Texas requires proof of legal status for a driver's license
October 10, 2008 3:59 PM   Subscribe

As of October 1, 2008, the state of Texas now requires that driver's license applicants show proof of legal immigration status when getting an original, renewal, or duplicate license. For those who are not citizens or permanent residents, the license will have on its face an indication of the expiration date of legal status.
Public Safety Commission Chairman Allan Polunsky, of San Antonio, said he initiated the policy change after learning of a taxi driver in Dallas who had imported undocumented workers into Texas from other states so they could obtain Texas driver's licenses.
He said he didn't know the taxi driver's motives but found it disconcerting that illegal immigrants could easily obtain driver's licenses in Texas. He said the new restrictions also bring Texas into closer compliance with the federal REAL ID Act, which requires states to create specially marked licenses for some immigrants.

[Governor] Perry, who appointed the commission members and announced the policy change, said terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had expired visas but valid driver's licenses and identification cards issued by other states.
from here because unfortunately I cannot access the news story directly at chron.com, and the Google cache is not working either.
posted by marble (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I work at the Texas DPS and today one of my co-workers had a phone call with a driver who (I gather) was irate at the new policy. She eventually told him "If you don't like it maybe you should go back where you came from" and hung up on him. Ahhh, customer service.
posted by marble at 4:04 PM on October 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


As someone with a perverse urge to see the collapse of the US, I support this. With an aging population bubble (or a "Demographic timebomb" as Greenspan calls the Baby Boom generation) and near-negative birth rate, it's important to be sure we keep young, working-class immigrants out.
posted by mullingitover at 4:09 PM on October 10, 2008


Is this really unusual? The same rules apply in Connecticut: "All applicants will be verified through USCIS for legal status before a driver's license/identification card will be issued."
posted by smackfu at 4:09 PM on October 10, 2008


While Connecticut does share a border with Mexico, I don't think it's as large as Texas'. It was important that Texas take action on this, because such a large portion of the 9/11 terrorists were Mexicans.
posted by mullingitover at 4:14 PM on October 10, 2008 [14 favorites]


Based on this, it appears that people claiming to be US Citizens don't have to give proof of citizenship. And they can merely show a Court Order certificate showing a change of name, obtained from any state or Canadian province, in order to obtain a licence. So, would it be possible to do this using a foreign ID?
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:24 PM on October 10, 2008


I wish drivers licenses would go back to being just a that - a statement that you are licensed to drive. Overloading them as official ID has always struck me as somewhat odd.
posted by pombe at 4:24 PM on October 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Overloading them as official ID has always struck me as somewhat odd.

Well the government really only issues two pieces of ID in the US that are widely used - the driver's license and the passport. One is state, one is federal. And of those, most people only bother getting the first one. it's really the only piece of actual verifiable ID that exists in the US (or Canada for that matter).

At any rate, the US doesn't really want immigrants so they might as well enforce the policy. I can't really blame state governments for wanting to cooperate with federal immigration policies.
posted by GuyZero at 4:28 PM on October 10, 2008


With an aging population bubble (or a "Demographic timebomb" as Greenspan calls the Baby Boom generation) and near-negative birth rate

Demographically speaking, the United States is by far the healthiest industrialized nation. The USAs birth rate is not "near-negative". Where did you ever get that idea? The USAs birth rate is at replacement level, about 2.1. Which is breeding like rabbits compared to Spain, Italy, Japan, Russia, etc etc.

I think you got the United States confused with Europe, or possibly Japan.
posted by Justinian at 4:29 PM on October 10, 2008


FYI, original Chronicle story here.
posted by immlass at 4:34 PM on October 10, 2008


Yes, the US is the only first-world nation that actually maintains a replacement birth rate to my knowledge. Canada admits many more immigrants as a percentage of population because it has a lower overall birthrate.
posted by GuyZero at 4:34 PM on October 10, 2008


I should probably add that my co-worker mentioned above is not typical of the DPS, and she will probably be disciplined for her lapse. Who knows, she might get fired. I could hardly believe she really went that far, actually.

The other people I work with are awesome and very helpful with anyone who calls.

So, would it be possible to do this using a foreign ID?

