I heard from my father that the Fox News ranters have been talking about our double plus good border fence. You know the one: the double fence mandated by the Secure Fence Act of 2006. The Republicans have been really mad that the fence was never completed. The problem is that the fence is estimated to cost more than four billion dollars and the Republicans never allocated money to pay for it. But that’s perfect for them. They don’t actually want to do anything about illegal immigration. They know the business community (Along with all those rich people with all those big lawns to mow!) wants those undocumented workers. So they can maintain the current situation while demagoguing the the issue on Fox News. “If the president really cared about our immigration problem, he’d build the double plus good border fence!” And that leaves the Fox News viewer outraged that yet again, Obama just won’t enforce our immigration laws!
There is a bigger problem here other than the usual Republican disingenuousness. The truth is that enormous numbers of undocumented residents did not come here illegally. Let’s start with the fact that not all undocumented people come from Mexico. The fraction is high, but probably not as high as most people think: 59%. What’s more, 15% come from five countries way across the big ocean: Philippines, India, Korea, China, and Vietnam. In total, perhaps 40% of all undocumented residents in the United States came legally and simply stayed.
Think about this. It is estimated that there are 11.4 million undocumented residents in the United States. To listen to Republicans on the subject, no undocumented population is acceptable. But if we closed down the border and didn’t allow anyone through, we would still have 4.6 million undocumented people living here. The fewer people in the country illegally, the harder it is to find them. So we are always going to have large absolute numbers of people here illegally. The only way to avoid that is to turn the United States into the kind of prison that communist China was during the Cultural Revolution. I realize that there are certain conservatives who would be all for this and that Fox News could doubtless convince a third of the country that we must do this. But it isn’t a good idea and I doubt the American people would stand for it. (But it wouldn’t shock me if they did!)
The reasonable way to look at our undocumented population is to start by deciding what we will accept. How big a population is acceptable? Currently, 3.6% of our population is undocumented. That actually doesn’t sound that bad. And that is probably why people always shout about eleven million illegal immigrants! If 1.5% is an acceptable target, then all this focus on the double plus good border fence makes a certain amount of sense. But I do not think that the immigration hysterics who rant about 11.4 million people would change at all if the number were 4.6 million. That’s why I think it is important to find out what level of illegal immigration they think is acceptable.
There will always be undocumented residents in any country that has trading relations with other countries. I’d like to see what Republican politicians have to say about this. Because I know that the Republican base is not going to think that almost five million undocumented residents is acceptable. This will be yet another case where Republicans are demagoguing an issue with no ideas as to what they would do. The demagoguing is the product. And it fits in perfectly with the Republican base’s thinking. It is a kind of magic thinking that believes that with enough will to succeed, everything will be accomplished. All we have to do is line up tens of millions of border patrol agents on the southern border and there will be no illegal immigration. What will they think when they learn this is just half the problem? Well, they will never learn that as long as we allow Republican politicians to pretend that illegal immigration is all about the US-Mexico border.
There is one solution to the undocumented residents. We could allow our economy to become so terrible that there is no opportunity here and our citizens go to other countries looking for jobs. This is what Republican and New Democratic economic policy is bringing to the United States. So maybe it is wrong to say that the conservatives don’t have an immigration plan.