October 2, 2011

What the Immigration Debate Needs Is -- More Discrimination

Hatched by Dafydd

No, I am not being sarcastic; I mean that quite literally: We need to discriminate between different classes of illegal alien.

Patterico has for some time pushed -- desultorily, to be sure -- a welcome policy suggestion; he calls on the feds to "deport the criminals first."

No, he's not saying that, since all illegal aliens are by definition "criminal," we should deport them all immediately; by contrast, Patterico says that there already is a subgroup, within the larger group of illegal aliens, comprising those illegals who commit crimes apart from the crime of being here illegally (and its associated crimes of document fraud and such)... and that we should focus first on deporting those who come to this country in order to live a criminal livestyle.

We should target for deportation (after they serve their sentences here) all those illegals convicted of committing burglaries, arsons, rapes, assaults, and homicides; who are found guilty of joining criminal gangs, trafficking in narcotics, and defrauding people; who are proven check kiters or pick pockets; or who commit other high crimes and misdemeanors demonstrating criminality beyond simply wanting to live and work peacefully in America.

It makes a lot of sense, and it's a perfect example of discrimination: Patterico discriminates between illegals who want to try to fit into and contribute to American society, and illegals who see America as a vast piggy bank to be looted, abused, and despoiled.

But now, after reading a pair of posts that set me fuming, I believe such discrimination must go much further. In those posts, the first by an unnamed "long-time reader" of my favorite blog and the second by my favorite blogger at that same site, I came away with the very strong impression that the two posters, who stand representative of a very influential strain of conservatism, see very little difference at all between those who come here illegally out of desperation and want only to work and raise a family -- and those who come here illegally to vandalize, thieve, and murder.

That lack of discrimination begins to shock my conscience.

Thus I hereby initiate my own program that I believe complements Patterico's pontification noted above. He says, "deport the criminals first;" I say, legalize the most innocent first.

Who are the most innocent of all illegal aliens? Those who were brought here as little children, too young even to understand what a national border is or what it means to cross without permission, let alone mature enough to consent in an informed way to illegal entry. Such innocents need a name, so let us call them "unwitting aliens," UA -- they illegally entered the U.S. without their own consent or even knowledge.

(Do you want to call it amnesty? I don't mind; I don't even care. Does anybody deserve amnesty more than a person who never even committed the crime of which he stands convicted, since he was a little kid when it happened?)

There are a great many such UAs, in raw numbers; and for nearly all of them, the United States is literally the only country they have ever known. They grew up here, went to school here, made friends and enemies here; they are completely assimilated into American society; they think of themselves as Americans; they have no recollection of having lived in Mexico or Argentina or El Salvador; and likely in quite a lot of cases, they don't even speak Spanish or Portuguese. Their parents may have falsely told them all their lives that they were born in the United States; they may even have shown the UAs a false American birth certificate.

Should we really tell these kids that they don't deserve in-state tuition, even if they have lived in one American state all their conscious life, because they're criminals? Do we want these young men and women to be forever barred from living legally in the only home they remember, the only country to which they feel loyalty, unable to establish residency anywhere in that country because of something their parents did when the UAs were still infants? Do we for God's sake want to deport these very American "illegals?" Deport them to where -- a country they cannot even remember, whose citizens speak a language the unwitting aliens might not even know?

Most American family courts, in the case of divorce, will take the ages of the children into consideration when determining custody; when a child is deemed old enough to make an informed decision, he can decide whether to live with the father, the mother, or under some joint custody plan. Certainly any adult child (over the age of eighteen) can freely decide whether to live with one of his parents or move into his own place.

I call for the same sort of program for unwitting aliens as we have for the children of divorce: If a UA's parents are discovered and ordered deported, and if the UA is deemed old enough to give informed consent, he should be allowed to freely choose which country he will live in; and we should grant him permanent residency in the United States, if that's what he chooses.

That doesn't mean his parents get to stay as well; if they're subject to deportation, they're still subject to deportation. The UA can be raised by a legally resident relative, or in the extreme case, can be made a ward of the court and sent either to a foster home or adopted out. But any good parent should want the best for his child, correct?

If a UA comes to the authorities' attention by some other means -- say by applying for university and claiming, in all innocence, the in-state tuition of the local state university -- then the same applies: He is told that he is an unwitting alien and that he must choose.

In either case, once obtaining permanent residency, he is eligible to work towards citizenship, just as would be any other legal permanent resident.

