Sunday, May 09, 2010

We need immigration reform

We need immigration reform--and Mexico needs to stop oppressing its poor. The richest man in the world, Carlos Slim (left), achieved his wealth on the backs of the poor of Mexico.

We need immigration reform
By John C. Wester (at left in photo)
Catholic Bishop, Salt Lake City
Washington Post

Upon signing into law SB 1070, the Arizona immigration bill which would make enforcement targets of anyone looking foreign-born in that state, Gov. Jan Brewer complained: "We in Arizona have waited patiently for Washington to act. But decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation. "

I would agree, but with an amendment. I would say that all Americans have waited for the federal government to find a solution to the problem of illegal immigration. They have acted, for sure, but not in the right way and not for the right reasons. I would also agree that the situation is dangerous and unacceptable, but that Arizona's SB 1070 makes it worse, not better.

The federal government since 2002 has spent over $100 billion on immigration enforcement initiatives. This amounts to a doubling of Border Patrol agents to almost 20,000, nearly 700 miles of border fencing, a failed "virtual" fence costing billions, and a tripling of detention beds.

This is not to mention the manpower, weaponry, and other resources spent on immigration enforcement raids over the past several years, used to whisk away powerless mothers and fathers from their even more powerless children.

Yet, despite this strategy, along with its tragic human consequences, there has been no sustainable progress. In fact, the number of undocumented has risen over 50 percent in the past ten years, from 7 million in the 2000 Census to 11 million today.

To borrow from a nursery rhyme, all of the King's horses and all of the King's men have not put our immigration system back together again.

Arizona's SB 1070 is not an affirmation that enforcement measures alone are the right approach to illegal immigration, but a confirmation that enforcement-only tactics have not worked. It should be a wake-up call--a cry from the desert, if you will--to our national leaders that another approach is needed.

Despite its controversy, comprehensive immigration reform is the best way to secure the border and make us a safer nation...


Anonymous said...

What does the Catholic Church say about the costs to US taxpayers of legalizing millions of people who largely do unskilled jobs and will not even make enough money to pay any federal income tax, but will impose large costs upon the rest of us in education and social services (including for all the family members they will take in by chain migration)?

Or is the Catholic Church perhaps more focused on its own interests: hoping to import more enthusiastic parishioners from abroad in the face of a decline in its popularity among Americans, but with the rest of us paying the tab?

Does the Church have any rational response to those who feel that lawbreaking should never be rewarded? How can legalization (with or without some token penalties) fail to represent a reward for people who broke our immigration laws (to start with, by moving them ahead of other countrymen who stayed home and applied for permission to come to the US legally)?

Maura Larkins said...

I don't know what the Catholic Church's motives are, but something obviously has to be done. Your point about low wages is interesting; are you saying that current citizens WANT these low-paying jobs? Without undocumented workers, employers would have to pay much higher wages for these jobs--and they don't want to. Employers are the reason why this country has long encouraged illegal immigration, but it's a failed policy. It's become expensive and it's causing suffering.

We need to give documents to the workers we want. With documents, the workers will be able to get better wages, and pay more taxes.

We've been getting a free ride for far too long, collecting payroll taxes from undocumented workers who will never receive a tax refund or a Social Security check.

Anonymous said...

Maura, your points are sensible. Regarding wages, it seems to me that it would be a good thing for the value of unskilled labor to be raised somewhat (by reducing the oversupply caused by immigration). This will be helpful to our own countrymen who currently have a tough time making ends meet by doing an honest day's work. But there may be some areas like agriculture where domestic supply will not provide what is needed, and here some guestworker program makes sense. (Guestworker as in: you are a guest, and that means go home eventually. :-) )

Your point about payroll taxes is a good one, but also keep in mind that illegal immigrants export a great deal of their earnings to their families back home--that's very decent of them, but it makes the economics of this even less favorable for the US.

Another point: energetic Mexicans with initiative (but no high tech skills) ought to be the natural economic engine to advance Mexico's economy, so letting those people move here is doing Mexico no real favor.

Maura Larkins said...

Dear Anonymous:
Your points are ALL really good. I'm particularly interested in your last point. It certainly seems that the Mexican elite wants to maintain an inequitable system in Mexico so that they can keep their obscene privileges. Immigration to the US seems to be used as a way to reduce the pressure for reform in Mexico. Your comment caused me to add to my post some information about the foremost member of the Mexican elite, Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world in 2010.