crossings: part one

The question isn’t whether we should reward bad behavior — though I’ve trouble defining bad behavior as a life-threatening trek across the desert in order to do backbreaking, essential labor for appallingly low wages — but how we deal with a policy problem.Illegal immigrants are here. Deportation would be impossible, both logistically and, assuming you could surmount those insurmountable obstacles, economically. Enforcement is a sham. Since 1986, we’ve increased border funding by a tenfold. We have built walls stretching into the desert. We have fined employers. And the flow of immigrants hasn’t stopped, or slowed, but accelerated. Worse yet, there’s a been a set of perverse consequences: not only do more come, but more succeed. We used to stop around 40 percent, now we halt 10 percent. Where immigrants used to use the main roads, now they slip into the deep reaches of the desert. Coyotes (smuggling operations), too, have increased the sophistication of crossborder migration. But because the Coyotes are necessary, and because their fees have grown as their utility has increased, those who arrive are more in debt than ever, leading them to stay longer and return home less frequently.

So enforcement doesn’t work. Deportation doesn’t work. Fining businesses — which we did try, to some degree, for awhile — is totally unworkable. The question, then, isn’t how we feel about illegal immigration, but how we handle it in order to ensure the most desirable policy outcomes. And while I’m not precisely sure what the answer is, I’m fairly certain what it’s not: the failed, moralistic, xenophobic policies of the past.

Ezra Klein

More and more, I’m sensing that the 2006 midterms, for better or worse, will be a Lou Dobbs election. (No single forum was more instrumental for aborting the Dubai ports deal than his.) The midterms will be fought not over cultural-war values like gay marriage or abortion, but over the sorts of economic and sovereignty issues Dobbs hammers on about every weeknight on CNN: the squeeze on the middle class; Washington’s runaway budgets and the explosion in deficit; the gutting of pensions; the hollowing-out of America’s industrial base; the war over immigration; globalization and free trade. I don’t think all of this is bad: Dobbs’ program is one of the few on cable that addresses the plight of workers (as opposed to maximizing investment gains and extending corporate power–the mandate of Larry Kudlow’s CNBC show), the negative impact of globalization, and the frustration over the influx of illegal immigrants. (You don’t have to agree with Dobbs’ tone or solutions to recognize the frustration in the Western states particularly has been bubbling hot, and has been too long ignored by the media-political elite.)

James Wolcott

Here’s Krugman’s March 27 column in the NYT.  Brad DeLong posted the text here. 

He prefaced Krugman’s colum with this comment:

Paul Krugman is conflicted on immigration. In fact, I would say that he is confused–and probably wrong.

Then he goes on to say:

I think that we should focus on: “the net benefits… from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small.” Particularly, we should focus on the “large gains to the immigrants themselves.” The net benefits from immigration including the large gains to the immigrants themselves are enormous. We shouldn’t forget that.

More to come…


8 Responses to “crossings: part one”

  1. Pinko Punko Says:

    Thing is repubs like to get people addicted to cheap stuff and then since everybody is leveraged up to the hilt, you can’t really raise the prices- basically they treat labor like they treat gasoline. It is the sweatshop mentality- on top of that is the whole “create wealth” bullshit- you create your wealth on the backs of the exploited.

  2. Chuckles Says:

    The douchecock on the Colbert Report last night claimed that assilimation hadn’t worked and wantas to go the way of the guest worker. Cuz that is wroking so well for France. Bring them in, they are already here and make them pay taxes like every other working person here. We could sure use the help with the deficit.

  3. blue girl Says:

    PP — while I understand why you are talking about Republicans — don’t you think there are many Democratic business owners who take advantage of the labor of illegal immigrants? Has anyone heard how much this is big business vs. small business?

    Also, I heard an interesting thing last night….that you would think the labor unions would totally be against the labor of illegal immigration because if you can successfully keep the labor force small, that would drive wages higher. I thought that was an interesting point.

    Chuckles!!!! Come buy a Defifict Poster over at blue girl! Do your part for the blue girl deficit!

  4. Res Publica Says:


  5. blue girl Says:


  6. Adorable Girlfriend Says:

    No grammer and spelling police today, please!

  7. Res Publica Says:

    That’s Grammar and Spelling Homeland Security Agents, thankyouverymuch.

  8. teh l4m3 Says:

    Okay, so this won’t quite be a Lou Dobbs election, as this won’t be THE deciding factor, but it will be A deciding factor. It depends on how Democrats play it — IMHO, during campaigns they really need to hammer Republicans as supporting slave labor for corporate America. Which is, let’s face it, all this guest worker crap boils down to.

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