The Virginia House of Delegates will soon be considering a number of bills dealing with illegal immigration here in VA. Unfortunately, these bills seem to reflect more and more the sharp, anti-illegal immigrant trend that, while useful for venting anger and frustration at the situation, does little to address the true problem.

First, the two proposals are pretty much contradictory. One makes it a misdemeanor to be in Virginia illegally, while the second allows state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws. Honestly, it is already illegal to be in America illegally, so the misdemeanor law is nothing more than a fancy waste of time at the taxpayers’ expense. The enforcement law will do nothing more than add additional burdens to the state justice system, creating more bureaucratic red tape while achieving little in terms of benefits, since the federal government should still be involved in any enforcement or deportation proceedings.No Child Left Illegal (CC Attribution 2.0)

Another proposal will deny in-state tuition to illegal immigrants and prohibit them from enrolling in a state university or college. Now, I can see, on the surface, why this might seem like a good idea. After all, the conservative logic would be that each dollar spent for an illegal immigrant student is a dollar not spent for a citizen; each spot in school given to an illegal immigrant is denied to a citizen. This logic works until you realize that this policy will do nothing to deter illegal immigration, rather, it will deter illegal immigrants from educating themselves to their maximum ability. The result: we have the same number of illegal immigrants, but now we’ve made it much more likely for them to enter into a cycle of poverty, increasing the risks of criminal activity or social welfare expenditures.

Additionally, since President Bush’s stance on this issue is more towards an amnesty position (granting citizenship to long-term illegal immigrants), and since the Democrats are likely more in favor of Bush’s stance rather than the hardcore conservative’s “throw them all out” position, one can’t help but perceive the potential problem that will result. If Bush’s stance becomes law, Virginia will then find itself with a large population of now legal immigrants, many of whom lack in education and high level skills training because of this policy. The state stands to lose more money correcting this problem then they ever would if they provided tuition and enrollment in the first place.

Finally, there is a bill to ban money for social welfare programs at churches, educational programs, and charities that provide services to illegal immigrants. Aside from the more basic enforcement problems (how would the state know if a group provides these services and how would a group know if a beneficiary is an illegal immigrant), there is something very disturbing about the state exercising this type of power. Aside from the potential for even greater abuse, is it really the state’s job to be telling these organizations who exactly can benefit. If the goal of these organizations is the achieved result (providing clothes to the needy, teaching adults to read, etc.) then should it matter who the beneficiary is of the service or resource. The goal of these organizations is to help people, not to help legal citizens only.

(Photo Courtesy of Flickr User “Alex-S.” Shared with Creative Commons 2.0 license)

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5 Comments so far

  1. Bilz on February 5, 2007 8:05 pm

    As an addendum, the Fairfax schools have officially stated that they will not abide by No Child Left Behind with respect to immigrant students. Interesting

  2. Laura Heymann on February 5, 2007 9:46 pm

    Regarding your last paragraph, I also fear that the scope of this legislation will be fairly broad in practice. If social service providers that receive government funding are required to turn away undocumented persons, they will also inevitably turn away citizens who are “undocumented” — i.e., citizens who are not in possession of any documents establishing their citizenship or legal residency. I suspect that a number of clients at shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, and free medical clinics do not carry passports, Social Security cards, or state-issued IDs — indeed, their dependence on such social services is often related to the very fact that they don’t have such documentation at hand.

  3. Randy on February 6, 2007 10:13 am

    “The result: we have the same number of illegal immigrants, but now we’ve made it much more likely for them to enter into a cycle of poverty, increasing the risks of criminal activity or social welfare expenditures.”

    It’s bizarre, when you think about it, that legislators can somehow think this isn’t a far worse problem than “illegal immigration” in the abstract. I realize that I’m merely speculating, so if anyone has a more substantial argument, feel free to tear me apart, but the above scenario shows me that this fight over illegal immigration isn’t really a fight at all; it’s a chance for politicians to play on people’s latent fears and prejudices. It’s easy to demonize the “illegal immigrant,” because I’d imagine (and I’m speculating again) that most voters aren’t especially close with too many undocumented foreigners. That makes it even easier for politicians – demonizing illegal immigrants is an easy way for politicians to allow people to blame their ills on a subset of society without a face.

    The shame of it is, if this was really about the effects of illegal immigration, legislators would attack the “problem” at its source – they’d eliminate the market that draws foreigners to the U.S. Rather than wasting time and money searching for each and every individual, they’d seek to hold businesses responsible for hiring people who’re illegally in the country. Now, I’m sure that’s a law of some sort already, but it’s certainly not enforced, and it’s absolutely not something politicians seem keen on endorsing. It’s far easier (and more politically effective) to blame the foreigners. It’s also far easier to let the businesses slide, since hiring undocumented workers at a low wage helps them, economincally. So, of course, these businesses would rather support pols who go after the individuals, not the channels.

    I realize I’m over-simplifying a lot of this, so perhaps I’m missing something. But I can’t help but think that attacking the individuals is a short-sighted attempt as seeming “strong” on immigration, while actually supporting a system that allows businesses to hire undocumented workers at low wages. So we’re letting businesses hire them (which is the main reason they’re here in the first place) and then we’re going to force them to remain uneducated (and in constant fear of deportation), so that, while they’re here, the only jobs they can get are laborious, low-wage opportunities. In so doing, we’re inadvertantly creating a second-class of citizens meant to do our dirty work…and taking away any possible charitable social service in the meantime.

    Like I said, it’s bizarre.

  4. Stereotypical Libertarian on February 12, 2007 9:07 pm

    You ask: “Aside from the potential for even greater abuse, is it really the state’s job to be telling these organizations who exactly can benefit?”

    Let’s assume the answer is no. Then is it really the State’s job to be giving these organizations money for this benefit? It seems a bit odd to suggest that it is good and proper for the State to throw money at these organizations (which seems to be underlying your comment), but not to do so with some specific limits.

  5. Neal on February 12, 2007 10:21 pm

    Your point is understood, and I would be the first to agree that a smaller government is a better government. My point was merely to suggest that if the organization forms for a specific purpose, it seems rather insidious for a government to use money to compel that organization to adopt a certain message that the organization may not desire. It forces the organization to choose between being able to better attain its goals, or remaining independent. Unfortunately, the organizations too often choose the money, out of the very noble desire to help. But your point is well taken, and I would agree that it would be much more desirable for the group to refuse the money in the first place so that they can help everyone without the government being able to interfere.

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