Wednesday, April 05, 2006

(B)order Up!

Elements on the political Right seem caught up in a debate between amnesty and outright detention and deportation.

Meanwhile, the political Left seems to be still forming its response. Jesse Jackson, of all people, hinted at a sound position in his recent Colbert Report appearance. {Sorry, no transcripts yet.} I also heard a similar argument suggested on an NPR story weeks ago. {No links again. Fuck.}

Immigrants didn't just come here. They were ordered up. Employers made it obvious that they would hire more illegals, and the immigrants already here phoned home. They are humans. They deserve human rights. They are being and have been exploited.

This is, to me, a compelling line of argument. It smells of victimization, but perhaps these individuals are victims of the whims of economic trends beyond their immediate control.

10 Comments:

Blogger bikkhouschka said...

yesterday at the city library i was exempt from paying my fines for the week because it is 'amnesty week'.
sweet. thanks amnesty!

6/4/06 11:21 PM  
Blogger Anneth said...

This was my favorite quote from the Boston Globe article:

"Build us that wall now," Goldwater said, referring to a measure that would add a 700-mile barrier along the border.

He promised that if elected, he would put illegal immigrants in a tent city on the border and use their labor to build the wall."

Nice. Forced labor camps...hmm...reminds me of something...reminds me of many things.

What do other countries do with illegal immigrants?

7/4/06 7:54 AM  
Blogger Stanley said...

What do other countries do with illegal immigrants?

Herein lies the irony, and I heard it expressed by a Newsweek editor on the Daily Show. Immigration is one issue we've long handled much better than Europe. Unlike Europe's unsuccessful attempts to restrict flows of people and limit immigrant rights once they ararive, the U.S. has throughout its history---in general, and with obvious exceptions---encouraged a healthy flow of immigrants. It's an open secret that these illegal immigrants are here and that they're necessary.

As cynical as I am, I do find truth in the notion that the U.S. is a land where people come in search of improving their lot in life. And we've long been proud of the way people come here from all over the world, work hard, assimilate to some extent, and start permanent families. Now some anti-immigration foes would reverse this longstanding tradition, casting out people who came here for the same reasons my great-great-grandparents did.

It's despicable.

7/4/06 9:40 AM  
Blogger t(h)om said...

other countries don't have the same magnitude of problem with illegals, because.....drumroll please:......

they don't allow their corporate citizens to break the law by exploiting and illegally employing un-documented immigrants! According to one website, the first question you will be asked by an employer abroad is "do you have a work permit?"

"you mean, other countries actually require that corporations follow the rules?"

why yes, it's novel I know, but you see, the U.S. is really turning into the United States Inc. LLC. & Co. [registered trademark symbol]. Eventually we'll all work for Wal-mart or Haliburton. Whichever buys/builds the most nukes in preparation for the 22nd century corporate nuclear bowl (the highest-rated televised sporting event in history).

7/4/06 9:41 AM  
Blogger Stanley said...

t(h)om, I think your allegations of a corporate conspiracy are overstated. No doubt, U.S. business interests prefer labor to be as cheap as they can get it.

But the solution is not to cut off the supply of cheap labor. I can't even envision the scale and costs of such an operation, were it to be effective. And a sudden decline in available, affordable labor could severely hinder our otherwise solid growth rates. (Think European-style unemployment in the teens; oh, but without that cushy Euro safety net.)

The real solution lies in re-visiting NAFTA. Among its fundamental flaws, this treaty allowed for freely flowing goods, services, and capital, but it left out one other market factor---labor. Labor should be allowed to cross borders, when the market forces incentivize such a crossing. I envision a U.S. labor market with more robust legal immigration. We have jobs, and we have employers who need people to fill these jobs. As long as unemployment remains low, I see no reason not to let these workers in legally, let them organize, let them benefit from the (admittedly declining) protections available to legal workers.

7/4/06 11:14 AM  
Blogger Anneth said...

