I confess that I don't fully understand protest politics.
There appears to be something in the psyche of the left that finds
gratification in the act of protesting. The immigrants and their
who amassed in Phoenix and other cities about immigration reform
felt good about what they had done.
Presumably, however, there was also a desire to affect an external
audience, to cause others to think or feel differently about the
this regard, the protests were probably ineffective, if not
Effective protests usually bring attention to some moral point:
segregation, stopping a war.
The moral right to leave a country is generally recognized. And
those who believe that anyone living in oppression or deprivation
moral right to set up residence in the United States or anywhere
That, however, is a decidedly minority point of view. Most recognize
countries have a sovereign right to set immigration policy, to
who to let in and in what quantities.
Simply put, Americans are not likely to accept the proposition that
have no moral right to limit immigration or enforce the immigration
Now, there are issues of humaneness involved in immigration reform.
United States has not effectively or seriously enforced its
laws. There are those who have taken advantage of this to establish
well-settled lives here. Deporting them doesn't seem fair.
This becomes particularly poignant when it threatens the breakup of
families, or the deportation of children who grew up here and really
know their country of origin.
There is also something good about offering people, particularly
struggling with poverty in their country of origin, a chance for a
life. That's always been part of the American experience.
There are, however, other issues of fairness and equity involved in
immigration reform debate fairness to native workers facing
from immigrant labor, and fairness to local taxpayers shouldering an
increasing burden for education and social welfare costs associated
absorbing a large number of relatively unskilled and uneducated
The immigration reform measure sponsored by Sens. John McCain and
Kennedy, largely adopted by the Senate Judiciary Committee on
short shrift to the fairness concerns of native workers and local
taxpayers. Arizona Congressmen Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe are also
of this approach.
McCain-Kennedy not only gives legal status to existing illegal
it provides legal acceptance of the current volume of new illegal
that arrive annually, some 400,000.
There are responsible economists who have produced studies on both
the question of whether illegal immigrants have a positive or
effect on the wages of native workers. The dispute hinges on the
substitutability of immigrant and native labor, and whether the
local labor market is the appropriate point of reference.
The best guidance, however, probably is to be found in broad wage
And these are indisputable: inflation-adjusted wages for U.S.
less than a high school education have been declining and wages for
with just a high school diploma have been stagnant.
There are reasons other than immigration for this. Economic
are providing higher returns to education.
Nevertheless, a declining or stagnant price for unskilled labor does
suggest a shortage requiring 400,000 new unskilled workers a year.
Moreover, McCain-Kennedy allows employers to set the price at which
lack of a willing American worker is to be demonstrated, in essence
employers of unskilled labor monophony power.
Making legal what is currently occurring illegally, which is what
McCain-Kennedy basically does, will also exacerbate the economic
communities for the education and social welfare costs associated
fast-growing unskilled labor class.
McCain-Kennedy is more a capitulation to the tide of illegal
than a true effort to set and enforce an immigration policy that is
A sense of fairness indicates that the law should accept those who
established lives here in the interstices of U.S. enforcement of its
immigration laws. What happens on an ongoing basis, however, should
based on the national interest.
The U.S. economy undoubtedly needs more than the 10,000 unskilled
laborers that current law permits annually. The best evidence,
that the 400,000 or so who are coming here illegally each year are
an adverse effect on the wages of native workers and excessively
There is a number somewhere in-between that balances the
fairness and equity. That golden mean, however, isn't to be found in
politics of protest, or the emotion-laden rhetoric on either side of