Guest Commentary: The U.S. Senate didn’t help Arizona when it scuttled the immigration bill

Karl Reiner is a friend of this site and an active voice for a
fact-based approach to the issue of immigration from Mexico. He recently published a guest commentary in the AZ Daily Star, an updated and expanded version of which is presented here. BlogForArizona published an exclusive essay by Karl
in April of last year on the topic of immigration policy.

Karl managed international trade and economic policy analysis
at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC. He served as an
acting deputy assistant secretary during the first Bush and Clinton
administrations. A Vietnam veteran, he is a graduate of the Ohio State
University and holds a MS degree from the Garvin School of
International Management. After retiring from government service in
1994, he did consulting and authored a novel, Sgt. Bellnapp’s Secret, published in 2001.

The U.S. Senate took a
look at possible fixes to the vexing immigration question and
basically decided it didn’t need to act. Due to the
unwillingness to compromise, agreement could not be reached on
proposals for a guest-worker program, new border enforcement measures
and practical and humane ways for resolving the status of the 12
million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.  The unyielding
positions of the political factions made it difficult for the
senators to cobble together a bill with enough votes to ensure
passage. In response to the pressure, the members of the great
deliberative body abdicated their responsibility for making a tough
legislative decision, the kind of work the Senate is supposed to
handle.  The senators found themselves unable to rise above partisan
rhetoric and resolve a weighty matter affecting national security and
the functioning of the United States economy.

By abandoning its role,
the Senate displayed a lack of political leadership. By not producing
workable piece legislation, the Senate let the House of
Representatives off the hook.  The House would have had to
reluctantly take up the subject after the Senate passed a bill.
Unfortunately for the residents of Arizona, the problems related to
immigration are not going to disappear due to the inactivity of
Congress.  Immigration is a federal responsibility, and because
Congress failed to act, state and local governments will jump into
the vacuum with a mass of new laws.  The result will be a costly and
disruptive regulatory hodgepodge which will most likely do nothing to
make the present situation any better.      

Although it was mostly
ignored in the debates, one of the underlying causes of the current
immigration problem is Mexico’s chronic sluggish economic
performance. Mexico has long been beset by a host of internal
problems and also has to deal with aggressive international
competition.  The Bank of Mexico predicts the country’s
economic growth rate will be in the 3.5% range in 2007.  This is just
half of the 7% rate most analysts believe is needed to sustain
growth, create jobs and begin to reduce the country’s
staggering poverty level.

Unfortunately, for most
of the past 25 years, Mexico’s economic growth has fallen short
of the vital 7% mark.  One of the clearly predictable results of the
shortfall has been the steady increase in the movement of workers to
the United States, the place where jobs are available.  As we
continue to argue about immigration remedies, we now have to take
into consideration the fact that Mexico’s protracted
uninspiring economic performance has become our problem.

To be successful, the
solution to the immigration issue has to include a program to get the
Mexican economy moving.  The U.S. and Mexico share a 2,000 mile
border.  The U.S. takes 85% of Mexico’s exports and provides
more than 50% of the country’s imports. Given the physical
proximity and the magnitude of the economic relationship, we the
people, Congress and the White House ought to have known for some
time that not paying attention to Mexico’s sputtering economy
would be a serious mistake.

Investment is a spur to
increasing growth rates. Along with the other immigration remedies,
Congress has to prod the White House into increasing aid while at the
same time pressuring the Mexican government to accept responsibility
for its internal failures and get its economic house in order.  If
Mexico’s economy started growing at the 7% rate, it would be a
big boon to business and employment in Arizona. And, as the economy
expanded in Mexico, the pressure on workers to migrate would be

Because our countries
are joined, addressing Mexico’s internal economic situation has
to be an integral part of our immigration reorganization effort.
Continuing to ignore Mexico’s problem while focusing on
tightening border security will be akin to screwing down the safety
valve on a boiler.  Down in Venezuela, the crafty Hugo Chavez is on
the move.  Tough and dedicated, he has cleverly dusted off a bit of
old Leninist philosophy and is pushing his beguiling program as a
regional antidote to the real and perceived problems caused by the
dominance of an indifferent and exploitive United States.  It is in
our best long-term interest to go for a big economic win in Mexico. A
victory there would set an example for the rest of Central and Latin
America to follow.  It would also do much to offset the anti-American
message being preached by Chavez to a growing number of eager

After stumbling into a
botched war in Iraq, the United States needs to demonstrate to a
skeptical world that it can at least chew gum and walk at the same
time. The government that helped rebuild Europe and Japan after World
War II ought to have been able to develop a solution to the festering
immigration issue that forcefully addressed the foreign and domestic
components of the problem.  Unfortunately, the recent affair in the
U.S. Senate seems to prove otherwise.  The government running the
world’s sole surviving super power appears to be losing its
ability to function.   


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6 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: The U.S. Senate didn’t help Arizona when it scuttled the immigration bill”

  1. As for Jim Click and Mac Magruder the KEYWORD is KNOWINGLY HIRED!

    Iam as you well know a white American Male. I sat by while affirmative action took away my rights and gave them to people less qualified than I; and now you tell me Iam to sit back and watch my United States Citizenship SOLD to the Illegal Mexican National for the sake of FAIRNESS as Francine puts it?

    Francine the Laws now on the books will work if the Sheriff, Board of Supervisors; City Council and Legislatoirs as well as our Federally elected Morons that are NOT enforcing the RULE OF LAW!

