Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dissecting the Immigration Debate

To me the immigration issue is both fascinating and extremely important for this country, and really for everyone in the world. The widespread immigration of people coming from lower-income areas to higher-income areas affects the entire world whether this be country to country immigration or rural to urban immigration within countries. So what the US is dealing with is just one of the many expressions of this that are going on everywhere, which to me makes it even more interesting.

But I want to look specifically at the debate on this issue, and the arguments used both by Democrats and Republicans, and I want to think specifically about the voters rather than the politicians - incidentally I am not sure which is more difficult - understanding the opinion of millions of Democrats and Republican voters, or understanding the opinion of a single Democrat or Republican candidate.

What is so fascinating about this debate is that it has layers that transcend party lines. For Democratic voters, the party is sympathetic to the most recent addition to our diverse "nation of immigrants." This would favor less detention and deportation and less crack-downs given the sympathy for the predicament that illegals are in. On the other hand they are a party that represents workers, and thus may have constituents that are worried about job security in light of a large increase in the labor supply - and an increase of workers who are more eager to work for lower wages. Speaking of wages, Democratic voters might not be as upset about the employment of illegal workers per se, but would be very upset if that employment means that the employer is paying less than minimum wage. This would favor more crackdowns on employers and may or may not lead to more detention and deportation.

Republicans I think are the opposite of the above. They are less sympathetic to illegals since they are not playing by the rules. I see Republican voters as highly respectful of the law and the rules of the game, moreso than Democrats. So this would favor more crackdowns, detentions etc. However Republicans are also the party of business and of employers, which means a reluctance to crack down on employers to root out illegals. This might apply more to the politicians than the voters however.

I am not sure whether the debate and the arguments thrown around are dictated by the media or by the presidential candidates, theoretically the media and the candidates are supposed to represent the views of the voters and advocate them, although it's hard to know who is influencing who. Take people like Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo. Democrats see these guys and then assume that all Republicans are alarmist about terrorism, the deterioration of American culture, and American workers losing their jobs to illegal and legal immigrants alike. Actually I would like to hear from a conservative or a Republican on this one. Do you agree with or identify with the arguments made by Lou Dobbs? Or is it more the respect for the law and the rules of the game that is behind most Republicans' "tougher" stance on the immigration issue?

Hopefully this post served to bring out only some of the nuances, maybe the surface nuances on this debate, and also served to illustrate why it is so hard to make progress on this front.

98 comments:

John J. said...

I have to disagree with your view of Republicans being more interested in following the rules. I view it more as they are strong sticklers for their rules, the ones they agree with. Just look at their views on civil liberties, or as they prefer to call them, "activist judges' decisions."

Personally, I have a hard time, like you outline in this post, of pinning down a group or person on the immigration debate. The problem is that there is no good solution, and not really any bad solutions that can be implemented. You can't ship 11+ million people back to whatever country they belong to. You can't just give them all work visas, etc. and legalize them all. You can't enforce immigration laws at the work place without bankrupting our economy.

This is why I expect 4 more years of bluster with very little done to fix anything.

Here's hoping I'm wrong...

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Michael M. said...

The debate as you call it isn't and shouldn't be about immigration. The conflict is and needs to stay focussed on illegal immigration. Those are different.

Immigration is what built this country. Illegal immigration is what is ripping our country apart.

The solution is not complex either. 1) recognize the illegal part of their title 2) enforce their criminal behavior 3) install safeguards to deter future violators.

That is what our elected officials are there for, to protect US citizens, not coddle a bunch of border bandits.

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