Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Fareed Zakaria on Illegal Immigrants

I love reading and listening to Fareed Zakaria, although I don't always agree with him. He has an excellent column about illegal immigration in today's Washington Post. He (a legal immigrant, btw) begins by referring to the failure of Germany's guest worker program and then brings it back home:

Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration -- perhaps without realizing it. Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe's mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week. Across Europe one sees disaffected, alienated immigrants, ripe for radicalism. The immigrant communities deserve their fair share of blame for this, but there's a cycle at work. European societies exclude the immigrants, who become alienated and reject their societies.

One puzzle about post-Sept. 11 America is that it has not had a subsequent terror attack -- not even a small backpack bomb in a movie theater -- while there have been dozens in Europe. My own explanation is that American immigrant communities, even Arab and Muslim ones, are not very radicalized. (Even if such an attack does take place, the fact that 4 1/2 years have gone by without one provides some proof of this contention.) Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?

The United States has a real problem with flows of illegal immigrants, largely from Mexico (70 percent of illegal immigrants are from that one country). But let us understand the forces at work here. "The income gap between the United States and Mexico is the largest between any two contiguous countries in the world," writes Stanford historian David Kennedy. That huge disparity is producing massive demand in the United States and massive supply from Mexico and Central America. Whenever governments try to come between these two forces -- think of drugs -- simply increasing enforcement does not work. Tighter border control is an excellent idea, but to work, it will have to be coupled with some recognition of the laws of supply and demand -- that is, it will have to include expansion of the legal immigrant pool.

Beyond the purely economic issue, however, there is the much deeper one that defines America -- to itself, to its immigrants and to the world. How do we want to treat those who are already in this country, working and living with us? How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans. Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans, that these newcomers are not really welcome and that what we want are workers, not potential citizens. And we will end up with immigrants who have similarly cold feelings about America.


I have a theory that certain conservatives are terrified that someone, somewhere is getting away with something. For example, they're much more willing than progressives to err on the side of more torture of suspected terrorists, stricter prison sentences for petty criminals, the death penalty for murderers, etc. When discussing welfare, they'll focus on the few "welfare queens" who cheat the system rather than on the millions who utterly depend on it. They usually have a punitive view of God as well, looking gleefully forward to Judgement Day when the evildoers will have their comeuppance. (I think this also partly explains the intensity of the anti-gay marriage movement -- they can't stand to see other people "getting away" with breaking rules that they believe in. But that's for another discussion.)

Those with this worldview are outraged at the illegal immigrants. They see a bunch of cheaters, law-breakers, and freeloaders who are unfairly taking from our country. They don't think about what drives people to leave their families, their loved ones, and their countries to seek a better life. They don't think about how illegal immigrants work their asses off (for American employers!) for less than minimum wage. They're simply blinded by rage, and they want illegal immigration to stop. Even if their fury were justified, as Zakaria points out, we could't end illegal immigration simply through tougher enforcement. We can't (practically) deport the eleven million people who are already here and we can only slow the tide of new illegal immigrants.

We need to come up with a practical solution that is focused more on results than on punishing the already desperate and needy. If we could show some basic human empathy and compassion as well, so much the better.

23 comments:

Ezzie said...

The little rant on the right was way off-base and, simply, wrong. However, the point about practically being unable to deport 12 million people is true, though it's equally true that simply allowing them to all "get away with it" as it were is the wrong thing to do as well.

Focusing on helping Mexico to make it more worthwhile for people to stay there would be the best idea; perhaps US companies opening businesses there would help everyone.

The Atheologist said...

Great post.

I agree with your theory that:
"certain conservatives are terrified that someone, somewhere is getting away with something." but I would add "and it's not them" to it.

And these same people often are:
"a bunch of cheaters, law-breakers, and freeloaders who are unfairly taking from our country."

Salsa Lover said...

Nice reflection of the article. I thought it wasn't quite fully thought out towards the end - or at lesat I felt like he didn't finish that strongly. There's no possible way to deport everyone so let's work with them to at least apply for citizenship and keep them here legally...paying taxes... I happen to know a number of people who would do anything to become a citizen and be just like every other American. Case in point re: Germany.

Sadie Lou said...

(I think this also partly explains the intensity of the anti-gay marriage movement -- they can't stand to see other people "getting away" with breaking rules that they believe in. But that's for another discussion.)
No, let's talk about it now.
:)
I posted an interesting article about the Dalai Lama today and his "conservative" views on homosexuality.

The Atheologist said...

sadie lou,

You left out a lot of important information in your post.
The world would be a better place if the Dali Lama were ignored, (along with most other religious leaders).

