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Immigration and the President
by George Shadroui
09 January 2004GW

President Bush is right on immigration reform; his critics are wrong.


President Bush is taking some heat because of his recent proposal to reform our immigration laws.

He is right; the critics are wrong.

I am not convinced by the legalistic arguments of Pat Buchanan (whose work I often respect) and others who claim that the President's position undermines the rule of law. In truth, such enforcement of the letter of the law was abandoned long ago, or do the critics think all those migrant workers picking fruit all over the country are legal?

The President is trying to make sense of a difficult situation. People from other nations are naturally attracted to the United States because of the economic opportunities it affords them. They are going to come. Do those who want rigid enforcement recommend shooting them at the border, or sinking their boats? Do we really want to spend billions of dollars finding, processing and deporting such people, the vast majority of whom are making valuable contributions to this nation?

A work program is clearly the answer; not blanket naturalization, but a registration process by which they are issued a work card and allowed to find work where they can. There are all kinds of potential advantages to the system: we will document workers more efficiently, could tax them for services they might receive, would undercut the black market labor business, and would generally create a more humane and decent environment for those desperate for hope and opportunity.

It is simply remarkable that conservatives who love to talk about self initiative are calling shows like Rush Limbaugh to complain because some uneducated migrant worker might take an American job. Well, is that not what a free market economy is about – competition? Rush had the right answer: get educated, find a better job, compete – isn’t that what this country is supposed to be about?

Moreover, Bush has anticipated some of the criticism, arguing that as much as possible immigrants be matched to jobs or employers, that Americans be given a first shot whenever possible, and that the end result is not to make these millions of foreigners citizens, but to make their presence here more manageable.

This proposal is a huge improvement over the chaos that now exists. By removing the incentive for workers to illegally come to the country (they will be granted work permits after a background check), we also remove much of the cruelty and horror associated with the process – such as the story months ago in which a number of workers were found suffocated to death in a truck, abandoned by their courier who was trafficking in illegal labor.

There are details to be worked out and critics on both sides – those who advocate a more liberal policy and those who are concerned that it is too liberal – can certainly refine and improve the proposal. But once again, the President has shown a remarkable capacity to think outside the box in an effort to tackle what has been a near impossible situation.

And for those who want illegal immigration stopped, the president made it clear that once this policy is in place, the United States will take steps to deal with lawbreakers more emphatically. If you want to work in this country, you do it through a system that is more flexible and more humane, but if you bypass the system, you get deported.

This will remove the obvious hypocrisy of the current system in which we all look the other way while benefiting from the work of illegal workers. It will allow our security forces to focus on real threats to our national security. It will enable us to track and monitor the activities of those who are coming into our country for work and to require and allow them to live within our system of laws.

In fact, the plan makes so much sense that I am still waiting to hear a compelling argument against the President’s position, other than the leftist concern that he will win a few votes, and the far-right concern that it is some violation of some pure principle of law. (Like Americans obey the speed limit?)

The issue is long overdue for serious evaluation and reform. The President has done the right thing by putting the issue on the agenda. 

George Shadroui has been published in more than two dozen newspapers and magazines, including National Review and Frontpagemag.com
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