16 May, 2006

My Comments on Bush's Address Last Night

So my comments on Bush's address on immigration are mostly favorable, with only one very specific criticism in conclusion (I discussed my views on the whole debate in a recent post). What I am interested in addressing at first, though, is the overwhelming emphasis on the National Guard deployment in journalistic responses to the address. While it is true that it is mainly a political ploy to allay the growing fears of illegal immigration critics, it is also a step in the direction of compromise in this already brimming debate over immigration. A survey of editorials and newspaper articles though give me the impression that too much emphasis is being placed on this deployment. In fact, while many complain of "overtaxed" and ill-prepared National Guard troops, given the complex task of border security, the problem with many of these criticisms is their emphasis on "bringing order to the border". Indeed, what was remarkable about the President's address was his emphasis on respect and human dignity, something which has been absent in much of the discussion over illegal immigration coming from the right. Even more noteworthy though is the President's steadfast support for a migrant worker program. Coupled with more secure identification technology, this focus on the employment opportunities that are available to hard-working immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, gets to the root of the whole issue. That is, immigrants come here not just because they want an opportunity for a better life but, primarily, because they know that opportunity is there. In other words, they know there is a real demand for cheap and willing labor. In contrast to this focus over the reining in of employment opportunities then, plans to control the porous border, an area that stretches across vast deserts and unpopulated terrain, seem preposterous. And that's because they are just that. In the end, if what we really seek is a legal solution to this issue, then securing legal employment is what immigration reform should aim at doing. After all, if we make the impetus for undocumented immigration less promising by making job opportunities more unavailable, then the pull for undocumented immigrants should lose force. Of course, I am not implying that this will end undocumented immigration once and for all but, rather, that it will significantly stem the already staggering flow of illegal immigration into this country.

At the same time, the President's proposal is far from perfect and the details of a migrant worker program necessitate considerable discussion by everyone in this country. One crucial point that needs to be considered is the duration of workers' stay in the country and the potential for securing citizenship after a period of employment. It is silly to believe that once their contracts run out, migrant workers will leave the country willingly. Anyone given the opportunity to come to the US to live and work will find it quite difficult to make a 180 degree turn back to that which they so desperately left behind. That is why we as a country need to come to the realization that the US is a country of immigrants that came for the promise of a better life, leaving behind the daily struggle of life in their home country. As they have done before, and as they will continue to do in the foreseeable future, these immigrants come here sometimes expecting to return to their home countries "when things are better" but ultimately realizing that the situation back home may take more than a lifetime to change. And that is precisely why we need to come to the realization that a guest worker program would imply not only inviting hard-working immigrants to come to the US to do the jobs that Americans will not do, but that we are inviting them to come join us as hard-working American citizens. That is what happened not only throughout our nation's history, but it is precisely what happened with the Braceros migrant program of the 40s, 50s and 60s and what will happen again with the migrant worker program proposed by the Bush White House. And if you asked me, that's not a bad thing at all. I mean, what is more American than that?


Eve said...

Here Here! Wonderful post!

It is kinda sad that the focus has been so much on the border guard issue, because that really is just a nod to the base. The radicalness (for a republican president...and well, perhaps a democrat as well cause even clinton would be given hard time for saying the same things) of the proposals is what is more interesting. Bush was making quite a dangerous leap, one that may eventually kill politically with the base, and its sad that the media can only see as far as troops on the border.

vergueishon said...

At the same time, Bush's "radicalness" is about as politically rational as it gets. I mean, what with 30-40 million Hispanics and growing, who would be stupid enough to marginalize such an important segment of voters?