Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Immigration: Curing the Symptom, Ignoring the Disease

I simply do not understand the current discussion on immigration, it just doesn't seem to follow any rational thought process.

What exactly is the problem?
There are too many illegal immigrants in the US.

Perhaps. I'm not sure I agree but lets run with it.

Why are there too many illegal immigrants in the US?
It's too easy to get into the US.

Well that is clearly not true. People die in the desert, in the back of semi-trailers and at the hands of criminals. People dig tunnels to get here and generally risk everything to get here, I wouldn't classify any of those conditions as easy. Let's try again.

The benefits from living in the US outweigh the risks in getting here.

That seems more plausible. Conditions in, well everywhere, pretty much suck unless you are lucky enough to live in Europe or the developed parts of Asia. If you have no opportunity to improve your life where you are at it is only logical to assume you will try somewhere else. The US has long been the beacon of hope, rightly so in my opinion. As long as a poor life in the US exceeds the most optimistic life elsewhere there are going to be scores of people trying to enter the US by any means necessary.

So if the problem is there are too many illegal immigrants, and the reason why there are so many illegals is that any risk of getting into the US exceeds the benefits to being here how do we fix the problem?

Allow more people into the US legally.

Economists universally agree that immigration is a net benefit for the US, so what plausible reason is there for keeping the quotas so low? Some have argued that they drain social services, I'm not sure whether or not that is correct (immigrants that I know typically will refuse services from the government even if they are eligible), but even assuming that is true there are easy fixes for that. Simply deny benefits to all immigrants until they have been here for x number of years.

We want people to come to the US because they want to make a better life for themselves and those around them, we don't want them to free-load off the generousity of American citizens. If they don't believe that they can survive in the US without hand-outs refusing benefits will simply make it more likely that free-loaders won't want to immigrate.

So now that that reason is off the table, what more reasons are there? I simply can't think of any.

It's time to end the populist scare tactics that are surrounding the current debate around immigration. Once the proper questions are asked the solution is easy - but then again the debate really isn't about solving a problem, its winning an election and there is no easy solution to get rid of the problem of politicians.

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