Saturday, November 26, 2011

Illegal Immigration (Pt. II)

Yesterday I posted a column explaining why it's necessary to stop illegal immigration. Today's post offers some suggestions as to how to do that in a way I believe finds the best balance between justice and compassion.

The issue is contentious, to be sure, but I think the American people would be willing to accept a two-stage measure which looks something like this:

The first stage would guarantee that a border fence be completed where feasible and the entire border secured. This is the sine qua non of any serious immigration reform. There's no point in painting the house while the ceiling is still leaking. Once our borders are impervious to all but the most dauntless and determined, and once this has been duly certified by a trustworthy authority or commission, then the situation of those already here could be addressed, but not until.

After certification, any subsequent plan for what to do with those already in the country illegally could be crafted to avoid the worst elements of amnesty and yet demonstrate compassion for people desperate to make a decent living. To that end, once the border is secure, I believe Congress would find public support for legislation that allows illegals to stay in the country indefinitely as "guest workers" with no penalty if the following provisos were also adopted and enforced:

1) Illegal aliens would be required to apply for a government identification card, similar to the "green card." After a reasonable grace period anyone without proper ID would be subject to deportation. This would be a one-time opportunity so that aliens entering the country illegally in the future would be unable to legally acquire a card.

2) No one who had entered the country illegally would at any time be eligible for citizenship (unless they leave the country and reapply through proper channels). Nor would they be entitled to the benefits of citizens. They would not be eligible to vote, or to receive food stamps, unemployment compensation, subsidized housing, AFDC, earned income tax credits, social security, Medicare, etc.

They would have limited access to taxpayer largesse, although churches and other private charitable organizations would be free to render whatever assistance they wish. Whatever taxes the workers pay would be part of the price of living and working here.

3) Their children, born on our soil, would no longer be granted automatic citizenship (This would require amending the 14th amendment of the Constitution), though they could attend public schools. Moreover, these children would become eligible for citizenship at age eighteen provided they graduate from high school, earn a GED, or serve in the military.

4) There would be no "chain" immigration. Those who entered illegally would not be permitted to bring their families here. If they wish to see their loved ones they should return home.

5) Any criminal activity, past or future, would be sufficient cause for immediate deportation, as would any serious infraction of the motor vehicle code.

6) There would be no penalty for businesses which employ guest workers, and workers would be free to seek employment anywhere they can find it. Neither the workers nor their employers would have to live in fear of the INS.

This is just an outline, of course, and there are details to be worked out, but it's both simpler and fairer than mass deportation or amnesty. Those who have followed the rules for citizenship wouldn't be leap-frogged by those who didn't, and illegals who have proper ID would benefit by being able to work without fear.

The long-term cost to taxpayers of illegal immigration would be considerably reduced, trouble-makers among the immigrant population would be deported, and American businesses would not be responsible for background investigations of job applicants.

It would also provide incentive for American youngsters to get an education and acquire skills so they don't have to compete for jobs with unskilled immigrants willing to work for lower wages. The one group that would "lose" would be the politicians who wish to pad their party's voter rolls. They'd be out of luck.

Of course, this proposal won't satisfy those who insist that we send all illegals packing, nor will it please those who think the requirements for letting them stay are too stringent, but it seems a more simple, practical, just, and humane solution to the problem than most other plans that have been suggested.

To be sure, it entails a kind of amnesty, but it doesn't reward illegals with the benefits of citizenship as does amnesty as it is usually conceived. The "amnesty" is contingent upon first stopping the flow of illegals across the border and also upon immigrants keeping themselves out of trouble while they're here.

If, however, these conditions for being allowed to work in this country proved too onerous, if illegal immigrants concluded they could do better elsewhere, they would, of course, be free to leave.

Quantum Weirdness

From time to time we've mentioned how quantum physics presents a serious obstacle to those who want to argue that the universe and everything in it, including us, is merely a physical machine subject to the inexorable laws of Newtonian mechanics. We've speculated that, to the contrary, quantum mechanics suggests that the most fundamental characteristic of the universe may be mind and that matter and physicality may simply be illusions created by mind.

Be that as it may, whatever the ontological implications of the quantum world are it's agreed by all that it's a very strange place.

This PBS Nova video featuring Brian Greene takes the viewer on a jaunt through some of the more fascinating aspects of quantum weirdness. In it Greene discusses things like superposition - the property of very tiny particles to be in more than one place at a time; wave-particle duality - the paradoxical notion that everything is really both a wave and a particle simultaneously; the observer effect - the idea that the existence of things is in some way dependent upon their being observed, and quantum entanglement - the truly bizarre notion that an observation made of a particle here instantaneously effects particles on the other side of the universe.

The video is about 45 minutes long, but it's well-worth watching if you wish to gain a better familiarity with these phenomena. One thing to keep in mind is that though the video will help acquaint you with the phenomena, it probably won't help you understand them. Nobody really understands them.


Watch The Fabric of the Cosmos: Quantum Leap on PBS. See more from NOVA.

Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the tip.