Immigration reform is a current hot topic. I admit that I've thought about this and really don't know what the "right thing to do" is. On one hand, being a United States Citizen should mean something, and we should have the right to control our own borders.
On the other hand, this doesn't mean that we should be indifferent to the plight of others.
So, what about all of those (mostly brown skinned, yes, like myself) immigrants? Yes, the put a huge strain on schools and services. Yes, they do work that many Americans don't want to do. But what is that effect? Does that mean that they drive wages down, thereby depriving Americans of a living wage job? Or, do they make things more affordable, thereby creating wealth that benifits all of us?
And what do we do with them? Do we relax the rules so that they can apply for citizenship without having to go back to their own country? Is that fair to those who "played by the rules" to begin with?
And what of those with high tech skills that compainies like Microsoft want to hire?
I've been trying to educate myself on these issues, and here are things that I have read:George Will's take on things
Needed: Practical and comprehensive immigration reform
By George Will
Mar 30, 2006
WASHINGTON -- America, the only developed nation that shares a long -- 2,000-mile -- border with a Third World nation, could seal that border. East Germany showed how: walls, barbed wire, machine gun-toting border guards in towers, mine fields, large irritable dogs. And we have modern technologies that East Germany never had -- sophisticated sensors, unmanned surveillance drones, etc.
It is a melancholy fact that many of these may have to be employed along the U.S.-Mexican border. The alternatives are dangerous and disagreeable conditions for Americans residing near the border, and vigilantism. It is, however, important that Americans feel melancholy about taking such measures to frustrate immigration that usually is an entrepreneurial act -- taking risks to get to America to do work most Americans spurn. As debate about immigration policy boils, augmented border control must not be the entire agenda, lest other thorny problems be ignored, and lest America turn a scowling face to the south and, to some extent, to many immigrants already here.
But control belongs at the top of the agenda, for four reasons. First, control of borders is an essential attribute of sovereignty. Second, current conditions along the border mock the rule of law. Third, large rallies by immigrants, many of them here illegally, protesting more stringent control of immigration reveal that many immigrants have, alas, assimilated: They have acquired the entitlement mentality spawned by America's welfare state, asserting an entitlement to exemption from the laws of the society they invited themselves into. Fourth, giving Americans a sense that borders are controlled is a prerequisite for calm consideration of what policy that control should serve.
Of the estimated at least 11 million illegal immigrants -- a cohort larger than the combined populations of 12 states -- 60 percent have been here at least five years. Most have roots in their communities. Their children born here are U.S. citizens. We are not going to take the draconian police measures necessary to deport 11 million people. They would fill 200,000 buses in a caravan stretching bumper-to-bumper from San Diego to Alaska -- where, by the way, 26,000 Latinos live. And there are no plausible incentives to get the 11 million to board the buses.
Facts, a conservative (John Adams) said, are stubborn things, and regarding immigration, true conservatives take their bearings from facts such as those in the preceding paragraph. Conservatives should want, as the president proposes, a guest worker program to supply what the U.S. economy demands -- immigrant labor for entry-level jobs. Conservatives should favor a policy of encouraging unlimited immigration by educated persons with math, engineering, technology or science skills that America's education system is not sufficiently supplying.
And conservatives should favor reducing illegality by putting illegal immigrants on a path out of society's crevices and into citizenship by paying fines and back taxes and learning English. Faux conservatives absurdly call this price tag on legal status "amnesty.'' Actually, it would prevent the emergence of a sullen, simmering subculture of the permanently marginalized, akin to the Arab ghettos in France. The House-passed bill, making it a felony to be in the country illegally, would make 11 million people permanently ineligible for legal status. To what end?
Within a decade, the New York and Washington metropolitan regions will join the Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco regions in having majorities made up of minorities, partly because immigrants have higher birth rates than whites. Since 2000, births, not immigration, were the largest source of growth of America's Latino population.
Urban immigrant communities, with their support networks, are magnets for immigrants. Good. Investor's Business Daily reports a new study demonstrating that "over the past 30 years rising immigration led to higher wages for U.S.-born workers. Cities that served as migrant magnets did better than others. Why? Hiring one worker creates wealth with which to hire more workers."
The president, who has not hoarded his political capital, spent some trying to get the nation to face facts about the bleak future of an unreformed Social Security system. Concerning which: In 1940 there were 42 workers for every retiree; today there are 3.1. By 2030, when all 77 million baby boomers have left the work force, there will be only 2.2. And that projection assumes net annual immigration, legal and illegal, of 900,000, more than double the 400,000 foreigners who, under the terms of proposed Senate legislation, could come here to work each year.