(If such a law is passed, and a reasonable period of time elapses -- time for people to understand the system -- then UAs who don't apply for residency but instead take criminal steps to conceal their alien nationality should lose their UA status; they are no longer "unwitting;" they have become co-conspirators with their parents.)

This policy suggestion is not a solution to the problem of illegal immigration; as I have argued many times (just click the category link "Immigration Immolitions" at the top of this post), the only solution is complete reform of the legal immigration system to make it predictable, rational, and just; coupled with building a physical fence or wall entirely across both our southern and northern borders, and other vigorous security procedures -- directed against those who persist in trying to climb through the window when we have already made it realistically doable for any decent, assimilable immigrant to enter openly through the door.

But legalizing the most innocent first would certainly resolve a great potential injustice in a fair and equitable way, and one that will do no harm to United States border security. We have no more to fear from an unwitting alien than we have from a legal immigrant, or even a natural-born American citizen.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 2, 2011, at the time of 6:22 PM


The following hissed in response by: J Motes

Dafydd said: “Who are the most innocent of all illegal aliens? Those who were brought here as little children, too young even to understand what a national border is or what it means to cross without permission, let alone mature enough to consent in an informed way to illegal entry. …
But any good parent should want the best for his child, correct?”

That last sentence there, that’s where your argument falls apart for me. The child of an illegal alien is not an innocent victim of his parents’ actions. The child is the MOTIVE for the illegal act. Parents will make almost any sacrifice to improve their children’s lives. If you grant benefits to the children of illegals, then you provide a motive for millions of parents to continue bringing their innocent children across the border illegally.

Many of us maintain that the way to curb illegal immigration is to reduce or eliminate the things that draw them here: no jobs, no welfare, no housing – and to that you must add no schools or benefits for their children. You get more of what you reward, and rewards for their children alone are sufficient motive for most parents.

The public debate on illegal immigration tends to focus on managing its consequences. What I would like to see is a shift to a discussion that addresses the causes. Why are Mexicans so desperate to leave Mexico? Because their society is dysfunctional, impoverished, and lawless, that’s why. It seems to me that the serious thinker would focus on ways to correct the problems in Mexico so that all of its citizens will benefit (not just those who manage to break into a better-run country).

Mexico’s economy is in the top 10% world-wide (of 196 countries, Mexico is ranked 14th by GDP – greater than $1 trillion in 2007). Its people are industrious and determined. As ehow.com tells us: “Mexico is a country full of paradoxes. Rich in natural resources, it often fails to find a way to use them in a way that benefits the nation as a whole, meandering between ineffective economic policies and total collapse. However, if the resources could be utilized well, it would be a tremendous economic advantage to the entire country.” Mexico is the sixth largest producer of oil in the world.

There’s no acceptable reason for Mexico to be unable to provide for its people. They need government and economic reforms that will allow the Mexican people to benefit from their labor and Mexico’s resources. I believe that America should be developing policies that will help Mexico provide for its own people, rather than being an enabler for a corrupt and incompetent political class. Mexico could be a self-supporting neighbor like Canada, rather than a parasite. America spends a great deal of money to keep Mexico in its dysfunctional state, and we really don’t have the wherewithal to continue this course indefinitely.

Wouldn’t it be a better use of our money and a greater service to our neighbors to show them how to improve conditions in their country, so their people don’t feel compelled to escape? Don’t we claim to want to spread liberty throughout the world? Economic liberty has been proved to be the foundation for all other liberties. We should help Mexico start down a better path. Continuing to offset their deficiencies will not foster change. It doesn’t work for raising self-reliant and independent children, and it won’t work for countries. Accepting illegal immigration is just another version of foreign aid, which costs a fortune and hasn’t made one jot of real difference to the people of any recipient country (except for their corrupt leaders, of course).

Last, Mexico’s single biggest source of income is the money Mexicans take out of the American economy to send home. That’s an immoral and unjust burden on the American people. And it’s unsustainable. We have given away too much for free to too many others, and they take us for granted. It’s time we started demanding that other countries introduce reforms that will take them out of the parasite class. What’s better for Mexico would also be better for us. Everybody wins!

Dafydd: Please excuse the long comment. I have been a faithful reader since you first began posting at Captain’s Quarters, but this is the very first time I have written a comment. If you will amortize the length over a period of years, it should fall within normal limits.

