Monday, December 6, 2010

Be Not Afraid! Amnesty is Not a Four Letter Word


Harry Reid and the Democrats are hoping to use this lame duck session of congress to deliver on some promises made to Hispanic Americans who helped many of them keep their jobs in the last election. This week, congress is scheduled to vote on the DREAM ACT, which would offer a path to legal residency to the children of illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States before the age of 16. While I am not hopeful, I am rooting for the Democrats.

This act represents a small step towards infusing sanity and justice into our broken immigration system. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, says, “The DREAM ACT represents a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons in our nation who simply want to reach their God-given potential and contribute to the well-being of our nation.”

The DREAM ACT, which was originally Utah Republican Orrin Hatch in 2001, used to enjoy bipartisan support from moderate Republicans like, Senator John McCain, but with enthusiastic Tea Parties making illegal immigration among their top priority, many Republicans, worried about keeping their seats, are reluctant to attach their names to anything that looks like amnesty. That’s unfortunate because supporting the DREAM ACT is not only the compassionate, moral choice, it is consistent with many conservative principles.

Among the many philosophical questions that currently divide American society is the source of human rights. There is the theory of positive law, which claims that rights come from the state, which represents the will of the people; this is generally a view embraced by those on the left. On the other hand, there is the classical liberal view, which says that rights are bestowed by the Creator and self-evident in nature. From that perspective, human laws simply codify natural law. This is the view of our nation’s founders and many conservatives claim to embrace this view.

However, on the issue of immigration, the Republican leadership has adopted the view that human rights are immaterial to the debate; they claim that the only relevant moral question is that immigration laws have been broken. Web forums are filled with angry posts by Americans who insist that the issue is simple. They argue that one only needs to understand the difference between the words legal and illegal and that any attempt to create pathways to legal residency simply rewards illegal behavior.

However, there is a law far greater than our federal immigration law. It is the law that motivates each one of us to get up in the morning. It is the law of survival. The impulse to carve a better future for oneself and one’s children is a defining feature of human behavior. It is this impulse that motivated the pilgrims, the Jamestown settlers, the Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine and every group of people who believed that the American project offers them a superior shot at the pursuit of happiness than their alternatives. Any law that stands in the way of such a basic human impulse is simply begging to be flouted. If obedience to this impulse was noble when the pilgrims acted on it, is there any reason why it is less noble when it is exercised by Mexicans?

Conservative commentators, like Michelle Malkin, scold these children of illegals for failing to follow the proper immigration procedure. “Get in the back of the line!” she says. Fair enough. Human impulse does not permit anyone to act as she wishes. Certainly, society must have order. Nations must be able to regulate the flow of migration, at the very least, keep track of who is and who is not within its borders. But this nation, given its immigration history, has a unique responsibility to create paths that allow migrants to establish legal residency. There are currently no other provisions in the law for those who would benefit from the DREAM ACT to apply for legal residency. Every attempt to create pathways for legal residency is called amnesty and obstructed. The Republicans keep telling people to get in lines that do not exist while blocking efforts to open up such lines. The Republicans hinder attempts to expand guest worker programs, lotteries, HB1 visas, etc.; they block legal channels while claiming to support legal immigration. If the Republican Party wants to avoid permanently losing the Hispanic vote, it needs to show that it is indeed the party of legal immigration.

In addition, the conversatives generally support the free market. Yet, in the case of the labor market, it is those on the right who stand in the way of the free exchange of labor. Immigrants come to America because there is a demand for their labor. Americans want cheap fruits and vegetables, cheap daycare, and cheap lawn services. We want low prices at Wal-Mart everyday! And it is that demand that keeps the flow of immigrants coming into this country. Attempts to suppress those market forces won't cause them to disappear, they simply go underground.

It is tempting during this type of high unemployment and rising national debt to scapegoat immigrant labor but that is not only unfair, it is flawed thinking. First of all, while immigrants compete for jobs with native-born Americans, that competition brings down the price of the goods and services that we use. These lower prices increase our purchasing power so that we can purchase more goods and services. Although the individual who loses a job to an immigrant may be bitter, a competitive market places produces a net benefit for the rest of the economy. Secondly, immigrants are not just workers, they are consumers. Their consumption of basic goods, like housing, food and clothing create jobs. In fact, these activities are much more stimulating to the economy than any federal plan that congress and the president can conjure up. The Congressional Budget Office reports that implementation of the DREAM ACT would cut deficits by $1.4 billion in the next decade by increasing tax revenues. With the coming retirement of the baby boomers, entitlements programs like Social Security and Medicare can only benefit from an influx of young workers paying into the system. Conservative politicians would be well aware of these basic economic principles if fear of Tea Parties were not clouding their minds.

