January 29, 2006

IMMIGRATION REMAINS THE “SLEEPER ISSUE” in U.S. politics, but I just got a press release from Time suggesting that it may not sleep much longer:

Almost two-thirds of Americans (63%) consider illegal immigration a “very serious” or “extremely serious” problem in the United States, according to a TIME Poll. The majority (74%) believes the U.S. is not doing enough to secure its borders. . . .

TIME’s Poll shows that half (50%) of Americans favor deporting all illegal immigrants back to their home countries (45% oppose). Three-in-four (76%) favor allowing illegal immigrants in the U.S. to earn citizenship if they learn English, have a job and pay taxes. . . . Meanwhile 700,000 undocumented immigrants from around the world continue to enter the U.S. each year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

I favor making legal immigration easier — essentially under the guidelines above — but I also favor much stricter enforcement against illegal immigration. Which, I think, puts me pretty much on the opposite side of the issue from the Bush Administration.

The issue is, I think, heating up beneath the surface and it’s only been kept from breaking out politically by the extraordinarily low unemployment rates of recent years. Once unemployment, inevitably, moves back up toward historical averages, people will become much more vocal about this issue in a hurry. It would be nice if we could come up with a sensible policy before that happens, as the discussion is likely to be a lot nastier if we wait.

UPDATE: John Tabin has a podcast illustrating some of the politics of this issue.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona has an oped on the subject. He stresses the importance of immigrants adopting American culture.

As Jim Bennett says: “Democracy, immigration, multiculturalism. Pick any two.”