Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why So Angry?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's comments about legal immigration, reported earlier this week by Matthew Boyle, have raised a semi-ruckus on the Net. This paragraph in particular seems to have ignited howls of outrage and yelps of pleasure:
In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying—the next president and the next congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages, because the more I’ve talked to folks, I’ve talked to Senator Sessions and others out there—but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today—is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.
It's interesting that some should view as controversial the idea that protecting the American worker should be an important consideration for immigration policy. But some apparently do. Mark Krikorian outlines some of the vituperative attacks directed at Walker's comments (even some Senate Republicans are grousing).

But some of these attacks lack argumentative clarity. For instance, this Talking Points Memo story breathlessly warns that Walker "shows openness to limiting legal immigration," which it portrays as some hardcore right-wing viewpoint. TPM is not alone in its suggestion that limiting legal immigration is somehow beyond the norms of acceptable political debate.  However, current immigration law already limits legal immigration (setting particular caps on it), and very few politicians are running on pure open borders. Barack Obama has not called for removing all limits on legal immigration, and neither has Hillary Clinton. Are they now rabidly right-wing?

For the record, only 7% of Americans want immigration levels increased, so supporters of unlimited legal immigration are a tiny minority.  And, if we are going to have limits on legal immigration, what standard should we use?

The intensity of the attacks on Governor Walker's remarks suggests how some in the Beltway want to avoid having a real debate about how to ensure opportunity for all and how to integrate immigrants into the American body politic. Many in the elite want to foist a narrow vision of immigration "reform" on the nation (basically, window-dressing enforcement, instant legalization of illegal immigrants, and expanded guest-worker programs). But they do not have a monopoly on "reform."

As I've suggested earlier, conservatives and Republicans should not be afraid to put forward immigration reform that helps immigrants succeed in the American economy and become full members of the American body politic. Part of the defense of the wages of the American worker includes the defense of the wages of legal immigrants, so seeking to defend the American worker is hardly anti-immigrant. We can have an immigration policy that is both pro-middle class and pro-immigrant.  And I think it is at least arguable that one of the key ideas of this immigration policy would include defending the ladder of opportunity so that immigrants and the native born (which often includes the children of immigrants) have a chance at prosperity.

Governor Walker's exact policy proposals for immigration are still evolving (as Mickey Kaus reminds us), but these remarks hint that he might at least be thinking about how to forge an immigration policy that encourages opportunity and civic integration.  Far from being a right-wing pander, that kind of policy vision should be of interest to people across the political spectrum.

UPDATE: For more along these lines, see these remarks by Jeffrey H. Anderson, Ross Douthat, Ian Tuttle, and Ramesh Ponnuru.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I see the pro-immigration fanaticism has gotten to the point where it is now considered extreme right wing to argue that the interests of American workers and citizens should be considered when it comes to immigration. That makes it pretty obvious that the real extremists in this debate are the ones who want more immigration and amnesty.