The above hissed in response by: J Motes [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2011 10:33 AM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

I agree there should be no reward whatsoever for illegal aliens, including the families thereof. If you wish to be "compassionate" to these "unwitting aliens" then you are going to need yet more discrimination than what you propose here. That is, you have to verify that these kids have, in fact, assimilated into our society to the point where they would be strangers in their native country. They should not be the ones out in the streets screaming for the return of California to Mexico. I would also argue that there is very little harm – a.k.a. heartlessness – done by requiring them to return to their home country first (back through the window) before immediately being welcomed through the front door into a reformed legal system giving preference to those who have somehow acquired a life here without ever having been here (wink, wink).

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2011 11:59 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

J Motes:

Big Lizards has no length restrictions on comments, so long as they are on topic -- which your comment certainly is.

J., the very fact that Mexico, with all of its natural resources and its large economy, continues to be dysfunctional after so many years -- while living right next to the freest and most successful country on Earth, while rejecting every opportunity to emulate us -- makes it plain that Mexico will never be functional.

For whatever combination of reasons, that government will never change. If it could have, it would already have.

So when you say that, instead of doing something about the most innocent of all illegal aliens, we should instead wait until Mexico has turned into Baja America, it's just a way not to do anything at all.

You made not a single concrete suggestion of what we could do to induce Mexico to "introduce reforms that will take them out of the parasite class." We can make all the suggestions we want, but we have no way of forcing Mexican authorities to listen. Heck, they won't even let us help them eradicate their drug cartels.

Inducing Mexico and other Latin American countries to reform is a pleasant idea, but a utopian one: Countries implement such major reforms for their own reasons, not because the U.S. pushes them.

As we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, the best we can ever do is resolve the security situation, granting the citizens enough normalcy and enough time that they, themselves have the chance to transform their own government, society, and culture... for their own reasons. And even that sort of program generally requires us to conquer and rule over the countries in question (Germany, Japan, Iraq, and to a much lesser extent, Afghanistan).

But let's get to the central point, which you state thus:

The child of an illegal alien is not an innocent victim of his parents’ actions. The child is the MOTIVE for the illegal act. Parents will make almost any sacrifice to improve their children’s lives. If you grant benefits to the children of illegals, then you provide a motive for millions of parents to continue bringing their innocent children across the border illegally.

Let's break that down...

  1. You are correct that the unwitting alien (UA) is not "an innocent victim of his parents’ actions." In fact, he is not a victim at all. He was taken from a land of little freedom and even less opportunity to one that, whatever her faults, has great liberty and tremendous opportunity. But he was (by definition of the term) taken unknowingly, let alone without consent; and we cannot get around that fact. If a crime was committed, the UA did not commit it.
  2. Yep; parents' concern for their children's future is the motive behind illegal entry. We agree.
  3. Granting "benefits" (by which you actually mean the lack of penalties, compared to other, legal residents) certainly may result in more immigration; but it will only be a crime if we continue to criminalize immigration itself, by maintaining an immigration system that is utterly irrational, completely unpredictable, and thoroughly unjust.

If we reform the legal immigration system to make it rational, predictable, and just, and bias it towards those most likely to assimilate into American Borg culture (resistance is futile), then those families whose parents just want their children to have a better future will be the very people we welcome as immigrants!

Today, our legal immigration system is perverse and bordering on demonic, as my wife Sachi -- a naturalized American citizen who never was illegal for even a single day -- can testify.

That is the whole point of my post and the core of my position on immigration: The only reason we have so many illegal immigrants is that we have deliberately set up a perverse system that excludes those most likely to succeed and assimilate here -- while sending "guest workers," who have no loyalty to the United States and no interest in becoming Americans, rocketing through the system at Super Hornet speeds of Mach 1.8. Just so some employers in border states can get cheap labor.

The danger of having hordes of people in this country with no connection to our culture or national creed, who come only to take the money and run back to the fatherland, should be manifest, for reasons that Mark Steyn pointed out very well a few years ago: Just look at the mostly-Moslem "guest workers" in Europe and what they have wrought.

So what to do? A three-pronged policy offensive:

  • First, reform the legal immigration system to bias in favor of the kind of people we really want as immigrants. Once they have an actual legal path to residency and eventual citizenship, they will no longer need to sneak through the window -- which resolves probably 85%-90% of the "illegal" immigration problem immediately.
  • Second, once we have thus separated desirable immigrants from undesirable thugs, we can then deal much more harshly with the latter; enforcing draconian laws is much easier when we know in advance that the targets of those laws really are a threat and danger to America.
  • And third, we must never, ever, ever allow "guest workers," who have no desire to assimilate, to enter our country. We don't want their kind; we want only those who were born Americans in another land.

