Incoherent Immigration Reform
Victor Davis Hanson
Nothing about illegal immigration quite adds up.
Conservative corporate employers still support the idea of imported, cheap, non-union labor -- in a strange alliance with liberal activists who want the larger blocs of Latino voters that eventually follow massive influxes from
Yet how conservative are businesses that in the past flouted federal law -- and how liberal are activists who undermined the bargaining power of American minimum-wage, entry-level workers, many of them minorities?
The remedies for illegal immigration under discussion are just as incoherent. If the government now plans to offer some foreign nationals a pathway to citizenship, does it also suddenly have the will to determine who among illegal immigrants does not qualify for citizenship?
Millions of illegal immigrants have resided in
There is also talk of reforming legal immigration as well. From now on we would select most immigrants for citizenship not by their place of origin, or by the fact of their prior illegal residence in
Yet are loud proponents of "comprehensive immigration reform" really willing to embrace the reforms they boast about? It might spell the end of privileging millions from
Massive illegal immigration is not ethnically blind or based on education. For decades it has favored more proximate Latin American arrivals who can easily cross the U.S.-Mexican border over those from distant
The politics of immigration are just as weird. Democrats, buoyed by the two election victories of
Republicans seem more confused. After needlessly bombastic talk in the 2012 presidential primaries, they have gone to the other extreme of emphasizing amnesties instead of enforcement -- largely in efforts to pander to growing numbers of Latino voters.
Here, too, paradoxes abound. Various polls suggest that immigration was not the primary reason why Latinos voted overwhelmingly for
Stranger still, Asian-Americans, for whom illegal immigration is not really an issue, voted for Democrats by about the same margins as did Latinos -- and perhaps for similar perceptions of minority-friendly big government.
Moreover, the largest concentrations of Latino voters are in Southwestern blue states like
Everyone talks grandly of passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform as if the present system had not sprung up to serve the needs of all sorts of special interests that certainly have not gone away.
We forget that too many employers still want the cheap labor of foreign nationals.
The Mexican government still promotes illegal immigration as a political safety valve and a valuable source of cash remittances.
Too many ethnic activists, whose support derives from large numbers of under-assimilated Latinos, don't want to deport anyone and do not welcome legal immigration redefined by ethnically blind, skill-based criteria.
Democratic politicos don't want closed borders, only to see the melting pot someday turn their loyal supporters into independent voters. And panicky Republicans simply have no idea what they want -- other than to cater to as many constituencies as they can.
The present system of immigration is far too often illegal and immoral. But it is also weirdly rational in the way that it serves so well so many lobbies -- and so poorly the shared public interest at large.
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