Saturday, May 19, 2012

On Immigration

I. LOVE. Immigration.

My great grandmother (my mother's mother's mother) was born in Nebraska from parents who emigrated from Austria. I saw a scan of my great-great-grandfather's signature getting off the ship in New York City!!!

This country is a country of immigrants, was founded and built on the backs of immigrant labor and ingenuity. Immigration is fantastic!

I. LOVE. My. Country.

Quote all the Robert Frost you want, in a world where blood-thirsty thugs want to kill us and destroy our way of life, good fences make good neighbors.

Strict immigration policies that limit the influx of convicted criminals and those who would do us harm make us safer from those who thought that crashing airplanes into civilian targets was a good start.

Can these two beliefs coincide?

Yes, borders need to be secure, but we also need to respect the dignity of the person, and of the family. Neither our current immigration policy nor the draconian or laissez-faire alternatives most commonly proposed come even close to doing a good job of either, let alone both.

Is amnesty without change the answer? Massive deportation?

No, but our current quota-based system is inhuman, capricious, and cruel.

Illegal immigration is a problem. It is, and saying that it isn't doesn't make it go away, and it doesn't make the millions of undocumented immigrants go away either, nor does it help them get right with our laws so that they can have their shot at the American Dream.

So that we are all aware, I said what I meant. Immigration (act) can be illegal. Immigrants (people) can lack the proper legal documentation. Undocumented immigrants have committed illegal immigration. The current "'merica" label of "illegal immigrant," or "illegal alien" is nonsensical, and offensive. People can't be illegal.

So what are we to do? The vast majority of immigrants (legally here and not) are looking for the land of opportunity, the chance to make a better life for themselves and their families. On the other hand, our prisons house a mind-boggling number of felons who aren't even citizens - violent offenders, rapists, drug dealers, gang bangers, murderers, all of them here illegally. How do we protect ourselves while still being the land of opportunity?

I wish I had an easy answer. I don't know that there are any in this situation, but here is what I would pursue, were I in authority.

I. Secure the Border Our borders, northern and southern (yes, terrorists have snuck in through Canada) should be guarded. By the National Guard. That's what they're here for, right? To defend the homeland? Build walls, and fences, and well staffed crossing points and relatively frequent intervals.

II. Eliminate the Quotas There is no excuse to limit the number of people entering our country by some arbitrary bean-counting bureaucrat's quota. Not in my America. If we can't compete with immigrants who are playing by the same rules we are, then we need to step up the game.

III. Streamline the Paths to Citizenship Keep It Simple Stupid should be the motto of the naturalization process. Work visas, visitor visas, and easy paths to citizenship. Maybe start a sponsor system to farm out the work of keeping tabs on low-risk newcomers. Make military service a path to citizenship; go through basic training and serve 5 years in active duty, and you and your family are citizens (or at least fast-tracked). Die in combat and your family is granted citizenship. Worked for the Romans.

IV. Kick Out the Felons Why are we feeding and sheltering felons who aren't even citizens of this country? I can't say that every felonious crime deserves this (as I don't have the list of felonies memorized), but certainly violent crimes deserve a restart to square one.

V. Naturalize Those Already Here By the last count I saw, there are well over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. If the humane argument doesn't convince you (breaking up families &c.), then realize that pragmatically, there are too many people to kick out. We're in enough debt already, and many of those people are tax paying non-citizens (didn't know that, did you?). A fine, a slap on the wrist, restitution if they destroyed someone's credit through identity theft, and then path to citizenship.

Immigration is a complicated issue, to be sure, but not so complicated as to justify inhuman treatment. Thou shalt not molest a stranger, nor afflict him: for yourselves also were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


  1. Hm, I meant to share a thought to this ages ago, but got distracted.

    Anyway, I was thinking about the whole open/closed border thing. Last week, I went to Germany, then Switzerland (as you do) and it was really really relaxed there, with an open border, literally saying "Country Border" and over you walked! No-one there to check you or anything. No visa required, just a form of ID should one need it. In fact, the same applies in Northern Ireland/Eire except it's even less clear, because it simply isn't marked except for a road sign saying "roadsigns now in km/h / mph" (depending on which way you're going). In fact, one can travel all over Europe now free from border guards or closed borders from Estonia to Spain, the only exceptions being Andorra (not in the EU) and the UK by air. Anyone can work in whichever country they want within the EU without a visa, without having to become a national.

    So tell me: what are your thoughts on this system? :-)

  2. Well, my understanding of the EU (and please be all means correct me if I'm wrong, as you actually live over there!) is that governmentally it's more of a ex post facto United States than it is, say, a Nato or a U.N. What I mean by that, is there is a high level government responsible for things like economy and interstate commerce, and then individual states (where in the original formulation of the U.S., the states were meant to be more like allied but distinct countries).

    If that is indeed the case, then it doesn't seem much different from traveling from Iowa to Minnesota, save that the independence and distinctness of Germany and Switzerland is more pronounced.

    If we had some similar treaty or arrangement with Mexico or Canada, I'd be in favor of something similar regarding work, but as I recall most if not all of the 9/11 hijackers snuck in through Canada, and the drug cartels pose a significant threat from Mexico which the Mexican government seems to be either unable or unwilling to deal with (probably a mixture of both).

    So short answer long, I like it, but am thinking that it is already implemented in one sense, and am doubtful about how well it would work in the other.


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