I'm really not sure. That seems like it would be a huge loophole. I don't think you'd get the little official mark in your driver's license record that you've shown some sort of proof of your citizenship though (as you would with a birth certificate, passport, or certificate of naturalization). It might depend on the discretion of the state trooper who is in charge of the individual office, though. Quite a few policy interpretations are left up to them.
posted by marble at 4:36 PM on October 10, 2008


the US is the only first-world nation that actually maintains a replacement birth rate to my knowledge

The UK is only a shade under it, IIRC. And our birthrate has been rising a little.
posted by WPW at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2008


I wish drivers licenses would go back to being just a that - a statement that you are licensed to drive. Overloading them as official ID has always struck me as somewhat odd.

Like GuyZero said, at this point, the only other widely recognized form of ID is the passport, and that ain't changing anytime soon, if only because of the costs to the states and the costs to everyone else that currently use a driver's license as ID.

Besides...

Know how to get a passport?

First, you get a birth certificate.

How do you get your birth certificate?

You need a notarized document.

How do you prove to the notary you are who you say you are?

You give them a driver's license.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:42 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The horror of not providing official United States identification to people who are here illegally! I don't get how people can be up in arms about this. It isn't as if people who are here illegally bust their humps to pay taxes. One of the attractions illegal immigrants have for big business is that everything can be cheaper - no bennies, no payroll taxes, and, hey, just let them try to collect workman's compensation. Pretty awesome deal for landlords, too ; too scared to complain. Why not rent to someone who wouldn't dare to go to the housing association?

Nobody is saying that someone cannot immigrate, they just have to do it legally. Agitate for the reform of the immigration process if this is important to you. Up the quotas. If you think, "Hey, screw having borders, let's allow anyone to come in," by all means, let your Congressperson know. I'm not a huge respecter of the law, but I have a hard time painting this as civil disobedience or anything similar. It's pretty much, "Stuff sucks here; it sucks less over there. Let's go, and to hell with the process." And no, they aren't all deserving of asylum. What is the benefit to the country, which does not have infinite wealth and resources to go around?

Being in the country without going through the usual citizenship process can be a financial burden on the rest of us (ask Texas hospitals). Look at the size of remittances to Mexico as compared to its economy — that's money leaving the country, as if we needed more of that, what with the hurry to send truckloads of cash overseas in exchange for cheaper sneakers. And take a gander at how hard is it for an American to get work in Mexico. You think our paperwork is bad?

I'm in an area with a huge influx of Bosnians. They're here legally. I've got some suho meso out of the deal. They're paying taxes and working for the same wage as anyone else. It was all above board. The Statue of Liberty does not read "give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses who didn't really feel like waiting in line and decided to jump ahead of everyone else who did the right thing."
posted by adipocere at 4:52 PM on October 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Justinian writes "The USAs birth rate is not 'near-negative'. Where did you ever get that idea? The USAs birth rate is at replacement level, about 2.1."

Replacement is as close as you can get to negative, no? Wikipedia says the US has a growth rate of .89%, and the hispanic population segment is doing a lot of the work in keeping it from being negative (white women are only having 1.8 children, while hispanic women are having 2.2). So yes, keep those Mexicans out so we can have the world's largest convalescent home.
posted by mullingitover at 4:56 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


mullingitover: As someone with a perverse urge to see the collapse of the US, I support this. With an aging population bubble (or a "Demographic timebomb" as Greenspan calls the Baby Boom generation) and near-negative birth rate, it's important to be sure we keep young, working-class immigrants out.

And your idea is to have a population that continuously increases forever? It should be pretty obvious what's wrong with that plan.

Everyone is simply going to have to deal with an older population. Maybe we'll have to allocate more resources to taking care of them. Having the population grow is only a stopgap solution that will, in the end, just make things uglier for everyone.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:56 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The horror of not providing official United States identification to people who are here illegally! I don't get how people can be up in arms about this.

People without driver's licenses can't get car insurance. People without car insurance can't pay you they cause an accident, which mean's you're fucked (good luck trying to sue an illegal immigrant).

So, not providing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants causes harm to regular citizens.
posted by delmoi at 5:03 PM on October 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Well here's the problem. If they make it hard for people them to get drivers licenses -- the primary purpose of which is to say somebody knows how to drive* -- then they won't drive legally. That doesn't mean they'll take the bus or get a friend to drive them to workH^H^H^H^H where they need to go, that means they will drilve illegally. With no insurance. Possibly with minimal driving skills. Is this a net benefit to society?

