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June 11, 2007

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Ok, let me start by saying I am not picking on you, just pushing you to go further with this...in part because I am one of those liberal-radical types who does "resort" to the exploitative sides of this ugly phenomenon, and not intentionally, but because that's what leaps out at me in this issue. If people aren't being exploited, and illegal immigration doesn't necc. = crime, then what's the problem? Oh right, they're taxing our systems...but aren't they also taking care of us and our economy (propping it up 'n shit, isn't that the theory behind wanting to let the "good" ones in)?

In your post above, you equate "illegal" with serious criminal activity. But what are we supposed to do with the people - like the main character in Knocked Up, for instance - who are here illegally and are not serious criminals, i.e., the vast majority? Seems to me if we care about enforcement then he needs to get the hell out of the country too, no? I know you say what we really need quicker, more efficient systems, but why exactly should he be allowed to stay? What's the bright line you draw here? We're only supposed to kick out serious criminals? Not other law-abiding but illegal immigrants (who be default are not law-abiding)?

Also, the Globe article explains:

"The [New Haven] operation came two days after the city approved a program to make municipal identification cards available to illegal immigrants. City officials say the raid appeared to be retaliatory for the ID cards, but ICE officials have said the raids had nothing to do with the city's approval of the ID program.

New Haven has been more welcoming to immigrants than many places, offering federal tax help and prohibiting police from asking about their immigration status."

Isn't municipal recognition some version of legality?

The problem I've had with your argument all along is you're trying to de-politicize it, and focus on the technical problems. Likely everything you say about the immigration process being flawed and in need of repair is probably spot on, but at the end of the day the example in NH is that it is the politics of it all that is the problem. Doubtful you disagree with that statement, but then how do you plan to keep the process apolitical as you go about fixing it? Ultimately, how do we decide who stays and who goes?

Theoretically, the "undead" bill (nice line) is really grappling with this - do we let in families that are a drain on services, or do we make it "merit" based (nothing but an ideal notion, but whatever)? Among what populations should illegality be enforced? Too many Mexicans? Keep out all Middle Easterners, Arabs, anyone who likes dark and shady to us? We do have a lot of Brazilians in Boston these days, and the Irish don't like that too much.

The Globe article to me reflects all the murkiness that will remain even if we improve the technical efficiency of the process, which of course, will help with some of the injustice of it all. But you lose me by essentially asking us to step away from our political positions when ultimately designing who's "worthy" for admission to this country is nothing but a political exercise.

I don't mind the pushing... Here's the thing. Two really.

A) Just as you push me, I would push you to clarify where you're coming down on this - are you suggesting that many people here "illegally" need to go, or what? I can read this a number of ways, and I'm not sure where you're coming from here ("families that are a drain on services" really concerns me). It points up, to me, as always, that the fault-lines on immigration are not where people think them to be - there are lefties, people you would expect to be on the side of the downtrodden, who have had it with illegal immigration, and they're not just in the border states. That, I think, has everything to do with why this bill got the negative reaction it did. Conservatives were simply vocal in their opposition; the thunderous silence from the left spoke volumes as well.

Second, I will need another post to do it, but in general: yes, I think some of the politics of this needs to be taken out of the equation. We need to take the edge off of words like "amnesty" and "illegal" to really talk about immigration policy, and I would think you get that (partly as a policy and process person, partly because I think/thought you don't buy into such loaded terminology - see point #1).

If we are going to deal with our current set of problems - a broken process for legal immigrants, and a large group of people already here in undocumented limbo (I'd prefer anything BUT "Illegal"), as well as porous borders that are poorly controlled - then we need to face up to what those terms are. We cannot deport 12-20 million people; we have no mechanism or enforcement for it, and we don't have the will for it. It's not amnesty to put them into a process that allows us to know who they are and begin to evaluate next steps. Some of them should be allowed to get green cards and citizenship, some should probably have some sort of work permit or visitor or student visa, and some - such as criminals and known terrorists, should be deported forthwith. That's where I come down on this. Follow some of my links - we are talking about people convicted of assaults and rapes and burglaries and murders who either aren't deported or who are allowed to return despite prior criminal behavior. I'm not talking about minor stuff - though certainly, the devil here will be in the details - but this to me is where Malkin's right. Start somewhere. Do something. Surely we can agree that rapists and thieves and murderers shouldn't be here. Can't we?

I'm not an "open borders" person; but I am an "open immigration" person, I think. I think this country has a special, unique duty to offer the chance, to people who are interested, to come here and have the chance to contribute. I think we're way too focused on who to keep out; when what we need to do is reverse the question and ask how we are going to manage letting people in. We've tried - seriously - quotas and limits and only 57 people from country x and so on. It doesn't work. That's what we're grappling with. And the worst solution - I reiterate - is the one in this bill, which repeats, in convoluted form, a pattern of more than 40 years of looking at a very broken immigration system, and doing an end-run around the problem of undocumented people already here (1965, and the amnesty of 1986). We need to break that cycle. That's my point.

Re: my drain on services comment -

Did you miss that I was being facetious? If I'm constantly harping over at the RP about redistribution, what makes you think I would then penalize a different set of struggling families?

I haven't read the rest yet but felt like I needed to clarify that immediately.

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