The Democrats have their own fears. They are afraid of being accused of embracing amnesty. It is a great evidence of their fecklessness that they have allowed the Republicans to turn a perfectly noble word like amnesty into a slur. Just what is wrong with amnesty? The word “amnesty” simply means a state-issued pardon, and it is disappointing that a blessed and purportedly Christian nation is having so much trouble with the word “pardon.”

Sometimes, we are called to pardon the worst amongst us but America, this time you are in luck. Instead of pardoning the worst among us, you are being asked to pardon “the poor, the tired, the huddled masses longing to be free.” You are being asked to give a generation of young people, who are already your neighbors, an opportunity to participate fully in this wonderful human experiment. America, you are not being robbed. You are being honored.

18 comments:

Dave said...

Rewarding illegal behavior will only spur more illegal behavior. American citizens can and do decide, IF we allow people to immigrate and if so, how many, and where they come from. When Columbus came here, there was no United States of America, with laws and regulations, but now there is, and EVERYONE must follow those laws, or we will soon become one of those third world nations that people are trying to escape. The sustainable population of the United States is a finite number, as we do not have unlimited resources, whether they be natural or financial. We can and must limit and regulate immigration to our country. We allow more LEGAL immigrants to our country every year, than the rest of the world combined, so we are a compassionate people, but we must also show compassion for ourselves and our offspring, and protect what we have built. Without the rule of law, all we have will be lost. That is why we cannot reward illegal behavior, no matter how good intentioned it may be.

Carolyn Hyppolite said...

Dave, most of these people in our borders are employed and their employers are constantly asking that they be given visa and residency. At the very least, the United States govt. needs to issue enough visas to meet the labor demand.

Dave said...

I wouldn't be opposed to a work program, as long as the workers understood that it was a temporary situation that would not leed to permanent residency or citizenship. Also, they would not be allowed to bring their families with them, only to have us pay for their children's education or their emergency room visits. That would only be the U.S. taxpayer subsidizing the labor costs of business. The businesses would have to be responsible for all the needs of their workers. That is why the business owners want residency for the workers, so that the taxpayers will pick up the bill. I have a feeling that if those businesses had to pay the true costs of their "cheap" labor force, they might realize that hiring American workers at a livable income, would make much more sense. I know Americans will do those jobs, as I grew up in Indiana and I worked the fields, bailing hay and detassling corn. Yes, it was hard work, but they paid me enough to make it worth the effort.

Carolyn Hyppolite said...

I find that everytime you ask people to suggest immigration reform plans who say they are just against illegal immigrants, they propose something that is doomed failure. People are not going to migrate to work without their children. If you block their families, you are essentially blocking them.

As for employers absorbing the true cost of cheap labor, don't blame the employers, blame youreself. It is Americans who want cheap goods and services. Businesses are simply responding to the market demand for cheap goods. If you want farmers to start paying $10-15/hour for labor, be prepapred to spend double to triple the amount on food.

This brings me to the question of subsidizing. While Americans subsidize the children of immigrant in education (Not that they don't pay taxes, but less), they subsidise us by keeping our cost of living down.

And the fact that you don't want people to have a pathway to residency and citizenship reveals what we already believe about the anti-immigration crowd. America has always let in poor people and given them opportunity to make a living in America and become Americans. Yesterday, I learned that there was a 30% illegimacy rate among poor Irish immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century. Nevertheless,the American economy would go on to thrive in the 40's and 50's. Is there something different about the Mexican immigrants of today?

Peace in Christ,
Carolyn Hyppolite

Dave said...

I would be glad to pay any increase in food prices, to support livable wages for Americans, but research I've seen says the increase would only be 8 percent. As for being against "Mexican" immigrants, I haven't mentioned the nationality of illegal aliens in any of my comments. I am opposed to illegal migration no matter where it comes from. I'm also not interested in what immigrants, legal or illegal did years ago, that's history, and we are living in the present, with current rules, regulations, resources. When American troops are sent overseas to Iraq and Aghanistan, they are not permitted to bring their families along, yet they still volunteer to serve their country. If immigrant workers are not willing to do the same to earn a living, then that is their choice. I'm sure many would be willing to enter a temporary work program. Many who are already here, say it is only long enough to earn enough money, so they can return home at some point, to start their own business there. America allows 2 million legal immigrants each year for those who truly want to become American citizens, not just live here for a job they can't get at home.

Dave said...