* Remember, the state also issues something called an "ID card" which has a lot of the sams kinds of info as on a drivers license, but does not impart legal ability to drive. In most states, you can obtain one of these by the time your age reaches double-digits. Let this story be a friendly reminder that a drivers licsense is not proof of citizenship in most states, so keep this in mind the next time you hear about some huge employer raid coming up with hundreds of illegal immigrants. Don't get me wrong, they shouldn't be working here illegally and the employers should be punished, but how do we know they're illegal on the basis of "what have I got in my pockets?"
posted by ilsa at 5:04 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


grrr, "same" and "license". having a bad fingers day.
posted by ilsa at 5:05 PM on October 10, 2008


Mitrovarr writes "And your idea is to have a population that continuously increases forever?"

Not exactly...
posted by mullingitover at 5:07 PM on October 10, 2008


If you think, "Hey, screw having borders, let's allow anyone to come in," by all means, let your Congressperson know. ...

Being in the country without going through the usual citizenship process can be a financial burden on the rest of us (ask Texas hospitals). Look at the size of remittances to Mexico as compared to its economy


This line of argument makes no sense whatsoever. If we had open borders, the cost to Texas hospitals and the amount of remittances to Mexico wouldn't change at all. And by the way, if they're sending money to Mexico, how do you think they're getting it? By working and producing wealth for other people as well as themselves. Besides that money comes back to the US, there are tons of exports to Mexico. That's the free market at work.

Of course now that the economy's tanked millions of illegals are heading back to Mexico. Turns out there are no jobs around anymore, not surprising since the housing crash has lead to a construction crash.
posted by delmoi at 5:08 PM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Replacement is as close as you can get to negative, no?

I suppose you could define it that way but you're misleading by implication. There is nothing unhealthy about replacement level fertility so calling it "near negative" in an attempt to claim the USA has a nasty demographic timebomb is dubious at best. It's like implying someone is wasting away because they have near-negative weight growth. Because their weight has been at the same level for 5 years. So it's "near negative".
posted by Justinian at 5:10 PM on October 10, 2008


People without driver's licenses can't get car insurance.

They don't have insurance regardless.

From sunny San Antonio, Texas with love,
posted by resurrexit at 5:13 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


delmoi: This line of argument makes no sense whatsoever. If we had open borders, the cost to Texas hospitals and the amount of remittances to Mexico wouldn't change at all. And by the way, if they're sending money to Mexico, how do you think they're getting it? By working and producing wealth for other people as well as themselves. Besides that money comes back to the US, there are tons of exports to Mexico. That's the free market at work.

It's anything but a 'free market'. Most of the reason that illegal immigrants can find jobs here so easily is that they aren't subject to OSHA, minimum wage laws, and such. Also, they tend to misuse social resources (like going to emergency rooms without paying, driving without insurance, and such) without getting called on it, since the worst thing that typically done to them is deportation and the legal identity they foul up is either fake or someone else's.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:18 PM on October 10, 2008


That's the free market at work.

Whoa whoa whoa, pardner. The free market only works under one of two circumstances:

1) When it makes the rich richer.

OR

2) When it makes the poor poorer.
posted by DU at 5:23 PM on October 10, 2008


...While Connecticut does share a border with Mexico, I don't think it's as large as Texas'.
WTF over?
posted by shockingbluamp at 5:25 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr writes "Most of the reason that illegal immigrants can find jobs here so easily is that they aren't subject to OSHA, minimum wage laws, and such"

No, but their employers are. Is it somehow the fault of illegal workers that their employers are so willing to abuse them and violate the law?
posted by mullingitover at 5:26 PM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


The free market only works under one of two circumstances:

1) When it makes the rich richer.

OR

2) When it makes the poor poorer.


Forgot to finish my post.

If the rich are getting poorer, then the infallible free market has made an error and we need the good kind of socialism to bail them out. If the poor are getting richer then that's the bad kind of socialism and has to be sent to a torture colony.
posted by DU at 5:31 PM on October 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Is it somehow the fault of illegal workers that their employers are so willing to abuse them and violate the law?

They are willing to take jobs that they can't complain about if the laws are violated. That deserves a little blame.
posted by smackfu at 5:33 PM on October 10, 2008


thirteenkiller: "5Based on this, it appears that people claiming to be US Citizens don't have to give proof of citizenship. And they can merely show a Court Order certificate showing a change of name, obtained from any state or Canadian province, in order to obtain a licence. So, would it be possible to do this using a foreign ID?"

I didn't read through the whole form, but it looks like standard I-9 format (pdf, scroll to page 3). Just like you'd fill out for a job.
posted by Rafaelloello at 5:33 PM on October 10, 2008


mullingitover: No, but their employers are. Is it somehow the fault of illegal workers that their employers are so willing to abuse them and violate the law?

