Why I'm Happy About the Immigration Bill
The proposed immigration legislation doesn’t satisfy all interests. It even leaves nearly every special interest group a little bit unhappy, and that’s a mark of a settlement that’s beneficial to the good of the whole. Any bill which lets some of those immigrations remain in the U.S. is good enough for me, because it’s good for Pablo.
But first let me tell you a bit about Pablo, whom I’ve known for the past twenty or so years. He struggled to finish secundaria, and even with that, he had next to no job skills. There wasn’t much opportunity or incentive for him here in Morelia, the capital of Michoacán. He didn’t work out in his first job here, which amounted to tending a vacant lod, preferring to nod off in a hammock. His attempt at barber school lasted a full week. He announced that he was going off to California to pick lettuce, never mind that he’d never picked any kind of produce in his life. He got all the way to Tijuana, got scared, and his dad sent him airfare back home. The next year, he made it to Austin, Texas, where he worked in a Mexican restaurant. Finally, on his third try, paying a coyote the going rate of about $3,000 USD, he made it to Georgia, where his cousins lived. And he learned to hang sheetrock, becoming rather good at the job. He flew home for Christmas that year, taking the ever-expensive Aeromar from the Mexico City airport instead of the bus. During his three-month sojourn back in the ‘hood, he found himself a wife, who remained in Mexico long enough to give birth to their first child. The wife and child both joined him, all as illegals, in Georgia, where he’s now a foreman, added two more to their family, owns a house with wall¬-to-wall carpeting, and drives a used Lincoln Continental. It’s been more than decade since he was last in Mexico.
In the early years of Pablo’s time in the U.S., his parents would ask me to mail him care packages containing what they thought were essential items. Those packages, filled with medicine, videotapes of Morelia, family photos and letters are no longer as frequent as they once were. He’s on his own now. He pays taxes, and he’s saving us his money for whatever he’ll have to pay to get legal.
I’m darned proud of Pablo. He wouldn’t have amounted to a tinker’s damn had he stayed in these parts. Getting out on his own was the best thing that ever happened to him, because he had to struggle to survive. And he made it. And when he gets the vote, I’ll lay good money that he’ll vote Republican.
I have to say, I'm happy for Pablo and that he's done well. I also think that those undocumented men and women in the U.S. will certainly be happy if the current form of the immigration bill passes (although I've lived in Washington, DC long enough to know that this bill, like the ones before it, is doomed in this election year). Nevertheless, I think that this bill is essentially flawed and is a reflection of the times that produced it.
An eight-year temporary work permit is not going to solve Pablo's, or any undocumented person's, problems. It's a stopgap, plain and simple. One could argue that a stopgap is better than nothing, but I would disagree. Pablo and his cohort are not going to want to go home in 8 years just because time's up. They are also not going to be less likely to want to bring their spouses and children to the U.S. if their lack of points means that they are not skilled enough to do so legally, which is what is going on in my post about Marisol.
Most academics that write about immigration will tell you that our current immigration problems today can be traced back to the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), that Reagan-era legislation that was supposed to end undocumented immigration. We know today how well that worked.
The problem with these compromise packages is that they do not look at the heart of the problem, nor do they consider the unintended consequences of their legislation. Until we are ready to really deal with this issue and to accept, nay embrace the fact that we are a nation of perpetual immigration and that our only recourse is to regulate (not stop) immigration, then we can move forward. In the meantime, I have to admit, I won't be complaining if someone in Washington decides it's time for a temporary work visa program. That, at least, will end the carnage and suffering at the border and in the desert. But I can't say I'll be happy is the Senate's version of immigration reform passes this year, because I know it will create more problems that it intends to solve.