When the Dali Lama ruled Tibet (prior to the Chinese taking control), Tibet was strictly a theocracy. One in which there were two types of people, monks and peasants. The peasants had no rights and basically were strictly viewed as servants to the monks. There are reports of widespread torture being perpetrated by the monks to enforce the state religion. There was also no political freedom, non-religious schools, or much of anything else. When you see the Dali Lama, remember he isn’t asking that Tibet simply be let free, he is asking to be put back in charge of theocratic govt.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ezzie:

The little rant on the right was way off-base and, simply, wrong.

I said "some" on the right. I'm referring mostly to the Michael Savages and the voters who turned out in droves to vote against gay marriage and civil unions.

Focusing on helping Mexico to make it more worthwhile for people to stay there would be the best idea; perhaps US companies opening businesses there would help everyone.

I'm open to all kinds of ideas. I just oppose the knee-jerk "deport them all!" views.

Sadie Lou:

I responded to you there. Although, I think The Atheologist may have said it better here. :-)

Sadie Lou said...

Atheologist--
Great comment. Just to be clear--I'm a follower of Christ; not the Dalai Lama. I just thought that was an interesting article because so many American progressive-types talk about having Buddist inclinations and I thought it would serve two purposes to oust the Dalai Lama on his anti-homosexuality stance.
I also wanted to point out the Dalai Lama's acceptance of Bush, as an individual, even though he's against the war in Iraq.
Too often, Progressives/Liberals/Dems., get swept up with the winds of rebellion and dissention and they forget that the real power is in silent action.
To stay on topic:
I think what needs to happen is that we need to reward the immigrants that are trying to become law-abiding citizens the right way, instead of treating them unjustly.
We also need to enforce the laws we already have on illegal imigrants and the employers that hire them instead of making any new laws.

Jewish Atheist said...

Sadie Lou:

We also need to enforce the laws we already have on illegal imigrants and the employers that hire them instead of making any new laws.

What do you mean by this? We should deport all 11 million illegal immigrants? We should build a 700-mile long fence to prevent future illegal immigration? I understand your desire to enforce the laws we have, but the whole point here is that the laws themselves are broken in that they can't reasonably be enforced.

Sadie Lou said...

and by contrast, what are you suggesting? A free-for-all?

Jewish Atheist said...

I'm not sure what the solution is. I'm sure it will involve dealings with Mexico as well as allowing more immigrants to be legal, either through amnesty (like Reagan did, I hear -- I admittedly don't know much about this subject) or guest worker programs and the like.

Instead of criticizing my proposed solutions or lack thereof, why don't you answer the questions I asked you?

Esther said...

Historically people have come to America to escape hardship. That's what my family did. Some of them came legally, when it was easier to get in. Those who couldn't get in legally, snuck in across the border.

I'm grateful that my family got the chance to come to this country - and not just because the ones who stayed behind were murdered (although that's a compelling reason in itself).

Today's immigrants are contributing a tremendous amount to our economy. They wash our dishes, clean our houses, blow our leaves with zero benefits and zero job security. Thousand of illegal immigrants have even enlisted in the military in the hopes that it will earn them citizenship, if they don't get blown up in Iraq first.

Generally, people risk their lives to come to this country and work long hours at low wages with no benefits because they love their children and want to make things better for the next generation.

We should be able to find a way for them to earn their citizenship - by working hard, by contributing to their communities through service, by joining the military - something.

Sadie Lou said...

esther--
That's essentially what I said, we need to make gaining citizenship easier on those who are trying to do it legally. Right now, people get buried under years worth of paperwork to get their papers.

JA--
I'm not trying to avoid your questions. Obviously deportation of 11+million illegals is not the solution. I found this awhile back on a blog:
Our government can track a cow born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she sleeps in the state of Washington. They can track calves direct to their stalls, but is unable to locate 11+ million illegal aliens wandering around our country. Perhaps the solution is to give every illegal alien a cow.
--from the MadCow investigation

asher said...

The problem is that most illegal aliens (now called undocumented workers) have no intention of becoming american citizens. As was very evident by the recent protests, they waved their Mexican flags and displayed signs saying that America is their country after all and that we don't know history.

Unskilled workers are merely taking the summer jobs of high school children.

The proposal to heavily fine companies that employ illegals will produce the following: 11 million people here who cannot be employed. However, about 28% of the folks in jail for crimes like murder, drug trafficking, and rape are illegals.

Politicians are all for this silly amensty program supposedly to court the Hispanic vote. However, no aliens vote so that idea is
out. What they are most afraid of it creating a panic, which might cause riots. Calling a law breaker a "guest worker" and assuming they will apply for citizenship at some future time is just comical.

Esther said...

