Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Rod Dreher has several different posts regarding the illegal immigration situation. I think they're worth reading.

My views on illegal immigration, like those of most Catholics, are somewhat complex. On the one hand, as one commenter on the Crunchy Con blog said, no one seriously expects that twelve million people are going to be deported. The logistics alone necessary to make that happen would be staggering.

Moreover, it's hard not to feel compassion for families, many of them fellow Catholics, who came to America because they simply couldn't survive in Mexico or Latin America. It's hard not to want to overlook, at least a little, the crime they committed to enter our country illegally, when we can see that they've also been here for years, paying taxes, educating their children, and dreaming of becoming Americans. And some who are here illegally do fit that description.

Of course, there are others who don't, who commit crimes in this country, who don't want to see themselves as Americans, who insist that American land really belongs to Mexico and should be reconquered. I have less sympathy for them.

And we can't forget that there are those who come here legally, for whom it is a great injustice that we let people stay here who've broken all the laws and rules. What possible incentive can we give to those who want to come here legally, when we punish them with restrictive laws but then turn around and extend a welcoming hand to the lawbreakers?

In then end, some form of amnesty will probably prevail politically. But I think we're making a great mistake if we forget the old maxim I've used to title this post: Good fences make good neighbors.

Without getting serious about protecting our southern border, any program of amnesty is not only not going to fix the problem of illegal immigration; it's going to increase it exponentially, as new waves of would-be citizens flood into the country. Any mother knows that winking at bad behavior only encourages a child to repeat it; the government is apparently slow to learn this lesson, as the last time amnesty was granted to illegal immigrants there were roughly one-fourth of the number that are here now.

A border fence, combined with strict enforcement of our current laws and the automatic deportation of any illegal immigrant with a criminal record, or one caught committing a felony, would be a start toward restoring sanity. I think we should consider some creative options, too, like changing the law that guarantees United States citizenship to any person born on U.S. soil. I think it would be wise to amend this to mean that those born to U.S. citizens are automatically U.S. citizens, but that anyone born here whose parents are merely visiting our country, or here illegally, is not granted automatic citizenship. That law may have made sense when America was a young country with few citizens and lots of space, but now it's insane, given the "anchor baby" problem.

We also need to take steps to create actual disincentives for companies to hire illegal immigrants. As things stand now, many companies are willing to risk the rather trivial consequences of being caught violating laws against hiring illegals, but that could change, if the federal government was willing to create new punitive measures to use against companies found employing illegal immigrants. I'd suggest, as a starting point, fines triple the annual wages that would have had to be paid to each illegal immigrant if he were a citizen; in addition, the company should have to pay the cost of deportation for each employee and every member of his family who is also present in the U.S. illegally. (I'd add insult to injury and make them pay for first class airfare, but that's probably just my mean streak coming out.)

The truth in the matter is, we have to balance any compassion we might feel for illegal immigrants with the sad reality that as long as this situation continues unresolved, the social contract we have with our federal government is strained to the breaking point.

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