Today the president is spending more of his depleted political capital by standing to the left of much of his political base, which favors merely preventative and punitive measures regarding immigration. He is right to take his stand there.
--------------Senator Hillary Clinton's understanding of things
Immigration is the lifeblood of America, a bedrock value tied to our founding and one that constantly renews the greatness of our country. America is and will always be a home for people who are willing to put in the hard work to create a better life for themselves and their families.
Our immigration system is in crisis. It is estimated that we have over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, 1.7 million of whom are children. Our current laws fail by not providing adequately for our national security. Also as a result of our broken system, many families are forced apart, unable to reunite with their spouses, parents, children, and siblings because of a shortage of visas. Our current system allows unscrupulous employers to skirt our laws and exploit undocumented workers in the name of cheap labor . As a consequence of our broken immigration system, there is a huge drain on our state social services, including financial strains on our local and state law enforcement. The situation leaves us with a lot of tough choices. We have a system that is broken and we have to find practical but fair solutions to fix it.
I neither support illegal immigration nor the enactment of fruitless schemes that would penalize churches and hospitals for helping the truly needy. That will not fix the mess we are in.
I support comprehensive immigration reform.
That reform has to be based on:
- Strengthening our borders to make us safer from the threat of terrorism and using new technology to help our Border Patrol agents be more effective;
- Greater cross-border co-operation with our neighbors, especially Mexico, to solve the problem of illegal immigration;
- New enforcement laws that are both strict and fair;
- Harsh penalties for those who exploit undocumented workers;
- A fairer process for people seeking to come to America, especially for those whose families have been torn apart; and
- A path to earned citizenship for those who are here, working hard, paying taxes, respecting the law, and willing to meet a high bar for becoming a citizen.
So I will support plans that meet these principles, and I will oppose one-sided solutions that simply sound tough but do little to deal with either our porous borders or the millions of families who live here.
Here is my reasoning.
A Nation of Immigrants and Laws
Ours is a nation of immigrants. Our national identity and heritage – who we are as Americans – is shaped by our commitment to welcoming people of diverse backgrounds who come to our shores to pursue better lives for themselves and their families. We are rightfully proud of this commitment, and we are made better by those who come here to pursue the American Dream. There is no better example of our nation’s rich cultural heritage and diversity than New York, and its prosperity is a testament to how our country is enriched by the contributions of immigrants. When our forefathers created this nation, they envisioned a “land of opportunity,” and we must never show contempt or disdain for that vision.
But ours is also a nation of laws. It is our respect for the rule of law that distinguishes the United States from many other nations and is no doubt one of the reasons people from around the world yearn to come here. Our notions of justice and fairness are revered, and it is often the pursuit of that justice that brings immigrants to our country. We betray our ideals when our laws cease to reflect these values.
There are many competing voices in the immigration debate, and because our national heritage is at its heart a story of immigrants, it is often a passionate and emotional one. But as we move forward and undertake the thoughtful reform of our immigration laws, we must continue to embrace our uniquely American values of being a nation that is both welcoming to immigrants but also respectful of the law.
Strengthening Our Borders
Smart reform must have as an essential component a plan to strengthen our northern and southern borders. It is unconscionable to think that in a post-9/11 world we do not know precisely who is entering and exiting our country. Our homeland security requires that we know the identities of all people who cross our borders. In reforming our broken system, our efforts must be multifaceted and comprehensive. During my tenure in the Senate, I have supported efforts to increase exponentially the number of Border Patrol agents. By the end of this year, the ranks of our Border Patrol will have increased by 3,000 agents since 2001, a 30% increase. But the problem is not simply one of manpower. We also need to deploy new technology that can help our Border Patrol agents be more effective in stopping the thousands of undocumented immigrants who enter the country each day. Employing new surveillance equipment – like detection sensors, unmanned drones, and infrared cameras – can assist in this important work. This includes stopping the deplorable and tragic practice of human smuggling that preys on the undocumented.
We must also demand that our neighbors do their part. In particular, we must have a willing partner in Mexico if we are going to stem the tide of illegal immigration into the United States. Mexico needs to be more fully engaged in this effort if we are going fix our immigration system. We must also work together to ensure that our shared, 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico and 5,000-mile border with Canada do not become gateways into the United States for terrorists. That means improving the ways in which we share intelligence and information with our neighbors.
