March 06, 2005

Conservatives For Immigration

Tamar Jacoby lays out the conservative case for Bush's immigration plan. Namely, that by granting illegal immigrants "temporary worker status" and bringing them back into the legal system, Bush's act would stamp out the rather widespread disrespect for the law that we're seeing now.

Okay, but this is the Weekly Standard crowd she's writing for, worshippers at the free market altar, and in that respect Bush's immigration proposal is terrible. As best I recall, under the Bush plan, companies would be able to offer spots to guest workers only after they can't find any Americans to fill the jobs in question. The guest workers, meanwhile, more or less have to stick with their original employer for the duration of their stay in the U.S. Plus lots of other rules and fun forms to sign. So you have all the makings of an insanely regulated labor market that discourages job mobility and flexibility. Ho ho! I realize conservatives aren't always free-marketers (and Republicans tend to be neither), but surely a few principled folks are bothered by this.

But it gets even better! Under Jacoby's criteria, the conservative case for Bush's immigration plan is actually the conservative case against it. Notice that Bush is proposing that the workers stay for five years (or whatever) and then it's back home they go. They don't get to apply for citizenship, or even a green card. Now a majority of Mexican illegals have said, in a recent poll, that they would happily return home after five years, but the tricky concept here is that they're all lying. (I certainly would.) As soon as the five-year mark approaches, many of these "guest workers" will quietly disappear, and continue to stay in the U.S. for many, many more years as illegals. (I'm told that guest workers pull this trick quite often in Germany.) So now we're right back at precisely the sort of lawless situation—complete with vast and shadowy illegal immigrant underground—that Jacoby wanted to avoid in the first place! Face it: unless you offer illegal immigrants real amnesty, and a path to citizenship (however arduous), they're going to keep trying their best to flout the law and stay anyway.

Oh, but right. We could never offer amnesty. That would only be rewarding people who break the law. Quelle outrage! But really, boo-fucking-hoo. Stop me if I'm wrong, but we have a cute little constitutional amendment—number 21, innit?—that rewarded an entire country for breaking the law! And yet, mysteriously, our moral fiber remained intact enough to fight World War II.
-- Brad Plumer 5:39 AM || ||