Monday, April 10, 2006

The Immigration Illusion

Which title sounds better to you? "Undocumented Worker" or "Illegal Alien?"

When you watch the news, count how many times you hear each phrase. Which one do you think strikes more fear in the average TV viewer? There are a lot of conflicting truths, but I rarely hear a word about the "Illegal Employers."

The other night, Jesse Jackson was the guest on the faux-news "Colbert Report" and was being hammered by Colbert's right-wing persona about immigration. What Jesse kept saying was that "these people were sent for." If you think about it that way, it seems kind of odd to only blame the "illegals" and not the people who provide the jobs to bring them over here. I'm not saying it's OK with me to cross a border without permission. Until the day comes when every world citizen has the same rights as privileges, borders are a practical necessity. I just find some people's indignation about immigration a little odd, when they are probably not that removed from someone who hires a gardner, nanny, or cook. We all probably have a favorite restaurant we like to go to, and we probably don't think too much about who's working in the back, cleaning the dishes, and cooking our food.

American citizens work abroad, but we don't expect them to behave like they're not Americans. But somehow when we ask people to come work here, we also want them to wave American flags too. Today, at major demonstrations, the word was put out to demonstrators to put away the Mexican flags, and only wave US flags. A smart, if somewhat cynical move.

In the last dozen years or so, we have become used to a low annual inflation rate, but at what cost? We buy lots of cheap items made in China. Are we willing to pay American citizens to do the same work as those Chinese? If we make the Mexican workers apply for citizenship, pay taxes and fines, and learn English, how much more will we have to pay to have the leaves blown off our lawns?

This is much more complicated than any 40-second news bite can swallow. Do undocumented workers take American jobs? Definitely. Do they also use public services such as health care? For sure. But once again, this reminds me of the burden the employers are shirking, just like the de facto reality of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart pays their workers so little, that that the employees can't afford healthcare, and end up using the public emergency services for their health care. The public picks up the tab for Wal-Mart that Wal-Mart should pay. In the case of the illegals, we all pick up the tab for their services that should be paid by any conscientious employer.

No wall can be built high enough to keep people out who are 'being sent for.' If we can stop illegal hiring, the number of illegal aliens would shrink dramatically. That is, of course, if you're willing to pay a little more for a head of lettuce.


Gazoo said...

Worth adding that Wal-Mart has been probably the single largest employer of said illegal/undocumented labor; and that they received a slap on the wrist that is mortifyingly underproporionate to the penalties that some people want to see the aliens face. I mean, a *felony*? For fecking serious?

But all the same, I feel like this immigration issue is a distraction from some other primary issues we should be facing first.

MB said...

I agree that the immigration issue's sudden explosion in the media is a distraction and one that I believe is purposeful. Look at what the Bush Administration is doing in the world! Wouldn't the Bush spinmeisters just LOVE to have us so upset about our neighbors to the south bursting into our privedged domain that we don't look so carefully at some of the shenanegans being thrust upon us all? The news tonite spoke of contractors with federal contracts using undocumented workers, using the "I didn't know" excuse when reporters confronted them. Yeah, we need to change the immigration law, and yeah, we need to do a lot to improve US actions in the world. But, our actions express our spirit. I feel our spirit is wounded and we need to take steps to from the inside out and really work on the outside with action of all kinds. This means, for one thing, we need to get out and vote. Shame on us who don't vote when we have the opportunity. We also need to express our views, especially when "inappropriate" and "uncomfortable" to do when we start hearing negative retoric at a party. I'm sick of letting negative and nasty statements pass by unchallenged. I believe I need to start speaking up more, especially in the conservative fundamentalist community in which I live. It's scary, but I feel the times are desperate. Sigh...

Joe Trimble said...

Three thoughts:

1) Geoff, I like your pointing out that it "takes two to tango", and agree that doint something about "Illegal employers" would probably reduce the numbers of "illegal immigrants" -- and, yes, would increase our costs of living.

2) I have come to the conclusion that everything political and everything this administration does is done for money/power. The Bushies have (unfortunately, for our theoretical democracy) put together an extremely effective propaganda machine, coupled with extraordinary secret powers which -- except for a hiccup here and there -- allow them to control the nation's decision-making process and the media's disinformation about it all. So if you want to know what will be "done about" illegal immigration, you only have to understand that our society's wealthy class (Bush's "base") are profiting from these undocumented workers, at your expense, to realize that nothing substantive will be done, at least by this administration.

3) MB's charge that we all need to be responsible -- and work for change -- is theoretically correct. However, since fraudulent control of elections is now so vested in the hands of those currently in power, I'm afraid that getting out and voting won't cut it. We did that in 2000 and again in 2004, but the vested powers in both cases overrode our country's voters. And since 2004 they have been working tirelessly to gain even more control of the election process, through gerrymandering districts, instituting black-box voting machines, and buying Registrar and State Secretary positions for their friends.

So, I'd love to see some meaningful changes, but so many of us have been bought out, and so many more of us (including me and BM) are scared of trying anything significant (or see it as a waste of time), that I don't see any viable prospects for such changes in the near future.

I do think there are things that can and should be tried (perhaps learning from the success of the radical religious right, perhaps not), but I don't know how to find them. Any suggestions?