expand upon my last statement: Because our immigration laws have been imperfectly enforced – and because we have backed away from assimilating new-comers – we have now within the United States a virtually permanent underclass of unskilled laborers. Because these laborers live off the grid, they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation — and more often than not, this wretched status is passed down to these laborers’ children. I have personally worked with Hispanic adults who failed to get even an elementary education even though they were born and raised in the U.S.. That is how stratified our society has become.

Amnesty advocates claim that simply declaring these laborers legal residents after the fact will correct this pervasive injustice, but amnesty does nothing to bring such people into the true mainstream — and it certainly doesn’t ameliorate the dangers of the illegal entry itself. (“Oh, yes. We can get you over the border — if you agree to work as a sex slave.”) If, on the other hand, we insist that people have their documents in order before they cross our border, there is, in my conservative opinion, a far greater chance that we can protect them from abuse.

Thus, to summarize: I believe we should enforce our immigration laws because their lack of enforcement has resulted in more social injustice, not less.

Gerson is also wrong to imply that we conservatives wish to repeal Obamacare without proposing any “serious alternatives”. At the same time Congressional Republicans decided to vote for repeal, they also put together a committee whose very mission is to come up with alternatives. Just because you personally don’t consider free market solutions to be “serious” doesn’t mean they aren’t, Mr. Gerson. Be careful not to present your opinion as an objective fact.

In general, I’ve experienced very little substantive conflict between my political beliefs and my Catholic beliefs. I am perhaps a bit more hawkish than our current or previous pope, but the Catholic principle of subsidiarity and the Church’s consistently fierce denunciations of both Communism and secular humanism make me quite confident that I am sitting in the right political camp. What I find most challenging as a conservative Catholic is keeping a Christian tone. Because I am, shall we say, a young woman of passion (heh), I find the nastiness of our political discourse to be a constant source of temptation. My first urge is always to punch back when I feel I’ve been wronged; Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek is, for me, a very difficult thing to put into practice — particularly on the faceless medium that is the Internet.

Yet Another European Leader Declares Multiculturalism a "Failure"

Full text: David Cameron’s Munich speech on segregation, radicalisation and Islamic extremism

In the UK, some young men find it hard to identify with the traditional Islam practised at home by their parents whose customs can seem staid when transplanted to modern Western countries.

But they also find it hard to identify with Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity.

Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.

We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.

We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.

So when a white person holds objectionable views – racism, for example – we rightly condemn them.

But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them.

The failure of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage – the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone they don’t want to – is a case in point.

This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared.

All this leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless.

And the search for something to belong to and believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology.

Read the whole speech. Despite his insistence that Islam and Islamism are not equivalent, the British left will surely rake Cameron over the coals for this. And that’s a shame, because he is absolutely, 100% correct.

Good Reads

These articles are definitely worth reading:

Two Californias
by Victor Davis Hanson @ NRO
Abandoned farms, Third World living conditions, pervasive public assistance — welcome to the once-thriving Central Valley.

Atlanta’s Public Housing Revolution
by Howard Husock @ City Journal
Renee Glover has torn down blighted projects, required tenants to work, and transformed lives.

*****

In other news, this has been a pretty great week for the Congress. The cloture vote for the DREAM Act has failed, the cloture vote for the repeal of DADT (which we support) has passed, the tax cuts have been extended, and one of those outrageous omnibus spending bills has been pulled from the floor entirely. Bwahaha! Awesome.

What We Should Say About Immigration

We are not against legal immigration.

Our local Catholic parish is incredibly diverse. Our congregants are predominantly Hispanic, but we also have Vietnamese, Korean, and African immigrants among our number. We don’t all dress the same on Sunday morning, we don’t all privately pray in the same language, and our autumn fun festival is more a bazaar of foreign foods than anything else. And I personally have no problem with any of these facts. I think my life has been made all the richer through my interaction with immigrants from all regions of the world.

American is a nation based on creed. So come! Come and contribute to our economy. Come and embrace our representative democracy. Generations ago, my Irish-Catholic ancestors did the same.

As a matter of fact, if you have skills or knowledge we need, we will help you get here quickly and with minimum fuss.

I teach a lot of Korean teens who are here on student visas. They are here because they want to take advantage of our university system, which is the greatest in the world. Trouble is, when these kids finish earning their advanced degrees in business, technology, science, and engineering, they will have to leave the U.S. and apply for re-entry. That’s silly – an unnecessary hassle. We should make it clear to the world’s brightest minds that, should they wish to come to study and work in America, we won’t put obstacles in their way.

Moreover, once you’re here, we will leave you alone (to a point) to observe whatever traditions you wish.

As I said, I work with Koreans. They eat Korean food and speak Korean amongst themselves. This doesn’t bother me at all. And it won’t bother most Americans because most Americans live by the adage “live and let live.” Pray to whomever you wish, eat whatever food you wish, and wear whatever clothing you wish. We won’t care. As a matter of fact, we may decide we want to learn more about your people. I know I would love to learn Korean.

However, we do have some minimum requirements:

You can speak your native language at home, but our public language is English.

Learn our Constitution and live by it. In particular, study the Bill of Rights. We will not countenance attempts to impose a particular religion or ideology on our populace.

Be familiar with our laws and live by them as well. We will not tolerate wife beating, honor killing, or the practice of slavery (among other things).

We have these requirements not because we wish to oppress you, but because we want you to be on an equal footing with all those who came before you.

If you fail to learn English and abide by our laws, you will be trapped in menial jobs with no hope for advancement — and the last thing we want to do is create a permanent underclass.