Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Same tired arguments

Recent immigration column was misinformed and irresponsible

Last week there was a very well written opinion piece in the Daily Emerald. Of course, no paper can print a letter, article, or op-ed about illegal aliens without the follow up response of "You're racist" a few days later. See if you catch the theme:

...irresponsible piece of “journalism” that contains more than just a tinge of racism.

Are all people of color potential terrorists?

The U.S. government is not above acting illegally.

...part of the reason “Mexico’s lack of infrastructure” exists is not its own problem, but rather a result of how the U.S. has exploited this less powerful country over time.

Don’t tell me that American citizens would take these jobs for the same crappy pay and no benefits and hazardous working conditions.

Instead of making any attempt to see people who come here as what they are — human beings — who for the most part come here out of sheer desperation, Ms. Brock turns them into faceless “criminals” and “terrorists.”

It's like talking to a child who heard a "fact" on the school playground and now lives by it. Opposing criminals acts is racist, all the bad in the world is the fault of America, criminals are people too, Americans won't do those jobs, blah blah blah.

It would take 20 minutes of saying "but are they breaking the law" to get this writer to admit that yes, they have broken the law. Another 20 minutes of repeating "but doesn't that make them criminals" would finally get her to concede that yes, that does make them criminals.

So it comes down to the fact that this person is willing to excuse criminal behavior. It's not uncommon, people do it every day. Kids say "record companies make millions, downloading this song/CD isn't stealing" even though it is.

It's part of the "I want it but I'm not willing to pay for it" attitude. It's based on entitlement, you think that you should get something because you somehow deserve to have it. The fact that is may be illegal, wrong, and taking from someone else is irrelevent at that point, you insist that it's ok because if you didn't have what you want it would somehow be "unfair."

In the eyes of God and in terms of right and wrong, stealing a CD or trip into this country is no different that robbing an elderly woman. None of those acts should be justified.


Robin said...

I think that you hit it right on the head. "I want it but I am not willing to pay for it"

and why should they, the store doors are unlocked and the cash register is wide open.

Jim said...

Daniel -- speaking of tired arguments, you seem to be getting quite a bit of mileage out of this "they're-here-illegally-so-they-must-be-bad" argument, which is juvenile in its simplicity.

Here's what I see as a potentially workable solution. I'm going to start by accepting the research findings of labor economists, among whom the perspective that the U.S. labor market is segmented, and that there is, indeed, a strong demand for immigrant labor, is universally accepted (despite the fact that you don't "believe" it).

First step would be to set up a solid infrastructure for enforcement of those who hire illegal immigrants. This can be used to create a system in which documents are more difficult to fake documents including electronically issued and stored id#s, and employers can enter credentials into a computer system, which would verify that immigrant worker X is working for company X, legally. This was supposed to be part of the 1986 IRCA legislation, but the infrastructure for such workplace inforcement was never funded. Levy stiff penalties for those who hire under the table.

Next, legalize those currently here without documents who are (a) employed or living in a family household in which a spouse or parent is employed and (b) do not have a criminal record. Deport those who don't meet the above criteria.

Last, increase the numerical quotas for specific visas and streamline the ability of employers and immigrants to link up, and thus, for said immigrants to come legally, and/or compete in high-demand industrial sectors.

If actions similar to this are taken, your argument, based entirely on the legal status of the immigrants, is moot.

Looking forward to your response,

Daniel said...

"If actions similar to this are taken, your argument, based entirely on the legal status of the immigrants, is moot."

If our laws are changed then yes, it's a moot argument. But since our laws are what they are, do you concede that these people are criminals and should be treated as such?

Jim said...

I concede that they have broken the law. I don't think, however, that they should be treated like criminals, as I implied in my outline of a potential policy solution. I think the system needs to be reformed so that those who would otherwise be here to work could. Thus, I'm in support of amnesty. Not that I believe it's a zero-sum game, but I think there's a win-win in that solution.

I'm not sure, precisely, what you mean by "treated like criminals", but I don't see what good comes of that plan. Deportation of 11 million undocumented is logistically and financially impossible. I wouldn't support it if it was.

I expect that Bush will eat crow in stating that there will be no amnesty.

terry said...

Working class Americans are getting hosed and will continue to get hosed until illegal aliens leave the country or are deported. Among the stats on the costs of illegal immigration is one I've never seen addressed: how much excess rent, in billions of dollars, are working class Americans paying because of illegal immigrants? A guest worker program will do nothing to resolve this problem.

Jeff said...

Jim, you admit they are criminals, but then say that they shouldn't be treated as such...why not? If I steel a CD from a music store, should I not be treated as a theif?

I'd guess you also think that Tookie Williams shouldn't be treated like the murderer that he is?

Tim Lewis said...

First we have to treat those who harbor criminals (like many state agencies) as criminals themselves.

Ric said...


"Those who enter the country illegally violate the law." -- Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 28, 2005

By Jacob Weisberg
Posted Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005, at 10:40 AM ET on Slate.

While true, it is too bad that Jacob edited what our President said before calling it a Bushism.

See Eugene's comment.

See also todays Fishwrap


Jim said...

