News is supposed to slow down for the summer months. Late June, July, August, we’re supposed to spend our days watching baseball games, eating hot dogs, taking the kids swimming. These are meant to be relaxed, bucolic months. There’s a reason Jon Stewart took the summer off to go make his movie–there’s too much going on, politically, in the winter. Congress especially is supposed to take it easy. Let our Congressperson maybe show up to a Fourth of July parade, catch a foul ball at a minor league park, catch a trout for a photo op. Do we really want them, you know, working on stuff?
But they are, darn it. And so the House continues to pass nonsense symbolic bills (like rescinding Obamacare for the 80-jillionth time, or their big new abortion bill), that won’t ever even come up for a vote in the Senate. And the Senate’s working on immigration.
As John Oliver memorably put it (and boy has he been a terrific substitute on the Daily Show), immigration reform is an issue loved by Republicans, because they think voting for it will get them Hispanic votes, and also by Democrats, because it actually will get them Hispanic votes. A group of Senators called the Gang of Eight has a bill out now, being debated, possibly gaining support. John McCain and his old pal Lindsay Graham, Jeff Flake and probably 2016 Presidential candidate Marco Rubio have, in a spasm of bi-partisan cooperation, joined forces with Chuck Shumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez and Michael Bennet, and are pushing for an immigration measure. So while we consider the very real possibility that Lindsay Graham isn’t actually a conservative Republican senator, but rather the name of a Hooters’ waitress McCain met in Tempe, let’s take a look at the bill.
And it’s awful. A Washington Post story today has the details–predictably, the focus is on ‘border security,’ and every possible provision for citizenship made as difficult as possible, to fend of inevitable charges of ‘amnesty.’
Specifically: the fence on the Mexican border gets finished, then gets bigger, and also gets more high-tech, with lots of drones and electronic surveillance equipment. We
waste spend 30 billion to hire more border patrol agents. Plus the National Guard would be deployed along the border. Oh, and drones–we’re going to deploy drones. Plus the bill provides for the training of armadillos, coyotes and eagles to spy on people and run them down. Also, to get genetics labs to clone anti-immigrant jackalopes.
I’m kidding about the last two.
I mean, seriously, are we at war with someone? Border patrols, electronic surveillance, National Guardsmen mustering, a massive fence–isn’t that all pretty, uh, Soviet? Do we want to build a new Brandenburg Gate, in Nogales, maybe? The Berlin Wall was a disgrace, but also a revelation–it showed how badly people wanted to leave East Germany. Our wall reflects equally badly on us, though, doesn’t it? Showing how badly we want to keep people out, if they’re of an ‘undesirable’ ethnicity? Draco of Athens gave his name to a word, meaning a preposterously disproportionate legal code. But ‘draconian’ doesn’t just mean ‘unjust’–it also can connote ‘foolish, ineffective, pig-headed.’
All this nonsensical emphasis on border security is only necessary politically. There’s no rational need for any of it. We don’t have a huge continuing problem with illegal immigration, especially not from Mexico. Our economy is getting stronger, but unemployment is high, and Mexico’s economy is doing much better. The Obama administration has deported lots of folks, and the numbers of people slipping across the border is lower than in decades.
Plus, you know, illegal immigration is only a problem because our legal immigration system was broken. Back in the years when thousands of immigrants poured over the border every month, the reason they had to was because the government put strict limits on green cards. Basic economics 101–when there’s demand for labor, and a supply of laborers, they’re going to get together. Put up a twenty foot fence, they’ll bring a twenty-two foot ladder. The easiest way to solve the problem of illegal immigration? Issue more green cards. Give one to anyone who wants to work here.
And then, if they want to stay and continue to participate in American democracy, make that possible too. Get rid of 90% of the red-tape blocking citizenship.
Plus, you know, only about half of illegal immigrants in the US are from Mexico. There are, more or less, eleven million people here illegally. This Wikipedia article has the stats–they’re from all over, including Canada, (and our northern border isn’t one anyone seems concerned about).
So eleven million. In what sense would it be a bad thing for those people to become citizens, pay taxes, start businesses, employ people, buy stuff? In fact, the economic impact of full amnesty would be positive. The CBO vetted the current bill: said it would reduce the deficit by 200 billion. I think we could use that amount of deficit reduction, especially if we didn’t immediately spend that savings on useless and foolish ‘border security’ measures.
I’m the son of an immigrant, and feel pretty strongly about this. Immigration is the lifeblood of our nation, its greatest strength. Immigrants grow our economy, and participate to our cultural diversity in untold ways.
As bad as this Senate immigration bill is, as foolishly focused on non-issues like ‘border security,’ just wait ’til it gets to the House. An already awful bill will either fail (not a bad thing, that, actually), or become so much worse that it would be better if it did fail.
So let’s junk this Gang of 8 nonsense, and come up with a better bill. And when we do, let’s make it a full-amnesty bill. Let’s say that up front. Amnesty! Yay! Amnesty now, amnesty in the future, amnesty in the future! I think we should raise that flag every time anti-immigrant nativists shriek, at full voice, ‘but they’re here illegally!’ Right now, on the hard edges of the far-Right, the only coherent policy proposals echo Mitt Romney’s famous call for self-deportation. Either kick ’em out, or make life for tough for them that they leave on their own. In what possible sense is that American?