Thursday, March 01, 2007

Chertoff on tour

Michael Chertoff is fighting the good fight for comprehensive immigration reform, trying to show skeptics that the White House is really super tough on illegal immigration.

WASHINGTON — For weeks, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has waged a clandestine charm offensive on behalf of an immigration overhaul. He consulted with supportive lawmakers, listened to adversarial congressmen and slipped into the private offices of wary senators, the only sign of his presence the beefy security men waiting outside.

Last week, Chertoff took skeptical members of Congress on a helicopter tour of the southern U.S. border to promote the administration's stepped-up enforcement measures.

They gave chase to illegal immigrants, and at one stop the lawmakers picked up a welder and — with a spray of sparks — helped build the solid-steel barrier rising along parts of the border with Mexico.

I just love giving chase to illegal immigrants. Fun for the whole family! And I see Chertoff has learned from the best when it comes to staging “hands on” photo ops—this seems like when a cop or a firefighter might let a first grader try on his hat on a field trip.

Today, Chertoff launches a higher-profile effort to win enough votes to pass a comprehensive overhaul when he testifies at the first Capitol Hill hearing on immigration legislation since Democrats took over.

Chertoff's campaign has impressed some lawmakers who may be crucial to the fate of his effort, but it's not clear whether they have been swayed enough to support it.

. . .

"Chertoff is a pretty good listener, but he works for the White House, and they have a different goal," King said. "We have a working relationship and we'll be able to talk about this policy, but my position is that until we stop bleeding at the border we can't have a discussion about the 12 million who are here."

By “bleeding” he means the metaphorical bleeding of immigrants into the country. He fails to explain how an entity can bleed a foreign substance into itself. “Bleeding” would more accurately describe the continuous outflow of skilled workers from places like Zimbabwe or India.

But the term “bleeding” is carefully employed. It connotes a crisis, one that poses a clear and present danger to the health of the nation.

In reality, we know that the immigrant population pushes up wages and pushes down crime. Economists tell us that, as the native population ages and birthrates edge downwards, ingesting immigrants into the body politic is necessary for the long-term health of the economy. (Apologies for the gruesome imagery, but it is fitting given the way we extract low-wage labor from people in desperate circumstances.) The border is not bleeding, then, unless you count the blood spilled by the immigrants gunned down by border patrol or the thousands who have died in the desert trying to cross the border. Rather, immigration is a form of nourishment that should in theory benefit both the receiving nation and immigrants themselves. Right now the exchange is rather one-sided. Even so, politicians and pundits trading on the insecurities of the public are eager to distort and misrepresent the actual effects of immigration. Their goal is not to find a reasonable solution to widely acknowledged problems with our immigration system, but to obscure and demonize for political gain.

No comments: