Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Immigration Standoff in the Senate

Get the story from WP here!

The gist:
Disagreements over how to deal with illegal immigration are splitting the Republican Party as few issues have lately, dividing state congressional delegations down the middle and bringing the Senate to a virtual standstill yesterday.

Epitomizing the divisions are Arizona's GOP senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain. Both face important elections and represent the same 5.8 million people. But they are leading the two main opposing approaches that Republican senators will have to reconcile if Congress is to address border security, illegal worker status, deportation practices and other issues.

McCain, hoping to gain the 2008 presidential nomination, is the chief sponsor of legislation that would give millions of illegal aliens a path toward citizenship if they pay fines and back taxes, learn English, stay employed and don't break laws. Kyl, facing a potentially strong Democratic challenger this fall in his bid for a third term, is a key proponent of a guest-worker program that would require undocumented workers to return to their countries when their visas expire, a move that critics call unrealistic. Both bills would pour billions of dollars into greater border enforcement.

The House has approved an enforcement-only bill, but the immigration debate has deeply divided the Senate, especially its 55 Republicans. Party leaders unsuccessfully sought a compromise in several closed meetings yesterday.

"I'm very frustrated," Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) announced on the Senate floor. He accused Democrats of obstructionism, but Democrats shrugged off the charge. The Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee sent a bill to the floor that a majority of Republicans apparently will not embrace, they noted, because of the disagreements personified by Kyl and McCain.
The debate on immigration continues inside the Beltway and all over Main Street. There's more passion and posturing then common sense and consideration on this issue. Reconquistas would allow unlimited entry anytime to anyone. Fortress America would send ICE agents out to round up and deport 12 million illegal aliens, and then build the walls. Small businesses and Wall Street scream about the economic importance of "undocumented workers." They do the jobs no one wants. Of course, why would anyone work some of those jobs for the illegal alien prevailing wage. Construction aside, are the wages comparable? Why do I somehow doubt that? Meanwhile, economists like Thomas Sowell trash the Wall/Main argument.

Then, there's the American cultural defense brigade. They can't abide all these lawbreakers from the south. Can't have too many of those Spanish speakers and (cough! cough! Papists!), after all. Not that there's anything wrong with them. Except, well, you know...

Finally, and most importantly, there are the border communities, and all the others IAs settle down in to live and work. Many have become flooded with the most-needy and least-skilled illegal aliens Mexico and Central America have to offer. Taxes and municipal borrowing sky-rocket, as hospitals and schools face overwhelming demand. Virtual ghettos form seemingly overnight. Property owners encounter intruders on their grounds every night. Then, there's the criminals that enter with the honest...

All in all, this whole issue is a mess.

Neither political party demonstrates a genuine interest in authentic change. The Republican's Rockerfeller wing benefit from the current influx of illegals. Businesses can hire the low-skill workers for below-market wages. Many businesses look the other way when hiring them. Others become frustrated at the cost and time in determining their potential employees status. The Democrats, on the other hand, hope to capitalize politically on the ias' entry. Poor, unskilled workers in need of services? Can you spell Welfare State enthusiast? They can just count the votes--once they figure out a way to allow illegal immigrants to vote. At the very least, they can earn the sympathy of the legal resident and/or citizen Hispanic voter.

And that's the trouble with viewing immigration from the perspective of partisan politics. Our society will not solve the problems of people's migration by treating those people at utilitarian means to materialist ends. They are not "cheap labor" or "invaders." They are not victims of the West's evil imperialism, entitled to defy the US' national sovereignty, either.

They are people that desperately want to live more financially secure lives.

How can we best meet the needs of those that truly want to live the American dream without jeopardizing the integrity of our country? How do we serve the needs of these poor huddled masses while ensuring the common good?

How can we act with justice in our immigration policy, while extending charity through our socialization?

These are the questions upon which a solution to the immigration controversy rests.

McCain/Kennedy's bill--with ammendents to prevent illegal aliens from enjoying rights to citizenship ahead of legal resident aliens--may offer the closest framework Congress to a just solution. It's not perfect. It's guest-worker program and pathway to citizenship reads like Amnesty, and that policy failed in 1986. Nonetheless, the competing bill from the House just isn't realistic. Illegal aliens do not deserve to be declared criminal felons unless they've committed criminal felonies. Barriers are far too expensive and still require intense manpower to prevent breaching the border. Do we want to resolve the difficulty of illegal entry into the United States? Or do we want to pose with the tribe and "crack down" on those Eeevil lawbreakers?

Fair immigration laws might prevent the hold-ups that encourage illegal immigration. Let's end the archaic mess of bureacratic hold-ups that prevent desired workers from entering legally. Then we can encourage the orderly entry of legal immigrants into our country. That will make securing the border much easier, as well.

There's no easy solution here, for sure. The US has every right to protect her borders. IAs do not deserve to enjoy the benefits of citizenship ahead of legal immigrants and resident aliens. Likewise, IAs do not deserve condemnation to life in a shadow economy, where their exploitation never ends and the fear of deportation lurks around every corner.

Our society desperately needs a just immigration policy. Pray that our divided Congress come together and provide one. Soon.

Update: Paul of Thoughts of a Regular Guy has the ultimate solution at Fugger Nutter!