Friday, July 08, 2005

Immigration Policy: Do we have one?

Two news stories today focused on immigration issues, which have a potentially significant impact on our social and economic frameworks. The first, in today's Omaha World Herald, was an article by Cindy Gonzalez, "Immigrant birth boom tracked". This article notes that nearly 23 percent of births in the year 2002 were to an immigrant mother - the highest proportion since 1910. Back in 1970, by comparison, only 6 percent were to immigrant parents. Of course, some of the parents were legal immigrants, but some were not. Regardless of the status of the parent, this high percentage of births translates into a significant future influence on cultural trends. From an economic standpoint, this may translate into future consumers and productive workers, which in a low-population state like Nebraska, may be especially needed.

The second story, by Miriam Jordan, "Banks Open Doors to New Cutomers: Illegal Immigrants" is on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal. Jordan describes the new prospects for homebuying by illegal immigrants in Wisconsin, thanks to an innovative local banker with some help from the state and federal government. It seems a local banker located in a neighborhood with many immigrants in it wanted to find a way to do business with them. The IRS provided ITINs, which are issued to foreigners ineligible for social security numbers, thus allowing them to open bank accounts. Next, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development agency decided to start a pilot program to help "undocumented immigrants" get home mortgages. The agency ultimately bears risk of default, which are apparently almost nil based on the experience of the program. Of course, that is because there is no immigration enforcement, which could send the obligor on the note a long way from his property.

It's a great country when you can afford to own your own home, and it's great for the community to have owners who want to improve their property and keep their neighborhood safe and tidy. These also seem to be hardworking, honest people who pay their bills on time. I commend them for that.

But they are violating immigration laws, and we seem to be doing nothing about that. Instead, we seem to be encouraging what they are doing. Not only is enforcement not happening now, but it is not likely to happen in the future, either. Given the birth of children with rights to be citizens, coupled with roots in communities and responsible behavior, few people will support changes in the status quo. This means that well-intentioned legislation, such as that discussed from Mr. King a couple days ago (see 7/5 post), is destined not to pass.


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