As liberals wax hysterical over Arizona's proposed immigration law, Michael Lind offers some sobering counsel to his fellow progressives, especially those known as the "commentariat." It appears to him that too many liberals have gone beyond denouncing what they view as "racial profiling" in certain laws, to condemning all immigration enforcement law. In Open borders or high-wage welfare state, Lind reflects on how far removed such thinking is "not only from the American public as a whole, but also from most Democratic and independent voters."
He writes: Since the economy crashed in the fall of 2008, public attitudes toward immigration, both legal and illegal, have been hardening. Between 2008 and the summer of 2009, the number of respondents telling Gallup that immigration should be decreased shot up from 39 percent to 50 percent.
And then there are those Democrats who actually support an increase in immigration. These are the people who worry Lind and he describes them: The mere 15 percent of Democrats who favor increased immigration make up the overwhelming majority of Democratic pundits, think tank operatives and other opinion leaders. Indeed, it appears that many prominent progressives are opposed to any enforcement of U.S. immigration laws at all.
He cites the liberal Nation magazine, whose provocative article, Arizona Burning, shows how clearly the left tends to view immigration policy as a race issue. Lind asks, Do the editors of the Nation want the U.S. to have any laws regulating entry by citizens of other countries into the U.S. or not? If so, then they have an obligation to explain the methods of law enforcement that they support.
He then offers sensible suggestions on how to make enforcement work, that would include reliable identification of foreign nationals and punishment of employers who break immigration laws. Lind cites the conflict so often expressed on the part of liberals, who don't want any forms of identification or government inspections of work places.
So, do they want American workers to be protected? he asks. Do liberals, by opposing workplace raids, really want to be on the side of meat-packing companies and union-busting janitorial firms that violate hard-won labor laws?
And Lind offers a zinger for the left: If progressives really believe that the U.S. should become the only sovereign country in the world that does not assert the right to regulate entry to its territory and participation in its labor markets, they should team up with the only other tiny sect in America that believes in open borders: right-wing libertarians.
Lind chastises those liberals who claim a concern for improving the lot of the foreign poor by keeping our borders open to them: It is surprising that any progressives are naive enough to fall for the insincere claim of conservatives and libertarians that their cheap-labor policies are motivated by altruistic concern for the foreign poor. ... The faux-humanitarian arguments of the open-borders, cheap-labor right come as part of a larger policy package that genuine progressives should reject as a whole.
Lind makes it clear that he is well aware of other pressing agendas among the left:
Much of the left's opposition to immigration law enforcement, of course, is based on a strategic appeal to the Latino vote, not on a rational analysis of what sort of immigration policy best suits U.S. labor market conditions in the 21st century. If most Latinos began voting for Republicans, undoubtedly many Democrats who object to border and workplace enforcement would fall silent pretty quickly.
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