The Colossus Grows Old
It's easy to state the position of most Republicans on the issue of immigration:
- They want the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants to go or be sent out of the country (presumably back to their home countries).
- Thereäfter, they want future entry to be determined by some notion of the general interests of those who are already citizens.
It is harder to state plainly what practical policies most Democrats want.
As a practical matter, open borders cannot be reconciled with access to state subsidies of services such as education and health-care, let alone to a more general dole; there simply isn't and wouldn't be enough wealth within the United States. One possible resolution is to allow anyone entry, but to deny entrants any state subsidies; they or private charity would have to pay for everything. This resolution would not satisfy those who have further objections to immigration, but it is in any case a non-starter; when constituent states have tried to limit unauthorized immigrants to emergency services, the mainstream of left-wing activists has denounced the restrictions as racist violations of fundamental human rights, and courts have sided with those activists.
A large number of Mexican-Americans would like other Mexicans to be able to come here fairly freely; fewer would extend such welcome to the entirety of Latin America, and far fewer Hispanic-Americans would embrace such freedom for Asians and for Africans. I doubt that most Hispanic-Americans would appreciate a wave of Eastern Europeans.
(By giving preference to those who already have family members in the United States, present immigration law is designed to mollify both the
my people but not those people crowd and those who don't want to compete against immigrant workers. It is much easier to get admittance for a grandmother as such than for an engineer as such.)
Many activists would like an amnesty for those presently in the United States in violation of immigration law. Opponents note that an amnesty now would raise hopes for another later, increasing the incentives for unauthorized immigration; and there is an obvious question of how (if at all) to compensate those who queued legally while recipients of the amnesty entered without authorization. Some critics insist that there would be a significant increase in other sorts of law-breaking, should punishment be waived for unauthorized entry. And, in the absence of an over-haul of entitlement programmes, any amnesty would significantly increase access to state subsidies, in an era where some constituent states are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the Federal government is running unsustainable deficits, and a majority of Americans already believe themselves to be over-taxed. Little-if-any response to these objections has come from the Democratic coälition; indeed, many activists on the left explicitly assert a need to give unauthorized immigrants greater access to entitlement programmes.
The President's style of leadership concerning major issues has been to propose rather vague and general objectives, then leave it to the Democratic Congressional leadership to actually formulate practical proposals. He's been pressed to do more than hand-waving on immigration, but he has nothing to say. His supporters cannot hold together and be honest with each other. Many of them cannot even be honest with themselves. And they cannot be honest with the rest of America. Small wonder, then, that the President flinched. (Yet I admit to being momentarily taken-aback when I read what he had said.)
(My own position isn't at all popular either, but it is consistent and I can be honest about it. It's the aforementioned non-starter. I believe that anyone who is not shown to be a criminal should be permitted entry to the United States, but should be denied all net state-subsidies. I'd run an electrolytic current through the Colossus, so that she shined like a new penny.)