Immigration Reform and Family Values

May 18th, 2007 by

The recent passing of Jerry Falwell reminds us that family values are definitely in the eye of the beholder. One’s man’s family values are quickly transformed into fear and loathing for others with different values. For too many people, it’s not enough to develop and embrace your own values: you have to convince others to join you – or persecute/diminish/destroy them in the process. We are social creatures, but the socialization process itself is not always a pretty sight. Which leads us to the ever-divisive issue of immigration reform.
As one who has been critical of Congress for its inability to do anything about the immigration mess, I am happy to see some progress. We finally have on the table proposed legislation that would legitimize (to some degree) 12 millon or so undocumented immigrants and set up a structure for admitting an additional 400,000 per year. But with the print on the 300+ page bill barely dry, the attacks have already begun.
“This is amnesty for criminals!” cries the right.
“Unfair to families and labor!” cries the left.
The bill attempts to be pragmatic. No ideologue will embrace it. You could argue that in trying to stake out the shaky middle ground, the bill makes everyone unhappy. Indeed, this is such a volatile issue, there may not be a viable middle ground.
Unintended Consequences
Whatever the final shape of the legislation – assuming something is ultimately passed and signed into law – there are going to be unintended consequences of substantial magnitude.
The left fears that the bill will reduce wages. But wages are already suppressed by this huge, undocumented workforce. Once these people are credentialed, their wages and benefits are going to go up. Undocumented workers live in constant fear of discovery. They are willing to work for less, forego benefits to which they are entitled, and generally live beneath society’s radar, in order to avoid arrest and deportation. Once they have the new “Z” visas, their working conditions should improve. And as this change takes root, we will all feel the result in the form of higher prices.
As for outrage on the right – that we are rewarding criminal behavior – the intent of the bill is to decriminalize an essential component of the workforce. It would be logistically impossible and economically disastrous to deport 12 million people. They are performing vital jobs, often in abominable working conditions. They are here because we need them. Thus it is no great concession for Congress to legitimize these people: realistically, we have little choice.
We have already commented on another goal of the bill, to stop the influx of illegal immigrants through enhanced border vigilance. I personally am looking forward to the construction of America’s Great Wall. It will cost billions. It will prove remarkably ineffective. And the only people willing to build it will be the people it is meant to keep out. Under the family values of American labor, the working conditions in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are unacceptable. Only the truly desperate would accept these jobs…and we all know who they are. So we’d best build the wall before we hand out the new Z visas. Once immigrant workers have their visas, they won’t want the jobs either.
So let’s get going. I can already envision Vladimir Putin, Russia’s ethically challenged ruler, standing on the Mexican side of the wall and calling out: “Mr. President, tear down this wall!”