Yesterday I watched last Sunday's episode of Meet the Press. Watching this show regularly is probably one of the most "adult" things I do. I really enjoy it for several reasons: Tim Russert is just awesome, he has a way of getting to the heart of issues without appearing partisan; it's probably the only news show where you can get national news straight from the people who are making it - no other show can boast such an extensive and powerful guest list; I actually care about national politics but I hate the extreme views of other news stations.
This week focused on the issue of Immigration reform. You can read a transcript here.
My first thought was that I thought both Rep. Gutierrez and Pat Buchanan were both guilty of committing the sin of red herring arguments to make an emotional appeal rather than a logical one. Buchanan is just "loco" when he characterizes a significant portion of illegals as murderers, rapists, and knocked-up single moms. But Gutierrez is no better for responding in kind by saying that illegals are good people and part of the fabric of our society, even comparing them to the founding generations of our country (who weren't illegal aliens). I'm sick to death of this tactic, because we can all agree that having immigration is a good thing for America. But there is a big difference between legal and illegal immigration.
I don't have time to pick apart their arguments in detail, but they both make the same mistake, like many Americans, of trying to fix the wrong thing. People think that illegal immigration is the problem, but it is only the symptom of the bigger problem: our broken legal immigration system. Instead of trying to come up with a better system for making it tenable for the right people to enter our country, we instead focus on trying to clean up the mess our broken immigration system has created. When failed bureaucracy makes it easier for people to enter the country illegally, then who can blame them?
I have real issues with the current reform bill. It not only smacks of amnesty, it fails to address the issue of fixing legal immigration. It will also encourage people to bypass the legal immigration system, because it is much easier to sneak in, then pay a fine, than it is to follow the rules. Also, what incentive do we offer illegals to come out of the shadows? The carrot of forgiveness isn't so enticing when it costs you money and the possibility of deportation. I'm sure even if the bill passes, I doubt that the majority of illegals will take advantage of it. It's just easier to remain as they are.
Another common argument (which Gutierrez mentions)is that illegals will often do jobs that Americans won't do. This is neither truthful, nor is it a healthy thing even if it was true. First, illegals will often take jobs for less pay, simply because they have no opportunities because of their legal status. To complain is to lose work. This causes the going rate for low-skilled workers to drop. It's just simple supply and demand. The supply of jobs is constant, but the demand from workers is going up and thus employers are able to pay less and less. The outcome is a slave class of workers who will do jobs that no American would do for such low pay, pay that is at or below minimum wages. In addition, these workers reap the benefits of tax dollars, such as schools for their children and other public works, without paying taxes. It's a parasitic relationship American businesses are willing to embrace because of the short term economic gains, but in the long term both illegals and Americans suffer.