Jeff -- This simplistic illegal logic grows tiresome. The CD theft example doesn't work, because it's common knowledge that stealing from a store is wrong. If caught, there's little doubt that one will face some sort of penalty. The message is not so clear with illegal immigration. One can come to the US illegally and find work. That's a mixed message, but it's common knowledge. Even if you all got your wishes and states stopped issuing drivers licenses (which would be utterly foolish from a sociolgical standpoint), insofar as undocumented people can find work, it's a mixed message.

The problem is not with the immigrants, it's with the current system, the laws of which do not mesh with the realities of the post-NAFTA labor market.

Modern capitalism does not care for your's or Daniel's juvenile fetishism over legalisms. It works by its own laws. It doesn't care for national boundaries or any other socially bounded constructions such as racial/ethnic distinctions or citizenship. It seeks to level all of these things, for they counter pure rational competition. It sure as hell doesn't care about Terry's inability survive the working class rental market.

Daniel talks out of both sides of his mouth when he urges state intervention into what is primarily a labor migration and simultaneously speaks the praises of pure capitalism. A classic case of having one's cake and eating it too...which is, by definition, impossible.

Jim said...

Oh, and Jeff, I hope you're not a lawyer. You'd make a horrible one, as your questions are loaded for bear.

I forgot to address your question with regards to Tookie, and hesitate to do so in the midst of this blood-thirsty group. Besides, it is off the point I'm most interested in debating, which is immigration. But anyway, I'm not going to make any judgments about Tookie, as I don't know the details of the story. I don't support the death penalty. I think it appeals to our baser human instincts. Granted, we all sometimes feel the need for revenge when confronted with the heinous nature of some crimes, and at those times I do wonder if there is punishment enough on this earth as retribution. But on the whole, no, I don't believe in it. When someone is put to death, I sure as hell don't feel a need to celebrate it, as does a certain bloghost who only does disservice to his own dignity with such a tasteless act. Another good screenshot for any anti-Atkinson campaigns.

Tim Lewis said...

Or celebrating milestone deaths of American soldiers?

The stealing of a CD thing wasn't about stealing a CD from a store. It was about downloading a CD instead of going to the store to buy it. It's a little different than sticking a CD in your coat pocket and walking out of a store. It's not as black and white.

Tim Lewis said...

Jim, I don't understand your point about "urging state intervention into what is primarily a labor migration and simultaneously speaks the praises of pure capitalism." How is this doublespeak? Are you saying it can only exist with the aid of workers from outside our country? How can capitalism exist without enforcing laws?

Jim said...

Tim -- I guess because I'm in here disaagreeing with people you feel safe assuming some type of knowledge about my character? Don't try to put that unpatriotic crap on me by implying, in some half-ass, cowardly way that I celebrate the death of American soldiers.

Re: the CD thing, my point still holds. Even if one is not very likely to get caught, there is no active mechanism encouraging the pirating of music. the high probability of obtaining gainful employment serves as such a mechanism in the case of undocumented immigration.

Jim said...

NAFTA -- the integrating of markets in North America -- is a modern capitalist's dream, as it removes trade barriers, discourages subsidies and policies of import substitution, etc. It was expected to reduce, not increase immigration from Mexico to the U.S. So far, it hasn't, obviously, but it may over time, especially since Mexico is slowly improving its economic situation and has witnessed one of the most rapid decreases in fertility ever seen in human history. Anyway, the spirit of NAFTA was to allow commodities to flow more freely across national borders, as if national borders didn't exist. Labor is a commodity, and in a marketplace becoming more hemispherically integrated, it is no surprise that laborers should gravitate to where wages are highest. Theoretically, equilibrium will be acheived so that wage rates are roughly the same in all parts of the economic area (i'm not saying I agree with this, but that's the theory).

So anyway, Daniel sounds like Adam Smith droning on about the virtues of capitalism, operating like some finely-tuned machine which abhors government intervention, and then at the same time he wants the government to intervene and interfere with one of the biggest commodity flows in the market system. It is a blatant contradiction.

Capitalism only cares about predictability, and thus is only concerned that laws upholding a general social order are enforced. Obviously immigration laws are of little importance, as the American economy has hummed along rather smoothly, for the past six decades, four of which (since the end of the Bracero Program in 1964), have been marked by extremely high flows of illegal labor migrants from Mexico.

Tim Lewis said...

I did no such thing, and I don't appreciate those assumptions.

My comments are for the irony of those who oppose the death penalty, yet celebrate American deaths and the killing of unborn babies. If your conscience-o-meter is twinging, that's not my problem.

I don't want to get into a thing with you, but if you're going to earn some respect, you might want to at least practice what you preach and refrain from the same half-assed, backhanded insults you claim I was giving.

As for Daniel, I'll just let him comment for himself.

maliengus said...

Daniel - What kind of work is your group doing to put pressure on the employers who hire the illegal aliens? I think that this is truly where the problem starts. The people are coming because they are being hired. Who is hiring them? How come they are getting away with breaking the law?

htwtrman@aol.com said...

