Saturday, April 24, 2010

Janet Brewer just signed an Immigration Law

There's been a lot of discussion and a lot of controversy surrounding the Immigration bill recently signed into law. I can't say I'm an expert nor can I say I'm very motivated to get through the entirety of the bill, parsing it line by line.

By I do have some general thoughts on immigration that I think are important to take into consideration at times like these:

Point One: Immigration brings vitality and strength to a free market economy

You don't believe me?

Off the top of my head, eBay, Google, Yahoo, Intel were all started by immigrants. I heard a statement recently, and I can't source it, but it made a lot of sense. One of the reasons our country has been so resilient and so prosperous over the years is because it's an immigrant nation. Immigrants tend to be the cream of another country's crop. They are more risk tolerant - already taken an unspeakable number of risks getting to a foreign land. In many respects, the same attributes that are required to start a business also are required to immigrate.

Point Two: Diversity brings prosperity

Just one argument on this point: innovation comes when you get as many people contributing in their communities, in their neighborhoods as possible.

The more homogeneous a certain population is, the less likely someone who doesn't fit into the mold will feel confident enough to make a strong contribution. And that missed contribution is innovation lost.

Point Three: Mexico brings its own challenges.

Is there another border in the world like the border between Mexico and the United States? The US is the wealthiest (by any measure) country in the world, Mexico is far from it.

Can you find any two countries that share a border as large as this one that has a greater economic disparity?

North and South Korea may be in the ballpark, which pretty much proves my point. I don't believe there's a lot of immigration between North and South Korea. But South Korea has a good portion of our army stationed there, and that is one of the most hostile, dangerous borders in the world. One war was already fought, we've been close to more. Immigration control is enforced primarily by North Korea, with a massive heavy hand to keep their citizenry inside.

Mexico, on the other hand, is a Democracy and our ally. They have massive problems with corruption and a drug economy that is by far their largest industry servicing customers primarily within our borders. The drug industry is choking its economy, driving many people across harsh desert lands into our country to find work.

Additionally, a significant part of their population comes here illegally to support vast and sophisticated drug networks.

Nothing we've done and nothing we will do will have much effect on drug trafficking. The profit margins for illicit drugs are too high, and there's just not the political will to do what it takes to stop it.

So, what's my opinion on this issue? First of all, I don't trust Russel Pierce or anyone else, probably, in the AZ legislature to create laws on this issue that will make sense. Ideally, we should trust our local police force and our border patrol to do their jobs. There are already laws on the books that deal with this issue. This debate is largely on enforcement of existing laws. But enforcement needs to be viewed holistically. We want our law enforcement to enforce all of our laws, and the most egregious crimes should take priority.

I've heard a lot of people argue that they just want our immigration laws enforced. But that's not enough of a statement. Do you want more time spent enforcing illegal entry to our country or illegal entry into your house? Car theft or illegally working at the neighborhood fast food restaurant? Kidnapping or lawn mowing?

Ok just one last point
I can understand that we should control our borders, I guess. But a part of me asks the question why we care so much. I can think of some historical examples of why we should be more accommodating:

  • During WWII, a lot of Jewish immigrants fled Germany to find refuge elsewhere. Certainly, this was a time when every country should have welcomed them in with open arms.

  • Our invasion into Iraq resulted in thousands (millions?) Iraqi refugees, refugees who have struggled finding work (some of them educated) elsewhere.

  • The earth quakes in Haiti resulted in untold catastrophe. Many of them could come here and elsewhere to work, send money back to the island to rebuild. This is a much more efficient and effective way to get money into the local population

  • Ok, I promise, only one more point
    I get why a lot of people simply can't tolerate immigrants from the countries to our south Growing up in Yuma and living now in Phoenix, you see run-down, poor, largely Hispanic neighborhoods and you assume they are filled with illegal immigrants. Nobody wants blight in their neighborhoods or cities. And it seems, illegal immigration brings blight.

    But it seems to me that the blight has been exacerbated by our efforts in recent years to crack down on immigration. We are a far cry from North Korea style border enforcement, so I'm sure, theoretically, its possible to get an almost complete control of our borders the way North Korea was able to do with theirs. But do we really want to live in a country like that, willing to do the kinds of things it seems to require to get there?

    I hope the answer is no, so its just a matter of how hard we want to crack down on it. But the more we do, the more this community is marginalized. They lose freedoms, they lose opportunities. Either they stay in their home country with little hope. Or they come here knowing (or they should know) that they will not have the backing of law enforcement. Crimes against the illegal population go largely unreported. They are not subject to workers protection. There exists an undercurrent of slavery among this population even in this country. When you marginalize a population or a community, you should not be surprised that rundown blight is the bi-product.

    It used to be, when we were completely lax about our borders, that Mexican workers would come and go. They would come for seasonal work on a farm (over a summer) and go back for the winter. Primarily only one bread winner would come while the rest of the family remained. At least so far, it seems that harder we make it for people to cross, the less likely they go back. Once they get here, there are strong incentives to stay put and just as strong incentives to bring the rest of their family over as well. So, harsher laws can actually increase the illegal population.

    Ok now the conclusion
    There are a lot of complexities to this issue, a lot of moving parts. I've only touched on a few at a very high level. Mainly I worry that laws like this one are being passed without a deep consideration of the many issues at stake. I think its important that we start having these conversations.

    No comments: