Bush the Magnificent on Immigration


Give George W. Bush mad props for sticking to his relatively unpopular guns regarding immigration. The Wash Times reports the prez saying:

"It makes sense to allow the good-hearted people who are coming here to do jobs that Americans won't do a legal way to do so. And providing that legal avenue, it takes the pressure off the border."

I could do without Bush saying that Border Patrol cops need to be chasing drug smugglers along with thieves and crooks and terrorists–the underlying logic of his statement above applies to currently illegal drugs every bit as much as illegal aliens–but the prez is right. People are coming here, legal or otherwise, to work and they will continue to, short of North Korean-style checkpoints that nobody wants. Anything that can be done to make immigrants legally visible will make their lives better (less chance of them being ripped off and exploited) and the lives of citizens better too (less chance of them being ripped off, too).

The Times piece is a casual masterpiece of fake balanced reporting. I don't mean this as a bad thing–the story is quite informative. But it extensively quotes Dan Stein of the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) as the implicitly commonsensical counter to Bush. Stein challenges Bush to list the jobs citizens won't do and then lays down this pearl of wisdom:

"Mr. President, you frequently talk about allowing the free market to work," Mr. Stein said. "Why not apply this principle to the jobs you claim Americans will not do, and allow the free market to bid up wages for American workers?"

Hmm, let's see. Restrict the pool of possible employees through draconian measures and then let the magic of the free market work. As the old Frank Gorshin Riddler on Batman used to say, it's the perfect plan. If he thought about it for a minute, Stein might also realize that legitimizing illegals would allow them to get more in current labor markets. Last time I checked, people with work papers generally are a little tougher at the bargaining table.

For a picture of the jobs "Americans will not do," check out this great Reason story by Glenn Garvin.

There are serious issues involved in financing the social services (schools, hospitals, etc.) used by immigrants–just as there is with legal citizens. Those are endemic to any sort of welfare state and have little to nothing to do with immigration per se. If the question is whether some sort of guest worker program would help or hurt that situation, you'd have to assume the former. After all, it would turn currently off-the-books immigrants into taxpayers at various levels.

Whole Times story here.

And a while back, Reason's Brian Doherty called bullshit on Time's immigration hysteria and asked the question, what exactly would be worse under a liberalized immigration regime?