I’ve had this to say about so-called “illegal immigration” for a while now:
- Everyone who bothers to look at the matter knows quite well that the border cannot be made impervious to people who would cross the border. The fence cannot work; it can only make an already dangerous journey more so. It can only kill more people.
- It is absurd to argue that those who have undertaken this journey have “not paid their dues” because they haven’t followed a “legal” procedure. These migrants have more than paid their dues; they have risked their lives to get here.
- If a policy cannot succeed and is clearly inhumane, we must consider whose interests it actually serves.
I have had employers threaten me to my face, warning that they could “hire Mexicans” or outsource jobs to India. This unmasks the value of “illegal immigrants” not only as an easily exploitable workforce that dares not complain about low wages or abysmal working conditions, but as leverage against “legal workers” whom employers can replace either with “illegal workers” or with overseas workers.
The status quo in immigration has served not “natives,” whose well-paying jobs “illegal workers” generally do not qualify for and which have continued to be exported overseas; it has clearly not served “illegal aliens,” whose greatest danger lies not in the border fence or even in immigration raids but the desert they must cross to get here. It has served employers, employers who are now making their voices heard:
“These employers are now starting to realize that nobody is in a better position than they are to make the case that they do need the workers and they do want to be on the right side of the law,” said Tamar Jacoby, president of the new federation, ImmigrationWorks USA.
They say this even as “U.S. employers cut workers for a sixth straight month in June for the longest such streak since 2002 and the country’s vast service sector unexpectedly contracted, underscoring the economy’s frailty.”
So it isn’t that “they do need the workers,” but that they prefer exploitable workers. Conservatives say that working class folks whose unskilled jobs would seem most vulnerable instead identify illegal immigrants as constituting “a threat to the identity of the country itself,” as what radio talk show host Ken Pittman compared to a “military invasion.” With this language, conservatives direct working class fear and resentment not against the employers who profit so handsomely, but against fellow workers.
What’s more, conservatives know what they’re doing. Larry Elder published a fictitious letter that he says “should have been written, but was not, by an illegal alien.” Obviously Elder couldn’t find a real “illegal alien” to say the following:
I broke the law. I did it out of desperation — desperation to leave a corrupt country whose socialist economic policies make it impossible for me to earn a decent living for my family. Most of us illegals come into your country to earn a living, with many sending money back to Mexico and other Latin American countries. In fact, the Mexican economy depends on these remittances, and would collapse without this money. I say this not to justify my illegal entry into your country, but to explain it.
Elder’s conservative readers pay little heed. Chris in Sacramento writes, “Sorry, but you gotta go home. Legalizing 40 million illegals will turn this country socialist. Good luck in Mexico.” dbak61 in Pennsylvania replies, “That’s right, Chris. He’s gotta go. It’s called the rule of law, no exceptions. I only wish the US government would start enforcing the laws they keep passing. Where’s the fence? Let’s contract the same people who built Israel’s ‘wall.’ Seems to be working for them.”
Never mind, of course, that Israel’s wall isn’t working; the Palestinians now fire missiles over the wall with potentially even more deadly effect, dig tunnels, and navigate storm drains. For conservatives to acknowledge that “illegal aliens” compete for jobs would to be to acknowledge a shortage of jobs, a shortage capitalists rely upon to force all workers to “compete” for lower wages. For conservatives to acknowledge that “free trade” has ruined Mexican farm economies, or that the North American Free Trade Agreement has displaced workers on both sides of the border, would be to attack the sacred cow of “free trade,” free trade, that is, for those who exploit human beings rather than the vast majority of human beings themselves.
Labeling people as “illegal,” comparing their presence to a “military invasion,” and blaming the government for not working more effectively to keep them out diverts attention from a lot of ruin. And now that the capitalists themselves are starting to feel a little squeezed, look who squeals.