Wednesday, April 05, 2006

On Immigration: Compassion Coincides with Self-Interest


The Washington Post today carries an article describing the refusal by the National Association of Evangelicals to sign on to a declaration on immigration policy issued by other evangelical organizations as "underscoring divisions among conservative Christians over immigration."

Not wanting evangelicals to be divided on anything of significance, we therefore weigh in at last with the SWNID position on the immigration debate, urging and expecting our brothers and sisters who are uncertain on this issue, and especially those who differ, to adopt a position that is Seldom Wrong.

Here it is:

We need a guest worker program, enforcement at points of employment, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that involves reasonable fines but also grants a recognition of the contribution that workers make to the American economy.

We are always delighted when positions that are in the economic interests of many people, including ourselves, also seem to offer benefits and compassion to people in need. So it is here.

There are people who want to work in the United States because they lack opportunity at home. Their work is needed in the United States, where many menial jobs go unfilled because our high rates of employment and education leave us with few willing to work for what such jobs are worth. Letting willing workers come here to work is of benefit to the worker, whose standard of living is raised, his family, who benefit from his income and potentially from present or future residence in a country with better services, and everyone who is served by the worker's labor.

The situation is a delightful coincidence of self-interest and compassion. So the right response seems straightforward enough.

This response is, of course, not without flaws. Some American workers may potentially be displaced by immigrants. However, the evidence is that such displacement will be rare. The fact seems to be that difficult, unskilled jobs are not taken by Americans because they have either (a) skills that qualify them for better jobs, or (b) social and behavioral problems that make employment impossible.

Anti-immigrationists argue that granting a path to citizenship for those who are here without documents shows disrespect for the rule of law. We would agree, were the laws broken of a serious nature that brought direct harm to victims. However, such is not the case with this country's immigration laws. We should no more permanently bar an illegal immigrant from citizenship than we should permanently bar a speeder from holding a driver's license. All current proposals for a path to citizenship involve fines for illegals, hardly the "amnesty" that opponents decry.

Some say that a guest worker program exercises racism in confining immigrants of color to menial jobs. We say that this is not racism but economic reality: people who lack skills must do unskilled labor if they are to do anything that contributes to the general welfare. But our national experience has been that immigrants of color have in large measure demonstrated admirable effort and reliability in such jobs, and have sought education and greater opportunity for their offspring. The result has been a rising tide of productivity from which all benefit.

Guest worker programs in other countries, notably Germany, have been seen by critics as failures. There is much not to imitate in what has happened in the German Gastarbeiter program, but the problems come not in the program itself but in the difficulty of immigrants integrating into the social fabric of any European country. The United States, a nation of immigrants founded on an ideal, is much different from European countries founded largely on culture, language and ethnic identity. We have our race problems, to be sure, but they aren't Europe's.

The economic reality is that people all over the world are on the move to find opportunity. The social and political reality is that nothing can stop them. And the reality of self-interest is that no thoughtful and adaptable person has anything to fear from immigration.

So ...

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

11 comments:

Dustin said...

Wow, I must say that I am scratching my head currently, because I completely agree with everything in this post (which hasn't happened often when I visit this blog) :)

Dr. Weatherly, thank you for the compassionate, yet realistic approach to this country's immigration issue. I enjoyed the read.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Never stereotype.

Frankly, I could be the one who's surprised. This entry is of a piece with my general political philosophy, which understands the limits of politics and the power of liberty in a free market to harness human desires for the common good. It's the same view that gives rise to the allowance of the limited use of force to protect the innocent, restrain evil, and promote liberty.

And we note with pride that the Senate read our blog and came to an agreement on immigration this afternoon.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Actually, Dustin, keep reading long enough and you'll fnd that you agree with everything here.

Resistance is useless.

Dustin said...

"Actually, Dustin, keep reading long enough and you'll fnd that you agree with everything here.

Resistance is useless."

Well, then I'll have to work extra hard to resist the "evil" pull of this blog :) Thanks again.

Kevin K said...

"Anti-immigrationists argue that granting a path to citizenship for those who are here without documents shows disrespect for the rule of law. "

"Never stereotype."

Your first quote is doing exactly what the second quote warns against.

Not everyone who thinks illegal immigrants need to follow the law
is anti immigrationist -- even the legal immigrants feel that way.

In any event according to The Washington Post the agreement reached yesterday fell apart ealier today.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

I assert that calling my statement a stereotype embodies the logical fallacy of the undistributed middle. I didn't say that everyone who asserts the predicate belongs to the subject, only that those who belong to the subject assert the predicate.

A stereotype occurs when a person assumes that because subject X has characteristic A, it by definition also has characteristic B. Stereotypes are not the same as generalizations or characterizations. This last category is best descriptive of our statement.

Anonymous said...

ah, the power of mental superiortiy.

Anonymous said...

Making a late comment, however relavate it might be: Providing a path for the illegal immigrants to citizenship ahead of those applying legally for citizenship encourages violation of the rule of law. Illegals should be fined (as should there employers) and given temporary (period of time: 2 years) guest worker status. If they choose to apply for citizenship then the "get in line" with all others. At the end of two years they may reapply for guest status. These workers would pay into Fed, State, and local taxes as all do, In addition during temp status they would pay into SS and Medicare. If they are granted citizenship, these quarters of employement would count towards retirement.
Another Issue: Still under research by anonymous is the right to vote. No Local, State or Federal election should empower a non-citizen to vote in an election.

Bruce said...

Just read the post from anonymous and I agree in principal with the approach. I believe it is critical to secure our borders, while providing a means of free travel. If that is expensive, fine it is a price we pay for being the country in this world with the highest rate of both legal and illegal immigration. I would rather pay for a fence on our southern border than the $20B of earmarks in the latest transporation bill.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Anonymous, your post proposes exactly the kind of details that need to be debated on Capitol Hill without the absurd posturing to which we have been subjected. The path to legal residency or citizenship should not fundamentally advantage illegals over legals. Let the discussion begin on how to bring that about.

American immigration law is so filled with absurdities and catch-22s right now that I wonder whether we'd be any worse off if we had no immigration laws at all. Those who are "in line" for legal immigration are in many cases caught in the net of the absurdity.

Sadly, many politicians are simply appealing to xenophobia in their posturing on this issue, while others are using that posturing to posture themselves as advocates for the immigrant community.

Anonymous said...

For starters, resistance isn't useless, it's futile. Cultural literacy is a wonderful thing. Semi-cultural literacy is embarrassing.

Policy-wise, one thing is clearly missing from this otherwise sensible policy discussion: a fence.

Any talk of amnesty (guest worker) generates a flood of new illegals. The last amnest program generated a flood of new illegals.

Before we normalize the water that is sinking our boat, or before we begin bailing, wouldn't it be smart to work on the leak? The integrity (sovereignty) of the ship has been compromised. No matter how much lovin' we give to the water already in the boat, the ship is still compromised, so it is still sinking.

Two fences 200 yards apart with border patrol in between would be perfect. 200 yards is too long to tunnel. The water would not continue to rush in. A trickle is manageable. A rush is not.

After the leak is fixed, then discussion over what to do with the water already in the boat is appropriate.