Monday, May 21, 2007

John Marshall: Immigration

Interesting and short observations:

Talking Points Memo

There are many policy debates I understand well enough to navigate on my own. But immigration policy isn't one of them. I have clear-cut general views. But I'm not familiar enough with the details to navigate the debate or the particulars of specific pieces of legislation. But one thing that does seem clear to me is that a temporary worker program is bad policy on almost every count. It gives you all the downsides of unrestricted immigration -- downward pressure on wages, weakening of unions, etc. -- with none of the upsides. You have a cheap, readily exploitable labor pool with no prospect of the people who make up said labor pool of gaining any political power to provide some counterweight to the tendency to exploit them. I would even say that having a large body of resident aliens with no prospect of actual buy-in into the country is inherently dangerous -- in economic and civic terms. The fact that birth in the US still guarantees US citizenship, I guess, prevents the nightmare of intergenerational non-citizenship like they have in Germany and other countries. But I'm not sure it's much better.

I know none of this is particularly original. All these points have been made more acutely and articulately. But whether you want tight limits on immigration or expansive ones, untying the connection between work and citizenship seems bad for America.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts. And I'm interested to hear from others who understand the ins and outs of this bill what else can be said in its favor or against it.

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