Immigration Reform Is Dead (For This Year)

Over the weekend, Republican Representative Paul Ryan said, in his opinion, immigration reform was dead for 2014.  The sense was that Ryan was reflecting realities, not his personal preferences.  Republicans appear too ideologically divided to settle on any one sensible immigration position.  And, 2014 is an election year.  Ryan gratuitously allowed that too many Republicans believe that President Obama would wink at increased border control and move to open the path to citizenship instead.

I would hope that President Obama or anyone that succeeds him will do the same.  The preoccupation with “securing the borders” is a fools errand.  The US prides itself in being an open country and foreign visitors, for all sorts of reasons, are both a matter of fact and an  economy plus.  Anyone can overstay their authorized entry, with or without a visa.  Our country is large and with a history of privacy, citizens and undocumented visitors can come and go easily.

Taking this point a step further, if there was some way to build a solid, impenetrable wall between Mexico and the US, does anyone think that will stop undocumented workers from entering the US?  Each year documented workers tend our agriculture fields, or visit Disney World, or attend our Universities.  What keeps them from just staying?

Now lets look at this the other way.  Suppose we simply stopped the “secure the border” campaign and stopped building walls and fences.  Instead, we instituted unlimited work visas (for Mexicans) and seriously cracked down on the employment of undocumented workers (including domestic labor).  What do you think would be the consequences?

Securing the border is a copout for not cracking down on vusiness employers (who donate to political campaigns) and the top 2% who employ nannies, cooks, and handymen and do not pay social security.  Hmmm.

So while Representative Ryan’s comments reflect reality, these comments like so many before, really reflect an unwillingness to change the current situation.

Arguably, the current situation does most everyone well, or at least does everyone the least damage.  There is plenty of cheap labor and in boom times we know there is more labor still in Mexico.  So why should this issue concern us?

As Germany and other European Countries have found out, the importation of guess labor has complications when that labor remains for long periods of time.  Most European Countries were content with the presumed temporary nature of “guest workers” but when the guests remained for several generations (and did not assimilate) other issues arose.

The main issue is that a country cannot effectively send “guests” back to their home country after years of residency.  The guests have made a new home.

Of all places, the US is composed of “guest workers”.  Almost all the 320 million Americans can trace their family tree back to immigrants.  Do I smell hypocrisy?

Unfortunately, I do not expect the GOP (or Democrat) positions to mature much in 2015.  Speaking frankly about how to treat guest labor and why it is a good idea to make a path for the guest to become a red, white, and blue American does not seem likely.

For all sorts of economic and social reasons, a rationale path to citizenship for Mexicans and Canadians (our neighbors) will benefit all involved.  When the threat of legal problems are gone, many guests will choose to return to their native country while others will remain and become indistinguishable from the rest of us immigrants.

 

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