Monday, April 03, 2006

Immigration: Full Amnesty is the Right Way.

The House and the Senate, not for the first time, are working on legislation reform bills that are in sharp disagreement with each other. The House has already passed legislation that would make it a felony to be in the US without proper immigration papers while the Senate is preparing legislation that would offer the estimated 12 million undocumented workers the chance to obtain citizenship. If there ever was an issue that has valid points on both sides of the divide then this is it.

Economists have often admonished us that” there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch; TANSTAAFL. According to this principle no matter which side you take there is a price to pay. So what would the rational economist (Is there any other kind? :-)) do in such a situation? Naturally homoeconomicus will favour the less costly side.

Although there are valid points on both sides of the divide it can be argued very clearly that the concerns of the House side: the right to control borders, downward pressure on the minimum wage in addition to increasing official unemployment rates among teens and low skilled workers are easily trumped by the moral concerns that are guiding the debate in the Senate.

Why am I obligated to help? To me the answer is simple and straight forward. The rights of the poor, the oppressed and the underprivileged rest on two fundamental principles.
(1) The utilitarian idea that if I am in a position to lessen pain, in any form, then I should.
(2) The chasm that separates the poor from the rich has expanded at an alarming rate over the past half a century. Since this increased inequality is the direct outcome of a “world system” and since we are not ready to jettison this unjust system then it must be the moral obligation of those that have profited the most to help those that are most in need.

In the final analysis integrating the 12 million undocumented workers in the US is the right policy but must not be viewed as anything more than a stop gap measure until the next wave of immigrants storm through the borders. That can only be stopped by treating the underlying problem at its roots. Eliminate poverty, improve standards of living and support social justice through fair trade and targeted economic aid.

2 comments:

Andros said...

well said. The immigration system is broken. We want low-wage and needy workers in our economy and we go after them only, not those who benefit from the exploitation. There is a price to pay for legalizing them, but I can't blame any person who tries to better his lot. It's natural. This country was built on this very same premise--millions came to America as a better alternative to what they had back home [although often many found worse conditions here].

Legalize the undocumented? Yes. And, in a quick, efficient way. There should be also a program for those who are needed for seasonal/temporary/semi-permanent work to come and go freely. You'd be surprised how many of the "illegals" have stayed because they know if they go back, it'd be very hard & expensive to return.
As for the next wave, well, like you said, as long as there is a huge imbalance between the nations, people will do what they must to survive and help their families.

ghassan karam said...

Andros,
Thanks for taking the time to read these posts.
The world in general and this country in particular (the US is the most powerful and the largest economy afterall)are in dire need of a new , shall I say, architecture that is in tune with the new realities and sensibilities. Would that ever come to pass thgough?