31 March 2006

Running on the border

Well, until gay marriage/adoption gets elevated--once again--to the greatest menace the country's seen since the Civil War (after all, it's still early, yet), it looks like immigration is the grandstand du jour for this election cycle. As usual, if you squint into the distance you can see the boat...and by just how far all of our politicians have missed it.

Make no mistake, illegal immigration is a serious problem requiring an equally serious solution. However, instead of a solution, all we're treated to, are our duly elected gasbags burying the needle on the pompous-o-meter with endless bloviations about "guest-workers" versus "strict enforcement" and what does or doesn't constitute "amnesty." Meanwhile, the talking heads on TV perpetuate this embarrassing (un)intellectual circle-jerk by droning on about the complexity of the problem and how difficult it will be to figure out. Airtime filling, contemplative chin-stroking aside, it comes down to one word, and one word only.


Water follows the lay of the land. The ready availability of jobs is what makes--and keeps--the U.S. the immigration equivalent of a flood plain. The solution that nobody wants to figure out, is to bite the bullet and go after those businesses that are breaking the law (just as much as those that are actually crossing the borders) and providing the employment that not only keeps illegals here, but serves to draw more to the country.

You think the answer is to make illegal immigration a felony?

G'head, hero.

Casting that vote feel good? Hope so, 'cause that sort of psychological comfort is the only good that can come from locking the barn door after the horses are gone.

In case anyone forgot, our prisons are packed to the gills as it is. A massive influx of immigration convictons requiring jail time will demand the construction of more prisons, the hiring of more guards, not to mention the tax dollars to house, clothe, feed, and care for the prisoners for 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, whatever the case. All until they're deported and are free to try again--alongside those that continue to try every day.

Because of the JOBS.

Images of lazy, deadbeat immigrants make for good campaign fodder. (Hell, it's nothing more than "Welfare Queens" 2.0; give 'em credit for recycling). But the crux of the issue isn't about taking advantage of welfare or health care; it's about paying jobs, money, and extended families. For example, the Mexican economy receives $17 billion (USD) annually from Mexicans living (both legally and not) abroad. That's a little more than it makes from all of its oil exports, and almost twice what it makes from tourism. Almost one in five adults in Mexico receives money from abroad, and $13 billion of that comes from the U.S.

Immigrants aren't coming here to use the safety net of our welfare system as a hammock, they're coming for real paychecks to send home. To broaden the picture further:
Last May the Inter-American Development Bank published results from a survey by the Multilateral Investments Fund that reported remittances totaling US$30 billion will be sent to Latin America this year from the U.S., where around 16 million Latin Americans live.
The real kicker there is tucked away in the middle:

"reported remittances"

One can only guess how much goes unreported.

We clearly see the "why" behind the tide of illegal immigration. And, just as clearly, that "why" points out the "what" that we need to do to fix it. The only thing left is to have the courage to deal with it head-on.

And that means politicians--from both parties--have to suck it up and, for once, separate what's good for the country from what's good for their re-election war chests.

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