Two reservations about an immigration reform bill
Darrell Schapmire sent in a comment from which I have extracted a few passages and am placing here. He has some serious reservations about an immigration reform bill. I have placed below two of his concerns. I think that advocates of immigration reform along the lines of the Senate bill – of which I am in favor – need to address his concerns.
Schapmire says that “the sinkhole” nature of the low wage labor market in the United States will result in debasement and erosion of any immigration controls Washington legislates.
We are also ignoring the sinkhole nature of the demand for cheap labor. This, to me, is the great sucker punch for the American public. Twenty years before Simpson-Mazzoli, we had similar legislation passed in Congress for a small number of immigrants. The law passed in 1986 was supposed to eliminate the problem of illegal immigration and the problems that go along with it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I would predict that when the current group of illegals is given amnesty, businesses will not only hire----but in many cases actively recruit----more illegal workers because they are "cheaper." We need to understand that business demand for "cheap labor" is insatiable. We also need to understand that there is no limit to the number of people who would come here, given the opportunity.
Comment: to avoid this scenario this time around, I believe the following must happen. First, labor protections for workers/employers in guest worker status and enforcement against workers/employers in illegal status need to be clearly superior to the status quo of today, in order that these measures sharply discourage both the supply and demand for illegal workers.
It will take five to ten years to get the protection and enforcement measures right, perhaps capped by Supreme Court decisions over the constitutionality of mandatory identity cards. In the past under Presidents Johnson and Reagan, the immigration reforms were sold to the public on the cheap. Border fences alone, and uniform driver licenses alone, are ideas coming from the let’s fix this cheap mindset.
Schapmire’s other concern I want to highlight deals with lack of commitment to an American way of life:
Beyond all of these it is disturbing to me that the current debate on immigration has simply centered around the economic and security aspects. These issues are, most assuredly, vital to our future. But this debate ignores one central fact: the perpetuation of our democratic republic does not depend so much on having a ready supply of workers as its existence depends on having a citizenry that is committed to our way of life. We need new residents to have not only their stomachs, but also their hearts and minds, fully invested in being Americans first. I am not personally satisfied that this is the case with some many of the people now coming to this country as illegal workers. I need only see pictures of tens of thousands of people demanding rights in the streets while waving the flags of another country.
Only 3% of Hispanic day laborers say they speak English very well. Given the vast transborder traffic in labor and jobs today, it is not clear to me if Schampire’s concerns about a immigrant working family commitment to an American way of life is translatable into a clear litmus test of commitment vs. lack of commitment.
The glue holding American society together is composed of (1) widely shared, core expectation that one’s way of life can improve, (2) access to educational resources, (3) mobility in the job market, and (4) skepticism towards ideologies. If these conditions hold, severe social isolation of groups cannot persist. I am not concerned if large numbers of Americans feel in their bones that they remain true to Mexico, Ukraine, or Laos.