In recent posts I’ve talked a lot about our country’s immigration laws and possible (dis)incentives for breaking them. Illegal immigrants, regardless of how we try to stereotype them, aren’t stupid – they know that they can get away with what they’re doing because they have help from right here in River City, U.S.A.
Gasp! American citizens breaking their own laws? Why would they do such a thing? Beyond the fact that people just don’t think, there are powerful reasons that, depending on who you are, may be hard to deny. Who among us are the enablers? How should we deal with them?
People like to be around people like them. Affirmative Action or not, racial and ethnic affinity is a fact of life that no span of fence or caravan of buses heading south can erase. It’s hardly surprising that recent immigrants to the U.S. want to bring over relatives, friends, and others who “look like them”. We’d probably want to do the same thing if we moved up to Canada and had to live with those pale, funny-talking folks.
Some Americans try to rationalize their beliefs by believing in the myth that illegal immigration is an economic imperative for the U.S. Referring back to Jay Johnson-Castro again, “I’d like for the United States to get out of denial,” he said. “Our country would collapse without Latin American labor. We complain about these folks, but they’re here to work. The Mexican people are maintaining our country.”
They are here to work, Johnson is correct about that. But if their presence is a business necessity then we’ve structured our means of production and patterns of consumption incorrectly. Coming to depend on an illegal source of cheap labor is foolish and adjusting to its absence could be painful in the short term. However, the outcome would be a crisper, more accurate picture of the costs that must be paid to maintain the American way of life. That might be a reasonable price to pay for self-sufficiency.
Referring to the recent initiative to build new border fencing in the southwestern U.S, Johnson says that the fence is a “political football” and that politicians in Washington aren’t listening to voters on the Texas-Mexico border. “We’ve been ignored,” Johnson said. “We feel we have a right to be heard.”
Actually, the voices of sympathetic Americans have been heard far too often already – that’s how we got to this point. People who traffic in and shelter illegal immigrants are breaking the law and should be punished for their crimes. It’s only a complex matter if one thinks too much.
The only other logical thing to do is to strike the immigration laws from the books and open up the border again. I don’t see that happening.
Derived Legal Status
The idea that children born in the U.S. to parents of illegal immigrants deserve to stay here is a dubious one at best. If this mechanism of enablement were removed from the books we’d have a more consistent policy overall.
That would be perhaps the hardest thing of all to do. It’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to be raised in this country for 10-12 years and then be deported to a foreign country. Devastating is the first word that comes to mind. The fault is not with the child, but neither is it with America. The illegals must take responsibility for their actions. Perhaps they hoped that they wouldn’t have children here and were unlucky. Or perhaps they deliberately planned to play the system.
Imagine if you will that I earn a six-figure income – if only! – and decide to defraud the IRS by not paying my taxes. When I get thrown in jail, can I expect that my children have the right to continue living in the style to which they’ve become accustomed? Clearly not. In this case, my kids would bear part of my punishment by having to live a much less lavish lifestyle. It’s sad, but I cannot expect the public to bear the costs of my misdeeds. Neither can illegals expect American taxpayers to bear their burdens.
I could write long, flowery paragraphs about businesses and their need to compete, the natural laws of supply and demand, and the inevitable filling of a low-end labor vacuum, but why do that? Just be out with it! The fact is that the core of the problem is not with individual Americans or even with illegals themselves – it’s with American business.
Capitalism is by definition a creative way of life. It compels the participants in the system to invent new things and new ways to make them – like sharks we must constantly stay in motion lest we drown in deep waters. Capitalism pushes businesses to find ways to aggressively cut labor costs whenever and wherever possible. Labor is a huge expense and that’s just the way the system works. And it does work, so long as the legalities involved are observed and enforced.
Unfortunately, enforcement of immigration laws has been lax for the last couple of decades. In this vacuum, businesses have taken advantage of the situation and built new business models that utilize illegals as an important source of low-cost labor. Many of these models would prove untenable if the supply of cheap labor dries up, as Johnson implies.
