Your Lying Eyes

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21 May 2007

Right and Left Poles Apart on Immigration

While the anti-war right and anti-war left could, for examle, join forces on Iraq, there seems to be little common ground in the immigration debate. One might think that protecting American workers from cheap foreign labor would provide fertile ground for such a coalition, and indeed both the right and left oppose a guest worker program. But that's about the only area of common ground. The divide on the other issues is so great that I would suggest even the most preliminary discussion would be fruitless.

For example, Speaker Pelosi let her opposition to the bill be known, and as the Times reports chose to highlight one issue as being unacceptable: the question of who gets to come in to this country and who doesn't.

House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, expressed concern about a central element of the bill, under which the government would establish a point system to evaluate would-be immigrants, giving more weight to job skills and education and less to family ties.“I have serious objection to the point system that is in the bill now, but perhaps that can be improved,” said Ms. Pelosi, a California Democrat. She asserted that this part of the bill, ardently sought by the White House and Republican senators, could undermine “family unification principles which have been fundamental to American immigration."

Now my mind simply reels at this attitude. She objects to the bill because it no longer proposes that an immigrant to this country gets to bring in his entire extended family. What could be the basis for such an objection? It makes no sense to give a foreigner preference in becoming a permanent resident merely because he's the brother of someone already here. The only possible argument in favor of this would be that this is the most effective way to use immigration to increase the number of future Democrats. Perhaps there's some "compassion" angle there, but wouldn't it be more compassionate to hand out visas via a pure lottery - again, why does being someone's brother give you the upper hand? I just don't get. And this is not just a side issue being debated, the Speaker has pointed to this as a critical item holding back her approval.

The Times article quoted above focuses on business leaders' second thoughts about the bill they apparently helped craft. One problem is that the law requiring employee verification applies to every person employed, not just foreign workers. But of course - what were they thinking? How could you restrict your search to only foreign workers? That would require making assumptions about who's a foreigner and who's not, and that would be discrimination. So the only fair way is to check every single worker - just like you can't assume a terrorist looks like a terrorist, so you have to check granny's pocketbook before she gets to go into the stadium.

And apparently there's a risk that there won't be enough low-skilled immigrant workers under this bill - like there's not enough now! The article quotes a Commerce Department report that of the 10 occupations expected to see the largest job growth, only two require a college degree. That's heartening, isn't it? Quite a modern economy we have going here.


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