If we can succeed in securing our borders, the Department of Homeland Security will be freed to focus its resources and energies on other credible threats against our homeland.
The Need for New Enforcement Laws
Of course, enforcement of our immigration laws cannot start and stop at the border. We need an effective interior enforcement plan as well. In reforming our laws, we must enact strict and enforceable laws that are simultaneously effective and rationally-based. They can be neither rooted in prejudice nor play to peoples’ fears. In this vein, I oppose proposals – like the Sensenbrenner Bill (H.R.4437) – that target and criminalize the undocumented and punish those who would provide them with humanitarian assistance.
Among other things, our laws must go after unscrupulous employers who skirt our laws and exploit these workers in the pursuit of cheap labor. Our American values dictate that all people who put in a hard day’s work should receive a prevailing wage and have a safe workplace in which to work. We must honor that.
Regrettably in this struggle against illegal immigration, we have abandoned our state and local governments, leaving them to bear the burden and the cost of our failed national immigration policies. Unchecked illegal immigration strains our schools, hospitals, and local emergency services. And while the vast majority of undocumented people do not engage in criminal activity, there are those who do, putting an incredible strain on our local law enforcement agencies. For too long we have left our state and local governments to fend for themselves in this effort. They should not be made to bear this burden alone. They need the support of the federal government in dealing with illegal immigration.
Of course, our goal of comprehensive immigration reform can not be achieved by simply patching up our porous borders and promoting increased law enforcement. Smart reform that is consistent with our values also requires that we find a way to couple an orderly and legal immigration system with a policy committed to keeping families together and treating all immigrants with dignity. Our laws can be both strict and fair. We should not unduly punish the overwhelming majority of immigrants who work hard, raise families, pay their taxes, and contribute to their communities.
Preserving the Sanctity of the Family
Although we as Americans believe strongly in the sanctity of the family, our immigration laws do not reflect this value. Growing visa backlogs often prevent legal immigrants and United States citizens from uniting with their loved ones, keeping families separated for years and in the worst cases, tearing them apart. As these family visa backlogs swell, a growing number of families find themselves having to make a difficult choice – remain separated from their loved ones for years or encourage their family members to enter the country illegally so that they can be together. To be clear, these backlogs do not just affect immigrant families – they also affect American citizens who have family members living in other countries who are also caught in this bottleneck. Any reasonable immigration reform proposal must offer relief to those would-be immigrants who have tried to play by the rules by obtaining a family visa, but who have nonetheless been unable to reunite with their spouses, parents, children, and siblings because of a shortage of visas.
The Undocumented and an Earned Path to Legal Status
One of the consequences of our dysfunctional immigration system has been the creation of a growing underclass made up of undocumented people. Estimates have the number of undocumented in our country at approximately 11 million people, a number that grows by the thousands each day. They are here illegally because our current system permits it. Both the undocumented and the United States are complicit in this. But we cannot continue to ignore the problem. No one benefits from the current system. The undocumented are made to live in constant fear of persecution, too afraid to come forward when they are sick or in need of help. Conversely, our national security is imperiled because we have an enormous population of people we know nothing about. It is not enough that we simply know who is entering and exiting the country; we also need to identify who is already here. Our homeland security demands it.
Therefore, we must develop a system that gets the undocumented to come out of the shadows. There is not a single approach that can fix this crisis. The suggestion that enacting stricter and more enforceable deportation laws alone can solve this problem ignores reality. This will only force the undocumented deeper underground. New laws, which are both strict and fair, are certainly part of the answer, but we also need a worker program that encourages undocumented workers to come forward and identify themselves. While I categorically oppose any program that grants unconditional amnesty for illegal immigration, I do support providing undocumented workers with the opportunity to earn legal status in this country. For those who work hard, pay their taxes, continue to obey the law, and demonstrate a commitment to this country, the opportunity to eventually earn citizenship should also be available. A program such as this is not a free ride, and it certainly is not for everyone. Legal status must be earned, as it was by previous generations of immigrants who became citizens through perseverance and hard work.
Respecting Our Heritage and Providing for Our Homeland Security
Balancing all of these interests is not easy, but I am committed to working with my colleagues to create a comprehensive system that respects both the rule of law and our immigrant heritage and American values. As is etched on the Statue of Liberty, we must continue to welcome to our shores those who “yearn to breathe free.” But we must do so with an eye towards adopting new policies that encourage orderly, safe, and legal immigration that take into account the needs of our national security.