I'm not trying to say that they're horrible people or anything, just make a point about the non-freeness of the market in this situation.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:38 PM on October 10, 2008


You know, the lack of an official liberal and porous immigration policy is hurting our economy and our political process. If we could have just passed that damn immigration bill we could have let enough illegal immigrants in to prop up the real estate market, delay the market meltdown, and then we would be somewhere positive. 12-18 months from now we could be a united nation, all of us chanting:

Obama lied, Markets died
Obama lied, Markets died

Damn politicians.
posted by Rafaelloello at 5:40 PM on October 10, 2008


South Austin secession now!
posted by Curry at 5:51 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cool it a little.
posted by cortex at 5:56 PM on October 10, 2008


Nobody is saying that someone cannot immigrate, they just have to do it legally.

Conveniently, for the vast majority of the world, there is no legal path to immigration. Here's a handy flowchart. Essentially, unless you 1) already have close family member (parent, spouse, sibling or child) who's a US citizen or permanent resident, or 2) have a college degree and a job offer from a US company willing to do (and pay for) the paperwork, you're mostly out of luck.

Your one other chance is to have what the USCIS calls "extraordinary ability". What does the USCIS consider evidence of "extraordinary ability"? The examples it gives include winning a Nobel Prize or major league MVP (benchwarmers need not apply), winning or being nominted for an Academy Award or Emmy, or, if you're lacking major awards, a "record of high salary in relation to others in the field". So, good luck with that.

At the same time, it's not clear that the situation for immigration is significantly better in other countries.

The Statue of Liberty does not read "give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses who didn't really feel like waiting in line and decided to jump ahead of everyone else who did the right thing."

Yes. I believe the exact quote is "give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses who already have close relatives over here; if you're not so poor that you can't afford a college education, then you can come too as long as you already have a job when you show up; also, if you've got a Nobel or an Oscar or a huge salary, you're cool with us".
posted by mhum at 6:37 PM on October 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yes. I believe the exact quote is "give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses who already have close relatives over here; if you're not so poor that you can't afford a college education, then you can come too as long as you already have a job when you show up; also, if you've got a Nobel or an Oscar or a huge salary, you're cool with us".

And if you examined the immigration policies of many other countries that aren't viewed as international pariahs you'd see that somehow they look much like our own.
posted by cellphone at 6:48 PM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't have a problem with this new requirement; it's just stiffening what is implied anyways. And, as pointed out above, it's not going to stop people who are determined to drive, it's a way to keep honest citizens honest, same as putting a bike lock on your bike isn't really protecting you from a determined bike thief, just keeps honest people honest.

In European nation-states (France, Poland, Germany, et all) people have to have proof of who they are before they can get through the gate. Here in the United States, we operate much differently, we truly do enjoy many freedoms. And yeah, I know, those freedoms are evaporating like rubbing alcohol on a hot sidewalk in July, some of them at any rate, but we still have a sense -- so far -- that we can wander pretty freely about the cabin.

I'd bet dollars to dimes that every European state has requirements such as Texas has just enacted. We just flinch every time any of our freedoms are removed, any time the rope tightens.

Here in Texas you are not legally required to have either a drivers license or a state issued ID card, but good luck cashing a check if you don't have it, or getting on an airplane, or any number of other activities where people would 'like' to know that you are an official citizen. And if you are in another state and you don't have an officially approved state ID of some kind from some state, good luck doing anything other than scratching yourself. Sure, it's almost certainly not against the law to cash a check but I'd guess it's against any retailers rules -- it would be against mine if I owned a business. And I believe I recall reading somewheres online (it must be true!) that you don't have to present ID or go through the search prior to getting on an airplane, but you will certainly have a series of long debates with Epsilon-Plus airport workers who are determined to look at your underpants.

As US citizens we are not required to have an official ID. But we are required to have a social security card, so we in fact do have a national ID card, and number, sans photo. (So far.)
posted by dancestoblue at 6:49 PM on October 10, 2008


Sorry, completely sucked into "Hitmen for Destiny."

If we had open borders, the cost to Texas hospitals and the amount of remittances to Mexico wouldn't change at all. Absolutely. I'm just saying, hey, if you think we should just let everyone in, campaign to do so. Make it law. I think it's a bad idea, but why not make it legal?

Still looking for something trustworthy on crime rates from a .gov site; I'll take a stab and guess that the serious crime isn't that pretty.

