ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

NYT has a piece entitled, Congress Looks to Grant Legal Status to Immigrants.

Eighteen-year-old Yuliana Huicochea moved to the United States at age 4, but now faces deportation because immigration officials stopped her on a school trip to a science fair.

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Hispanic groups and immigrant advocates have embraced her cause, insisting that it is wrong to expel teenagers who immigrated as toddlers. And now, with many members of Congress thinking about next year’s elections and paying increasing attention to the concerns of Hispanics, the issue is gaining bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill.

Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is sponsoring a bill that would grant legal status to Ms. Huicochea and tens of thousands of other high school students or graduates who are illegal immigrants. His bill — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (or Dream) Act, has 36 sponsors, one-third of them Republican. His aides say they expect the Judiciary Committee to approve the bill this week.

The bill is part of a wave of immigration legislation that has gathered bipartisan momentum in recent weeks. One bill would grant accelerated citizenship to immigrants who serve in the armed forces. Another would grant legal status to 500,000 farm workers if they commit themselves to doing agricultural work for several more years. That bill’s main sponsors in the Senate are Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho, and Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. They say it has the support of the Senate leadership, conservatives, liberals, agricultural employers, the nation’s largest farm workers’ union, the Chamber of Commerce and the A.F.L.-C.I.O.

Every few years, we have this debate and wind up putting a Band Aid on the problem: creating a window where illegals who have arrived recently can get legalized status. We now give medical benefits and provide education for children of illegal immigrants. We’re debating giving them drivers’ licenses. Yet, inexplicably, they continue to be “illegal.”

It seems to me that we should either get serious about enforcing the law or change it. Having laws on the books that are routinely ignored is bad for society, because it undermines respect for the law (which is one reasn why I support drug legalization, especially for marijuana, and a rethinking of our speed limits). Clearly, a law which forbids desperately poor people from crossing a 3000 mile border dividing them from a comparative paradise where employers eagerly desire their services is unenforceable without resorting to tactics only Saddam Hussein could love. Further, there are sectors of our economy that could scarcely survive having the laws on the books becoming actuality. So, why not bring the law into accord with reality?

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. melvin toast says:

    I think it has something to do with special interests,
    mainly unions, who do not favor a competitive labor
    market.

    The reality is that the industrial labor market
    is easily outsourced, i.e. if we don’t let the workers come
    in, businesses will go overseas to manufacture and bring
    the products in. That’s why unions don’t like free trade.

  2. James Dasher says:

    Avoiding, for the purposes of my comment, responding to the contentious (and confusing) effects-of-an-open-labor-market observation above, I will proffer an insight from Alicia Silverstone’s character’s comment in the movie “Clueless”:

    It does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty.

    Certainly, some riff-raff, including the flying-planes-into-skyscrapers sort, will creep in along with those merely seeking liberty and prosperity. Liberalizing gun laws to allow Americans, including new Americans, to protect themselves from such aggressors, might discourage some of the fanatics. Liberalizing drug laws to free perpetrators of “victimless” crime would make space in prisons available for the aforementioned aggressors, as well as less fanatical and more strictly criminal immigrants (who would thereby only use the cells temporarily while awaiting deportation).

    If we let the ruling classes from thuggish dictatorships and totalitarian regimes (Saudi Arabia and China, among others, come to mind) attend our elite colleges and universities, I see no reason why we can’t allow the less-fortunate (Haitians and Mexicans come to mind) to try their hands at making a fortune here in the U.S.

  3. I must say, James–and James–you are making complete sense, and I’ve never understood why we pretend with our laws that things are different than they really are.

    If we just let these people in legally, we could better monitor their movements and know what they are doing.

    Not to mention that our economy is dependent on them.