----------------What President Bush has to say
Today's Presidential Action
- Today, President Bush proposed a new temporary worker program to match willing foreign workers with willing U.S. employers when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs. The program would be open to new foreign workers, and to the undocumented men and women currently employed in the U.S. This new program would allow workers who currently hold jobs to come out of hiding and participate legally in America's economy while not encouraging further illegal behavior.
- President Bush also asked Congress to work with him to achieve significant immigration reform that protects the homeland by controlling the borders; serves America's economy by matching a willing worker with a willing employer; promotes compassion for unprotected workers; provides incentives for temporary workers to return to their home countries and families; protects the rights of legal immigrants while not unfairly rewarding those who came here unlawfully or hope to do so. This legislation must also meet the Nation's economic needs and live up to the promise and values of America.
Background on Today's Presidential Action
America is a welcoming nation, and the hard work and strength of our immigrants have made our Nation prosperous. Many immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants have joined the military to help safeguard the liberty of America. Illegal immigration, however, creates an underclass of workers, afraid and vulnerable to exploitation. Current immigration law can also hinder companies from finding willing workers. The visas now available do not allow employers to fill jobs in many key sectors of our economy. Workers risk their lives in dangerous and illegal border crossings and are consigned to live their lives in the shadows. Without harming the economic security of Americans, reform of our Nation's immigration laws will create a system that is fairer, more consistent, and more compassionate.
- Principles of Immigration Reform -- The President's proposal is based on several basic principles:
- Protecting the Homeland by Controlling Our Borders: The program should link to efforts to control our border through agreements with countries whose nationals participate in the program. It must support ongoing efforts to enhance homeland security.
- Serve America's Economy by Matching a Willing Worker with a Willing Employer: When no American worker is available and willing to take a job, the program should provide a labor supply for American employers. It should do so in a way that is clear, streamlined, and efficient so people can find jobs and employers can find workers in a timely manner.
- Promoting Compassion: The program should grant currently working undocumented aliens a temporary worker status to prevent exploitation. Participants would be issued a temporary worker card that will allow them to travel back and forth between their home and the U.S. without fear of being denied re-entry into America.
- Providing Incentives for Return to Home Country: The program will require the return of temporary workers to their home country after their period of work has concluded. The legal status granted by this program would last three years, be renewable, and would have an end. During the temporary work period, it should allow movement across the U.S. borders so the worker can maintain roots in their home country.
- Protecting the Rights of Legal Immigrants: The program should not connect participation to a green card or citizenship. However, it should not preclude a participant from obtaining green card status through the existing process. It should not permit undocumented workers to gain an advantage over those who have followed the rules.
- Temporary Worker Program
President Bush does not support amnesty because individuals who violate America's laws should not be rewarded for illegal behavior and because amnesty perpetuates illegal immigration. The President proposes that the Federal Government offer temporary worker status to undocumented men and women now employed in the United States and to those in foreign countries who have been offered employment here. The workers under temporary status must pay a one-time fee to register in the program, abide by the rules, and return home after their period of work expires. There would be an opportunity for renewal. In the future, only people outside the U.S. may join the temporary worker program, and there will be an orderly system in place to address the needs of workers and companies.
- American Workers Come First: Employers must make every reasonable effort to find an American to fill a job before extending job offers to foreign workers.
- Workplace Enforcement of Immigration Laws: Enforcement against companies that break the law and hire illegal workers will increase.
- Economic Incentives to Return Home: The U.S. will work with other countries to allow aliens working in the U.S. to receive credit in their nations' retirement systems and will support the creation of tax-preferred savings accounts they can collect when they return to their native countries.
- Fair and Meaningful Citizenship Process: Some temporary workers will want to remain in America and pursue citizenship. They should not receive an unfair advantage over those who have followed the law, and they will need to be placed in line for citizenship behind those who are already in line. Those who choose the path of citizenship will have an obligation to learn the facts and ideals that have shaped America's history.
- Reasonable Annual Increase of Legal Immigrants: A reasonable increase in the annual limit of legal immigrants will benefit those who follow the lawful path to citizenship.
- Benefits to America of the Temporary Worker Program
- A more prosperous economy -- for America. The program would allow workers to find jobs and employers to find workers, quickly and simply.
