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3.25.09

Issue Clash: Illegal Immigration

Antonio Gonzalez and Chris Simcox debate how the U.S. government should approach the issue of illegal immigration. Gonzalez is President of the William C. Velasquez Institute and Simcox is the head of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

See the interactive version of this issue clash.

1. What stance should the U.S. government take regarding the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S?

Antonio Gonzalez: America is a nation with a deeply-rooted immigrant history, and our government should view today's undocumented through the lens of civil and human rights. They are a highly vulnerable and exploited group who work for low wages and enjoys few—if any—rights, even though they fill an important niche in the U.S. economy. The appropriate policy prescriptions for the undocumented are those measures that surface them from the shadows of our society into the rights and responsibilities of legality. America's historical experience with the undocumented clearly demonstrates that policies of inclusion towards the undocumented provide infinitely more benefits to society than do policies of exclusion.

Chris Simcox: It is against the law to enter the U.S. without authorization. Anyone discovered to be in the U.S. illegally, who has committed a crime, has stolen someone's identity, or has obtained false documents should be deported and never allowed to reenter the U.S. for any reason. The major problem we have is what to do with the children who were brought into the U.S. illegally. If they have been here since they were a child, they should be allowed to be put on a fast track to gain citizenship. Immediately declaring that the 14th Amendment does not grant automatic birthright citizenship will cut off the magnet that attracts people to take advantage of our charity.

Rebuttals to question 1

Antonio Gonzalez: Deporting the undocumented "en masse" would result from the above criteria, since the overwhelming majority of the undocumented use false documents. Such deportation would deepen America's economic recession. Such shortsighted policies have been tried repeatedly in American history. For example the "great repatriations" of the 1930's expelled more than half of the Mexican origin population in the southwest, including tens of thousands of U.S. citizens. The resulting damage to U.S.-Mexico relations and the remnants of the Mexican-American community lasted decades. Moreover, the repatriations in the 1930's plunged the U.S. economy even deeper into depression according to reliable studies of that era. Such exclusionist logic is always counterproductive and ultimately ineffective in resolving policy dilemmas in a fair and humane way.

Chris Simcox: This has nothing to do with exclusion and everything to do with inclusion. We the people of the U.S.—by granting a pledge of protection, equal rights and civil rights by way of our Constitution—welcome all peoples of the Earth. This "privilege" is granted by our Constitution to all who pledge allegiance to the U.S. Immigration must be based on a practical economic, national security, and family reunification rubric that puts the interest of the American citizen, taxpayer and our national security first. By securing our borders and enforcing our laws, we as a nation bring an end to the deaths in the desert, to border violence, to the sex slave industry, to human trafficking, to indentured servitude, to workplace raids, and to breaking up families.

2. President Obama says longtime undocumented immigrants should have a path to citizenship in the U.S. Do you agree?

Antonio Gonzalez: I fully agree that legalization and eventual citizenship is the correct solution for the undocumented. The president should be as generous as possible in bringing the undocumented into legal status not only for moral and human rights reasons, but also for economic ones. Research on previous programs shows that legalizing the undocumented actually stimulates the economies in the communities where they live. Given our economy today, we should consider all measures that create jobs, income and tax revenues.

Chris Simcox: On a case-by-case basis I would agree that if someone is found to be living in the U.S. illegally, has been gainfully employed, has paid their taxes and has not committed a crime, I feel that we certainly can make an exception. But this will be the last time, and I would only accept that after our borders are secured and illegal immigration is no longer an out of control problem.

Rebuttals to question 2

Antonio Gonzalez: Legalizing the undocumented who meet certain conditions
(are employed, have no criminal record, etc.) is the number one priority for immigration reform. But it should not be tied to other conditions like border security or future migration. In fact, legalization is an economic priority since legalized workers earn more, spend more, and pay more in taxes. Furthermore, studies show that legalization programs also dissuade further undocumented migration. Legalization of the 10 to 11 million undocumented in the U.S. today would enhance all of America's security, as these new Americans would be known to our government, and allow security and police resources to be deployed against the real criminals.

Chris Simcox: Another flawed and unprincipled argument. No human is illegal. Our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and Bill of Rights set the framework for freedom, liberty and equality based on our ordered society, where justice is blind and the basic tenants of our ordered and civil society are based on our realization that we are not perfect and sometimes some ideologies are extremely flawed. Civil rights and human rights begin in the individual's home circumstances; countries of origin dictate civil and human rights. The immorality is in allowing a group of people to base their protected class on their economic value, the color of their skin, their ethnicity or their country of origin. Most of the illegal immigrants inside the U.S. have been forced into that situation, yet are now anchored and would most likely be unwilling to return to their countries of origin even though they remain staunch nativists and carry with them an allegiance to a foreign country. Our school system, the media, and ethnically based outreach groups openly teach criminals how to take advantage of our charitable society and our laws. They should be ashamed, and it is wrong and despicable in this situation for anyone to promote an argument based on civil rights or discrimination.

