Paging Dr. Gregory House to Washington, D.C. An exact diagnosis (and thus prescribed treatment plan) for the US-Mexico border has eluded the guys on Capitol Hill for far too long, and the patient is in critical condition.
I love a good analogy but hate a flawed one, so below is a review of the diagnoses and prescriptions put forth from a variety of perspectives (I tried to collect as many distinct viewpoints as possible) and some holes or ambiguities left in each argument. With your help, perhaps we can make/decide upon a differential diagnosis by learning from these.
DIAGNOSIS: American businesses’ desire for cheap labor (scroll to last LTE on linked page) and Mexicans’ desire to live in America and/or make money to support their families
SYMPTOM: Illegal immigrants who come here in search of work, a better life
PRESCRIPTION: E-Verify and employer sanctions laws that aim at making this reason for immigrating moot
SECOND OPINION: Ahh but why must they come here for work? How?
DIAGNOSIS: “The chronic, insidious, national disease of degenerative borderporousis*” (*the disease of porous borders)
SYMPTOM: John McCain says it’s “people coming to this country and working illegally” and the hiring of said illegal immigrants by American businesses
PRESCRIPTION: Secure the border at all costs and prioritize that over E-Verify and comprehensive immigration reform
SECOND OPINION: Again, why are they so determined to come over here? And how ’bout the fact that between 1/3 and 1/2 of illegal immigrants come here legally and overstay their visas? This one sounds more like a syndrome – a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms, often used when the reason they occur together is unknown/ambiguous/untreatable – than a disease per say. This is an interesting thought, because syndromes don’t have direct cures. All you CAN do is treat the associated symptoms because you a) don’t know what’s causing them (Restless Legs Syndrome), b) know but cannot fix it (Down syndrome), or c) an ambiguous blend of both (Metabolic Syndrome).
DIAGNOSIS: A chronically sick state south of the border, “the illness of Latin American governments whose histories are filled with corruption, violence and mismanagement…regardless of the narrative, they’ve all arrived at the same general ending; a weak central state, poverty, and an elite political system which excludes the less affluent members.”
SYMPTOM: Illegal immigration, despite the risks, due to absence of economic opportunity and political means by which to change their plight; dogged determination to emigrate, even if it means dying in the desert or along the border
PRESCRIPTION: Ameliorate these problems as best we can, although the . The prescription some say would treat this disease are off the market, though, because the U.S. has an interest in factors that contribute to this instability:
“Surely a steady influx of labor, eager to work and willing to be exploited, is not reason enough. No, at the heart of our actions in South and Central America is, more likely, what author Doug Stokes calls ‘the preservation of a status-quo favorable to our interests.’ We want Latin American governments who will cooperate with our War on Terror, our War on Drugs, and our War on Socialism. All the above serve our government’s ends, and are enacted with such zeal that the perpetuation of instability becomes a natural byproduct.”
SECOND OPINION: If this is in fact the right diagnosis and prescription, then this disease may be terminal– too entrenched to be rooted out, like cancer in vital organs or a tumor wrapped around an important artery (is the U.S. the vital organ/artery or the cancer/tumor? You tell me. Or is it both/neither?).
DIAGNOSIS: A political virus that can’t be quarantined and whose cure is not yet known.” It’s apparently related to “outbreaks of nativist apoplexy,” which by definition would be incapacity, unconsciousness or speechlessness caused by extreme anger (if this was real medicine the cause would be a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke) among native-born or established citizens who want to protect their interests against those of immigrants.
SYMPTOM: Hysteria in Arizona, derailment of “George W. Bush’s apparently earnest effort to get a bipartisan immigration compromise through the Senate in 2007,” sliming of Sen. John McCain for supporting “amnesty,” the reluctance of many politicians to take a firm stance on SB 1070
SECOND OPINION: I don’t know about the nativist part, but politics have certainly paralyzed immigration policy in the last three years, ever since bipartisan efforts in Washington fell flat in the face of objections from all-or-nothing voices from all directions
DIAGNOSIS: Inefficient, ineffective bureaucracy in the department of immigration and naturalization. For some background on the process of legal immigration, read this recent article from The Arizona Republic outlining the caps, quotas and wait times for various routes of immigration
SYMPTOMS: Laws like SB 1070, which worry about fixing the window rather than the door; thousands of people coming into the country illegally because they know they ain’t getting through the front door anytime soon; burden on taxpayers who pick up the tab for extra public services and unpaid taxes on income and payroll
PRESCRIPTION: Reform U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to make it more efficient, faster and easier to navigate so everyone who wants to immigrate and fits the bill — including
SECOND OPINION: This still doesn’t trace the symptoms back to their ultimate cause, and I’m sure experts on immigration could rattle off many reasons why we can’t just open the door for everyone who wants to come. For that matter, maybe the door is working OK but there’s just a really long line or mob of people trying to get in. Just like with a house, the U.S. can’t tear down walls to make room more doors, and even if it did, the entryway would still be a zoo.
OK so that’s just a rundown of a few analogies. I’m sure I left some out, so don’t hesitate to add your diagnoses, prescriptions and second opinions. What is the root of this “disease?” Is the disease curable, treatable, terminal, chronic, psychosomatic, what? How should we go about dealing with it?
Chris Swanson, “Letters: Keep the American dream alive: limit immigration,” Orange County Register.
“McCain: Enforce Immigration Laws on Undocumented Workers, But Not On Businesses That Hire Them,” The Fifth Column.
Dan Marcou, “Ariz. SB 1070: The true cost of political backlash,” PoliceOne.com.
Griselda Nevarez, “Large share of illegal immigrants entered on visas, not across border,” Cronkite News Service.
Lance Steagall, “Cure the Disease, Not the Symptoms,” The Seminal.
Frank Rich, “If Only Arizona Were the Real Problem,” New York Times.
Bret Callentine, “Forget about the wall and fix the stinkin’ door,” The Lakewood Observer.
Erin Kelly, “Huge demand to live in U.S. part of illegal immigration problem,” The Arizona Republic.