Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Death of an Immigration Bill

The wide-ranging immigration bill died earlier today. Let's all pause for a moment of silence.

Honestly, I'm not at all sad, nor am I at all surprised. This immigration bill was after all a pretty badly written bill. A bill mired with countless penalties and fines against immigrants not to mention that it broke a tradition and the tenet of our immigration policy that of family reunification. For more on this perspective read Laurel Scott's post on "The Beast is Dead Again".

Many other immigration bills have died on the Senate floor, so what made this one different? Perhaps, the significance of this particular immigration bill is that it was purported to be a bipartisan measure. It was embraced by unlikely bedmates, President Bush and Democrats with a small mix of Republicans. In the end Pres. Bush's "lame duck" administration was not able to exercise political clout and achieve his often stated goal of reforming our broken immigration policies. Brian Naylor from NPR summed up how an Immigration Bill Dies in the Senate and how the bills failure is a blow to President Bush and fixing our broken immigration policies now rests on the new administration after the 2008 presidential elections.

In the meantime summer approaches and migrants will continue to come, some will die trying more will make it leaving family and friends. As with most things in life, as the saying goes "be careful what you wish for". The life of a newly arrived immigrant while it often helps lift families left behind from descending further into poverty, for immigrants in the United States it is a difficult and lonely journey. Immigration Orange's Kyle De Beausset has a good post on the consequences and the challenge of "Creating The Conditions So People Don't Need To Leave".

The "immigration debate" will continue and the proponents and opponents of immigration will continue their heated debate, oblivious to the fact that our rhetoric kills. The proof will once again rear it's ugly head as the temperature rises in our deserts of the Southwest where immigrant crossing have become the norm.

My personal belief is that after the 2008 presidential elections the new administration will make immigration reform a priority and find a solution towards the "normalization" or "regularization" of the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country.

A discussion largely absent from the immigration debate is what the United States do to keep immigrants at home. What type of investments and economic development opportunities are required which provide the sufficient incentive for would be migrants to stay home. Anti-immigration proponents will be quick to note that it's not our responsibility to find those types of solutions. They will argue that it's that particular country to find solutions for its' people. Ironically, both are true. If you travel to any small town in Mexico and speak to a 15 or 16 year old, they will tell you that as soon as they are of age, or their parents permit, they will make their journey North. They expect to go. There is a tradition of migrating to the United States spanning several generations and few entertain romantic notions of ever returning. An irony that is lost on anti-immigration proponents is that Closed Borders keeps undocumented immigrants in, not out. Yes, it may be difficult for them to enter the country, but once they do, they don't leave, why risk such a difficult journey. Those who stay, save their money and hire smugglers to bring in their wife, their children, a brother or a sister. Who could blame these immigrants given the options, so a combination of bad immigration policy combined with a basic human need to be with ones family results in the unintended consequences of a rise in our undocumented immigrant population.

There remains a huge bridge to gap before immigration reform is achieved. Before Americans take to the polls and vote for a new President they would be well served to ask themselves the tough questions about where they stand on the issue of immigration. It's a complex issue and the term "illegal immigration" creeps into the discussion and clouds the basic issue. However, the issue is still one of simple immigration and how we ultimately want this country to face the issue of immigration. Regardless on how we feel about illegal immigration the fact remains that for the most part, it is simply a result of a lack of economic opportunity in the immigrants native country and our insatiable appetite for cheap labor coupled by our willingness to ignore current immigration laws.

As Kyle's post notes, "the poor who leave subsidize the poor who stay". So in essence migrants are part of an unofficial welfare program to their remaining relatives back home. Immigrants sending money back home get stuck in a vicious cycle, a cycle that begins with the most basic of economic needs and ends up locking you into perpetual migrant work in the United States, without any opportunity of becoming a legal resident, much less a U.S. Citizen.

The cheap labor of these migrants provide affords middle-America a comfortable life and quick access to all manner of consumer products and services. However, the life of the migrants who most likely eeks out a living crammed into a living quarter that most of us would find appalling and living in quietly living in the shadows being careful not to draw any unwanted attention, while diligently sending a few Dollars back home.

It would surprise many Americans that migrant workers who have become our most reliable source of cheap labor are also largely responsible for an ever increasing amount of remittances to their native countries. Mexico is the largest beneficiary and now counts remittances as their second highest source of revenue, second only to oil exports and above tourism. Central American countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala worry whenever they experience a slight dip in their remittance levels, a nightmare should remittances become threatened or lessen in the future.

The next chapter of the immigration debate will be written mostly by the native countries of these would be migrants. It will be written on how they respond to the fact that America will likely first respond by tightening it's borders until circumstances call for increasing the numbers of migrant laborers allowed to enter.

In a case of "when America sneezes Mexico and Central America catch a flu", our future immigration policies will likely result in more economic damages to Mexico, Central and South America, before any real economic opportunities are realized.

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1 comment:

kyledeb said...

you've been tagged!