I was eager to hear President Bush's immigration reform plan, but then wasn't very impressed (nor were many others). The issue is huge and complex, not nearly as simple as the "enforce existing laws!" mantra of much of the right. Nevertheless, I don't think the status quo can stand much longer. President Bush's proposed policy just didn't make much sense to me, until I read TMLutas's take on it.

Tote up the decades of poor wages, the uncertainty of ever getting to the head of the line and the $40k price tag of illegal admission, fake papers, and the opportunity cost of keeping your head down in the US doesn't look so bad. So our everyman hits the shipping containers or desert crossings or whatever and arrives in the US where he first pops up on VDH's radar screen.

With the new program, the calculation changes. Our labor migrant everyman doesn't care about the US per se. He just wants a nice house and to live in relative comfort at home in his village. He wants his kids to have decent nutrition, a shot at a good education and a better life. He wants the local version of the American dream but in his own culture, with its own characteristics. Working for a few years in the US to build up a stake and he can use that capital to live a decent life at home as a member of the local elite. ...

The Bush plan takes care of this by reducing the cost to cross borders down to bus or train fare. Poof! Dignity as one of the richest families in your home town or a strange and confusing life in the US where you always feel the 2nd class outsider and you're in the bottom half of the economic order. How do you think those incentives will play out?

That's a fascinating take on the matter, and one that warrants a lot more thought. I'm going to have to reconsider my initial nagative reaction.



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