As most political-blog readers know, Mickey Kaus ran an anti-Democratic-establishment campaign for the U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer. His main issues were opposition to public-employee unions and to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants (i.e., comprehensive immigration reform). In an interesting post-race interview, he acknowledges that the latter was a hard sell:
On immigration, it’s a very hard road to hoe in a state like California where everybody appreciates the contribution of both legal and illegal immigrants to the state economy. You can’t live here without sort of liking the people who have come here because by and large they are good people.
He concedes that his illegal-immigration message didn’t strike an “instant chord” with people.
This seems to be a powerful argument for comprehensive immigration reform. If these people are essential to the economy in many states and the vast majority are law-abiding, hard workers, shouldn’t we be figuring out a way to secure the border and devising a pathway to permanent, legal status for them?
The notion that if we get really, really strict with employment verification and border control these workers will voluntarily return in huge numbers to their home countries seems to be a wishful thinking. (A super-effective verification/ID system would still require a massive policing effort to crack down on businesses, punish employers, and boot out the illegal workers.) Moreover, it ignores the candid conclusions that Kaus reached — we need and generally like these people. Whether by “voluntary” emigration or forced deportation, the exodus of people “essential to the economy” doesn’t seem to be a desirable end.