And by the way, if they're sending money to Mexico, how do you think they're getting it? By working and producing wealth for other people as well as themselves. And, you know, not paying taxes on it. Not to mention, the free market there will drop wages, because these guys will work for less. Which ends up leaving more wealth out of the hands of the working citizen. Why should MarketCorp pay you even minimum wage when we have these guys who will take even less and won't even squeak if a crate smashes their foot? This lowers wages for citizens and it lowers working conditions for everyone. In-state tuition for "undocumented" immigrants; you don't think that has an impact on citizens?

Having relatives and a job waiting for you is fairly common from most countries. Many are far stricter. I wish I could find that article again by the guy who explained what he had to go through to work in Mexico. Some countries make you jump through hoops to prove that there's nobody already there who couldn't do the job.

If you don't like it, work to reform the system. It's supposed to be "America, Love It Or Change It," not "America, Love It Or Leave It" or "America, We Don't Much Care For This So We Will Turn a Blind Eye to It and Let All Kinds of Weird Stuff Happen Because We Couldn't Be Bothered to Actually Make It Legit." The last of the bunch only encourages enrollment by those who would flout the law, that and those who would exploit them and shaft the rest of us.
posted by adipocere at 7:00 PM on October 10, 2008


And if you examined the immigration policies of many other countries that aren't viewed as international pariahs you'd see that somehow they look much like our own.

Yes, I agree. And that's why I said "it's not clear that the situation for immigration is significantly better in other countries". I've heard less than favorable things about Germany's and Japan's immigration policy, but I don't have the sources to back that up. On the other hand, most of those other countries haven't engraved one of their cherished national symbols with a distinctly pro-immigration epigram, one line of which is familiar enough to have entered the collective consciousness.
posted by mhum at 7:01 PM on October 10, 2008


Some countries make you jump through hoops to prove that there's nobody already there who couldn't do the job.

Yes, this is very common. One of those countries is the US, although to be fair, they have different kinds of certification depending on the specific work visa being sought. The employer also needs to show that they're paying the prevailing wage.

"America, We Don't Much Care For This So We Will Turn a Blind Eye to It and Let All Kinds of Weird Stuff Happen Because We Couldn't Be Bothered to Actually Make It Legit."

Interestingly, Slate had a five-part series by Tim Wu on this exact subject -- laws that are routinely bent or broken while authorities turn a blind eye. The five topics he covers: prescription drugs, downloading porn (illegal via USC 18 § 1465), copyright violations, the cases of the Amish and Mormons, and finally illegal immigration.
posted by mhum at 7:14 PM on October 10, 2008


And, you know, not paying taxes on it.

Unless they're being paid under the table, presumably their employer is going to withhold state and federal taxes, social security, etc. as part of their due diligence.

There's all sorts of catch-22s involved with ID and legal status. My wife and I ran into one when she applied for a social security number: the social security administration wanted a US government agency issued ID and the Minnesota DMV wanted a social security number to issue an ID card.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:54 PM on October 10, 2008


Sounds like a plan, but ugh, yet more hoops and barbs for those trying to honor the system and do it legally. A driver's license is valid for up to twenty times longer than the periods after which (yet) more paperwork is needed on your visa. So many if not most legal alien residents are going to end up with a license suggesting they're overstaying, which is just what you need if you get pulled over in Texas, where there is already a reputation for erroneously imprisoning legals.

I reckon the swearing-in ceremony should be replaced with a gauntlet run, naked, around a crowded public square one hundred times, with thousands of free whips and rotten fruit given to the crowd. This is more true to the spirit of the US immigration system than making them swear fealty and singing the national anthem - anyone can do that.

The immigration system should be recognized for it's asset potential as the USA's own Salusa Secondus - already only the most grimly determined can withstand it, and of those, only the smartest or most powerful can successfully negotiate its labyrinthine twists. Those that survive the crucible are bonded by shared misery, and have great loyalty to their kind. It's a perfect breeding ground for a secret elite force.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:35 PM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


nathan_teske, that sounds like you were just dealing with a stupid or poorly-trained worker at SSA. Their regulations clearly state that a foreign passport with I-551 stamp is good.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:48 PM on October 10, 2008


And, you know, not paying taxes on it. Not to mention, the free market there will drop wages, because these guys will work for less. Which ends up leaving more wealth out of the hands of the working citizen.

