Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I was able to watch the third British debate between the three party leaders, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Nick Clegg. It is rather interesting to watch the differences and similarities between UK and US politics.
One specific item struck me during the immigration part of the debate. Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrat party manifesto includes a provision for amnesty. Brown and Cameron, of course, hammered him on this point. Amnesty is just not a popular policy, no matter how you slice it. Clegg waffled on his answer, but I thought one part really resonated. In the absence of a transcript, I'll try to paraphrase. There are 600k illegal immigrants in the UK right now. They're getting involved in criminal gangs and not paying taxes. That has already happened. The mess is here. Talking about securing borders or imposing immigration quotas ignores the problem. There's no way a government is going to be able to just summarily find and deport all 600k illegals. As Clegg said in the previous debate, "You don't know where they are!"Any attempt to do so would trample upon civil liberties, as we've seen in Arizona.
Immigrants are a huge reason why our economy performs so well. Other developed countries have demographic problems. Our constant influx of (legal) immigrants keeps our economy dynamic. Any sort of comprehensive immigration reform needs to have a strategy for dealing with all the illegal immigrants currently in the country. Amnesty must be on the table. Of course, reform must also tackle the problem of our porous borders. But we must be realistic about the feasibility of securing the thousands and thousands of miles of our land border with Mexico. We also need to ensure that we crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants. We need to have a realistic immigration policy that addresses the underlying reason for illegal immigration into the country. If there is demand for work, then we should ensure that American workers are finding those jobs, and we are allowing legal immigrants to enter the country and fill those positions.
If we ever do have comprehensive immigration reform, let's make sure it's actually comprehensive.