I have a possible compromise on the DREAM Act, see what you think. After registering with the federal government, the Dreamers would be given a conditional legal status, without ever recieving permanent legal residencey, or citizenship. Under this conditional status, they would be allowed to legally reside in the United States, as long as they break no criminal laws and pay their taxes, otherwise they would be deported. They could get a driver's license, work, go to college, join the military and otherwise function in society as a legal resident would. However, since they are not permanent legal residents and can never become a citizen, they could not sponsor any family members for legal residency. That way their parents who knowingly broke the law, would not be rewarded. This would be a one-time event and not be repeated for future illegal alien children.

Carolyn Hyppolite said...

Dave,

Why do you have a problem with giving people an opportunity to become US citizens? I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that it is because you don't want their parents to become legal. This is not good for America. There is no benefit to having a bunch of people living here who are not going to go anywhere living the shadows. Furthermore, the problem is the stupid government quota system which attempts to allot spaces at below market-demand to various groups of people. No Government bureaucrats is smart enough to know exactly how many Indians vs. Mexicans should come here. If we allowed the market to settle the immigration flow, we would have a far less "illegal immigration." When the government sets rules that are at variance with market demands, people break those rules. If the states required a 10 year waiting period for adults to get a driver's license, we would have millions of Americans driving illegally.

There is a great book out the call "Let Them in" by Jason Riley which documents how all the things we say about immigrants today were said about every immigrant groups from the beginning. Ben Franklin thought the Germans would never assimilate and people thought that the Irish would steal jobs and ruin America morals. He also shows that it is US citizens welfare that we should be concerned about not immigrants(who don't make a dent) and that immigrants are less likely to break the law than the native-born.

America is a strong nation because it has attracted daring people (you have to be daring to leave everything behind to go to a foreign land) and they have contributed their talent to this country. Although previous generation of immigrants had to deal with prejudice and unfair complaints, they had the benefit that there was no INS to make up arbitrary rules that make them illegal.

Peace in Christ,
Carolyn Hyppolite

Dave said...

You are right, I do not want to reward the parents with citizenship, but as I stated before, we allow 2 million people a year to immigrate legally. We cannot allow anyone and everyone who wants to come, to do so. Business does not decide how many and who comes to our country, that is the job of our elected representatives. We need people who will contribute to our country,not just as low-end wage earners, but educated people like doctors, engineers and scientists. I can tell you though, that the scenario I outlined, is absolutely the best you can hope for. When the republicans take over the House in January, you can be sure that there will be no CIR and no DREAM Act, unless it is something along the lines of what I suggested. Border and interior enforcement is only going to become stricter and the illegal population will continue to shrink, because the American people are demanding it. The Dreamers are better off taking what they can get now, or risk being deported with the rest.

Carolyn Hyppolite said...

Again, many people thought that we do not need these poor Irish peasants but that turns out not to be true. And I seriously challenge the claim that low wage earners contribute less to the economy than high wage earners. In what way? My trash collector is probably one of the most valuable people in my life. The reason we should let businesses decide the flow of immigration is because they know their demands better than the government. We have massive illegal immigration because we think that a bureaucrats can pick a magic number, distribute as he sees fit and people are going to just sit back and say this is just what I want. Georgia farmers know what they need better than you, or I or a state represenatives. Oh, I thought conservatives believed in the free markets?

Moreover, I hope you know that the Republicans will not deport anymore than the democrats. Obama has actually deported more people than Bush. But the cost of finding and deporting 12 million people is more than whatever immigrants could ever cost us and we are not going to do that. Plus, both parties bow to the the US chamber of commerce, which is very pro-immigrant. So, if the Dream Act does not pass and real immigration reform does not occur, the government will continue to look busy by deporting a few people here and there and the lives of immigrants will be made inconvenient. But there are plenty of employers who are more than happy to ignore the law. There are schools to offer scholarship to good students. So, I promise you that not much will change. Feel free to follow up two years from now and we can compare notes about who was right.

Carolyn Hyppolite said...

Dave,

This is a very simple economic problem. The Republicans who keep telling us that they believe in free markets and limited governments are either lying or confused. Our trying to regulate the the labor market makes as much as sense as the soviet central planning of their market. Central planners there didn't know know how much copper their economy needed and our beauracrats don't know how much of what labors we need in which sector. And of course, attempts to over regulate the market causes shortages and black markets. How many times does this economic lesson have to be taught around the world?

Dave said...

Here is what lies ahead:

The Republican who is expected to lead the main subcommittee on immigration in the House of Representatives in the new congress next year said on Monday that he will push for a bill that would cancel employers’ tax deductions for wages of workers who are illegal immigrants.

In an interview, Representative Steve King of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration in the current congress, said his priority as chairman would be to pass a bill he introduced last year that would also require the Internal Revenue Service to share information with the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration about the immigration status of workers.