3. What should the U.S. do to prevent people from entering and staying in the country illegally?

Antonio Gonzalez: Undocumented immigration to the U.S. is dramatically declining today due to a combination of factors. For the record, illegal migration to the U.S. is actually a construct of our dysfunctional federal immigration policies. Artificially low legal migration quotas make it practically impossible to migrate legally from countries that traditionally send migrants to the U.S. Once the American economy starts to grow again (necessitating the need for more workers than our society can provide) we should re-align our resident visa quotas so that countries that traditionally send undocumented immigrant labor can send legal immigrants instead.

Chris Simcox: We need to fully militarize both borders and continue to build fences and increase resources to allow us to screen all vehicles that enter the U.S. For all visitors, we must implement a national biometric ID that is connected to a bank account in order to keep track of all visitors and illegal aliens in the U.S. This way, we can find people when their visas have expired.

Rebuttals to question 3

Antonio Gonzalez: America has undocumented migration for only one reason. Our laws are out of sync with our mid and long-term labor/economic needs. In other words, our laws only allow a small number of legal immigrants per year while typically (not in 2009-10 though) our economy's labor needs far outstrip our society's labor supply. Border militarization and ID cards that violate constitutional privacy protections are the wrong answer, and won't work anyway. Today, this a moot question as undocumented migration is absolutely and rapidly declining due to a combination of factors.

Chris Simcox: Cesar Chavez warned us in the 1960's (by the way Chavez was the first border Minuteman) that we would enable, encourage and be an accomplice to what we are seeing now in these organizations—cartels, on the verge of toppling an entire government. We do have a system that needs an overhaul. Once we have every American back to work and off the government dole, we can then begin allowing visa workers to enter the U.S. but under a strict watchful eye. Does that mean that based on research, we should allow drug cartels to thrive freely and openly on the streets of America, because of their efforts to stimulate local economies. If they give back to their local communities to create jobs and income should we forgive bank robbers? As long as it creates jobs and stimulates the economy should we accept other forms of criminal activity?

4. Do you think the border fence is a good idea in the effort to keep people from entering the U.S. illegally?

Antonio Gonzalez: The border fence is a terrible idea that is destructive to the environment, wasteful of precious tax dollars, damaging to US-Mexico relations, harmful to US border economies, ruinous to our reputation in the world, and ineffective in deterring undocumented immigration. It should be canceled forthwith.

Chris Simcox: The government and people of Mexico have left us no alternative other than to continue to build fences which have proved to be effective in deterring illegal immigration. We now need to complement the work of the fence and border patrol with National Guard and some military assets to ensure that drug smuggling, weapons smuggling, and human smuggling are no longer a problem in the U.S.

Rebuttals for question 4

Antonio Gonzalez: The border fence is unworkable and ineffective. It is also harmful to the border environment, economy and human rights. Border fences only cause migration patterns to shift to other pathways. Deterring crimes like smuggling of weapons, drugs, and people is legitimate for police forces not for the military or National Guard, who are not trained or intended for these functions. We do need to reexamine our policy priorities since this whole "drug crime" situation is the result of U.S. drug prohibition laws. We should learn from our history of alcohol prohibition during 1919-33 which spawned the "booze mafias (ala Al Capone)" of the time. Repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1933 substantially reduced the endemic violent gangsterism of the time.

Chris Simcox: This is how a democratic republic works. We elect representatives and they vote the way we tell them to regarding issues. We wanted the wall and we have no problem seeing our tax dollars spent to build the tax payer wall. The fence is already allowing environmentalists and nature groups to begin cleaning up the millions of pounds of trash and human waste left behind in our precious outdoor areas and on private property. Where we have built fences wildlife is returning and the thousands of foot trails made by millions of illegal invaders have begun growing over. The fence will save our environment from the destruction caused by millions of sets of feet trampling down our desert flora.

5. Should undocumented immigrants with children born in the U.S. be allowed to stay here?

Antonio Gonzalez: Sadly, one unintended consequence of current U.S. immigration policy is the breaking up of families. There are numerous cases of parents with small children being detained and deported as their children are left unattended. This practice goes against our most cherished American values of sanctity of family and children. We should return to earlier laws that permit U.S. children who are American citizens to sponsor their parents' applications for permanent residency.

Chris Simcox: First we must immediately end automatic birthright citizenship, and then proceed on a case-by-case basis. If the child is under the age of 18, then their parents should be allowed to stay in the U.S. to seek citizenship unless they commit a crime. However, if citizenship is not processed before the child turns 18, then the parents must then self-deport.

Rebuttals for question 5

Antonio Gonzalez: Birthright citizenship is embedded in the U.S. constitution and codifies our proud immigrant tradition. It is at the core of including new cultures, ideas, and talents into the American mainstream. Conversely, repealing this provision would set America on a path to a permanent two tiered society—one with rights, the other without. This is a recipe for disaster that we have already lived through during the times of slavery and segregation.