- A more secure homeland -- to improve the efficiency and management of all people who cross our borders. It is in the interest of the Nation, and each community, to identify foreign visitors and immigrants and make clear the nature of their intentions.
- A more compassionate system -- to protect all workers in America with labor laws, the right to change jobs, fair wages, and a healthy work environment.
- Homeland Security and Border Enforcement
- Border Patrol has increased from a strength of 9,788 on September 11, 2001 to 10,835 on December 1, 2003. Between ports of entry on the northern border, the size of the Border Patrol has tripled to more than 1,000 agents. In addition, the Border Patrol is continuing installation of monitoring devices along the borders to detect illegal activity.
- The Bush Administration's Operation Tarmac was launched to investigate businesses and workers in the secure areas of domestic airports and ensure immigration law compliance. Since 9/11, DHS has audited 3,640 businesses, examined 259,037 employee records, arrested 1,030 unauthorized workers, and participated in the criminal indictment of 774 individuals.
- President Bush announced the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an internet-based system that is improving America's ability to track and monitor foreign students and exchange visitors. Over 870,000 students are registered in SEVIS. Of 285 completed field investigations, 71 aliens were arrested.
- This week, the US-VISIT program began to digitally collect biometric identifiers to record the entry and exit of aliens who travel into the U.S on a visa. Together with the standard information, this new program will confirm compliance with visa and immigration policies.
Microsoft's view (on immigrants with high tech skills)
Posted April 3, 2000
The Internet is booming, and now that software is running everything from mainframe computers to wireless phones, job opportunities are exploding in the computer science and engineering professions. Yet, a shortage of skilled workers has become a serious chokepoint holding back progress at many American technology companies.
Estimates put the number of information technology jobs going unfilled in the United States at more than 350,000, and rising fast. The Department of Labor projects that the demand for computer systems’ analysts, engineers, and scientists will double in less than a decade, from 1.5 million to more than 3 million.
Finding people with the right skills is the single biggest challenge facing every company in our industry. Microsoft employs more than 200 full-time recruiters just to seek out talented engineers for our product and research groups. Yet, more than 3,500 of our technical positions remain unfilled.
Recruiting this talent is crucial to our success and the success of other high-tech businesses. More training and educational opportunities in technology fields will help solve America’s information technology labor shortage, and Microsoft, along with other industry leaders, is working to ensure that the resources are available to make this happen.
Over the past three years, Microsoft has contributed more than $570 million in financial, product, and training support to help America develop more skilled workers. This includes our recent contribution of $344 million in software to support Intel’s Teach to the Future program,; Aa worldwide effort to train more than 400,000 classroom teachers how to use technology to enhance learning; and $75 million to the United Negro College Fund to improve computer access and training for students and faculty members at historically black colleges and universities nationwide.
Now, however, America’s high-tech industry must maintain its global technological leadership by ensuring that companies can hire qualified information technology workers. people for specialty occupations.Sometimes that means hiring foreign-born graduates of U.S. engineering programs and foreign professionals with unique skills in software development, or in adapting products to suit the more than 30 foreignlanguages and 100 different countries in which we do business.
Considering that more than 50 percent of Microsoft’s nearly $20 billion in revenues last fiscal year came from export sales, foreign employees make invaluable contributions to our global success, and their earnings percolate through the U.S. economy, multiplying jobs for Americans. The situation is similar at literally hundreds of other American technology companies, which also hire foreign workers with essential skills.
Unless Congress acts soon, however, America’s acute shortage of IT workers will take a dramatic turn for the worse. Last month, the Immigration and Naturalization Service closed the door on new applicants for visas that allow foreign professionals to work in the United States for a limited period of time. The number of applicants for these H-1B visas has already reached the yearly limit permitted by law, and the current law calls for a nearly 50 percent cutback from the existing level between now and 2002.
This is not good news for America’s high-tech economy, which continues to grow, but only as fast as it can employ appropriately skilled people, its primary resource.
The high-technology industry is broadly united behind the need for Congress to raise the limit on the number of H-1B visas. Along with other leading high-tech companies, Microsoft supports bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Hatch, Abraham, and Feinstein, and by Representatives Dreier, Lofgren and Adam Smith. Their proposals would significantly raise the limit on the number of foreign professionals that can be hired over the next three years.
This is vital to sustaining our nation’s global leadership in the high-technology arena, and our industry’s continued economic health and contribution to the United States economy.
