They Call Him… Machete

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The WaPo's take on the president's immigration speech reads far too much like an Onion article than it should.

"Congress can pass a comprehensive bill, and I can sign it into law this year," Bush said, without offering a detailed proposal.

I could sign it this year. Or, you know, I couldn't. Whatever. Ooh, pretzels!

Seriously, Bush dished out some awful thin gruel. When the Democrats took Congress, one line of thinking was that Bush would finally stop tussling with the immigration hawks in the GOP caucus and cut a deal with the opposition, who generally saw his way on the issue. Instead he's firming up the base with stuff like this.

Bush appears poised to embrace a more punitive overhaul plan than he has talked about in the past. Under the proposal, written with GOP senators, undocumented workers could apply for three-year work visas, renewable at a cost of $3,500 each time. To become legal permanent residents, they would have to return to their home countries, apply for reentry at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and pay a $10,000 fine.

This is the "touchback" idea, and it's fantastically unconvincing. It's basically a sop that immigration hawks* and open-borders wets alike use to affirm that, oh no, their bill isn't like those other immigration bills. It's a dodge, basically; a tough-sounding measure that delays either mass deportation or mass amnesty.

*referring to Pence, not Krikorian.

NEXT: More Money, No Problem

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  1. Huh. Kind of like a cover charge to get in. I remember dealing with cover charges in advanced microeconomics. Maybe Bush took that class, too?

    I used to be in a Gasparilla krewe based on the Mambises, a group of Cuban freedom fighters from the Spanish-American War. One of their slogans was, “?Al Machete!”, which means, “To the machetes!”

    ?Al Machete!

  2. Those who are not completely clueless may have noticed that increasing immigration is a very unpopular idea. That is what is holding back “reform” despite the fact that the elites are fully on board.

  3. I once had a party, invitation only. Four girls showed up, uninvited. There they were, right there in my kitchen. Good looking, helping out, talking with my invited guests. Of course, when I found out they weren’t invited, I kicked them out. Letting them stay would reward their bad etiquette. My friends were mad that I kicked them out. Pansies.

    (no, I don’t have a point)

  4. Isn’t it mighty soon for a Grindhouse title reference, Dave?

  5. Max is right, increasing legal immigration is unpopular. Polls that ask people to pick higher-about the same-lower levels of immigration run about 20-50-30 or thereabouts.

    On the other hand, polling on whether Paperwork-Deprived America-Joiners currently in the country should be granted legal status outpolls mass deportation by about 60-20.

    Dressing up anti-immigrant sentiment in populist language is emotionally satisfying, but the American public is a lot more nuanced on this issue than people who through around the e-word like to assume.

  6. joe – any polling that uses the terms “amnesty” and “illegal” in the same question?

    Just curious. Immigration is an issue that is more susceptible than most to loaded poll questions.

  7. The $10,000 fine undermines the entire bill, because it’s high enough that it will simply encourage continued noncompliance. These are people who have escaped detection so far. If what we’re after is to make the immigration situation manageable by bringing existing illegal immigrants into a legal guest worker system, the bill should avoid incentivizing continued noncompliance.

    Make the fine $1. What the anti-immigration hawks really want is a gesture of submission on the part of immigration criminals, and a $1 fine accomplishes that just as effectively as a higher fine.

  8. The State Senate wants to raise the speed limit tomorrow to 70mph. Are you kidding me? That would reward all of the illegal speeders that were driving 70 mph yesterday.

    Rewarding illegal speeders – you can count me out!

  9. RC,

    Absolutely, buzz words generate the desired results in immigration polling.

    But when you look for the most neutral language – such as “path to citizenship” or “legal status” – it’s apparent that people are not on board with the Deport ‘Em All policy the right-populists assume has such massive support.

  10. What we need is a giant waiting room, or a Purgatory, if you will, where illegal immigrants await forgiveness to enter into America legally. I think Idaho would be a good choice for this. We’ll rename it the State of Limbo.

    Maybe the easy way out of this is to charge Mexico a fine to cover any costs we’ve incurred in dealing with illegal immigration. If they don’t pay, we send in our crack squads of collectors.

  11. So joe. When can we expect the guest worker bill to hit the president’s desk?

  12. Fluffy’s right. The tougher you make a bill the more likely it is that it won’t draw out noncompliers to the current laws.

    In fact, I could do with a bit less immigration, but none of the current anti-immigration laws will work, so I oppose them all. 51-foot ladder and all.

  13. “Absolutely, buzz words generate the desired results in immigration polling.”

    Using buzz words (purr words and snarl words) is one way people try to assess if a certain media outlet is liberal or conservative.

    It has its obvious drawbacks, but it can be an interesting framework.

  14. Warren,

    I was trying to remember who I made that bet with.

    Looks like Bush isn’t going to play. I might be on the losing end of that one.

  15. But joe, one person’s “neutral language” is the next person’s euphemistic obfuscation.

    Someone opposed to an amnesty may favor a stringent path to citizenship. My “path to citizenship” may be your “amnesty”.

    Its all in the details, which are never provided in polls. That’s why the assumptions built into the language are so important.