I think being xenophobic is becoming a popular trait in politicians these days. And there are obviously some good reasons for this, terrorism, gangs, but to punish the entire illegal immigrant population for some people's ignorance is crazy. I mean, we have people running for office (and many already in office) who are talking about setting up tent camps and using those illegals to build walls. And there are people who are going to vote for them. It's sickening that political leaders are using fear and ignorance to gain offices. But that's nothing new I suppose. No one in politics could ever give a plain, nonevasive answer to any question, so why should it be any different with immigration. Unless it's the wackos like Goldwater with nothing to lose.

7/4/06 11:56 AM  
Blogger t(h)om said...

Stanley,
although i agree with you about the importance of low-cost unskilled labor, i think you overestimate the impact on our economy if this policy were to change.

The benefit people like you and I get (skilled labor) by having an abundance of cheap unskilled labor (immigrants) in financial terms is something on the order of 1-2%. in my yearly earnings, that comes out to about what i spend in one month on groceries. I pay more taxes than that every two weeks.

If the vast numbers of unskilled illegal immigrant labor were to a) be paid a higher wage, and b) be elligible for training to become skilled labor, it would do several things.

It would create more tax revenue for local and federal gov't as they spend their earnings and pay income taxes. It would increase the amount of currency moving in local economies, supporting local and small business, 401k plans, insurance premiums, and developing infrastructure. Training them and educating them also makes more room for innovation and entreprenuership - the AMERICAN DREAM if you will.
If the immigrants were given a higher stake in the growth of our economy, you and I could see sustained benefits of 5-8% a year (keeping better pace with inflation and the top 1% wealthiest).

Corporations benefit from an artificially sustained structure of stratification. People at the top making decisions are primarilly concerned with their net earnings, not the well-being of the lowest employee.

20 years ago, the average income ratio within an American company (lowest paid worker to highest paid worker) was about 25 to 1. Today it is over 450 to 1.

Mexicans wouldn't come here illegally if the gov't didn't turn a blind eye toward the businesses that employ them.

7/4/06 12:47 PM  
Blogger Stanley said...

Thom, you and I agree on almost every single point. I'm all for affording everyone---including people who came here "illegally"---opportunities to improve their lot in life. Education, technical training, whatever, should be more widely available, and more easily accesible, nationwide.

Where we disagree is here:

Mexicans wouldn't come here illegally if the gov't didn't turn a blind eye toward the businesses that employ them.

Your logic is sound. If government cracked down more on these businesses, there'd be less incentive to come here, fewer jobs available, etc.

But such a crackdown would serve almost no one; it's bad public policy, as it wastes public resources policing companies for doing what's logical, viz., finding workers who'll do the job.

My argument is: the laws themselves are flawed. Here are my proposed reforms:

i) We should increase greatly the quotas of immigrants from qualified countries (especially Mexico, given the extent to which NAFTA has tied our two economies together). We need these workers, as the largely European-American baby-boomer generation retires.

ii) We should increase border security to make sure no actual "bad guys" are getting in.

iii) We should strengthen labor protection and increase enforcement of this type of laws.

In a nutshell, I'm arguing to legitimize a good portion of the de facto workforce. Currently illegal immigrants exist in a sort of liminal no-man's-land. They can't really rely on the state for protection, and they end up leading a second-class existence.

7/4/06 3:39 PM  
Blogger t(h)om said...

i believe you are correct: a crackdown at this point in the game would be inefficient and wasteful.

i only wish, in hindsight, that the government had addressed this issue decades ago and implemented policies that would, by now, have become the new status quo. vis a vis, not allowing american companies to get away with hiring illegals from the start of modern labor standards.

We're living in the second or third age of the industrial revolution, but public policy and popular opinion haven't caught up with the changes, nor learned from the past. Back in the 1920s, Ford said that he wanted his employees to earn enough to purchase the products they produced.

It seems that standard has since fallen by the wayside.

some of your points about having the labor get "organized," although it is perfectly reasonable, I fear will never be accepted by the conservative half of America because it sounds too much like leftist socialism union-talk.

fear and ignorance have so polluted the national discourse, i am weary and doubt most things like this can ever be "solved."

7/4/06 4:17 PM  
Blogger bikkhouschka said...

right on t(h)om!

7/4/06 7:05 PM  

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