Dazzling Knowledge

Friday, August 31, 2007

All Politics, No Principle

Sikha Dalmia tries to explain the Bush administration's craven reversal on immigration reform:

It is not like it does not understand that the "problem" of illegal
immigration is purely a function of existing immigration laws, not "evil doers."
These laws don't exactly roll out the welcome mat for high-skilled immigrants
that California's Silicon Valley badly needs. But they are downright hostile
toward "unskilled" workers who form the backbone of the agricultural,
landscaping and hotel industry in the Golden State and elsewhere.

On paper, there are two types of visas available for unskilled workers: H-2A for
campesinos, or farm workers, and H-2B for other seasonal jobs. But thanks to
copious red tape, these visas rarely ever arrive on time for the job. Even
worse, they are usually good for less than a year and can only be renewed a few
times. Once they expire, workers have to return home because neither they, nor
their employers, can apply for a green card or permanent residency. Such a
dead-end process leaves workers no choice but to work illegally.


So why drive out the workers we have? Employer sanctions have been on the books
for years. Why enforce them if there are no upsides for national security—only
downsides for the economy?


The only plausible reason is that the administration has not just abandoned
rational immigration reform, which would be understandable under the
circumstances. It has actually made a conscious decision to embrace its opposite
to win back its lost base before next year's elections. In short, its
immigration policy now is driven neither by conviction, nor the needs of the
economy—but naked political calculation, even if that involves targeting
"willing employers" and "willing foreign workers," the very victims of that


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