  16. RC,

    Every poll I’ve ever read provides the language of the question asked, for exactly that reason.

  17. Anyway, just do a Google on “immigration polls,” and check out the numbers and the language for yourself.

  18. Given the proposals from the politicians, I’m still convinced the best solution to illegal immigration so far is to ignore the problem.

  19. “…undocumented workers could apply for three-year work visas, renewable at a cost of $3,500 each time. To become legal permanent residents, they would have to return to their home countries, apply for reentry at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and pay a $10,000 fine.”

    This sounds to me as if they based these numbers on the reputed sums charged by the “coyotes” and other people smugglers. It’s the old, “Well, if those guys can get away with charging that much, why can’t we?” approach to pricing policy.

  20. So what you’re saying is that Bush is trying to make sure that the folks on one side of the aisle see this as amnestodeporteriffic, and the folks on the other side see it the other way around?

  21. joe: One poll showed two (2, as in one more than one) percent support for higher immigration levels. Two.

    Further, he says: On the other hand, polling on whether Paperwork-Deprived America-Joiners currently in the country should be granted legal status outpolls mass deportation by about 60-20.

    Can any one of Reason’s writers discover the error in what Joe wrote? I’m serious: do any of Reason’s writers have the brain power and knowledge of this issue to notice where he went wrong?

    (Hint: it’s what I call the StandardFalseChoice. In fact, Bush offered a version of it in his speech, and many other hacks have as well. They fail to note other choices, such as SimplyEnforcing the CurrentLaws. Oops, I gave it away.)

    Another question Reason’s writers are going to have problems with: why are so many Dems so eager for MassiveImmigration?

    Is Reason playing the “CommieGame”: make things so bad they’ll get better? Does Reason think that if the Dems are allowed to convert the U.S. into a SocialistParadise by ImportingAProletariat, things will get so bad that The People will suddenly revolt and demand Badnarik?

    Does Weigel wander the streets hearing this chant in his head? “We no longer want massive government benefits and racial pandering, we want Badnarik!”

  22. Every poll I’ve ever read provides the language of the question asked, for exactly that reason.

    Actually, the poll questions are pretty short, and so a lot has to be summarized/paraphrased/assumed, giving lots of scope for, umm, shading.

    undocumented workers could apply for three-year work visas, renewable at a cost of $3,500 each time.

    See, right there, is a term that I find a euphemistic obfuscation – “undocumented worker.” If you mean illegal alien, say so. But this makes it sound like you’re planning to deport everyone who forgets their company ID badge before clocking in at the office.

  23. RC –

    I too prefer the term illegal alien. But are you seriously proposing that poll respondents thought that the question was asking them if you should be deported for not having your employee badge with you? Seriously? You really think a statistically significant number of respondents thought that was the question?

    My coverage –

    I would hazard that you would get large pluralities who would respond favorably to enforcing current laws. But that is its own sort of obfuscation. If we could snap our fingers and apprehend all existing illegal aliens, the process of enforcing current laws would involve detaining millions of people in camps while their cases wound their way through the system, as well as separating families of differing legal status [it is VERY common for the minor children of illegal aliens to be US citizens, because of that pesky Constitution]. And if you ask people if they want those camps and those separations, they don’t. So what level of exactitude in the poll question do we want here?

  24. But are you seriously proposing that poll respondents thought that the question was asking them if you should be deported for not having your employee badge with you?

    Naah. But that’s pretty much what they were asking, if you haven’t been indoctrinated into the PC meaning of the phrase.

    So what level of exactitude in the poll question do we want here?

    Its the nature of the beast that you can’t get any exactitude. It would be nice if people would stop pretending that you can.

  25. I think the work visa for a big fee is a great idea. Maybe expand it so that the big farms and meat packing plants can pay the fee themselves and “hire” a large number of our spanish speaking brethren in exchange for a contractual obligation of employment for a specified period of time? The owners get their workers and the immigrants get a guaranteed job.

    Oh Oh, we could sweeten the pot with some kinda subsidy program so the poor companies can give them room and board and affordable health care. Do it all on a payroll deduction installment plan? Another thing would be a right to work clause in the legislation so the new immigrants cant get no ideas about organizing a union.

    I am just trying to think of all the poor hispanic children, you know.

  26. brotherben: Bush’s plan also requires the GuestWorkers who have problems on their assigned job to return to their home country for a one-year “CoolingOffPeriod”. I am not making that up.

    Fluffy: you’re entertaining, but I don’t think you understand what I mean by FalseChoice, since that’s exactly what you offered. The missing alternative would involve, for instance, doing what Bush is doing now, but about ten times more. Combined with rolling back his and others’ giveaways, that would result in MillionsLeaving of their own accord.

    Everyone: spend some time thinking about what Reason is actually advocating, and what impact it will have. If Reason gets its way, no libertarian will ever be elected in anything besides a very small market.

    If a libertarian magazine advocates measures that would result in libertarianism basically ending, what are we missing? Are they just unable to figure things out, or are they not what they claim to be?

  27. Nice to see a spaghetti-Western reference, however brief.

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