Asher - Those flags certainly are a sign that those Mexicans have dangerous dual allegiences. In fact, any U.S. citizen who waves the flag of another country is un-American and ought to forfeit their citizenship rights at once. That goes for all those ingrates on Israel's Independence Day and St. Patrick's Day. The nerve!

The Hedyot said...

You might want to check out the interview with him on The Daily Show. I believe it was last Tuesday's episode. He actually spoke a bit about this subject.

Random said...

"I have a theory that certain conservatives are terrified that someone, somewhere is getting away with something."

Astonishing comment - strip out the emotive language, and what you are actually accusing conservatives of is being worried that people are breaking the law with impunity. I really am surprised that someone who claims to be concerned for the poor can say such a thing, after all the poor suffer much more from a breakdown of respect for law and order than the rich do (the rich can afford to move, or hire private security, after all). I think you need to clarify your worldview on this.

And one thing that should be mentioned, which you have ignored (but conservative commentators by and large don't) is that the people who suffer most from illegal immigartion are not American citizens or the illegals themselves by and large, it's the people in third world countries who are trying to immigrate legally and have to spend years jumping through one bureaucratic hoop after another and who suffer discrimination and suspicion because of the tensions caused by illegal immigrants. Don't these people deserve any consideration and support?

And to show that immigration is not simply a left/right issue either, let me share one of my favorite comments from P J O'Rourke, talking about Pat Buchanan - "The way he goes on about immigration, you'd think Buchanan was a Cherokee name."

"I said "some" on the right. I'm referring mostly to the Michael Savages and the voters who turned out in droves to vote against gay marriage and civil unions."

Another error - of the eleven states that voted against gay marriage in 2004 (out of eleven polled) two were actually carried by Kerry in the presidential election, and in most of the others gay marriage was opposed by far more people than voted for Bush. Plenty of Democrats voted against it in other words - opposition to gay marriage is a bipartisan issue, not a solely right-wing one.

And Atheologist, yes the Dalai Lama did not run an idealised Jeffersonian democracy when he ran Tibet. It was still a lot more benign and peaceful than the genocidal atheist dictatorship imposed by the Chinese when they invaded however.

Jewish Atheist said...

Astonishing comment - strip out the emotive language, and what you are actually accusing conservatives of is being worried that people are breaking the law with impunity.

Random, I'm speaking of an irrational, out-of-proportion fear, not a basic desire to see the law upheld. Think of the fourth-grader who's constantly spying on his classmates to see if anyone's cheating rather than focusing on his work.

Plenty of Democrats voted against it in other words - opposition to gay marriage is a bipartisan issue, not a solely right-wing one.

I'm aware of that and sorely disappointed in my fellow Democrats. However, again, I'm talking about over-the-top opposition to gay marriage -- the anti-gay marriage voters who specifically turned out in higher numbers than usual to vote on that one issue. There's a reason it's Republican candidates who push implausible gay marriage Amendments in election years.

Jewish Atheist said...

BTW, that's a great line from O'Rourke. Also, I know that immigration is not as left-right as many issues. Again, this post was about those on the right who oppose it due to an excessive focus on law and order to the exclusion of practicality and compassion.

Sadie Lou said...

Random--
And one thing that should be mentioned, which you have ignored (but conservative commentators by and large don't) is that the people who suffer most from illegal immigartion are not American citizens or the illegals themselves by and large, it's the people in third world countries who are trying to immigrate legally and have to spend years jumping through one bureaucratic hoop after another and who suffer discrimination and suspicion because of the tensions caused by illegal immigrants. Don't these people deserve any consideration and support?

That point has been ignored over and over again in these comments.
(You have worded this better than I have.)
Good point.

Jewish Atheist said...

Sadie Lou:

t's the people in third world countries who are trying to immigrate legally and have to spend years jumping through one bureaucratic hoop after another and who suffer discrimination and suspicion because of the tensions caused by illegal immigrants.

I'm in favor of both removing bureacratic hoops and assuaging the tensions "caused" by illegal immagrants. (Ultimately, the tensions are "caused" by the bad job we're doing with illegal immigrants. If the system were smarter, there wouldn't be nearly as much tension.)

Jack's Shack said...

I have a few issues with this. I haven't any problem with people trying to become citizens to improve their lives. I do have a problem with them waving any flag but the American flag. You can't come here illegally and then complain that you have no rights while waving the Mexican flag. It is just not right.

I don't buy the argument that they do the jobs that Americans won't do. Pay more and you'll see more Americans take those jobs. Part of the problem is that the illegals are exploited by many businesses and that is just wrong.

Sadie Lou said...

Jack--
Reminds me of the story from Denver about a 12 year old girl getting suspended from school for wearing a shirt with the American flag on it in support of her family members that served in the military.
America is commiting sucicide by catering to the sensabilities of people who get offended with Americans being patriotic.

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