"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Monday, February 9, 2009

Illeagal Immigration: Go After the Source (And No it's not Mexico)

When mentioning illegal immigration, people foam at the mouth, demand a fence and border control, demand that the illegals be rounded up and sent packing back to their home country. They accuse them of unspeakable acts, of crippling our economy, leeching off our social and educational system, etc. The emotions that are expelled often times take on disturbing racial overtones, anything from racist name calling (always directed at Mexicans or Hispanics), empty threats of violence ("the Specter gunships can secure our borders"), to simply singling out Hispanics as the main culprits and that law-enforcement should "just know" and arrest them on the spot.

The solutions seem to always revolve around keeping illegals out-- border fences, increased patrols, immediate deportations, etc., regardless of the viability of such measures. As someone who regularly travelled the Southwest and Texas, I'm always a little amused at the idea of building a wall across the U.S.'s southern border. With even a little thought, this proposal is ludicrous. Aside from the fact that building a wall across 1951 miles of largely inhospitable and nearly empty desert (and don't think it's all flat desert plains) would, in itself, be insanely difficult and expensive, it would also, without massive supporting infrastructure, be a complete failure. This can't simply be a chain-link fence. Any wall can be climbed, broken, tunnelled under with little trouble. This fact forces the barrier to be less of a wall and more of an extended castle rampart. This means that the wall will now have to be manned 24/7. This means the necessary, i.e. massive, crews (willing to leave their comfortable homes for hot empty desserts) will have to be found, hired, trained and relocated. Huge tracts of property would be need to be purchased. An immense infrastructure to support these people and their families built from scratch (a partial list including housing, water distribution facilities, electrical power plants and grids, roads, communication grids, entertainment), in a colossal effort that would make the Tennessee Valley Authority pale. All this taking place in some of the more empty and desolate portions of the U.S. Serious talk of this is farcical. It, quite simply, cannot be done.

Isolation, the length of the border, the geography of the immediate border areas, and the amount of traffic makes rigorous border enforcement prohibitively expensive, especially when the financial return is zero. And this is operating under the assumption that illegal immigrants are just traipsing across the border and can be spotted without any difficulty. How many articles do we read about people being hidden away and smuggled in?

What needs to be asked is why people cross the borders to come to the U.S. in the first place? What tangible reason is there? The answer, of course, is money. Most come looking for work. The vast majority don't come here for the medical services, nor education, nor the welfare. They come for opportunities America offers as well as the paycheck in U.S. dollars that is earned.

The absurd situation of insisting on building walls and controlling our borders while we continue to actively solicit illegal immigrants as workers seems largely lost on many people. Several people I know, including family, in the agriculture industry hire illegal immigrants, pay them pennies an hour (I exaggerate the low pay, but I will tell you in my experience that the pay never even approached minimum wage) and then talk about the need to control our borders, build fences, etc. We need to keep them out!

Any low-pay, labor intensive industry is full of illegal immigrant workers. A list of industries that hire illegal immigrants is so vast and generally known that to list them is a waste of time.

It seems to me that if anybody actually wanted to get rid of illegal immigrants, then efforts should focus on punishing those who hire illegal immigrants. If hiring, and oftentimes exploiting, illegal aliens were felonies and vigorously enforced, if law enforcement was to crack down on the employers in the same manner that they crack down on drug offenders (jail time, property confiscated and auctioned, assets seized), the need for illegal immigrants' cheap labor would disappear as would the influx of immigrants.

I realize that suggesting this course of action is ridiculous, and it is not a serious recommendation. The industries that hire illegals are numerous and most have powerful lobbies in both state and federal circles. The huge numbers of individuals who regularly hire illegals would, of course, never support these proposals. Then there would be the inevitable calls of racism and xenophobia would make the media rounds. Such laws would be exceedingly unpopular, unlikely to even be proposed, and certainly never passed.

So instead we are left with the problem and no viable solution. We are left with sputtering anger (at times blatantly racist), calls to do something to stop them. We're left with alienation, gangs, drugs, exploitation, violence, higher crime rates, and everything else that has resulted from the greedy need for cheap labor. The vaudevillian comedy continues as politicians insincerely try to assuage the calls for security and protection from those who knowingly and unknowingly reap the benefits of illegal immigrants' labor.

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