April 22, 2004

Anti-immigration candidates defeated

Members of the Sierra Club have rejected a slate of candidates for the Club's board who had been characterized as "outsiders" and who had been criticized for their anti-immigration views. Among the defeated candidates was the former Governor of Colorado, Richard D. Lamm.

This result shows that the advocates of restricting immigration haven't made much headway in persuading environmentalist liberals of their ideas. Why is this?

Perhaps the most important reason is that the loudest voices opposing immigration are those of far-right politicians like Representative Tom Tancredo (R, Colorado). Mr. Tancredo praises almost everything George W. Bush does, except of course for his "amnesty" program for illegal Mexican workers.

More importantly, though, the non-uberpatriot advocates of restrictions on immigration simply haven't made their case well enough. Which is too bad, because they do have a case. They've failed to explain how restricting immigration isn't the same thing as restricting the freedom to travel. They've failed to put forth any convincing arguments for why denying citizenship is different from callously denying poverty-stricken immigrants the vital opportunity to rise out of poverty and misery.

I personally do not favor the harsh immigration restrictions advocated by people like Rep. Tancredo. But I recognize an intuitive sense that handing out citizenship without any restrictions whatsoever would not be a good idea.

I'm counting on other people who know more about this issue than I do to make some non-racist, non-fascist arguments for sensible limits to immigration.

Posted by Carey at April 22, 2004 11:36 AM

I should say that Mr. Tancredo courageously voted against the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act (PDIMA), a Bush-supported giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry that even supporters worry will hamper Bush's re-election chances. Tancredo should be complemented for his spirit of independence.

Posted by: Carey at April 22, 2004 12:02 PM

The Sierra Club's anti-immigration wing is basically saying that there are too many people in this country, and that its resources are over-taxed, hence a desire to stop the flow of immigrants into this country. In my opinion, this is NIMBYism. The problem isn't too many people in this country, although that may be a problem, it's that the world's population is growing too quickly. Environmental problems know no boundaries. But we don't provide adequate assistance to family planning programs overseas, because of our prudishness about birth control.
I am a grandson of immigrants, as many are, and some of my relatives perished in Hitler's ovens thanks to America's anti-immigration movement of the 20s and 30s, so maybe I'm a little biased, but the fact of the matter is, at this stage of the game, America's economy is heavily dependant on immigrants (and they are often the one's getting screwed the most), especially in the agricultural center. There is, of course, the pro-labor argument against immigration, that it drives down wages, and as a former chemist, who saw the field heavily dominanted by immigrants from Asia, I can understand this argument. However, in many cases, immigrants do work that Americans won't do. Finally, in many sectors, the threat to American wages is not because of immigrants, but more likely due to outsourcing. We need to work with other countries to improve labor conditions abroad. It will encourage people to do what they would naturally want to do, and that is to stay home. You think it's easy to just pick up anmd move?

Posted by: Larry at April 22, 2004 08:43 PM

Predictably, I have to weigh in on this. The argument for limiting immigration is self evident to anyone who doesn't want to live in a country of over a billion people which is where we're headed at current immigration levels. Yes, environmental ills know no boundaries but before we solve the problems of the globe let's work out a few of them here in the US. Immigrants "do the work Americans won't do" because they have depressed wages in many sectors to essentially below the subsistence level. If Wal-Mart had to start competing with Target for janitorial labor I can guarantee wages would rise. The sheer surfeit of labor provided by masses of immigrants is a great driving force in economic stratification.

Posted by: Nick at April 23, 2004 11:19 AM