Mr. King said his measure would increase pressure on employers to fire unauthorized immigrant workers by increasing their cost. He estimated that if employers were not able to claim tax deductions for those workers’ wages and benefits, an unauthorized immigrant making $10 an hour would cost the employer the equivalent of $16 an hour.
Mr. King said his measure would be a “velvet glove” that would leave it up to employers to fire unauthorized workers. “That opens up lots of jobs for Americans,” he said.
Mr. King’s strategy would be a sharp departure from the outgoing Democratic-controlled House, which last week passed a bill known as the Dream Act.
Although it gained some momentum from the House action, its chances for Senate passage appear slim. Mr. King said that if the bill fails there, “it is dead.”

Mr. King said he also hoped to conduct a review of the Obama administration’s spending on border enforcement, and perhaps seek new construction of physical fence barriers to stop illegal border-crossers. “Build it until they stop going around the end – that would be my standard,” Mr. King said.

We don't have to deport all illegal aliens. If they can't find a job, they will have to leave of their own accord.

Carolyn Hyppolite said...

When the economy loses an employee, it also loses a consumer. Consumers are equally important to the economy. If you have less people consuming, you also have less jobs. Therefore, your proposal will provide no net economic benefit. One town in New Jersey learned this basic economic principle the hard way:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/26/nyregion/26riverside.html

David said...

Excellent essay. Thank you!

A few thoughts. Immigrants are not only coming to where the jobs are; often, if not always, they're fleeing a place where the jobs are not.

The Dream Act, as of 16 December, seems still to be stalled in the Senate. I don't find news later than the Hutchinson action, which apparently failed.

George Bush tried twice to get immigration reform legislation passed. Both times, as I recall, enough Democrats opposed it to doom it. So Democrats, while claiming the high ground, have - at least as a unified party - stuck to the low ground, along with most Republicans.

Here's a recent human-interest story from the Christian Science Monitor:

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2010/1215/College-educated-and-illegal-Immigrants-pin-job-hopes-on-DREAM-Act

Carolyn Hyppolite said...

I am not a democrat. I think both party like to play us to win elections. I also think there were good reasons not to support Bush's plans. That plan included a national ID cards with vein scanners and I do not want to give the federal govt. that kind of authority.

I have actually been thinking not passing things like the Dream Act further my libertarian goals because it creates incentives for people to get around the system. Of course, people often can't become lawyers and doctors but a lot of people just deal in cash. Employers don't like the govt. bureaucracy anymore than the illegal immigrants and a lot of small employers just bypass the system and pay cash. Given the inevitable failure of Social Security and Medicare, I would not be surprised if a lot of young workers (and immigrants are disproportionally young) would rather avoid paying into that system anyway.

I think Americans have a right to decide who can vote in elections but no one should have a right to tell me who I can hire to mow my lawn or who I can rent to. This is why I have recently decided to sever all ties with the republicans. They keep saying they believe in limited govt. but they want to micromanage our lives just as bad as the democrats.

What I want is for the govt. to get out of the labor market. Now, a lot of Americans are upset about welfare and I agree with them. But I annoyed because they refuse to acknowledge the fact that it is native born population that costing the billions. Even when you control of population, Americans use much more welfare. Immigrants don't qualify for most federal programs and it's not worth it to them to go to jail to collect some food stamps. I know this personally. I grew up in Miami where there are more immigrants than native people.

Carolyn Hyppolite said...

You know what really bothers me Dave. A few weeks ago we found out that the FED gave $500 Billion in bail out money to foreign banks. Foreign Banks! Where is the outrage? I don't see people getting upset about this but they are upset that some poor Mexican kid might get in-state tuition. I recognize that this country will soon go bankrupt but let's keep the eye on the ball. Let's look at the things that are really draining system. It's corporate welfare and Medicare and the other entitlements that immigrants can't even get. The CBO said this bill would actually benefit tax payers by $94 billion. Even when one accounts for welfare the economic arguments just don't hold water. And besides, with the coming retirement, Americans could really use a lot more young than what they have given birth to. But again, I would rather see these programs disappear anyway so I guess perhaps, I can win by losing :).

beth said...

Amen, Amen, Amen. Very well said, Carolyn.

Carolyn Hyppolite said...

David,

I think I confused with Dave and did not respond appropriately. Thanks for sharing the Christian Science Monitor article.

Dave said...

Carolyn said:

"A few weeks ago we found out that the FED gave $500 Billion in bail out money to foreign banks. Foreign Banks! Where is the outrage?"

Have you heard of the Tea Party? That is a direct response to the out of control spending by our government, and it's failure to enforce our laws, ie, illegal immigration, and it's deafness to the will of the American people.

You can be sure that the Tea Party will make a large impact on the direction of the new Congress, including stricter immigration enforcement.