I have long puzzled
about our inability to reach consensus on immigration reforms. I recall that our economy, when booming, accommodated millions of undocumented workers (many who left as jobs became scarce) with little disruption to American workers. It seemed that the problems of illegal immigration were largely associated with its illegality: worker exploitation, suppressed wages, people living in the shadows. So I was puzzled that no one seemed interested in expanding opportunities for legal immigration to supply the workforce. Legalization seemed such an obvious solution that I wondered what powerful interests kept us from employing it.
The short-term answer lies in tying flexible immigration levels to economic indicators, raising the minimum wage to what it would have been had it kept pace with inflation and vigorously enforcing fair-labor laws and employee-documentation rules (perhaps with the same vigor we bring to militarizing our borders and frightening the vulnerable). The proposal to limit legal immigration seems destined not only to hamper economic growth as more people retire but also to guarantee that we will become an armed police state to counter the natural forces of supply and demand.
As a moral issue, the freedom to choose where to live seems pretty fundamental. Especially in regard to limiting care of refugees, I think our children’s children will wonder what we were thinking the way we wonder about our forebears and slavery.
Jan Selbo, Warrenton