From the NYT
Immigration is good for the financial health of Social Security because more workers mean more tax revenue. Illegal immigration, it turns out, is even better than legal immigration. In the fine print of the 2008 annual report on Social Security, released last week, the program’s trustees noted that growing numbers of “other than legal” workers are expected to bolster the program over the coming decades.

[...]

We’re not talking chump change. According to the report, the taxes paid by other-than-legal immigrants will close 15 percent of the system’s projected long-term deficit. That’s equivalent to raising the payroll tax by 0.3 percentage points, starting today.
posted by rtha at 9:57 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


ROU_Xenophobe - Yeah we know but, after sitting for three hours and having the guard glare at us when I whipped out my stack of papers, we decided to just give up and go home.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:57 PM on October 10, 2008


rtha: We’re not talking chump change. According to the report, the taxes paid by other-than-legal immigrants will close 15 percent of the system’s projected long-term deficit. That’s equivalent to raising the payroll tax by 0.3 percentage points, starting today.

I suspect that between being uninsured motorists and abusing emergency room facilities, that .3 percentage point is more than balanced out. There are a lot of costs that are deferred onto the system here - they don't have any choice on the wages they are making, especially after sending money back to their families and such.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:20 PM on October 10, 2008


"Illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries are 50% less likely than U.S.-born Latinos to use hospital emergency rooms in California, according to a study published Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
[...]
Cost estimates vary widely. A Rand Corp. study published last year in the journal Health Affairs put the cost of healthcare for illegal immigrants nationwide at $1.1 billion a year, excluding care for those younger than 18 and older than 64."
----

The 75-year
projected SS shortfall is $3.7 trillion. 15% of 3.7 trillion is....something a lot more than $1.1 billion.

I'm not saying it's all groovy and we should let it go on as it has been. It's a horrible system for some, and a bad system for everyone else. But this idea that undocumented immigrants come here and take take take without giving anything (besides their labor, of course) is false. The truth that they do in fact contribute significant amounts to things like social security should not be ignored or belittled. That's all.

The cost of health care thing - well, the main problem is not undocumented immigrants. The problem is people with no or inadequate insurance.
posted by rtha at 10:48 PM on October 10, 2008


I'm not sure why any post/discussion about illegal immigration always devolves into a discussion about the sanctity of immigration. The operative word is illegal. Around me the seeming majority of 'illegal' looking immigrants. (poorly dressed, seemingly uneducated, hispanic looking , non-english/spanish speaking) non-native (looking) people do landscaping and restaurant or other retail work. Anecdotal I know. Its true perhaps that they do work that the locals won't but I think in arguable that this is critical economically or in the case of landscaping and fast food etc isn't work that would be better left undone from a pure economic productivity standpoint. Do we need more condos, lush, chemically induced green lawns, and more big macs? I guess this isn't a politically correct viewpoint, but I struggle to get Ph.Ds in quantitative mathematics into the country legally. Again, anecdotally, my area has a huge immigrant population - Irish, eastern European, Haitian, and a wide variety of others. Its hard to get a job requiring much education without a valid I-9 so to think the thought that most or all of the 'illegal' immigrants are somehow the bedrock of this countries future greatness is laughable. I understand also that they work hard (they are unbelievable) and the vast majority have the very human motivation of making a better life for themselves and their families. I can't imagine why the idea of them staying in their native countries and pulling themselves and their families out of the third world is so radical. If we think we need more immigration, then we should raise the quotas and make the system more efficient as was stated above. Bring 'em, on, but bring 'em legally and with some semblance of control.

BTW, I would love to be challenged on this viewpoint. To me its sort of simple, its illegal.
posted by sfts2 at 7:54 AM on October 11, 2008


shockingbluamp writes "WTF over?"

If you read all of mullingitover's comment I'm pretty sure it's sarcasm.
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 AM on October 11, 2008


Essentially, unless you 1) already have close family member (parent, spouse, sibling or child) who's a US citizen or permanent resident, or 2) have a college degree and a job offer from a US company willing to do (and pay for) the paperwork, you're mostly out of luck.

Are you saying that there's something wrong with this system? In the past, immigration was driven by the need for people to settle in the unpopulated new territories of North America and by the need to fill manufacturing jobs to meet worldwide demand for US-made products. Nowadays, things like family reunification (whose members will have a built-in support system when they arrive) and admitting those with college degrees and jobs lined up for them makes a lot of sense. The problem is that this isn't a unified system: it's a hodge-podge of band-aids and ad-hoc immigration programs cobbled together to meet various needs, not to mention the fact that US disdain creating efficient bureaucratic systems makes the process unpleasant for everyone.
posted by deanc at 9:08 AM on October 11, 2008


Are you saying that there's something wrong with this system?