The effect of these new business models is an enormous draught of demand that pulls illegals into this country like animals to the only water hole in a desert. It’s natural that they come, just as it’s natural that we seek to regulate their arrival. To do so we must recognize the source of the problem and address it directly.
How? Simple: by punishing the businesses that use illegal labor. The purpose of this is to create uncertainty about and actually add to the cost of using illegal labor. In other words, implement laws that would fine businesses caught using illegal labor and enforce them.
Further, businesses must be required to verify the immigration and naturalization status of its prospective employees. Immigrants processed through the legal system would be easily approved; others would be sitting ducks for the INS.
Implementing any of these measures will not be easy. The political party that controls approximately 48% of the American vote (possibly more now that Mark Foley has single-handedly tarnished the Republican’s moral image) has been and will continue to fight tooth and nail against immigration reforms.
Why? Because Democrats win an overwhelming percentage of minority votes, including those ethnic minorities whose background is closely aligned with the illegals. Recall the beginnings of this discussion in which I said that illegal immigrants have substantial political clout in this country even though they can’t vote. This is how.
Don’t believe any of this? Consider a recent Houston Chronicle article that calls for more bi-lingual poll workers to be installed at area voting precincts. Is it politically incorrect or offensive to wonder how informed a voter can be if he/she can’t read the ballot in their country of residence? This is not a question of access as in the case of handicapped person’s physical needs. One’s participation in and understanding of society is largely governed by comprehension of the language that is used in its everyday information exchanges. Without that knowledge a voter is an automaton scanning the ballot for the candidate with a “D” by his/her name and punching the card there because the “D” party gives you free stuff.
For my part, I see no imminent solution to this aspect of the problem. So long as Democrats continue to place their political needs above those of the nation as a whole illegal immigration will continue to be an issue on which little real progress can be made.
In the case of Mexico, the central government in that country is a large part of the problem. Vincente Fox tacitly encouraged this latest wave of “migration” during his reign as president and the new candidate shows no signs of changing that policy.
Speaking about his opposition by the recent bill passed in the Congress that would build substantial stretches of fence along our border with Mexico, President-elect Felipe Calderon vowed to renew lobbying for immigration reform:
“Migration … can’t be reduced by decree or by physical obstacles,” Calderon said. “That only creates migrants willing to take ever-greater risks and in consequence, probably, will produce more unjust deaths along the border.”
“I think it is a deplorable decision that has been made by the United States Congress for the construction of this wall, and it does not solve our common problem, which is emigration.”
As the title of the article suggests, the Mexican government wanted a gateway into the U.S. but got a wall instead, presumedly because our Congress recognized that the Mexican government is in part behind the immigration, just as they are powerless to stop it using their current economic polices. Oh, and it is an election year. That helped, too.
Ultimately the problem of illegal immigration can be boiled down to the supply of available jobs in the U.S. and the demand for them that teems south of the border.
If businesses can be made to toe the legal line and use only authorized workers, the supply problem will automatically reduce illegal immigration. Why would anyone come here to be unemployed, particularly if the free goodies like medical care and education are also taken off the table.
At the same time, Mexico needs to create a more effective economy of her own. Taxes and bureaucracy stifle economic innovation in that country. If Calderon’s government would remove barriers that stop businesses from being created there, an increase in the number and quality of jobs available in that country would directly affect the number of illegal immigrants who come to the U.S.
Illegal immigration is a difficult problem to get a handle on from many perspectives. Hard choices must be made if this is a fight that we intend to undertake. As unpleasant as it will be, and it will be a mess, politically and otherwise, I don’t see any alternative if we intend to maintain a reasonable facsimile of national integrity. This is a notion to which we’ve recently been paying only lip service – it’s time to decide if the “United” in the United States means something or if it’s every subculture for itself.