Monday, September 25, 2006

A Good Neighbor Fence

There's a rather interesting look at the political trend toward a fence on our border with Mexico, by Rich Lowry, at It seems the fence idea is gaining momentum and, potentially, funding, from Washington. Both the House and Senate have now passed legislation authorizing several hundred miles of barrier. (Now the two sets of legislation have to be reconciled, which still could take a while.) The mere concept of a fence faced a good deal of opposition from certain quarters at its inception, but, over time, public opinion is swaying the politicians, who are gradually coming around to the notion that the U.S. citizenry at large want the borders enforced. I'm hoping that what they are realizing is that most of us are for both immigration and border security. It's not only possible to be both, I suspect it is the dominant position.

Honestly, I don't know a single person who has ever expressed, in my hearing, the desire that we keep immigrants out of the country. After all, most of us are ourselves descended from immigrants. However, we want people coming into our country who will obey its laws, and in sneaking across the border, illegal immigrants are breaking those laws at the outset. There are security issues, as well as economic ones. We want to know who's here, and for how long, and why. We want accountability, and we also want those who work here to pay their fair share of taxes, so that the infrastructure and services provided by government at all levels can be funded by everyone who uses them, not excepting those who are working under the table to avoid detection. In this case, I think most of us want a "good neighbor fence," one that will enable us to continue growing a positive relationship with Mexico, unhindered by some of the current fears and resentments.

Most people aren't heartless. I doubt very much that the average American resents the money that gets sent from here to Mexico. Dollars from here goes a long way toward helping the quality of life there, and many of us are happy to see how much immigrant workers can aid their families back home, but they need to do it legally, and contribute to the infrastructure and services that they use while they're here. If U.S. citizens are assured of safe borders, with a flow of immigration that is generous, but accountable, controlled, and not sucking the public trough dry without reciprocal contribution, there will be a lot less resentment on the part of those Americans who are, right now, frustrated by abuses of the system. Most of us recognize that there are many benefits, on both sides, to be gained by a healthy exchange of goods and labor between our neighboring countries. I'm a big "a rising tide floats all boats" proponent. The more Mexico prospers, the better off we all are, in the long run.

I acknowledge that not everyone wants large numbers of immigrant workers flooding the American job market. Some people fear competition for employment, coming from migrant workers who willingly work for less than Americans generally will. Many immigrants accept a lesser standard of living than the people born and raised in American prosperity, and for good reason; even what would be considered a lesser standard here is still very high compared with the conditions back home. I'm not dismissing the fact that some Americans find competition from immigrant laborers, and that that competition might keep some wages suppressed; however, a prosperous Mexico also purchases more goods than an impoverished one, so if Mexico thrives, we have the potential to create more jobs here as well. Again, looking at the long run, a goods-consumer contributes to economic growth. Prosperous immigrants become goods-consumers.

Of course, there are other issues involved; the Mexican government is responsible, in the long run, for the economic climate south of the border, and those issues are far too complicated for me to get into without a lot more information than I have right now. My main point here is that I think it's a good thing that a border fence is gaining ground in Washington. Hopefully, Congress is seeing the light, that it's possible to be both pro-security and pro-immigration at the same time. It's encouraging that public opinion is having an impact on public policy. Maybe we'll see some consensus come out of the capital. Wouldn't that be a refreshing change?