Not exactly. I'm merely pointing out that when people say that immigrants should just "get in line", they're eliding the fact that, for most foreigners, there is no line. Again, I must emphasize that I'm not saying that the U.S. is unusually harsh towards immigrants compared to other countries; in fact, the U.S. is probably quite a bit better than many other countries.
posted by mhum at 11:13 AM on October 11, 2008


Its hard to get a job requiring much education without a valid I-9 so to think the thought that most or all of the 'illegal' immigrants are somehow the bedrock of this countries future greatness is laughable.

Are you saying that the only people who are qualified to be the "bedrock of the countries [sic] future" must be highly educated? Then, would you say that the German immigrants of the 18th century and the Irish and Italian immigrants of the 19th century were highly educated or were they not the bedrock of America's future? Perhaps I completely misinterpreted what you wrote.

BTW, I would love to be challenged on this viewpoint. To me its sort of simple, its illegal.

Okay. Well, lots and lots of things are illegal: downloading pornography (via the aforementioned 18 USC 1465), uploading copyrighted material to YouTube, cheating on your taxes, speeding. In some jurisdictions, adultery is still a crime (e.g.: Michigan). Somehow, I haven't been hearing a lot of clamor from the masses for shutting down internet porn, or prosecuting YouTube uploaders, or increasing IRS audits, or installing speed limiters on cars, or tracking down cheating spouses.

While it's easy to adopt a "The Law is the Law" philosophy, the fact is that there are huge swathes of law which simply go unenforced. The Slate series I linked to earlier discusses this very topic. The point is that, somehow, a decision is made -- either via societal acceptance/inertia or a top-down directive from law enforcement -- about which parts of the law to enforce.

I guess we all make a judgment on which laws are important to us and which aren't. There are probably some people who truly would like to see every single drug law enforced to the letter of the law, including any form of simple possession (note that 21 USC 844 doesn't specify a minimum amount to qualify). And, maybe there are people who actually take the FBI warnings at the beginning of DVDs seriously. But, in my limited experience, I find that people are much more willing to agitate for the enforcement of laws that they are sure would not apply to them.
posted by mhum at 12:31 PM on October 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine why the idea of them staying in their native countries and pulling themselves and their families out of the third world is so radical.

Because you can't build something out of nothing. You can't earn a wage when there is no paying work or the paying work is subsistence level only. You can't pull your family up and out when you can't get up and out yourself, when there is no up or out to get to.
posted by Dreama at 3:03 PM on October 11, 2008


Dreama,

"you can't build something out of nothing" Well, lots of other ethnic groups and societies did. Face it. Its just faster and easier to not try. The work they get here is subsistence level for here too. However, since it pays more in absolute terms than in their native society, they can ship money back. If we limit our view to Central and South America for simplicity's sake, why are there no jobs or industry? South America is awash in natural resources, just like North America was 200 years ago. It is patently bogus to think that they 'can't' do anything. They (the society) just doesn't. Its hard, not impossible.

nhum,

Your question 'Are you saying that the only people who are qualified to be the "bedrock of the countries [sic] future" must be highly educated?' is clearly just trolling or to put it another way - you not only misinterpreted what I wrote, but also history. The Irish of the 18th century were probably not significantly less educated than the masses of Americans. The Germans were significantly more educated than Americans. They came from a culture that was producing the greatest scientific thought of their time, and from a culture that had been advanced for hundreds if not a thousand years. As far as your misinterpretation of my statement, do you think that educated people are equally valuable towards building or contributing to a vibrant society and culture as uneducated people? If so, we can agree to disagree. Personally, I think that would be a ridiculous view.

I guess you can make a judgment which laws you want to enforce or not. Its a serious canard to conflate the examples you cite, as each case has seriously different history and societal impact. I for one, would not advocate for a concerted effort to round up and deport illegals, but to romanticize the illegal nature of their presence here, and provide them with all the benefits of a society in which they are not entitled to based upon the laws and cultural mores of that society that they hope to participate, while others who can contribute more and who have already proven that they are adhering to the law is patently destructive.
posted by sfts2 at 5:59 PM on October 11, 2008


Issues aside, it would really, really be nice if they could overhaul the immigration requirements so that anybody can get a job in the US, legally, with the option the change employers and seek work the same as anybody else in the country.

