Thursday, May 13, 2010
Run For the Border
After spending a week in a vinegar bath (see below) I am ready to attack an issue of relevance to millions of U.S. citizens, as well as our brethren to the south. I am, of course, not alluding to the terrible state of Mexican-American cuisine brought about by Taco Bell, but rather the immigration debate, which has come to a head after the draconian law (IMHO) passed in Arizona recently.
Arizonans, feeling the pain of the recent recession and fearing the loss of jobs to cheaper labor coming from south of the border, have decided to subject their residents to carrying their documents with them wherever they go or face the consequences of deportation if they are found to not be citizens.
The fear is that the law (click here to read the legislation) will lead police to pull over anyone they want and check for documents based on a mere suspicion of being illegal - causing many to believe there will racially profile - anyone of brown skin, legal or illegal, Latino or simply Latino-looking will be persecuted as a result.
Obviously, this law is an over-reaction - and although it will probably achieve the desired effect of ridding the state of illegals, it goes about things in the wrong way, likely hurting thousands of innocent Arizonans and the state economy to boot. Many people believe our constitutional liberties may even be at stake if such legislation is allowed to take effect. Superman is mega-pissed, stating that "this law has nothing to do with truth, justice, or the American way."
Opposition to the law isn't confined to usual hippie suspects like the ACLU. Even typically conservative organizations like the baseball and basketball players' associations have come out against the law. A movement to move the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game out of Phoenix has been gaining traction. Prominent conservative and Arizona Senator John McCain's daughter Megan called the law, "a license to discriminate."
Rarely do I claim to have the answers for such complicated issues, but to me the immigration question comes down to a simple matter of economics. We have a supply of jobs here and the countries to our south have a demand for jobs and a huge supply of labor. My grandfather came to this country legally shortly after WWII looking for a job because there weren't any available in Scotland at the time. He had three children and a wife who needed to be fed and looked after - he had a responsibility and he took care of it. I imagine if he had needed to enter the USA or another country illegally to take care of his family he would have done so. I understand the mentality of the people coming here and doing what they feel they have to do to look after their loved ones.
On the other hand, as great as our economy is, there are only so many jobs available, the whole world can't move in next door quite yet. The American government has a responsibility to look after its own citizens and protect their jobs. So far they have done so by trying to close the border with fences, wires, sensors, and manpower.
A similar game plan in our "War on Drugs" has led to profound failure. They can cut the supply of labor/drugs in this way, but as long as there are jobs available, people looking to support their family will try to find a way of reaching those jobs. Money not spent on electric fences, policing, etc. could be used for job creation as well or to cut our massive deficit, whatever your personal political priority may be.
Shakespearian Aside: The drug war effort is even more insane from an economic standpoint - the more drugs you cut off, the more cost to the consumer is driven up and the more lucrative the economic gains for those who get drugs through the defenses, making producers even more likely to continue with their illicit business.
The only sensible solution is to cut off the supply of jobs at the source, by fining companies such a significant amount for using illegal labor that they will think more than twice about doing so. The economic penalty must trump the economic gain of using cheap labor. Current fines of between $100 to $1000 dollars are so puny as to discourage very few employers. If job providers are threatened with fines that attack their livelihood they will change their policies. With no supply of jobs, their is no reason for the aliens to be here. Superman excepted of course - he is one illegal alien we can always use.