Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Reforming immigration reform

Behind me on this morning’s train, an immigrant couple practices English.

“How you doing?,” the man enunciates with the seriousness of a judge.

“No, no, no,” says the woman. “How are you doing?”

“How are you doing?” parrots the twentysomething man.

“No! Listen: How are you doing?” she says, shedding the emphasis.

“How are you doing?” he says. He’s delighted with himself for getting it right, and decides to push it. “Hey, how are you doing?” he warbles in a lounge lizard’s voice. He and his companion collapse into giggles, then revert to an unfamiliar foreign language.

Their stab at assimilation comes to mind as politicians in Washington, DC, try to determine where they should stand on immigration reform. In the posturing to show constituents they’re conservative beyond reproach, or truly pro-working class, or absolutely, positively law-and-order, lawmakers seem to have forgotten that lives are at stake as much as votes. People will be fundamentally and profoundly affected by how our purported guardians act on the Hill—the immigrants, of course, but also you. Not to mention your partners, shareholders, native-born employees, and guests. Without that labor supply, the locomotive could run out of coal.

The situation seems simple enough for a turnip to comprehend: Immigrants come here because they need jobs; the restaurant industry has to fill jobs to sustain its key social and economic roles. Insert Group A in Slot B, cue the band to play “Celebration,” and let the conga line commence.

To its credit, the Bush Administration has tried to facilitate that straightforward solution by suggesting the I-9 based system for regulating immigrant employment, a clunker unmatched since the Yugo, be scrapped for something more realistic. The President wants to eliminate illegal immigration by making legal residency easy enough for a straight-Ds turnip to obtain. For a considerable fee, non-citizens could obtain a three-year worker’s permit, renewable for a second three-year term. If they fail to naturalize after six years, they have to head back to their native country for a year before giving it another go here.

Sounds very reasonable. But the very idea has the traditionalists of both parties scrambling for air-sickness bags. Old-line protectionist Democrats decry the loss of American jobs to American workers who no doubt have an Old Glory flapping in the yard. Republicans, meanwhile, almost bust a button on their three-piece suits when they consider that foreigners here illegally could be forgiven their transgression. Why not just give criminals a gold star?

It’s bad enough that the posturing perpetuates the current strain of hiring people who want to take the foodservice jobs that few native-borns seem to want. Now you’re being turned into bargaining wampum. In his weekly radio address last Saturday, President Bush once again urged the nation to embrace his worker’s visa idea. To make it more palatable to the law-and-order set within his own party, the President stressed that work-place enforcement of immigration laws has to be stepped up. Great. The current set-up is a curse to restaurateurs because of how much effort is required to prove they’re not breaking the law and hiring illegals. Under the so-called reform program, they’ll have to meet tougher enforcement standards?

And where exactly is the reform?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those that been enjoying the benefits of dependable,affordable labor can appreciate immigrants who risk their lives persuing the American dream not for themselves but for those that hire them. What ilegals get? crumbs and a life of poverty and depression. Stop acting as if living in the USA under the conditions they endure is a benefit. If the goverment rather turn away from the problem is because they know that without ilegals the USA economy will colapse. Ilegal immigrants want to pay taxes! have driver licenses! and incorporate themselves into American society just as other immigrants did. The system now is forcing them to survive under horrible cirmstances in spite of the fact that they are the building blocks for the american economy. Time to wake-up!!!!

November 25, 2005 at 12:42 PM  

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