    As for jobs in Agriculture and filling jobs that are needed there is a LEGAL way to enter The United States through a Visa designed for there circumstances.

    Why does every Mexican National who wants to work in the United States think breaking our laws will gain him or her a upper hand to my Governments Social Programs and Job Base we all worked very hard to build over the last 60 years??

    Governor Janet Napolitano and I are working very hard having meeting after meeting with the Mexican officials in Mexico to address this very concern about working legally in Arizona. It seems every time we meet The Mexicans know what to do to help but will NOT do it!

  2. The reactions of so many that assume that Jim Click, Mac Magruder, and others are opposing the employer sanctions law because they are hiring illegal immigrants just boggle the mind. How many of you would want to trust your business to the federal government getting things straight? And how many businesses do you think will want to relocate to Arizona if they could lose everything to one mistake in HR?

    Like it or not, the entire illegal immigrant debate is stained with racism. You’re going to say it’s about the rule of law. But honestly here – suppose that they were coming, and still here, but that the stores that are signed in Spanish and have mostly Spanish-speaking employees weren’t dotting the landscape. Suppose that you never heard Norteño music, or mariachi music, anywhere around town. In other words, let’s say that the illegal immigrants were here in the same numbers but what a few have called “the Mexicanization of America” had not taken place. Do you seriously think we’d be having this debate? It’s not all about legal status. There are simply too many Mexicans – especially lower income ones – here for the tastes of a lot of people. And the influx of illegals is being used by many to give legitimacy to their bias against them.

    Did they break the law by coming here and by staying here? Yes, they did. But they have been coming under a de facto system on both sides of the border. Border Patrol and INS can catch some, but not all of them. They are coming because a) there are jobs here that pay far better than what they can get back home and b) their own government has encouraged them to cross the border illegally. You will harp on them to come legally. But in reality, it takes years and a lot of money to gain legal status. If you’re making under $1 an hour and you’ve got a family to feed, are you going to wait 5-10 or more years and pay out money you can hardly afford, or are you going to cross the desert and start sending home money next week?

    The writer is correct – the only way to solve the problems associated with illegal immigration is to make it possible for Mexican workers to earn higher wages at home. This is something that that US can’t easily put into place in another sovereign nation, but we need to find steps that can be taken. There is so much hate right now around the debate, and hate is not a good way to find solutions that will actually work. Even with the sanctions law – and even if Pearce’s initiative passes – the immigrants will still be here. If you build a wall they will still find ways to get here. They will still find work. And deporting them all is not feasible; the idea of a “your papers please” kind of nation to root out illegals is nothing short of abominable. (How many of you could prove your citizenship to a federal agent if you were stopped right now?)

    Give us a way to get legal workers here. Give them a way to come here legally that is feasible. That is the only way we’re going to get a handle on the situation.

  3. I found the article to be a good analysis of the problem – now, I’d like to see some good prescriptions for a solution. Screaming and hollering – figuratively speaking – is not going to solve it. The world has gotten very, very small. If a country as close to us as Mexico is beset with economic ills, we are bound to get stuck with some of the fever. It is in the best interests of the United States to put our collective heads together and work with the government of Mexico to improve the economic picture in Mexico so their citizens don’t have to risk life and limb to come here.

    Readers of this blog are very intelligent, knowledgeable and sensitive people. Rather than wait for “the government” to do something, I challenge the good minds and the broad expertise of the readers to make some suggestions – not one-liners, but some thought out ideas for practical (and even not so practical) economic solutions to ameliorate the misery in Mexico which will also benefit the U.S. Let me ask how much money are we planning to spend to “try” – I say “try” because we all know we cannot succeed – to prevent illegal immigration? Is there an alternative use for that kind of money that will yield greater success????

    I would like to see some serious discussion of alternatives. The net is chock full of good information. We have a varied and very educated and intelligent readership here – let’s go for it and see what we can suggest! In the words of Adlai Stevenson: Let’s light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

  4. I also beg to differ with Mr. Reiner. American Chauvinist, you could not have said it any better!

    The American public is tired of supporting illegal immigrants. These law breakers put a tremendous burden on our schools, hospitals and social services, just to name a few. It is also a direct slap in the face to all the millions of people waiting patiently in line for sometimes years to come to this country legally.

    Anyone that tries to paint this issue as a “racist” reaction has no respect for the rule of law. I’m all for legal immigration, but I don’t care if you are black, white, blue or green, if you are here illegally, then you have broken our laws and must be sent home. Easy as that!

  5. I beg to differ with your esteemed educated guest!

    Its THE PEOPLE who moved the Senate to act in the way it did Supporting the wishes of THE PEOPLE over that of The United States Chamber of Commerce; The AFL-CIO and The Catholic Church all working for The Mexican Consulates and Mexico City!

    I see NO equation where We as American Citizens LOST anything! The Illegal LAW BREAKERS LOST!

    So will Jim Click and Mac McDougal LOOSE as they knowingly hired Illegal Mexican Nationals to do jobs Americans WOULD DO!

    I will not feel any remourse when Jim Click and Mac McDougal are Jailed on the First Offense and Loose there Licenses to do business in the State of Arizona on the Second Offense!

    This stuff of anyone with a graduate degree in this or that has some kind of wisdom above that of “COMMON SENCE” and The will of The American Public is NUTS!

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