Thursday, April 06, 2006

More Immigration Reform

This will probably be my last post on immigration, immigration, reform, or guest worker programs until the next time the topic gets to be popular. This post is about that proposed guest worker program you may have heard about or read about. How do we know what sort of guest worker program would be a good program?

That question is partly a sociological one. The values, beliefs, and attitudes we use to debate the subject of a guest worker program are a product of our culture. Those values, beliefs, and attitudes did not come entirely from common sense, biological evolution, genetics, or nature. We developed them over the centuries in response to cultural, psychological, and environmental forces.

I don't know what sort of guest worker program there should be, but I do have some suggestions on how to think about the issue. First, a bit of philosophical advice: When we think about big issues like this we should consider whether our position leads to consequences that uphold or undermine other values that we hold. Consider a simple example of how we could undermine the very values we claim to uphold without meaning to be cruel or uncaring.

Taking a hard-line stance against immigration may satisfy your urge to protect America's security (or keep wages for American citiizens a little higher) but what about the hardship imposed on immigrants. If they have nowhere to go except back to some disgusting Mexican shanty town (true for at least some illegals), what will we do? Maybe the Christian thing to do is to pretend not to know that they are illegal aliens.

And switching to a slightly different subject...

Let's assume that a guest worker program is inevitable, and we want to design a good one. What factors should we consider? Here is a quick list of suggestions:

1. How will the program ensure decent wages for unskilled and uneducated immigrants
2. How will the program ensure that working conditions meet health and safety standards?
3. Can the program provide the country with access to enough immigrants with badly needed technical and engineering skills?
4. How does the program work to preserve or replace some of the nonprofit and government jobs that exist because of illegal immigration?

Next time: Modern America and global climate change

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Functions of Immigration (legal or not)

I think we all know that immigration serves siome useful social functions. But I bet there are functions you never thought of. This post is going to be about legal immigration, illegal immigration, migrant workers, immigration reform debates, guest workers, and the seedy side of immigration.

First, consider the social benefits and costs of illegal immigration:

1. New women for sex traffickers are available
2. Drugs are a little easier to smuggle across a porous border, like the US-Mexico border
3. It supports human traffickers who smuggle illegals across the border
4. Low cost labor is available
5. A porous border and liberal policies provide a safety valve for governments of poor nations - people can be allowed to head across the border instead of causing trouble at home
6. Jobs are created, mainly in the (U.S.) Border Patrol but also in nonprofits that deal with immigrants or immigration issues
7. Nonprofits are organized to advocate for illegals or to try and get them deported in larger numbers

And what are the personal costs and benefits:

1. Sex slavery and prostitution
2. Marginal businesses stay afloat using dirt cheap immigrant labor
3. Improved material quality of life - income, diet, health care, housing
4. Satisfaction derived from working for or against immigration or specific immigration laws - this involves both having a sense of purpose and establishing close relations with others
5. Victimization by illegal immigrants or those who smuggle them into the country

Now I hope you realize that the preceding lists are justs lists of observations. I don't endorse human trafficking, prostitution, or the use of the USA as a dumping ground for undesirables and malcontents from repressive developing nations. I'm just presenting some of the functions that immigration can serve, as well as some of the dysfunctions. I'll also point out that maybe there is a way to get some of the benefits (see items 3 and 4 in the second list,; 4,6, and7 in the first) with fewer of the costs. Hmmm...not sure what sorts of policies could make that possible.
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