Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


This breaks my heart:

President Bush yesterday tried to shift the focus of immigration reform away from his unpopular plan for a guest-worker program and toward a crackdown on illegal border crossers.

I admire illegal border crossers almost as much as I admire our troops in Iraq. Both, in their different ways, are defying the institution which is the root of most of the injustice in our world-- those strange entities, borders-- and doing good: respectively, feeding their families while serving their fellow men in hard, lowly jobs, and liberating and bringing justice to victims of tyranny. I fervently hope that all efforts to close our southern border to illegal crossings fail. My heart is with the coyotes and the wetbacks... I would like to think that closing the southern border is technologically impossible, that nothing we can do will succeed in shutting them out. And part of me would like to pretend that it's technologically impossible, to tell immigrant-bashing voters: "sorry, folks, the Mexicans will always find a way to get through, so get used to it!" But I don't think it's true.

(Not that all illegal immigrants are Mexican, of course; many are visa over-stayers; and the policies that would shut them out are even more ominous...)

So I'm crushed to hear Bush escalating the war:

We have a comprehensive strategy to reform our immigration system. We're going to secure the border by catching those who enter illegally, and hardening the border to prevent illegal crossings. We're going to strengthen enforcement of our immigration laws within our country.

Or this:

When non-Mexican illegal immigrants are apprehended, they are initially detained. The problem is that our detention facilities don't have enough beds. And so, about four of every five non-Mexican illegal immigrants we catch are released in society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrives, about 75 percent of those released don't show up to the court. As a result, last year, only 30,000 of the 160,000 non-Mexicans caught coming across our southwest border were sent home.

This practice of catch and release has been the government's policy for decades. It is an unwise policy and we're going to end it. (Applause.)

I love catch-and-release. What a brilliant idea! And whenever you're talking about building more prisons for people who have harmed nobody, it's a sure signal that you're yielding to the Dark Side.

And yet, Bush still stands by his guest worker program. So-- is it worth it? Should I oppose Bush for his new hard line on illegal crossings, or should I consider this the price he's paying for the guest worker program? Anyway, I hope securing the border fails and the guest-worker program passes.

Meanwhile, here's some really good news:

Democrats found themselves in the unusual position of agreeing with the Republican president, although they took the opportunity to slam House conservatives.

"You have advocated a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, a view at odds with many members of your party in Congress," wrote Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in a letter to Mr. Bush. "As Congress finally begins to address this problem, I hope that you will stand up to the right-wing of your party and stand up for what is right."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said the president "must demonstrate leadership by saying no to his right-wing allies who want to close our borders and yes to the business community, labor unions and Hispanic Americans who want realistic and comprehensive immigration reform."

Wow! It's the first sign that the Democrats are leaving behind mindless oppositionism and supporting a policy on principle despite its being associated with Bush! It's tragic for the country that they didn't show the same decency when the Social Security debate was going on earlier this year, and Bush seemed ready to make the tax-and-transfer system more redistributionist-- raising the cap and reducing scheduled benefits for upper-earners-- while enacting private accounts. Then they refused to debate or discuss or engage in the sorts of things that responsible policymakers do, preferring to demagogue. But now Reid is writing to encourage President Bush! And I have a strange, sudden affection for Ted Kennedy, whose pronouncements on Iraq have been so monstrous.

Refreshing. I'm a long way from forgiving the Democrats for hanging the Social Security albatross around my generation's neck... but it's worth thinking about it anyway.


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