Saturday, January 08, 2005

An Issue on Which I Frankly....Am Not Sure

This particular topic has been bubbling in my head since I first read Precinct Chair's response to an attempt to block the implementation of Arizona's Proposition 200 requiring proof of citizenship to access some government services and to vote and to this week's revelation of the Mexican government producing a comic book showing illegal immigrants how to safely cross into the United States.

As a counterpoint, you can read through Ruben Navarrette's opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News (registration required). Ruben is a regular columnist for the DMN and a correspondent of mine, and definitely does NOT shy away from controversy when discussing the issue of immigration. (grin) Another source you should review is a recent poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Part of the reason, I think, that Texas has had much less in terms of anti-immigrant activity has to do with our tax laws. Because the state has no income tax, most social welfare programs are funded through state and local sales taxes and local property taxes, all of which are consumptive -- and none of which necessarily require citizenship (if you think of landlords including property tax rates in setting rents). Thus, in comparison to California and Arizona, the intrinsic problem of illegal immigrants not paying income tax, but utilizing services funded by these taxes, is avoided. In addition, Texas is quite simply far more Hispanic than most states, due both to our history and to demographics. The city of Dallas is majority-minority at this point (African-Americans and Latinos making up more than half of the population), and will become at current rates of growth a Latino-majority city within the next two decades.

I myself have mixed feelings on the issue. I recognize the fact that our schools and our social services systems are having deep problems, even if not in the area of funding, in the area of additional expense, time, and skills being required to manage things for people who are barely literate in Spanish, much less English. There isn't enough money to begin with, and I certainly understand the sentiment of Arizona voters, as well as their trepidation of their culture being overrun with "outsiders". I also agree that our porous southern borders are at best a security risk and at worst a loaded gun pointed at our heads.

However, having been to Mexico numerous times, I can understand why they're coming up here. Put bluntly, centuries of corrupt and inept government have left the country in a shambles in every sense, from political through economic. There is no incentive to make money there, because one way or another, your business and your livelihood will be stolen from you, be it by bandits or by corrupt police/government officials. There are no rules for taxation or for business left unbroken. The bulk of the illegal immigrants I have met have said straight up that, given the choice, they would prefer to be at home -- but that isn't even a choice for them or their children in today's Mexico.

The solution in my mind is somewhere in the middle....not so drastic as the "loaded rifles and guardtowers" that TPC talks about, but definitely a bit more than, "It's not their fault, it's that you depend on our cheap labor" that Ruben uses. Perhaps it is, as President Bush as talked about, an updated and modernized "guest-worker" program that allows Mexicans to come here and earn money while businesses save on labor costs. Any thoughts?


Unknown said...

We should have unlimited immigration as the Wall Street Journal has long argued for.

Personally, I have to pay my cleaning lady almost $20 an hour. That's insane. If we had more immigrants, I could probably hire an immigrant to clean my house for minimum wage.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect DTL the $20 you pay your cleaning lady isn't close to peanuts compared to what you pay in federal taxes for schooling illegals, footing most of their hospital and medical bills, etc.

Jeff, the poll from NPR that said "native-born Americans who have more contact with immigrants express more positive views toward them than those who have less contact," and was speaking of legal immigrants.

On illegal immigrants NPR/Harvard poll said "Non-immigrant Americans reserve their most negative views for illegal immigrants; they don't think the government has been tough enough on immigration, and they would like the government to spend more to tighten the borders."

Yet in either case, they failed to give any figures, and coming from NPR and Harvard my guess is the figures were not too favorable or they would have. That duo conducting a poll is sorta like sending a rabbit out for a head of lettuce.

I understand the conditions in Mexico are nearly untenable, yet closing our eyes to illegal immigrants is wrong, unfair to those that come in legally, a burden on our social system and extremely expensive.

A "guest-worker" program could be a solution, but why do I get the feeling that being poor among the poor, they still would not pay taxes and we would have the same burdens on our system. Seems like it is a cop-out to ligitimize a wrong.

North Dallas Thirty said...

You are right, Sandi -- if you look at the more precise poll results, there are some interesting points in them.

-- 72% of non-immigrants and 48% of immigrants are "concerned" about illegal immigration.

-- Among non-immigrants, 63% say taxpayers pay too much to provide services such as education and health care for illegal immigrants, 49% say too many people are entering the country, 56% say there is an increased likelihood of terrorism, and 54% agree with the statement that "the wrong kind of people are entering the country" (which frankly concerns me the most).

-- Perhaps most telling, the study found that 41% of all surveyed, including immigrants, felt that LEGAL immigration should be decreased -- a drop from the 59% found post-9/11.

Given figures like that, it's not difficult to see how Proposition 200 passed with 54% of the vote. And....I've found some additional information that may interest you both. I've posted it out to the main board.