This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Immigration Reform - Desparate Acts

In today's Washington Post, Jim VandeHei and Charles Babington report on a Republican measure designed to bring Republicans together, presumably jettisoning the Democrats from the bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate. The House and Senate are now in conference on an immigration bill, which rumor has it may pass. We have to chuckle, since the populists in the Republican Party are fighting the corporatists in the Republican Party about the legalization of current immigrants and the creation of a guest worker program to bring some sense to the current bad situation. The delightful thing is, in order to pass anything, the corporatists were forced to compromise with the Senate Democrats.

As delightful as the Republican quandry is, however, this is a serious issue. This is one of those cases where the solution has been worse than the disease for sometime now. The last round of immigration reform supposedly strengthened penalties on the hiring of illegal workers, while enforcement has been lax. This has had the preverse effect of making their hand stronger in dealing with their employees, since the greater level of illegality is used as a weapon to keep them in line. In many industries, employers prefer to hire undocumented workers. In a very real sense, agricultural slavery has reemerged in the United States, especially in the South. Most workers prefer to hire slaves than to pay the wages American workers want. This is true in industry as well as agriculture.

The anti-immigration lobby wants more such restrictions. This will likely make the problem of exploitation worse, not better. The only way to win on this issue is to give up. The reason illegals are prefered is that they are vulnerable. If there were no documentation requirements, in other words, if the borders were open, the incentive to hire illegal aliens goes away - especially if combined with the repeal of right-to-work laws. If employers are forced to hire at a union wage, they will likely hire an American worker instead.

The Republicans can't win. If they get what they are asking for, they will make the situation worse. The only way they can make life better for the members of their populist base is to compromise their positions, open the borders and empower the unions. This is the position the Democrats should hold them to.

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