Immigration: preparing to enter the debate

I know, I know. My participation is long overdue. After all, I did write a book about it, and more recently (2003), an op-ed on a the growing census numbers. The huge demos last March caught me by surprise -- I was in Spain and, frankly, had not been closely following the politics of what I had called the Hispanic Nation. I don't want to just give an opinion; this question is too important for pundits. Rather, I want to come up with some hypotheses, and maybe even a proposal, that will help us understand and deal with all the conflicting issues. Big job. A job for a sociologist.

Here are some things I've been reading to get back up on it, in rough order of interest:
• Nina Bernstein,100 Years in the Back Door, Out the Front, NYT Week in Review; also, click on Bernstein's link to see her other articles on the issue -- serious reporting.
• E. J. Dionne Jr., Divisive In Any Language (washingtonpost.com)
• Alicia A. Caldwell, Security plan worries N.M. town officials (AP, boston.com)
• Shikha Dalmia, No Free Ride (Knight Ridder, Tom Paine)
• Sandi Burtseva, Yes, We Know They're Illegal (Tom Paine)


Douglas said...

Immigration "reform" in whatever form passed by this Congress and signed by this President will probably drive down the rate and conditions of wage-work for the poor even further. The Republicans in the House of Representatives push for the hard line, which satisfies the racists among their constituents, but it would have the effect not of "solving" the immigration problem, but of making it worse. If all illegal immigrants are considered felons, then a significant part of our economic system will be driven underground. The workers won't disappear, employers will find a way around the laws to hire them, but the workers will be even more subject to exploitation, which will drive down the conditions of work for everyone else as well; it will mean more poor people.
If immigration is reformed the way President Bush advocates, there will be a legal avenue towards citizenship, but there will be a guest worker program that will create a whole new legal underclass of workers (the poorest of the working poor) in this case regularizing the fall in work standards and wages.
The problem with immigration, as even Calderon the conservative President-elect of Mexico, has stated is that people from Mexico (and the rest of Latin America) will continue to seek jobs in the US until there are adequate opportunities in their own countries. As long as the US, and the European countries, continue to follow trade policies and World Bank policies that put these countries at an economic disadvantage--cutting services, privatizing, demanding open market access--then the immigration problem will be with us no matter how high we build our fences (like the Berlin Wall) and no matter how draconian our immigration laws.

For more, from a unique perspective, see www.roman-empire-america-now.com

gef said...

Thanks, Douglas. I think you're right, that none of the proposed reforms will stem the flow of immigrants as much as the conservatives would like. But more importantly, none addresses the many conflicting issues in a coherent way, which really requires collaboration on both sides of the border. Roger Lowenstein's article in yesterday's NYT Magazine, The Immigration Equation, is a useful summary of some of those conflicts, but just from the U.S. point of view. We have to work out better solutions with the Mexicans & other sending nations to get an orderly, humane & economically tenable system going.