Immigration

On the Arizona Immigration Bill

This week, I submitted a letter to the editor of Fax-Net, a local rag for Shreveport insiders. Comments welcome.

In the May 11 issue of Fax-Net, Pat Culverhouse gave a roundup of his take on current events. I’d like to respond to his comments about the immigration bill in Arizona.

First, the author’s focus on the current popularity of the Arizona bill tells us little about its worth or potential success. To cite a recent example, more than two-thirds of Americans opposed George Bush’s early 2007 troop surge, a surge that may ultimately prove the beginning of a US victory in that country. The surge’s initial unpopularity did not make it wrong or unnecessary, any more than the Arizona bill’s current popularity makes it morally or logically defensible. It may in fact be both of those things, but we must look elsewhere for evidence.


Second, Culverhouse describes opponents of the bill as “proponents of illegal immigration.” In fact, the author would be hard-pressed to find anyone that believes illegal immigration is good for the United States; illegal immigration has no “proponents.”

Illegal immigration endangers U.S. security, U.S. citizens, and foreign migrants. What those of us on the other side of the table from Mr. Culverhouse seek is a more rational national immigration system, one that acknowledges the dangers and the opportunities that immigration brings. Yes, we must control our borders and punish those responsible for the murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz. And yes, the free flow of labor – like the free flow of capital – benefits our economy and our country.

Unfortunately, our current system is not “rational” in any sense. The presence of millions of illegal immigrants in our country right now is testament to just how much our economy demands their labor. At the same time, our immigration system allows almost no way for the majority of them to come here legally – unlike the era in which my ancestors (and likely Mr. Culverhouse’s) came to this country.

Current law allows for 5,000 unskilled worker visas annually, about 3,000 of which are taken up by family members of American citizens. For all of the undocumented workers in the U.S. to acquire a visa under our current system would take 6,000 years. It takes more than “desire and effort” to be in this country legally; it takes some serious patience, too.

Our current immigration system is at best schizophrenic. We invite immigrants to build our houses during a boom and look the other way when firms hire undocumented workers, but then deny those workers protection under the law and provide no legal method for most of them to enter our country. We can do better, if we tone down some of the rhetoric, roll up our sleeves, and hammer out the details. The Arizona bill couldn’t do that at the state level – but perhaps it can convince Republicans and Democrats in Washington that it’s high time they did.
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