S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Weighing in on the Immigration Issue

Senate to weigh in on a guest worker proposal - Today the Senate will take up the issue of immigration, debating two different reform measures. One was developed yesterday in a magnificently bipartisan way by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The other comes from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

The Washington Post has the story, from which I quote,
With the Republican Party deeply divided, the Senate will take up a broad revision of the nation's immigration laws today amid signs that conservatives are ready to compromise on efforts to offer illegal immigrants new avenues to lawful employment.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) will move forward with his legislation to bolster border security and toughen laws against illegal immigration without a guest-worker program. But Frist agreed to allow Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) to quickly move to substitute the more lenient bill that passed his committee Monday, and Specter appears to have more than enough votes to do so.
That bill would couple border security measures with provisions that would allow millions of undocumented workers to apply for legal work visas and move toward U.S. citizenship, while offering hundreds of thousands of foreign workers access to the U.S. workplace.
The committee's bill is a sharp break from the get-tough approach approved by the House in December, which rebuffed President Bush's call for a guest-worker program and focuses exclusively on border security and immigration law enforcement.
This is the first time I have had the courgage to blog about the current subject of immigration reform. My reluctance was based on several things. First, whatever my view, about half the people will be in sharp disagreement about it. Second the issues are so complicated that it is very hard to frame a coherent argument in the face of my true ambivalence about many of the aspects of the problem. Third, I have biases that color my opinions. Despite all this, it is time to get out there with what I have to say.

Extremely complex problems - The immigration basket holds a lot of disparate problems, lack of security from terrorist entry to the U.S., competition among foreign countries for legal immigrant slots, economic and globalization realities, racism, greed, nationalism, ethnic demographics, religion, etc. In my opinion the biggest weight is with employers who want cheaper labor, consumers who demand cheap goods and services, lack of opportunity in neighboring countries, xenophobia and fears about homeland security.
Several biases in my frame of reference - living in the Southwest, no longer in the job market, politically liberal/progressive, mother/grandmother, living in a friendly neighborhood with many Latinos, raised in Western/Southern hospitality, being an optimist/pragmatist.
Widely opposing views - The breadth of strongly held views is very wide. At the extremes are those who believe that all illegal immigrants should be sent back to their country of origin forthwith, versus those who say that illegal immigrants should be granted amnesty and the borders should be relatively open and welcoming. It is safe to say that neither extreme has the majority of adherents. I am somewhere in the middle, leaning towards the welcoming side.

Values that apply to the immigration question, in my opinion, include these:

  • Fairness - people on waiting lists to legally immigrate should have the most standing.
  • Honesty - employers, workers, students and the government should be able to be honest about the status of the people in question. Massive nonadherence to established law is not good for our country. If laws are unworkable, then they need to be changed.
  • Justice - Formal criminalization of whole segments of our society that are making valuable contributions is unjust. But criminals who are harmful should not be welcomed.
  • Hospitality - Our society is enriched by the special characteristics that my Latino neighbors model: respect for family, hard work, formality, politeness towards elders, frugality, love of celebrations, generosity, reciprocity and respect for roots. I have no idea who are native born, who have become citizens, and who are undocumented, by the way. These traits are not dependent on their legal status. They are welcomed in my mixed neighborhood.
  • Practicality - The fact is that we will never round up 11 million undocumented workers and their family members. It just is not going to happen, nor should it happen.
  • Diversiity - My ancestors were all imigrants, except for whatever Native American heritage I have not yet found out about. Immigration from their countries of origin is currently low. Those countries do not have special standing with me. Our country has been enriched by "different-ness" in the past. New differences will enrich it in other ways.
With all of the above considerations - I favor the Judiciary Committee bill. What will probably happen is that, if the House and Senate bills turn out to be poles apart, Congress may be at an impasse. But if statesmanship prevails during this election year, we may get a decent bill that both fixes the porous borders and is fair and just to our current residents. To people who feel at home here, as Senator Graham so adroitly pointed out, those who are legal and illegal, documented and undocumented, that will be a good fix.

My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about sharing information.

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