The senate has made news by laying out the groundwork for broad bi-partisan immigration reform. This is a really charged topic, and so I would like to make some comment on it.
I think the first thing one must do is separate a couple issues tied into immigration policy, the first is whether or not we should even encourage immigration, and the second is how to construct policy around that. These are really two different issues. Often people who argue against illegal immigration are arguing about immigration period. These arguments are usually centered around how immigrants steal jobs from the people who already live here. They may be masked around the fact that the immigrants got here illegally, or that the immigrants strain social services, or that they do not pay taxes, but the idea is more that they shouldn’t be here at all and the other arguments are merely secondary.
After all what is striking about the immigration debate is the idea of, o.k. the law aside, should these people be here? If they should be here then the law is flawed and we shouldn’t get ourselves into a twist over it’s application, we should change the law so that it isn’t flawed. There seems to be this moral argument about the fact that millions of these people broke the law to get here, so what sort of citizens are they, and that they wind up getting rewarded for breaking the law while those who didn’t break the law wind up getting punished. (This is a bit like debates over debt forgiveness). Only this doesn’t take into account the fact that the law may have been broken to start with. You cannot insure that things are fair by perpetuating an unfair situation, by changing the law you aren’t doing something which is unfair, you are making something which wasn’t workable fair. The status quo just may have been the problem, and fixing it may be what is required.
So do these immigrants belong here? Well there are a couple sound arguments for saying yes. The first is that immigration helps us demographically. Immigrants are for the most part younger people, and with this country facing a huge drain from the workforce with the retirements of the baby boomers, we could use an influx of younger people in the economy. These younger workers both supply tax revenues to help care for older citizens and they also help cushion the blow of qualified people retiring. This problem of aging societies is a global problem, Asia, Europe, and North America will be facing the same problem of having a large percentage of the population getting older, leaving the workforce and drawing upon various types of public assistance. The only major country with really beneficial demographics is India. It is very possible that at some point in time countries will actually start competing for younger immigrants, by starting an immigration friendly policy now the U.S. could get a jump on this issue and so help the country with it’s global positioning.
Another reason for saying immigrants belong here is due to the amount of them that receive higher educations here, included in the bi partisan plan being crafted in the senate is the idea that we should give any foreign born college graduates green cards when they graduate. Now this is an idea long touted by NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg. and it is a fine idea. There will come a point when the U.S. is no longer the leading global supplier of higher educations, but right now we are and we should take advantage of that while we can. Some may argue that by retaining these people we hurt employment for educated citizens, but in a global economy these foreign born graduates will be competing with our citizens whether they are here or somewhere else, by keeping them here we get to harness their skills for strengthening domestic industries, or even creating new domestic industries, and we get to tax them in the process.