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Dare I Compliment Tom Ridge?

Colorado Luis points, with justified approval, to this story:

Ridge: Give Illegals Some Legal Status

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has called for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States to be given some sort of legal status short of citizenship.

... Ridge, who became the government's chief spokesman on immigration issues after his new department took control over immigration policy this year, said the government might consider legalizing the status of illegal immigrants already in the country on a one-time basis.

"Then, as a country, you make a decision that from this day forward, this is the process of entry, and if you violate that process of entry, we have resources to cope with it," he said in response to a question from the audience at Miami-Dade Community College about his support for changes in immigration policy.

Assuming the plan goes through (there's nothing formally in the works yet), this is a big step forward. It's a shame that it needs to be justified on the basis of anti-terrorism, though -- the injustice of barring the movement of labor while lowering the barriers for capital, and the expoitation of immigrant labor that is enabled by the fear of being deported, should be justification enough. And I'm not sure how much this would even help -- if they want to be here illegally (and hence out of sight), they won't volunteer to be documented. If they want to be here legally, they already can be -- the September 11 hijackers had visas, after all (though perhaps recent tightening of security means that the authors of a repeat performance would be driven into the illegal stream).

I also wish this were more than a one-time amnesty with no changes in the immigration laws, and I think changing immigration laws would help with the terrorism rationale as well as the social justice ones. Border enforcement is notoriously ineffective, so keeping entry requirements strict only feeds a black market in people-smuggling and allows for a re-establishment of a pool of undocumented people. Making it easier for people to enter would sap the customer base of this black market (who wouldn't want an easy and legal status instead of paying your life savings to get in illegally?). With less of a black market infrastructure, it would be harder for terrorists who are not yet in the country to enter without being documented.


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