Any Immigration Reform Passed By Congress Will Make Things Worse

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on in this country, it's that our immigration laws are a mess.  Even I agree!  But does that mean the immigration laws should be changed?  Remember, there's only one way to change the laws, and that's to get a new law through the Congress, and (absent two-thirds majorities) signed by the President.  What is the chance that any new immigration law that could get through the Congress and be signed by the President would be an improvement on the current situation?  Certainly if we are talking about some kind of "comprehensive" reform, the chance of it being an improvement over the current situation is zero.  Far better to stick with what we have.

As much as the current situation is a mess, it has beneficial aspects that are rarely perceived.  Most notably, because most immigrants into the U.S are illegal, they are substantially deterred from obtaining welfare benefits and other state handouts.  To the extent these immigrants become legalized,  the vast legions of handout promoters would immediately be sicced upon them, and many immigrants would find themselves heeding the sirens' song.   The result of that in places that have tried it, namely much of Europe, is a huge alienated underclass seething with resentment and ready to explode in riots and/or terror attacks.  For example, consider Sweden, currently engulfed in about a week of riots with no end in sight.  The rioters are predominantly muslim immigrants, who make up about 6% of the population, while receiving some 70 - 80% of welfare payments.  Or consider the extensive rioting in the poor suburbs around Paris in 2005, again largely by unemployed immigrants subsisting on various forms of state handouts.  France just had another round of such riots in Amiens in 2012.  Relevant to this issue is the now eighteen-part series by Mickey Kaus of the Daily Caller titled "Does Welfare Cause Terrorism?"  Recent subjects of the series have included the Tsarnaev brothers of Boston marathon fame - yes, they had been on welfare.  In the latest installment, Kaus asks whether English terrorist Michael Adebolajo, famous for recently beheading an army man on the street in Woolwich, had been receiving welfare.  The answer is not yet in.  I know where I place my bet.  Kaus has this to say about the underlying dynamic:

[R]elatively generous welfare benefits enable those in the ethnic ghetto to stay there, stay unemployed, and seethe. Without government subsidies, they would have to overcome the prejudice against them and integrate into the mainstream working culture. Work, in this sense, is anti-terrorist medicine. (And if you work all day, there's less time to dream up ways and reasons to kill infidels.)

Then there is the issue of how any actual immigration reform would make things even worse.  At the top of every immigration reformer's agenda is what they call "border security."  Of course, this has little to do with the border.  Sure, we can build a fence, and that may help a little, but really "border security" is mostly not about the border but rather is about how to identify the people who have gotten in here legally but can't stay legally, so we can throw them out.  And the universal proposed "solution" is to track everybody all the time.  For example, here is Republican Senator Marco Rubio a few days ago on the Fox News Hannity program, saying (at about 1:44) "E Verify must by fully completed" as part of his "gang of 8" comprehensive immigration reform bill.  In other words, no working for anybody in the U.S. any more without the Federal government knowing about it and tracking it in a data base.  In case you thought this might apply just to immigrants, it does not. 

Any problem with that?  Well, to start with, is there any possibility that the government would mis-use such information for political purposes against its perceived enemies?  That's like asking whether the sun will rise in the east.  In fact, an employment tracking system will really be useful only against people of higher economic status who have regular employment, and likely of no use whatsoever on the immigration front.  Why not?  Consider things here in Greenwich Village.  In this neighborhood we have hundreds of small older buildings and a small army of casually-employed people who assist in maintaining those buildings.  There are people who will sweep the sidewalk in front of your house, or take out your garbage at the appointed time for pickup, or water your tree garden, or do handyman jobs around the house, or touch up the paint, or dust and vacuum, or fix a leak, or any one of a thousand other small jobs.  These people only work for a few hours at a time for any one building owner.  Many are of course immigrants.  They are not "employed" by anyone in any sense that I am aware of.    I don't see "full implementation" of e-verify having the slightest effect on this situation.  Are they really proposing to make it illegal to pay someone $20 to sweep a sidewalk?  But "full implementation" of e-verify would have a huge and intrusive effect on the relation between regularly-employed people and their government.

The only beneficial reform of immigration law that might actually happen would be to allow a larger number of skilled workers to enter for employment particularly in the high tech field.  But that I don't really see happening, because most politicians interested in the area have as their primary goal getting big new blocs of votes to swing elections in their direction.  So be it.  We'll stick with what we have.