Recently, other nations, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia have taken steps to open their doors wider to skilled foreign workers. If America fails to act to increase the number of H-1B visas for foreign professionals, and on needed improvements in education, we risk unilaterally disarming ourselves in the global competition for brainpower.
© 2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
From the American Conservative: Cesar Chavez's evolution on the matter of illegal immigrants:
February 27, 2006 Issue
Copyright © 2006 The American Conservative
Cesar Chavez, Minuteman
The UFW leader was no friend to illegal immigration—
until he became an ethnic figurehead.
By Steve Sailer
In California, only three birthdays are official state holidays: Jesus Christ’s, Martin Luther King’s, and Cesar Chavez’s. Beatification as a secular saint, though, isn’t always good for the soul. A recent four-part exposé by reporter Miriam Pawel in the Los Angeles Times revealed how the labor leader turned revered ethnic icon descended into paranoia, megalomania, and general crack-pottery in the 15 years before his death in 1993.
Today, his United Farm Workers functions less as a union—it represents only 2 percent of the California agricultural workforce—than as a lucrative Latino-pride fundraising machine providing sinecures for a dozen Chavez relatives. Pawel writes, “Chavez’s heirs run a web of tax-exempt organizations that exploit his legacy and invoke the harsh lives of farm workers to raise millions of dollars in public and private money. The money does little to improve the lives of California farm workers, who still struggle with the most basic health and housing needs and try to get by on seasonal, minimum-wage jobs.”
From 1965 to 1981, the UFW succeeded in raising wages significantly for stoop laborers in California. Since then, their pay has fallen, and they’ve lost most of the fringe benefits they had won. Today, most make less than $10,000 per year. Hundreds were discovered near Salinas living in caves, a mass indignity that even that town’s most famous son, John Steinbeck, barely anticipated in The Grapes of Wrath.
Unfortunately, in focusing on gossip about the personal foibles of Chavez and his successors, the LA Times series completely ignored the politically incorrect paradox of who was most responsible for wiping out the gains Mexican-American farm workers had achieved through strikes and consumer boycotts: illegal immigrants from Mexico.
Tectonic shifts in demographics made possible both the rise of the UFW after Congress ended the bracero guest-worker program in 1964 and the union’s fall following the explosion in illegal immigration.
Chavez was a more interesting figure than either the plaster idol worshipped in the public schools or the celebrity control-freak denigrated in the LA Times. Chavez embodied both the old class politics and the new identity politics. Out of this duality grew the fundamental conflict of his life. What was more important, la causa or la raza? The UFW union or the Mexican race? This irresolvable contradiction culminated in the terrible ironies of his tragic later years and the uselessness of the UFW ever since.
During his prime, Chavez, a third-generation American citizen from Yuma, Arizona and Navy veteran, was an American labor leader fighting against the importation of strikebreakers from Mexico. But as power and praise went to his head, his image morphed into that of a Mexican mestizo racial emblem, the patron saint of the reconquista of Alta California by la raza.
In 2006, we automatically assume that America’s self-appointed Latino leaders—the politicians, campaign consultants, media mouthpieces, and identity-politics warriors—favor ever more immigration. Their influence and income flow from their claim to represent vast numbers of Hispanics, so the more warm bodies they can get across the border, the larger will be the ethnic quotas upon which their careers are based. But the union leader who is honestly battling for the welfare of his members—as opposed to the boss merely attempting to maximize the number of dues-paying workers—wants less competition for them.
Chavez’s essential problem was straight out of Econ 101, the law of supply and demand. He needed to limit the supply of labor in order to drive up wages. Just as American Federation of Labor founder Samuel Gompers, himself a Jewish immigrant, was one of the most influential voices calling for the successful immigration-restriction law of 1924, Chavez, during his effectual years, was a ferocious opponent of illegal immigration.
His success stemmed from the long-term decline in the farm labor supply. According to agricultural economist Philip L. Martin of the University of California, Davis, migrant farm workers in the U.S. numbered 2 million in the 1920s. Eisenhower cracked down on Mexican illegal immigrants, shipping one million home in 1954 alone. The famous 1960 “Harvest of Shame” documentary by CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow inspired liberal Democrats in Congress to abolish the bracero guest-worker program in 1964. The supply of migrant workers dropped to about 200,000, most of them American citizens, making unionization and better contracts feasible—as long as what Marx called “the reserve army of the unemployed” could be bottled up south of the border. The next year, Chavez began his storied organizing campaign.
