Wednesday, February 23, 2005

More on Los Mojados

I disagreed with some comments Fixer made in his post on illegal immigration, so I thought I'd jot down down my rebuttal in an awe-inspiring work of fact and logic. As I researched this deal, what turned out to be awe-inspiring was the sheer volume of material on it: There's websites, blogs, books, movies (dramas and comedies both), organizations, opinions pro and con, government and civilian, good and bad, caring and hateful, agreeing with me and disagreeing with me, in English and Spanish. There's even a board game. God only knows what I didn't run across. Absolutely amazing. Anyway, there was so much stuff out there, I decided to go with my carefully thought-out opinions like I was gonna do in the first place.

At this point, I'd better say that for the purposes of this post, I'm going to use Mexicans as examples because, even though there are illegals here from every country on the planet, Mexicans are the only ones who can walk all the way from home (most Canadians wouldn't bother), and, right or wrong, are the ones everyone means when they say "illegals".

On the theory that you say something nice or nothing at all (Gee! For a fat girl, you don't sweat much!), I'll start with what I do agree with Fixer on.

Yes, illegal immigrants are here illegally. Duh.

Yes, they should go back where they came from and try to gain legal access. I'm a softy on this. I think we should give 'em a ride to the border. Our border, not their border, unless they come from an adjacent country. I understand from all my research that some of them, in fact, do.

Yes, they overtax social services that we all pay for. The illegals that get paid on the books actually kick in their payroll taxes (assuming the employer doesn't just steal them) and since they don't file and can't collect SSI with a phony number, the government gets to keep their money anyway.

Yes, there's criminality amongst 'em, but probably about as much as the population at large. The real criminals in this deal are the coyotes , the suppliers of transportation, phony ID, and the employers who call La Migra on Friday to come get the workers so they don't have to pay them.

Yes, they can be a blight on the landscape. Yes, they hold down wages and take jobs that most Americans would just as soon let them have, and some good ones besides.

All those things and more. Now here's where I differ from Fixer: These people are here with the tacit approval of our government and employers, large and small. The people who make the rules have made the rules to sound good, but they have no interest whatsoever in enforcing them. Quite the contrary, the illegals are invited , sometimes even contracted for, to risk life and limb to sneak in here and work cheap and/or off the books, mostly with no benefits or rights, because the employers don't have to care about them, they are interchangeable, and they don't complain about poor wages or working conditions because they're afraid to. Some employers won't hire Americans, because Americans are more likely to bitch and blow the whistle to the authorities and make the employer spend his money on non-essentials like safety provisions, health care, and other things required by law. In short, the overhead is less and that translates into profits.

Here's what I'm gettin' at: I think, since we can't seem to live without these folks, we are morally bound to fix 'em when they're sick or injured (working conditions, remember?) and educate their kids.

We had Proposition 187 on the ballot here in California some years back. It was touted as the solution to all the public costs attributable to illegals. What it did was refuse them health care and refuse their kids access to public schools. That's it. It picked on the easy targets, sick people and kids. I thought that was disgusting and mean and voted against it. It passed overwhelmingly. It has since been overturned and was never enforced anyway. It was just plain wrong.

We talk a lot on this blog about the hypocrisy of our enemies (not too strong a word, I think) in talking the "moral values" talk, but not walking the walk. We rail at their intolerance and ignorant small-mindedness. Well, I'll step up to the plate.

What kind of society refuses people who need a doctor? I think a strong moral value is to take care of people in need, especially "the least amongst us". These people are here because we hire them, don't forget. The health care system is broken, anyway. If the illegals were gone tomorrow, poor and uninsured people would still have to use the emergency room for their primary health care at horrendous expense to us all. I don't see this as a problem that is going to be resolved anytime soon until we overhaul the profit-based health care system. When we do, it'll be better for everybody.

If we're going to use these people, we owe it to them to fix them when they're broken.

As far as their kids going to school, I think the last thing we need is a bunch of uneducated kids, and later on, bored young men and women with not much to look forward to, hanging out with nowhere to go. That's a recipe for trouble. Also, most states have a requirement that kids be in school 'til they're a certain age. As far as kids born here of illegal parents, they're citizens and have every right to be in school. That's the law.

So what can we do about it? First, go read my previous post or go directly to Cynthia Tucker's editorial. If we make it so there's no jobs for 'em, they'll quit coming. Simple, really. Or make them able to come here legally with a guest-worker program. I realize something has to be done, but it ain't gonna happen as long as the politicians have their hands out to corporate interests.

Another point on which Fixer and I agree is this: Change the laws or leave 'em the same, but enforce them. Right now, the suits are pissin' on our legs and tellin' us it's rainin'.

Quit patronizing, oh, just as a far-fetched example, restaurants that hire illegals, and tell them why. Here's how you can tell: Prior to being seated, go in the kitchen, look at all the workers, close your eyes and yell "Manos arriba! La Migra!" . Then open your eyes. If the people are still there, they're here legally and it's OK to eat there. Yes, I know I'm a smartass. Point is, until we all realize that we get benefit, such as cheaper meals, from these folks breaking the law, illegals and employers both, then we're complicit and OK with the deal and are part of the problem.

One of the main things I took from my web research of this deal is that illegal aliens are worth Big Bucks to people on both sides of the fence, pun intended. But that's for another time.

Recommended reading, click for reviews:

Lines and Shadows by Joseph Wambaugh

Coyote by Ted Conover