A viewpoint that really doesn't get brought up in these debates is how easy it is for Americans to work elsewhere - it's nigh-on impossible in a lot of places. And those cues? They took them from us and Europe.

At the moment I'm working for a pretty awful company in the PRC. The way this works is, there is only one type of visa on which I can legally pay income tax, get a driver's license, buy stocks, and own property, and that's on a company-sponsored work visa. Internationally, the PRC's visa requirements are hardly draconian, but there are gaping holes in the visa policy. There aren't any spousal visas (for which I'd qualify; instead they just give you a long-term tourist visa with all the requisite restrictions) or temporary worker visas, and permanent residency is just about as restrictive as the US, so I won't qualify for one of those for another 7-8 years. I understand that there's no great influx of foreign labor pouring over the borders here, so I'm not arguing that they've created something substandard, but what their visa policy ends up doing is creating a vast grey-market space wherein I and other long-term residents have to rely on an economy of favors to get basic things done or attain a verifiable paper trail. This company...I haven't received half the necessary tax paperwork, and I could make 3 times what I do now just freelancing. And I can't quit without exacting a "letter of release" from them, which though they're legally required to give me, there's no real penalty if they don't. My life would be infinitely simpler if I just quit, got my spousal tourist visa, and worked and drove illegally.

This isn't because of any individual neglect by the government. My problems, and the much graver problems of "Mexicans" and other illegals in the US, are caused by a systemic neglect of the actual flexibility of labor markets. Outlawing it obviously doesn't work in most circumstances - about the only country that's successfully stamped out illegal immigrant within its own borders labor is North Korea...and there's just as bad an influx of DPRK illegals into Heilongjiang and the Chinese northeast as there is across the Rio Grande. The whole world needs a new framework. And I doubt that there's any country in a better position to set the example needed than the US. We've got the money, the immigrant demand, the reciprocity agreements with other nations, and the the cultural authority for this experiment to get everyone's attention.

Allowing temporary workers more legality in the United States would reflect sooner or later in other countries' policies toward our own people. Why isn't this ever mentioned in this debate? It's downright painful to have to put up with this grey-market crap while I read news at home about more and more roadblocks to immigrant workers at home. Give me a fair, simple, effective system that allows labor to cross borders, and then I won't say a thing when you want to check their papers.

One thing I've always wondered about is, to what extent to the states control foreign labor? One thing about the PRC that has always intrigued me is how municipalities and individual immigration offices have control over their jurisdictions. Policies and enforcement vary a lot across different sections of the country, because local immigration offices have a lot of leverage to interpret directives from the top. I know other countries do this too; Australian provinces often maintain provincial lists of preferred skill sets and special sponsorship programs in addition to the national lists. The UK's immigration policy, however, is clamped down tight. How do US states stack up in this respect?
posted by saysthis at 7:14 PM on October 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


There are terrible gang problems in Canada, because we do a piss-poor job of keeping the bad people out. Vancouver is pwned by Asian gangs.

Then entire immigration system seems to need a complete overhaul. We're making it much too difficult for desirable immigrants to come in, and do much too little to keep out or boot out undesirable immigrants.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:06 AM on October 12, 2008


Sometimes it's not that easy to get proof of citizenship. A 60-something woman called the reference desk at my library several years looking for help. She had been trying to get a passport but she couldn't without a birth certificate. Because she was born in a very rural area in the late 1930's, her birth hadn't been registered until she was older than 2 years old. The passport office wouldn't accept any birth registration after age 2, so she was stuck. I imagine this kind of thing happens more often than we think. So, now that proof of citizenship is required in some places in order to get some types of federal or state aid, how many older folks are being denied help because they were born in a less bureaucratic time?
posted by bentley at 4:51 PM on October 12, 2008


As a Texan, I don't like this law. I would like all the illegal immigrants around me to have passed a driving test and possibly be carrying insurance.

I also don't like this discussion. Why is it that people seem to be perfectly fine with racist statements and attitudes towards Mexicans and other Hispanics when they would balk at the same statements made towards other minorities? I mean, give me a break. Illegal looking??? What is that, brown? Illegal is just the latest way to hate someone for looking or sounding different. It's the new acceptable racism.

If Texas is hurt so bad by all these illegals, why is our job market one of the strongest in the country?

/White Texan rant
posted by threeturtles at 3:47 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


« Older The Iron Heel   |   Cursor.org RIP? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments