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September 06, 2011

Mickey Kaus: Perry's Positions on Immigration Are Even Worse Than I Thought

I have long thought this will be the hardest issue for Perry to finesse.

Here's one Perry statement Kaus highlights:

Thatís why I support a guest worker program that takes undocumented workers off the black market and legitimizes their economic contributions without providing them citizenship status.

I would rather know who is crossing our border legally to work instead of not knowing who is crossing our border illegally to work. A guest worker program that provides foreign workers with an ID removes the incentive for millions of people to illegally enter our country. It also adds those workers to our tax base, generates revenue for needed social services and it can be done without providing citizenship.

Personally, I've long been in favor of a guest worker program. Liberals hate this idea because they want immigrant workers voting in elections, and also supporting the American social welfare system (because, being citizens, they'd be beneficiaries). The unions hate the idea because they don't like the idea of immigrants with legal status competing for jobs.

Many conservatives don't like the idea because they want illegal immigrants stopped, period.

This is one area where I do become what some would call a "RINO:" I think there is a fact on the ground that cannot easily be ignored that American agriculture relies, to a serious extent, on immigrant farm workers coming in to collect the harvests. There is a glib response to that -- "We'll just encourage Americans to take those jobs!" -- and I suppose that's possible, but the American public of 2011 is not the American public of, say, 1932. Whereas once American workers might take a bus to the heartland and work the fields for a season, American workers no longer feel they need to do that, as government unemployment programs don't require them to change jobs or to travel long distances for work. So, in the main, they don't.

I've wondered if we could kill two birds with one stone, say, and get highly-unemployed black urban youths to work on farms during the season, but I doubt that would ever happen.

To me, part of the reason there aren't any serious immigration reforms -- and I mean on the enforcement side, here -- is because neither side is particularly willing to confront the facts on the ground. Liberals demand an amnesty and citizenship to goose their vote share (and further drain our social welfare finances), which is a non-starter for conservatives. Business-oriented conservatives, however, block real immigration enforcement, because they feel those enforcement efforts don't take into account the fact that many businesses have come to rely on immigrant workers, and would be disrupted by any kind of crackdown that was more than superficial (which is what our current raids mostly are).

To me, the best solution is to permit guest-worker visas but only for those industries that have long relied on immigrant illegal workers (agriculture, mainly), with a smaller pool of visas for industries that have recently begun to rely on such workers (hotels, restaurants), and none at all for industries which are just recently beginning to indulge in illegal hiring.

Then start reducing the visas for the middle category (the hospitality industries), to begin ratcheting this practice down in a slow way, forcing them little by little to stop hiring illegals.

Such guest worker visas should only be generous for the one industry that seems to be historically dependent on seasonal workers (agriculture).

That is, less of a war on illegal immigration, and more of a containment and rollback model. (I don't mean "war" to slight the anti-illegal-immigrant side, I just mean to contrast a "Stop It All Now and Eject Them Immediately" position to some kind of phased rollback.)

I think our laws do not reflect the reality that immigrants pick crops, and there aren't a huge number of Americans ready and able to step in were they to stop. Businesses will hire them illegally because they have to, and then the political structure will turn a blind eye to all of this because they know it's necessary, and the situation continues, with no support on either side for any kind of actual governing law.

Because there is no majority for any scheme of law here, we've all collectively decided, essentially, to keep the old "law" in place and just ignore the fact it's being broken left and right.

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posted by Ace at 01:31 PM

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