Thursday, November 02, 2006



One of my favorite conservative columnists, Jonah Goldberg, has written an article published in today's paper about the "logjam" that prevents Congress from debating and enacting sensible legislation about immigration. It seems, according to Mr. Goldberg, that there is a coalition of unlikely partners who like the present situation. I almost wrote "present arrangement" but stopped when I realized that what we have now is chaos. There is no arrangement, just a situation in which a million or so undocumented workers, mostly from Mexico, enter the country each year. Mr. Goldberg lists some partners in the unlikely coalition: Business, which hires undocumented workers as a means of keeping wage costs low; libertarians, who believe that labor should be as free as goods to cross borders in the global economy; and various groups on the left. Against these unlikely allies (they oppose each other on most other matters). As a conservative, Mr. Goldberg comes down on the side of the populist opposition to unlimited and uncontrolled immigration. He argues that illegal immigrants work for substandard wages and are easily intimidated from joining labor unions and keep wages low for workers who have the benefits of citizenship.

Mr. Goldberg does not mention another set of "logs:" those who look for a practical and humane solution to the chaos that now prevails. As one of these, I recognize that it isn't realistic to try to round up and punish all of the twelve million or so illegal immigrants now living and working in the United States. An ideal solution isn't possible. We don't have the resources, to say nothing of the will, to round up and deport twelve million people. I think that a proposal supported by the President (he is also a conservative, in case Mr. Goldberg has forgotten) and passed by the Senate is a good basis for a practical solution. It isn't ideal. It wouldn't round up the 12 million illegals and put them on buses, trains, and planes to Monterrey or Ciudad Mexico (or maybe Juarez; it's closer and the bus fare would be less). It would fine the 12 million for breaking our laws and entering the country illegally. It would improve border security. What it would not do, as far as I can determine, is increase the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country each year.

Suppose there were a solution that would allow the million who now enter the country illegallly to come legally? They would still come to work. However, they would be legal residents (perhaps temporary for some period of time) and less subject to threats or intimidation by their employers. They would feel safe to join labor unions and demonstrate, like their naturalized and native-born counterparts, for better working conditions and wages.

Would such a solution command the support of a majority of Americans? What do you think?
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