1/13/2005

The Tenth Item

Via PrestoPundit...

The Washington Times reports today that Bush's immigration plan is running into some serious opposition among Congressional Republicans.

Last January, Mr. Bush proposed allowing foreign workers to apply for renewable three-year work permits. Illegal immigrants already in the United States would be eligible and would not have to face the deportation and waiting period before re-entering the country that the law now requires.

But soon after he made his proposal, the president's aides faced tough criticism from Republican lawmakers at a retreat in Philadelphia, and Mr. Bush seemed to put the proposal on the back burner.

Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who controls which bills reach the floor, all oppose granting legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States.

"And then you come to the rank-and-file guys," Mr. Hayworth said, "who, on nine out of 10 items agree with the administration, this is the 10th item. And now, if it goes to number one on the priority list, it is the item where there will be serious debate and discussion and ultimately rejection of this initiative."
The center of Bush's immigration plan is a guest-worker plan that would provide a way for America's estimated ten million illegal immigrants to earn a legal status that would let them stay in the country for up to six years. Once they register as temporary workers, they would be eligible to begin the long process of applying for citizenship or permanent residency.

At the core of most objections to this plan (including my own) is the notion of rewarding someone for breaking the law. Illegal immigrants have broken the law. The Bush plan not only gives these people a pass on their crimes; it rewards them by giving them exactly what they sought when they decided to break the law in the first place - permanent residency. I know of no plan that rewards shoplifters by giving them a pardon and the merchandise they stole.

The reality of immigration is that there are jobs that Americans won't do; the types of jobs that immigrants are willing to risk their lives crossing Arizona deserts for. Rather than reward these hazardous (and often fatal) journeys, we need to acknowledge the fact that our economy depends on these workers. That means allocating resource to allow more immigrants to legally enter the country, and to do it faster. It also means stepping up efforts to control illegal immigration and exercising tighter control of our borders.

One cannot reward illegal immigration while simultaneously expecting people to come to this country "by the book". All things being equal, people will follow the path of least resistance. True immigration reform (not to mention enhanced national security) will come when that path is through an Immigration office, rather than the deserts of the American Southwest.

Note: Here I am citing the Washington Times right after saying that I don't like to do so. However, the article was buttressed by a parallel piece in the Washington Post, so I felt comfortable with it.