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Phil's Rambling Rants
May 2nd, 2006
12:18 am


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Iron Pundit: Day Without Immigrants
So, I ask myself:  What do I think about the idea of the Day Without Immigrants?  I'm torn.  I support the principle of fixing the current immigration mess in such a way that the immigrants who are already here -- who followed the reality on the ground, even though it was against the law -- get treated as human beings who are making a positive contribution to our country.  So I'm behind the peaceful rallies and demonstrations.  But I don't like strikes, or more specifically, I don't like the idea that people should be able to walk out on strike without suffering any consequences.  A lot of businesses have either supported the strikes or gone along with them, and I think that's fine, but if someone didn't show up to work today for the Day Without Immigrants, without having cleared it before hand, and they discover they don't have a job, I don't think they have any right to complain.

On the wider question of immigration, I've been trying to decide what the country should do about it.  I want to see the people who have come here illegally (as long as they are being productive and obeying the law the best they can without legal status) continue to hold jobs, pay taxes, learn English, and eventually become citizens.  If they and their employers between them are willing to pay the income and payroll taxes they skated on while they were illegal, they should be able to get credit for the time they were here illegally; if not, they should have to start at the beginning of the citizenship process, but they should be able to get green cards as quickly as we can verify that they have jobs and don't have criminal records.  If you want to call it amnesty, I won't fight very hard, but I think it's more like giving them credit for time served -- these people have been willingly living in conditions that most of us rich citizens would decry as cruel and unusual punishment if we had to go to jail and live like that.  If anyone needs to be punished for the illegal workers, it's the employers who got rich by exploiting them.

We need to fix the system so that we don't have people crossing the border and living in the country illegally, not because of any terrorist threat, but because people who have to routinely ignore one law in going through their lives are much readier to ignore other laws, and people who are aware that they're always breaking the law come to view the police as an enemy to be feared instead of as people there to help them.  12 million people living in the country illegally undermines the rule of law, not in the sense of some abstract ideal, but in very practical terms of how well ordinary people function in society.

(starstaf suggested this topic and invited me to comment on this CNN story. You, too, are encouraged to suggest a topic for me to discuss. Go here.)


(7 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2006 10:48 am (UTC)
I tend to be in favor of "legalize them and organize them" processes too.

I found myself asking over the weekend, while listening to some discussions on C-Span, "If all the immigrants were legal, how long would employers be able to get away with paying ANY of them/us sub-standard wages?" The complexity comes in getting the folks currently here IL-legally slotted into the system.
[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2006 12:19 pm (UTC)
Not being in the U.S.A., I imagine I don't really grasp the size of the problem, nor all its ramifications, but a couple of thoughts come to mind.

"people who have to routinely ignore one law in going through their lives are much readier to ignore other laws"

That's something that keeps nagging at me: if a person's first interaction with a country is breaking one of its laws...very Catch-22.

Another reason, I imagine, why the system would need fixing (first!) is the economics. If employers are willing and able to get cut-rate illegal labour, then a fair number of the 12 million people acquiring legal status would also get 'unemployed' status to go with it, while their jobs went to the next incoming wave.
[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2006 01:34 pm (UTC)
I have always found the argument that "We need the immigrants because they will do work Americans won't." to feel very subtly racist. And many of the sentiments expressed by demonstrators yesterday(as reported on the news) that they have a right to be here to be vaguely threatening to citizen ship and ultimately to property rights. Which, when you think about it, is what citizenship boils down to. A citizen "owns" a piece of the country. A noncitizen doesn't. So this guy is saying that he "owns" something that should be my right to give him, or not.
I'm not even going to get into uncontrolled immigration and the carrying capacity of the country. Although somebody should.

[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2006 06:58 pm (UTC)
I don't think there are any jobs Americans wouldn't do for enough money. The scene in The Magic Christian with the swimming pool full of pig offal comes to mind. However, very few non recent immigrants would put out the level of effort the migrants do for the level of remuneration they receive. A lot of businesses would have to change their operating models if they had to pay real American wages, and in the long run that's a good thing. However, in the short run I think we're better off allowing those businesses to bring in immigrants who are willing to do the job for legal minimum wage than accept the disruption to our economy of having them shut down or greatly restructure.

As a citizen, I don't have a problem with sharing the benefits of citizenship with people who are willing to work that hard, as long as they're willing to meet me halfway and become Americans -- by which I mean learn the language and at least as much about our history and government system as we teach our own kids, and vote and participate in broader civic life rather than totally holing up in their own tight-knit communities, not eradicating their own culture.

As to the carrying capacity of the country -- I think that's a much more racist argument than the "jobs Americans won't do" argument. America is overpopulated, but the places the immigrants are coming from are more overpopulated.
[User Picture]
Date:May 9th, 2006 02:21 pm (UTC)
Some of the "they'll do the work we won't" is racist in nature, yes. More of it, or at least more that I've encountered, centers around employers paying illegally low wages. It's not that there are *jobs* an American won't do that an immigrant will, it's that there are pay rates that an American won't accept, because they have legal recourse, but an immigrant will because they lack that recourse. If the (existing) laws that penalize companies for hiring illegal labor were enforced, then we'd see whether it's the task, or just that Americans won't put up with being illegaly exploited and underpaid because they don't have to.
[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC)
I really see it as an economics problem first - as long as the businesses can get away with saving money by hiring illegals, some of them will do it. It has to be hard to get away with, and expensive beyond the savings if they are caught, to really break the cycle.

I think giving an illegal a break of some sort in return for turning in the business who's hiring him is the only way we'll get consistent enforcement - right now, there's disincentive for the worker, an no incentive for the business to turn each other in, so there's a lot of it that is never seen or recorded.
Date:February 26th, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC)

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