Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Noriega on Immigration: Keeping It Sane and Humane

Today Rick Noriega, Texas’ Democratic candidate for US Senate, presented his plan to fix America’s immigration problems. You can read it all here. I just have a few thoughts and observations to share.

For too long, says Noriega, Washington D.C. has ignored and avoided solving this vexing problem. Too long, I think, because people find this issue squarely wedged between a rock and a hard place. Noriega’s plan effectively eliminates one of them.

Indeed, the sanity of the plan is to do away with the one neoconservative bugaboo that divides Americans right down the line: rounding up 10 million illegal aliens and deporting them.

“Mass Deportation isn’t Realistic. According to a comprehensive study (Rajeev Goyle and David A. Jaeger, the Center for American Progress, 2006), deporting 10 million undocumented immigrants would cost over $200 billion.”

Even by Senator John Cornyn’s own admission, Rick Noriega’s opponent has acknowledged that an immigration plan that includes deportation of millions of people is fantasy, and that the “dirty secret is that we couldn’t deport 10 million illegal immigrants if we wanted to.”

Noriega’s position is to bring these illegal immigrants out of their “shadow world,” have them pay fines and back taxes, but mainly to become taxpayers. In this way law enforcement could concentrate on an effort that “deports the criminals and bad apples.”

This is only a third of Noriega’s tripartite plan. The other two, securing the border and cracking down on those employers who hire illegal immigrants to the detriment of immigrants and American citizens alike, are also part of the plan.

Noriega has something on John Cornyn that all of his years of public service would not be able to equal: time on the border enforcing the law. Noriega knows what works and what doesn’t work. And what doesn’t work is building a physical barrier: a wall. Building a wall is another red herring that Republicans offer Americans for mass consumption. It sounds good on paper, and it makes for some great speeches, but as a practical matter, building a wall is not viable. Just ask the French how effective their Maginot Line was in keeping out Hitler’s blitzkrieg. George Patton said it best:

“Fixed fortifications are monuments to man’s stupidity.”
So building a wall is not part of Noriega’s plan. Is it part of John Cornyn’s plan? I don’t know, what day is it?

And last, before I get too far off subject, what about these employers. Employers of illegal immigrants have gotten off scot-free for years now, as government has looked the other way. In fact, any arrests being made these days are arrests of illegal immigrants, not the employers who knowingly hired them. Noriega’s plan acknowledges the contributions made to Texas’ economy by illegal immigrants, and instead seeks to find and punish the employers who keep illegal immigrants in “a shadow world” that is outside the rule of law, where they can threaten and abuse illegal immigrants, pay them below the federal minimum wage, and in that way keep wages low for everyone else. These are the abusers of this illegal immigrant system that need to be punished and expunged.

For the sake of everyone.

No, I like this plan. It’s sane and humane. I doubt some of my lefty cohorts will agree with all of what it offers, but I like it better than the inhumane alternative that Republicans suggest. Really, a plan that is so unworkable that that is the very nature of their plan: so unworkable no one will ever want to enact it. And so we are presented with the status quo, which, in the end, may be the desired end. Nothing gets fixed but the issue remains for Republicans to wave the bloody shirt again and again, year after year.

No, the only real problem with Rick Noriega’s immigration plan is that it provides workable solutions.

And those things, solutions, may be the last things that some Texans will want to have.

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