Thursday, June 02, 2005

Illegal Aliens

An interesting article in Sunday's NY Times, A Battle Against Illegal Workers, With an Unlikely Driving Force. We're introduced to Robert Vasquez, an Idaho Republican county commissioner, and Mexican American, who's against the huge influx of Mexicans streaming across our borders into the U.S. As you might expect this has not endeared him to many people, not the least being those businessmen and women in his own party. Here's his thinking on the subject and what he suggests be done about it:

Mr. Vasquez says the newcomers overwhelm public services, bring gang violence and drugs, spread diseases like tuberculosis and insist on rights that should not be granted to non-citizens.

His latest salvo, a plan to sue employers who hire illegal immigrants, has angered the solidly Republican business community and many of the senior political leaders in this heavily Republican state. The plan would make Canyon County the only local government in the country to use federal racketeering statutes against people who employ illegal immigrants, said Howard Foster, a Chicago lawyer advising the county.

Whoooooa ... actually going after people who employ illegal aliens, which of course is illegal after all. Imagine, taking to jail the business folk who employ illegals --- wouldn't that make headlines?

And what do those business people have to say? We're told the following:

Many farmers and construction contractors here say they could not survive
without the pool of workers from Mexico. They have lined up behind a proposal by the state's senior senator, Larry E. Craig, a Republican, to allow illegal
immigrants to stay in the country under certain conditions, a variation of a
similar plan offered by President Bush.

While promoting his bill this year, Mr. Craig said that 72 percent to 78 percent of the agricultural work force was here illegally and that without these workers "we could literally collapse American agriculture."

If he wasn't a Mexican-American himself, he would be labeled a racist and no one would listen to him," said Keith Esplin, executive director of the Potato Growers of Idaho. "He's attacking good people, good workers. You've got to have that population, because they're doing the jobs that no one else wants."

Actually Vasquez isn't attacking the character or work ethics of the illegals, in fact I'd hazard to guess that he's quite sympathetic to them as people. He makes the legitimate case, though, that allowing business people to hire illegals for dirt wages indirectly puts the burden of having these people in this country on the rest of us through the cost of education and medical care for them and their children, to mention but two things.

Why are there these dire predictions about construction and the state of American agriculture? These people are not paid reasonable wages, in fact they're often not even paid close to the minimum wage in this country, which is why no one else wants these jobs. If the jobs paid a reasonable wage, with benefits commensurate with what one should expect for working way harder than the average Starbucks barista (who have great benefits, and tips to boot!), then a lot more people would be interested in doing those jobs that now take advantage of illegal aliens. Of course to do this means employers relying on illegal aliens would have to pay more for them, which brings out predictions of economic disaster if forced to meet the same standard, pitiful as it may be, that we have for Americans. But what really kills me about this issue is that people ADMIT to their need for illegal aliens, as in the same article but again:

Latinos dominate the crews putting up drywall in big new houses; they mow, weed and water the half-acre lawns; they work the fields and dairy farms; and they staff many fast food outlets.

"We know we can't get workers any other way," said Ann Bates, executive director of the Idaho Nursery and Landscape Association.

So apparently here we have apparently law-abiding Republicans admitting that they have to rely on illegal labor to do business. Their solution to this isn't to enforce the current laws against hiring illegal aliens (no, too many members of the Rotary Club would be worrying about dropping their soap while showering in prison), and then offering salaries such that people are provided a livable wage if they're not a Mexican for whom being treated like an indentured servant isn't such a bad deal so long as they're paid something in the bargain. No, the solution to this is to give the illegal aliens doing the labor some sort of quasi-legal status so we can continue to take advantage of them.

The fact is that WalMart does pretty much the same thing, but since they couldn't get away with hiring illegals (they tried that with their cleaning crews, which were subcontracted out --- that put some distance between the company and the actual employers --- but they were snagged and fined for that), the company simply pays barely above minimum wage wages to its employees, making medical benefits too expensive for the employee to pay into, and so who gets to pay for the medical care of WalMart families when someone gets sick? Yep, you and me. Not to mention any welfare payments, such as food stamps, if the WalMart employee is the main, and often only, breadwinner making $17,000 a year for a family of four.

Vasquez has the right idea, and not because he's racist or anything close to what the business people in his state are trying to make this out to be (if you can't address the main issue, try to make it something else --- I hate this garbage, which we seem to get a lot of from the White House). I appreciate why people come to this country illegally, but we can't afford to keep this going. The cries from business people, and those who employ illegals to cut the grass, serve the morning coffee, clean the house, and watch the kids, is that we can't get anyone else to do the job. Horse manure, you can if you let the market do its job, which ostensibly Republicans are all in favor of until it works against their favor. In this case let the markets determine the wages for people who do the scut work that's left to illegals to do, and maybe people in this country will have some sense of being treated fairly and with respect.

Dream on James, dream on.

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