Friday, April 14, 2006

Immigration Policy, Mouldfan Style

Okay, I guess since I promised, I have to provide an answer to GipperClone’s question. I’ll do that and then use my author’s prerogative to comment on some of the aspects of the previous answers. Needless to say I am far from an expert on this subject, so I’m bound to make some mistakes and assumptions. That said, I’m fully prepared for the criticism and my fellow bloggers know I have a thick skin (and huge ego) so I can take it.

In short, I think there are four things that need to be to address the problem of illegal immigration. First, we need to amend/alter the existing legal immigration system. This needs to be done in two ways, not only to allow more people to legally enter the United States on an annual basis, but also to make it simpler and cheaper to do so. Changes in the legal process hopefully will encourage those persons who might be willing to enter the US illegally to do so properly and officially. Second, we need government intervention into the low-skilled labor market to raise wages and hopefully discourage the employment practices that have lead to the rising demand for cheap illegal workers and increase demand for American citizens to do the so-called jobs that previously they have been “unwilling” to do. Third, we need tough employer sanction laws. So tough that they destroy any incentive for a business, small or corporate, to hire anyone without conducting a through background check to ensure proper citizenship status. Finally, we need to dedicate government resources, both state and federal, towards both border enforcement and internal enforcement. I’m not sure there needs to be wholesale changes to the existing laws, but the money and “boots on the ground” need to be there, because right now they are not. Click Read more for the long version.

Allow me to elaborate a bit on why I think these are some of the solutions (or at least the first ones I would attempt). The first one seems to me to be obvious, yet it seems to be rarely discussed. Our current legal immigration system is a nightmare. Regardless of where you are from or for what purpose you seek to enter the United States, one of the recurring complaints is that the process is slow, inefficient, expensive, and overall discouraging to immigrants. If we are to believe everything our politicians say, we know that they are supposedly all “pro-immigrant,” but are by and large opposed to “illegal immigration.” Hence, it makes sense to reform the legal process to encourage more people to immigrate legally. Given the influx of people entering the US illegally, it seems rationale to conclude that there is a need and demand for these people and one way to reduce demand is to provide a viable alternative solution so that they will cease breaking the law. Dramatic increases in the number of legal avenues for immigration as well as simplifying and streamlining the process will I think take a big bite out of the demand to cross the boarder illegally. For example, more student visas and more flexibility in work visas (i.e., allowing people to go to school while on work visas and vice versa) will aid in preventing “overstays” and other problems that have increased the number of people here illegally. I don’t know what the exact numbers should look like, but I think you get the overall point; more, faster and better legal immigration policies and practices will lead to less illegal immigration and allow us to achieve some of the security protections that we all agree need to be in place.

Second, we need to substantially reform the low-skilled labor market. This was the idea that I was driving at in my original post on the subject. If I’m right about a “black market” for labor than as I tried to make clear, I’m not sure that eliminating the illegal immigrants is going to raise wages substantially enough to encourage more Americans to do certain jobs. As I maintained, I don’t believe the “jobs American’s won’t do” line, but I am sure willing to bet that citizens won’t do many jobs at sub-living wages. Raising the minimum wage, preventing labor cost pass though, and providing state subsidized benefits (i.e., similar to what Massachusetts adopted last week) are all suggestions that we ought to seriously consider and adopt for those in the low-skilled labor market. If we correct the underlying flaws in the market, we might see a reduction in demand of illegal workers and an increase in the number of American workers able to get jobs.

Third, we need to enact employer sanctions with teeth. Here is about the only proposal of GC’s that I happen to agree with. We need to destroy the incentive to hire illegal workers. This proposal is not going to be politically popular by any means, and it needs to include the ability of governments to confiscate businesses that violate the law. There are, of course, legal problems with this that would need to be addressed, such as due process and takings issues, but once those are dealt with; there is no reason why a person should be able to operate a lawful business establishment while violating the law. We don’t let restaurants violate heath codes, we impose licenses and certification standards on professionals like lawyers and doctors, therefore, I agree with those who say it’s not too much to ask that businesses take the time and bear the expense of ensuring that their employees are legally entitled to be in the US. Of course there are administrative costs associated with enforcement, but the question doesn’t require me to address how we pay of any of this. Nonetheless, fines and confiscation of business assets will help as DOJ or DHS should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their enforcement proceedings much like they currently do in drug and RICO prosecutions.

Finally, we need more overall enforcement resources, both at the boarders and internally. This is fairly self explanatory and needs no further elaboration.

I realize that I really haven’t answered the question about what to do with the existing illegal immigrants that are here now. My instincts are to allow those that are not criminals to stay, but require them to be checked. We don’t necessarily have to make them citizens, but we can’t make them criminals and I don’t believe we can really deport them all (even under GC’s theory of “attrition deportation”) for any number of reasons. Last but not least I want to address the “Great Wall of the United States” idea, which I happen to think is one of the dumbest ideas out there. I know people will cite the Israeli fence as an example of this idea having some success, but I think the jury is still out on that projects long term viability. GV points out many of the reasons why a “wall” is not a good idea, the most obvious being the cost of construction and maintenance alone is almost prohibitive. Moreover, it’s a big target for sabotage and vandalism, each of which would only increase the costs of keeping it there and working. No fence, no wall, more guards, better technology, that’s the way to go, leave the wall building to the Chinese as it has worked so well for them.

There you have it, let the games begin.


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