Growers fought back by busing the reserve army up from Mexico. In 1979, Chavez bitterly testified to Congress:
… when the farm workers strike and their strike is successful, the employers go to Mexico and have unlimited, unrestricted use of illegal alien strikebreakers to break the strike. And, for over 30 years, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has looked the other way and assisted in the strikebreaking. I do not remember one single instance in 30 years where the Immigration service has removed strikebreakers. … The employers use professional smugglers to recruit and transport human contraband across the Mexican border for the specific act of strikebreaking…
In 1969, Chavez led a march to the Mexican border to protest illegal immigration. Joining him were Sen. Walter Mondale and Martin Luther King’s successor as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Ralph Abernathy.
The UFW picketed INS offices to demand closure of the border. Chavez also finked on illegal alien scabs to la migra. Columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. reported in the Arizona Republic, “Cesar Chavez, a labor leader intent on protecting union membership, was as effective a surrogate for the INS as ever existed. Indeed, Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union he headed routinely reported, to the INS, for deportation, suspected illegal immigrants who served as strikebreakers or refused to unionize.”
Like today’s Minutemen, UFW staffers under the command of Chavez’s brother Manuel patrolled the Arizona-Mexico border to keep out illegal aliens. Unlike the well-behaved Minutemen, however, Chavez’s boys sometimes beat up intruders.
Successful unionization typically leads to management investing in mechanization, which reduces the number of jobs. United Mine Workers boss John L. Lewis proclaimed that he intended to force underground coalminers’ wages up so high that his union would shrink. If his members were paid enough today, they could afford to educate their kids to earn a less dangerous living by the time the bosses had figured out how to do without most of them.
During the 1970s, a similarly benign outcome appeared inevitable for American stoop laborers. The inflated piecework rates paid UFW members impelled simple productivity improvements such as light aluminum ladders for fruit tree pickers, to be followed, it was expected, by mechanization. In Ventura County, the average output of lemon pickers during the UFW’s reign rose from 3.4 boxes per hour in 1965 to 8.4 boxes by 1978. A few more decades of high pay, it appeared, would eventually turn these literally backbreaking jobs into merely a painful memory.
Then the 1982 Mexican economic collapse sent a flood of illegal immigrants north. Growers that had signed generous contracts with the UFW got out of the business and were replaced by new firms that relied upon subcontractors for cheap workers, no questions asked about their documents. Automation efforts slowed.
The rotten pay and conditions suffered by today’s workers—three laborers died of heat stroke last summer—are a matter of supply and demand. The government can pass regulations, but if there are enough jobseekers on the spot to undercut their fellow workers, laws hardly matter.
Economist Martin has noted, “We have essentially privatized the immigration policy of this country, and left it in the hands of California’s growers.” The benefit to the consumer is minor. Martin notes that about 7 percent of the price paid by shoppers for strawberries goes to the pickers. In return, the public picks up the tab for the workers’ medical care and their children’s schooling. A National Academy of Sciences commission estimated in 1997 that an immigrant without a high-school degree ultimately costs America $100,000 more than he contributes.
In the 1980s, the UFW declined into irrelevance as it ascended into the pantheon of political correctness. Losing interest in the gritty work of organizing, the aging Chavez began to back mass immigration as he became a symbol of Latino identity politics.
Chavez’s ambivalence about immigration is also widespread among the Latino-American electorate. A 2002 survey by the Pew Hispanic Center found that 48 percent of Latino registered voters felt there were “too many” immigrants in the U.S. today, while only 7 percent thought there were “too few.” This shouldn’t be startling since Hispanics suffer mass immigration’s most direct consequences: lowered wages, stressed schools, and that annoying third cousin from Hermosillo who shows up uninvited and wants to sleep on the couch until he gets himself established in a few years.
Yet when the Pew interviewers immediately rephrased the question in ethnocentric terms to read, “Thinking about Latin American immigrants who come to work in the United States,” suddenly only 21 percent of Latino voters wanted to “reduce the number” and 36 percent wished to “allow more.” Thus, Hispanic activists can easily arouse for their own profit understandable but irrational racial chauvinism.
The emergence of a truly Latino-American leader like the young Chavez, one more interested in the economic advancement of his own American ethnic group than in identity politics, would be good for American Hispanics, good for other Americans, and good for Mexico as well. As former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge G. Castaneda has admitted, the mostly unfenced border allows Mexico’s largely white ruling class to bleed off the discontented poor rather than make the fundamental reforms necessary to fix that dysfunctional country. Yet any of that is unlikely as long as the truth about Chavez is so little known. Steve Sailer is
TAC’s film critic and a VDARE.com columnist.
