Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bush on Illegal Immigration

Last night President Bush delivered a speech on the subject of illegal immigration. He proposed some changes in enforcement along with an introduction of a "temporary worker program." While Bush falls short of what I would consider the ideal immigration policy, I do give Bush credit for moving in the right direction. I consider myself mostly neutral about the increased enforcement provisions since I basically believe it is impossible to completely seal off the border with Mexico and I'm quite happy that Bush stated explicitly:
The United States is not going to militarize the southern border. Mexico is our neighbor, and our friend. We will continue to work cooperatively to improve security on both sides of the border, ... to confront common problems like drug trafficking and crime, ... and to reduce illegal immigration.
A militarization should remain unnecessary while we are not facing an armed invasion but I'll grant there's some advantage to knowing at least something about who enters the country from abroad. I think the most promising part of Bush's proposal is clearly his "temporary worker program" which will surely have the effect of increasing the number of people who can come into the US legally. Here is how the President described it:

Second, to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program. The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop. To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across.

Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way, for a limited period of time. This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay. A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while respecting the law. A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal of human smugglers and make it less likely that people would risk their lives to cross the border. It would ease the financial burden on state and local governments, by replacing illegal workers with lawful taxpayers. And above all, a temporary worker program would add to our security by making certain we know who is in our country and why they are here.

One can quibble about the various conditions imposed on the workers but I nevertheless think it is undeniably better than sneaking across the border. And I also hope that this program will apply to workers from around the world which might put to rest some of fears of "Mexifornia."

Again, ideally immigration quotas would be cancelled, but I think the President deserves some credit for enabling millions of individuals obtain a legal status in this country.

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