Apr 11, 2006

oversimplified public debate

All this talk about the illegal immigration problem has gotten me thinking. And I think the debate is currently rather short sighted. All you hear about is about "supporters" or "opponents" of either "immigration" or "illegal immigration", and the way the two latter terms are used in the media make them completely interchangeable. But of course, they are not. And the sides of this are even more complicated than pro/anti as well.
There are actually several questions in the illegal immigration problem, and each person in the debate can answer any number of ways on each question. This means that there are not only pro and anti sides, but many distinct sides, each having a combination of pro and anti positions on each of the questions. Wow, this is getting confusing. Let's simplify it.

The first question to ask in the immigration debate is: How strong do you want border security to be? Some people want there to be a guarded wall along the entire US/Mexican and US/Canadian borders. Some want no wall, but a military presence to guard the border. Some want to keep the border relatively secure and relatively porous as it currently exists. And some do not recognize a border at all and think people should be able to move about at will.
That's roughly 4 sides on the single question of border security in the immigration debate. You see how quickly this issue gets impossible to debate with any degree of simplicity.

After border security, one has to consider the question: What do we do with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the US? Some people want them immediately arrested and prosecuted in the US justice system. Some want them immediately deported back to their home countries. Some want them to be able to work toward legal residency. Some want them to be able to work toward naturalized citizenship. And some think they should be immediately granted equal citizenship with native-born Americans.
Surprisingly enough, the answers to this question do not always correlate with the relative progression of answers to the first question. I have heard people support the position of using a military presence on the borders, but simultaneously allowing current illegal immigrants to work toward citizenship. So not only is there a progression of opinions on each question, but each individual does not necessarily hold the same level of opinion for each question. *head*spins* I know...

One of the final, but most important questions to ask is: How thorough and stringent should the legal immigration process be?
Some people think we should cut off all immigration immediately (though I've never heard this opinion expressed). Some people think we should cut off immigration from certain nations or regions. Some think we should simply lower the amount of immigrants allowed in legally each year. Some think we should raise the limit. Some think there should be no limit. Some think there should be no process at all, and anyone should be free to move and reside and work anywhere they chose without having to register with the government to do so.
Surprisingly enough, I have heard a great many people express the interesting combination of opinions that we should build a wall on the borders, deport all illegal immigrants, but greatly increase the number of immigrants that are allowed in legally. Their contention is that this policy would heighten security while encouraging respect for the law and keep a fresh flow of blood pumping into our melting pot. Sounds reasonable to me.

These are only a few of the issues involved in the Great Immigration Debate of 2006 (read: 1776-), but you can already see how complicated the issue is, and I haven't even touched on drug smuggling, human trafficking, paramilitary violence, or labor market effects. This issue can't just be boiled down to "THEY T'K 'R J'BS!!" or "This is OUR continent!" Give me a break. So the next time you hear some pundit or reporter trying to split the entire world into "pro-immigrant" and "anti-immigrant" forces, give them a hearty FUCK YOU and tell them to try to actually think through something before spewing forth a nauseatingly pithy and irrelevant soundbite.

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