Molly Ivins:http://www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid=25479&mode=&order=0Molly Ivins: 'Immigration 101 for beginners and non-Texans'
Posted on Friday, March 31 @ 09:59:48 EST
This article has been read 935 times.
AUSTIN, Texas--In 1983, I was a judge at the Terlingua Chili Cookoff, and my memory of the events may not be perfect--for example, for years I've been claiming Jimmy Carter was president at the time, but that's the kind of detail one often loses track of in Terlingua.
Anyway, it was '83 or some year right around there when we held The Fence climbing contest. See, people talked about building The Fence back then, too. The Fence along the Mexican border. To keep Them out.
At the time, the proposal was quite specific--a 17-foot cyclone fence with bob wire at the top. So a test fence was built at Terlingua, and the First-Ever Terlingua Memorial Over, Under or Through Mexican Fence Climbing Contest took place. Prize: a case of Lone Star beer. Winning time: 30 seconds.
I tell this story to make the one single point about the border and immigration we know to be true: The Fence will not work. No fence will work. The Great darn Wall of China will not work. Do not build a fence. It will not work. They will come anyway. Over, under or through.
Some of you think a fence will work because Israel has one. Israel is a very small country. Anyone who says a fence can fix this problem is a demagogue and an ass.
Numero Two-o, should you actually want to stop Mexicans and OTMs (other than Mexicans) from coming to the United States, here is how to do it: Find an illegal worker at a large corporation. This is not difficult--brooms and mops are big tipoffs. Then put the CEO of that corporation in prison for two or more years for violating the law against hiring illegal workers.
Got it? You can also imprison the corporate official who actually hired the illegal and, just to make sure, put some Betty Sue Billups--housewife, preferably one with blond hair in a flip--in the joint for a two-year stretch for hiring a Mexican gardener. Thus Americans are reminded that the law says it is illegal to hire illegal workers and that anyone who hires one is responsible for verifying whether or not his or her papers are in order. If you get fooled and one slips by you, too bad, you go to jail anyway. When there are no jobs for illegal workers, they do not come. Got it?
Of course, this has been proposed before, because there is nothing new in the immigration debate. As the current issue of Texas Monthly reminds us, the old bracero program dating from World War II was actually amended in 1952 to pass the "Texas proviso," shielding employers of illegal workers from criminal penalties. They got the exemption because Texas growers flat refused to pay the required bracero wage of 30 cents an hour. Instead of punishing Texas growers for breaking the law, Congress rewarded them.
In 1986, the Reagan administration took a shot at immigration reform and reinstated penalties on employers. They weren't enforced worth a darn, of course. In 2004, only three American companies were threatened with fines for hiring illegal workers. Doesn't work if you don't enforce it.
This brings us to the great Republican divide on the issue. Conservatives, in general, are anti-immigrant for the same reasons they have always been anti-immigrant--a proud tradition in our nation of immigrants going back to the days of the Founders, when Ben Franklin thought we were going to be overrun by Germans. But Business likes illegal workers. The Chamber of Commerce lobbies for them. It's lobbying now for a new bracero program. What a bonanza for Bidness.
Old-fashioned anti-immigrant prejudice always brings out some old-fashioned racists. This time around, they have started claiming that Mexicans can't assimilate. A sillier idea I've never heard. Why don't they come to Texas and meet up with Lars Gonzales, Erin Rodriguez and Bubba at the bowling alley. They can drink some Lone Star, listen to some conjunto and chill.
Racists seem obsessed by the idea that illegal workers--the hardest-working, poorest people in America--are somehow getting away with something, sneaking goodies that should be for Americans. You can always avoid this problem by having no social services. This is the refreshing Texas model, and it works a treat.
Aren't y'all grateful that we're down here doing exactly nothing for the people of our state, legal or illegal? Think what a terrible message it would send if you swapped Texas with Vermont, and they all got healthcare. In Texas, we never worry about illegals taking advantage of social benefits provided by our taxpayers. Incredibly clever, no?
One nice thing about the benefit of long experience with la frontera is that we in Texas don't have to run around getting all hysterical about immigrants. The border is porous. When you want cheap labor, you open it up; when you don't, you shut it down. It works to our benefit--it always has.
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