Jun 29, 2007

Questions: What's Next for Immigration Reform? Why Do Human Beings Come to the US when all we Need is a Low-Cost, No-rights Labor Force?

Are we running out of space? Or, do the natives feel threatened?

I've followed closely the Senate's attempts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform, that ultimately failed by a procedural vote, mainly opposed by Republicans. I admit I was conflicted about that bill. It had major flaws--and, I think that's why it didn't get the support from several Democrats who voted against it. I will not rehash the whole immigration debate today. [here's an earlier post of mine] This are some of my latest observations.

The bill was too big, and the managers tried to accommodate too many diverse interests and, more importantly, they tried to get the support of certain Senators by giving them more an more, amendment upon amendment, making the bill more cumbersome, just worse. Many Senators, much of the GOP, are nativists--not in favor of reform, of any immigration. Let me correct this. I mean, any immigration that gives rights to the workers. Exploitation is fine, because it keeps wages low and snuffs workers' demands. The previous congressional was proud for passing legislation to give immigration & labor laws exemptions to US businesses in the Marianna Islands (US territory), so they could keep their imported workers (mostly Asians) in slave-like conditions and keep putting "Made in the USA" labels on their products.

It showed that president Bush has lost one of the most important powers a US president has: the power to convince. Like the Wall Street Journal noted, the GOP is going to be the political loser out of this. The more this issue remains hot--and I assume it will, even simply from a strategic point of view--Republicans who opposed this latest bill will suffer if they come from a state with large immigrant population. In a tight Congress, Dems are expected to have electoral gains from this issue.

Further, if the Dems manage to pass piecemeal
legislation [before a comprehensive one a couple years from now] favoring immigrants already in the country, there's a potential for solidifying the Latino group in the Dem column for a couple generations. This is extremely significant. In 2006, they broke 70-30 for the Dems, an increase over 2000, and the trend can continue upwards in 2008.

Comprehensive immigration reform won't happen before the next Congress & president take office, in 2009. But, smaller steps may be possible, before the next election. A practical approach would be to start with a tiered approach. Start with those who've been
here the longest and have established roots in their community--not a date as it was proposed, but years continuously in the US. The proposed date, Dec. 2006 (anyone who had been in the country by then, even by 1 day), was a point of contention. It gave ammunition to those voices who oppose any reform. But, the majority of Americans--especially the ones who've closely known immigrants--are in favor for giving citizenship to their neighbors who've built a life here. The latter are already citizens, consumers, part of the culture--they're just lack an official document saying so.

The next step could be giving preference to those sectors of the economy that need workers. A skill-based immigration policy makes sense, and it's supported by much of our industry. The level of education could be another factor. There are several ways to tackle this problem of a seriously defective law/policy, but we have to approach it with honesty and with realism.