Rather, let us suspend the minimum-wage laws for all persons who have legal temporary residency in the United States, with no restriction whatsoever on employment. (And yes, I would include those here on student visas: Let them work their way through college by taking odd jobs! It's a marvelous way to learn more about America en route to a degree or certification.)

Once they become permanent residents, they fall back under the same laws as the rest of us.

But until then, they can do the jobs that "guest workers" of dubious or alternate loyalty would otherwise do, at the distinctly lower salaries that "guest workers" would have commanded. Wouldn't we rather such necessary labor be performed by people who have jumped through all the immigration hoops just to become real Americans? I mean people like my great great great grandfather, who came here from Poland as an indentured servant, and ultimately worked his way into the middle income, for the sake of his family.

See how the policies all dovetail together?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2011 2:25 AM

The following hissed in response by: Beldar

This is a thoughtful and provocative post, with which I'm much inclined to agree.

Whether one agrees with it or not, Plyler v. Doe prevents states from turning off the "education magnet" for illegal immigrants up through the high school level. Plyler was a 5/4 decision, but I don't see Mr. Justice Kennedy being likely to vote to overrule it even if there were four other votes to do so (and I doubt there are more than two, maybe three).

The Texas statute under recent discussion represents only a very marginal increase in magnetism by making in-state tuition -- not free public education, but the regular rate paid by others who've graduated from Texas high schools and lived here for three years -- available to illegal immigrants who also meet those same standards. I have a hard time generating any enthusiasm for changing this law. And interestingly, although I think Texans in general have become more concerned with immigration and border security matters in the last decade (with good and obvious cause), there has been no momentum generated to change the law since Gov. Perry's candidacy has greatly increased its visibility.

The above hissed in response by: Beldar [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2011 4:03 AM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

We seem to have an impasse here. While you have many good ideas, we cannot get past two things: First is the vagaries of "sensible immigration reform" that we all agree is necessary, but is politically difficult and supercharged unless the issue of "amnesty" is addressed, which you have also left vague. The solution I have proposed, requiring everyone who came in through the window to exit likewise and come around the front door, seems to me the correct compromise. We can pretend the crime or crimes never happened, and pretend that an job opening that appeared last week with XYZ landscapers, for which this new immigrant is perfectly suited, with a nearby vacant apartment, is mere good fortune. THEN whatever the new immigration regimen is can be applied equally to all comers, with some having a big leg up on the assimilation portion (though we refuse to ask why).

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2011 11:19 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


The solution I have proposed, requiring everyone who came in through the window to exit likewise and come around the front door, seems to me the correct compromise.

One more thing a great many of us cannot get past: Some of the people here illegally did not, in fact, commit any crime at all, because they were too young to be able to form a mens rea, a guilty mind.

How about this for a compromise: Anyone who came here illegally must return to his country of origin and then reenter the United States, except for anyone who can show that he is an unwitting alien, and that he was too young to have meaningfully participated in the decision to enter the United States illegally. So the parents have to exit and return, but not their children who were very young at the time of illegal entry (and certainly not any subsequent children born in the United States).

Would you be satisfied with that? The parents should also have to (a) be of good moral character, (b) not be on the dole, (c) pay a fine (making this a plea bargain, not "amnesty"), and (d) completely regularize all their documents.

In exchange -- the government's side of the plea bargain -- since they will have paid their debt to society, they are guaranteed reentry without hassle or penalty further than that set forth in the plea bargain.

As far as the reform I'm looking for, I have gone into much greater detail in earlier posts; but I'll run through it quickly in the next post.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2011 3:10 PM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

I suppose that is acceptable to me, though I think you are being less compassionate than I would be. I don't like separating parents from children, even for the "momentary" exit-reentry process. Besides, if the parents don't meet your a-b-c-d requirements, you create orphans! I don't argue with the requirements, just that I never considered splitting the family, and it was always my intent to ignore the fact of previous residency. In other words, we would have to increase temporarily the immigration limits (and change the rest of the process in the sensible ways you suggest), and then give priority processing to those who had a job waiting for them (that we wouldn't ask how they had).

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2011 10:42 AM

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