Sunday, May 9 2004

Another opinion poll

So I got a call at home today, asking me how I felt about Bush, Arnold, illegal immigration, and, in particular, driver’s licenses and health care for illegal immigrants.

As usual, there were some questions I couldn’t answer honestly, due to the phrasing. As usual, some of the benefits claimed by supporters of the current bill were either borderline lies or outright fantasy. Fortunately, one of the options was “I think this statement is not true”. I used that one a lot.

Most interesting was the very short list, by comparison, of reasons to oppose the bill. Either the opposition thinks they’ve got a slam-dunk and don’t need to give a long list of justifications, or the folks who commissioned the survey were stacking the deck in their favor. Personally, I didn’t find their list particularly persuasive, but I didn’t notice any obvious lies.

The final question was freeform, and asked how you think the illegal immigration issue should be handled. My answer was, more or less, “expand legal immigration instead; we need the workers, they want to come here, so do it right”.

There’s a giant lettuce field three blocks from my house. I drive by several more every day, and I know perfectly well that most of the people working on those farms are in California illegally. I don’t want to throw them out, I don’t want to turn them away at the border, but I also don’t want them to become accustomed to breaking any law that gets in the way of how they want to work and live. Giving them driver’s licenses simply rewards them for breaking the law.

I want to see them coming across the border openly, officially, with a clear legal status in both countries, good documentation, and a set of well-understood rules on what will get them sent home. And I want those rules to be enforced consistently and fairly, on employers and immigrants both, something I don’t think is the case today.

One interesting note in the survey. I was asked my opinion of three groups of people: legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and “undocumented workers”. I asked him to define the third term. He had not been provided with a definition, and had to guess.