I’m finding it a bit hard to reconcile Peggy Noonan’s succinct description of the situation on our border with Mexico:
The latest border surge has been going on for at least two years. Children and others are coming because they believe that under the president’s leadership, if they get here they’ll get a pass to stay. (They’re probably right.) This was predictable. Two years ago Texas Gov. Rick Perry wrote the president that the number of unaccompanied children was spiking sharply. He warned that unless the government moves, other minors would attempt the journey and find themselves in “extremely dangerous situations.” The generally agreed-upon number of those who’ve come so far this year is 50,000. Now government estimates are rising to at least 90,000 by year’s end.
The larger tragedy of this episode is that it has done enormous and needless damage to the cause of immigration reform. The Obama Administration’s incompetence has again undermined its own agenda. But once the misery of the children is past, no one should think that illegal immigration can be stopped by more enforcement alone, by more Border Patrol agents or more harassment of American business. The way to reduce illegal immigration is by providing more work visas to enter—and leave—the U.S. legally.
I recognize I’m not being fair to the WSJ’s editors. Their claim is that the kids are being sent here as stalking horses for their parents or, alternatively, to join their parents who are already here, presumably illegally. The reason I jump to the conclusion I do is that to date no one has produce any evidence that the majority of the unaccompanied minors making their way into the U. S. fit into either classification. If the WSJ’s editors have such evidence, they should present it.
The competing claim is that most of the kids coming here are fleeing violence in their own countries. If that’s the case more work visas will have no effect whatever on the large number of unaccompanied minors coming across the border.
I think that the editors of the WSJ are solving a different problem than the one fomenting the crisis at hand. From their point of view wages for unskilled or semi-skilled workers are just too high, darn it. Those workers need more competition to push wages down even farther.
Please stop quoting Emma Lazarus to me. Circumstances have changed over the course of a century. Unlike then now wages are falling for most workers, the cost of the social services being provided is orders of magnitude higher, and we really have no need for greater numbers of workers at any skill level.
When my wife’s grandfather came over here more than a century ago, he abandoned his country, his language, and his parents, breaking all ties to the Old Country. He committed to the United States. He learned English, spoke accent-free English, and served in the U. S. military. He became 110% American, a common phenomenon among the Ellis Island immigrants.
Today is the age of Skype and there’s practically no need for new immigrants to make any sort of commitment. They may or may not learn the language, they can talk to Mama every night, and even if they become American citizens they can retain their previous citizenship as well.
One of the reasons immigration reform stalled is that its supporters just haven’t adjusted their thinking to the circumstances of the modern world.
Contrary to the editors of the Wall Street Journal, I think the basic solution to our illegal immigration problem is greater economic growth in the countries of Central America. Their problems are corruption, bad government, lack of capitalization, and crime. Why not think about addressing those?
BTW, the editors of the Washington Post agree with me. The law respecting unaccompanied minor immigrants should be changed:
Last week, Mr. Obama wrote to Congress saying he would seek to modify that law. Yet he made no such request Tuesday when he instead proposed some $3.7 billion in spending to add immigration judges and other personnel and to house, feed and care for the minors who have already crossed the border.
That seems unlikely to send the get-tough message Mr. Obama promised. The fact is that since he entered office, shortly after the 2008 law took effect, the number of undocumented youths deported or turned back at border posts has plummeted, according to government figures released to the Los Angeles Times.
Mr. Obama has come under intense pressure from Democrats and immigration advocates to continue this leniency. They make their argument on humanitarian grounds. But there is nothing humanitarian in tacitly encouraging tens of thousands of children to risk their lives, often at the hands of cutthroat smugglers, to enter this country illegally.
If the president is serious about restoring order to the border and dissuading children and their families from a costly and life-threatening trip, he will add teeth to his policy by seeking the legal change he promised.