Chris Simcox: The individuals made the choice to enter our country and break our laws. They put their children in to that situation, U.S. immigration laws did not. Personal responsibility is the key here. We are all for family reunification. Technically children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens are not citizens and we should, in the interest of supporting the family, deport the entire family unit. As it stands now, our government is involved in corruption. Elected officials should be prosecuted on the basis of violating RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] statutes. Our government officials, including our president, are nothing short of engaging in organized crime if they give amnesty. The fact is that they are now creating a protection racket for organized criminal activity, endorsing money laundering, and actually creating a protection for a class of criminals based on economics and race.

6. How should we crack down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers?

Antonio Gonzalez: This policy, called employer sanctions, has unquestionably failed since being enacted in 1986. In practice, it has pushed the undocumented further underground. It has not deterred employment of the undocumented by low wage sector employers because not hiring the undocumented would result in catastrophic failure of certain types of businesses. Given the choice between sustaining/growing businesses or following this unworkable law, the overwhelming majority of applicable businesses have chosen the former. The best antidote to this problem is to increase enforcement of labor laws. This would penalize (and even shut down) the most exploitative and unscrupulous of employers of the undocumented (and other low wage workers).

Chris Simcox: The national E-verify system should be made mandatory and retroactive to all persons who have obtained a Social Security number or an I-9 number. Any employer caught knowingly hiring illegal aliens should suffer the loss of the employees and suffer a 10 day shutdown of their business. On the second offense, they should lose their business license. However, if we secure our borders and coastal boundaries, illegal immigration will cease to be a problem.

Rebuttals for question 6

Antonio Gonzalez: The E-verify system has been shown to be unworkable since none of the relevant data bases are accurate. Abuses abound with this strategy to punish employers that hire the undocumented. Other methods like employer sanctions have also failed. Instead, the U.S. should intensively enforce its labor laws and target employers that abuse or mistreat workers.

Chris Simcox: E-verify should be mandatory and does work. I agree that hiring managers, CEO's or business owners who are raided should also be arrested and prosecuted. Over seven million people out of work and 11 million estimated illegal aliens equals lots of jobs for U.S. workers. A recent Center for Immigration Studies report shows that U.S. citizens have lined up around the country to take jobs left open due to workplace raids. Every position held by illegal aliens as a result of the Swift Meat Packing raids has been filled with U.S. workers and the documented and wages are now on the rise again.

7. Has illegal immigration affected legally-residing immigrants?

Antonio Gonzalez: Legal immigrants have great sympathies for the plight of undocumented immigrants despite experiencing modest levels of competition with them for certain types of jobs. This is because they are quite often connected through family, community and peer networks. It is also true because, sadly, our misguided laws and policies in practice cause racial profiling and other forms of discrimination against all immigrants legal or otherwise, as well as ethnic groups perceived to look like immigrants (especially Latinos and Asians, and increasingly African-Americans). It is no accident that congressional districts with the greatest support for fair and humane policies for the undocumented are those with the greatest concentration of naturalized voters.

Chris Simcox: Illegal immigration is a slap in the face of every citizen and every illegal immigrant who waited their turn and followed the rules. Immigrants are attracted to and seek citizenship in the U.S. because of our ordered society and our respect for the rule of law. Illegal immigration shows blatant contempt for ordered society, and the laws and rules of the U.S. People who sell hate and base every argument on racism have muddied the water and unfortunately have created the myth that Hispanics are synonymous with the word illegal immigration. There are millions of illegal aliens inside the U.S. from nearly every country in the world. It is not about ethnicity, race or country of origin. It's about the American people demanding order and a level playing field for businesses to operate in a fair market.

Rebuttals for question 7

Antonio Gonzalez: Curiously, some people seem to believe that undocumented immigration is new. It is not. Did New York's Ellis Island (the legal migration entry point) accommodate all immigrants including Mexicans and Chinese in the southwest in the 19th century? Clearly no. In the 20th century the common ethnic slur of the day "wop" actually meant "without papers" an allusion to many Italian immigrants' undocumented status. My point is that America's imperfect immigration laws and giant appetite for labor has always engendered migration legal and otherwise. Our challenge today is to correct the imbalances in the system with new laws that enable rights to—and responsibilities from—the undocumented, while ensuring a workable system of legal immigrant labor supply for our economy when needed, and in doing so resolve our security concerns.

Chris Simcox: I still don't understand why some Latinos take responsibility for the majority of mass illegal immigration—they readily admit it—then they scream racial profiling when we enforce our laws. There are entire Congressional districts that have been redrawn due to false census counting that includes illegal aliens. That is preposterous and the trend will continue under the Obama Administration. If you are here illegally leave, get in line, and immediately apply for citizenship if that is what you desire. I still contend that many of the Latinos who have entered illegally just want to work and have no desire to become American citizens. They should go home before they are deported and lose their chance to ever return legally to work in the U.S. While home they should petition, rally and march for reform in their country.

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