Hi. I have a question. Would you be just as angry if Oregon were invaded by a couple million blond and blue-eyed illegals from Sweden?
Honestly? Would anyone? A) You wouldn't even know it because you would not be able to physically identify them.
B)Have you honestly considered what would happen if you accomplished your goal of getting rid of every last illegal alien in Oregon. Have you really worked this scenario all the way through your head? Who would harvest your strawberries, who would bag your Egg McMuffin, who would pump your gas. If they all walked out tomorrow, what would happen?
Despite your claim that anyone who makes 30K or less doesnt pay taxes, by the way, thats news to me. I make high 20K and pay plenty of taxes. Government looks the other way because unclaimed social security witholdings currently make up over 10% of social security contributions and total more than 7 billion PER YEAR.
Currently, there isn't a politician out there with balls enough to stand infront of a national news mic and just come out with the f**king truth: Illegals are allowed to come here because our economy depends on them. It is that simple.
When someone has the balls to take that first step, then maybe we can get on with it: find a way to organize "guest workers," encourage and assist them to become citizens, and find ways to lessen their dependence on social services.
I live in Woodburn. I feel safe, I feel comfortable. My children go to Woodburn schools and are thriving in every sense of the word. They are learning spanish as part of a language immersion program and they are brilliant!!!!! (BRAGGING, I KNOW!)
I read the local paper religously. I read the crime report. There is an even split between anglo law breakers and hispanic law breakers. In the two plus years that I have been here there have been only three violent crimes and no murders. The rest of the crimes are petty sh*t that happens in any town. The people here are working, raising their children and improving their lives. They're not selling drugs or doing drugs or killing people.
I don't understand why you are so upset. Why does hearing another language being spoken bother you so bad? This is America. We have shed blood to protect our freedom. Freedom means having the right to speak any language you choose, worship in the way that you choose, dress the way that you choose. Why does all this cause you so much anguish? When I moved to Woodburn a lot of friends and co-workers would wince and say "Oh, but there are so many Mexicans!" I became so disgusted with this that I started to say, "Well, my husband and I really wanted to buy in Mt. Angel but there were so many f**king
Germans there."
No body freaks about Irish celebrating their heritage with a St. Patricks day parade, or German's celebrating their heritage at Oktoberfest, but if a Mexican celebrates one of their cultural holidays that's just terrible and everyone starts clenching their sphincters whining that they aren't "assimilating."
Such a porous border is a security threat to be sure. I'm not crazy about the fact that the people who are entering the US from the south are overwhelmingly doing so illegally. Im also not crazy about teens having sex, but with both issues the fact is ITS NEVER GOING TO STOP. There has to be a way to organize and control this and I do believe that a guest worker program is a realistic first step...but I still come back to the question...if they looked more like you and sounded more like you would you be quite as bothered or are you just uncomfortable because they are moving into your neighborhood and sitting at the desk next to your child and you have to listen to them speak spanish when you are out and about.
When I decided to enroll my children in the language immersion program at Woodburn schools this is what I experienced: So, did you decide where to send your kids to school? Yeah, I did! I'm really excited for them! They will be entering a language immersion program! "Oh really! What language!" "Spanish." Silence, frowns, attempt to disguise disapproval. So then, I started thinking....wait a minute...Portland has language immersion charter schools in French, Japanese, Chinese. So I did a little experiment. Scene 2:
"I'm so excited! I have decided to enroll my children in a language immersion program!" "Really! Wow! What language will the be learning?" "French" Reaction: "Your kidding! That is so cool! How exciting! You must be thrilled! I can hardly wait to hear them speaking a new language!"
Same results if I said: Japanese or Chinese.....why is this? It disgusts me. And people have the nerve to say "we aren't being racist." Why is there such a cachet attached to learning French, Japanese, or Chinese, but when you say your child is learning Spanish its like: oh.
My husband and I like to drive around and enjoy the beautiful Willamette Valley. In the spring and in the fall it is common to drive by fields and see people bent over working in the fields. We have a little joke that we do as we drive by this sight of people doing this back breaking work. We turn and look at eachother and exclaim: "Look at all those Mexicans taking jobs away from white people. Do you know how many white people would kill for that job?" It's funny, and we laugh a little, but it does remind us of the ridiculousness of so many people who are in a state of denial about how dependent we are on these workers. I really don't think you truly realize what would happen without these people working in Oregon's agricultural industry.
You keep focusing on people who refuse to acknowledge the fact that illegal is illegal. Fair enough. But it seems to me that you also are refusing to acknowledge a fact - and that fact is that these workers are truly needed and there would be serious consequences if you woke up one day and your wish of an all white all english speaking with no detectable accent no mariachi music boy scouts and bubble gum nation suddenly came to life.
Sorry for the long post, but I really felt like I needed to express my feelings with you after the scene at PCUN on Saturday.

JIm said...

Tim -- How was I to know you weren't taking a jab at me? Sure seemed like it.

I think it's an unreal and unfair characterization to say liberals "celebrate" deaths in Iraq and abortions. It's absurd, really, a fictitious attitude created by talk-radio hacks to give their on-air tirades some apparent justification.

htwtrman said...

Daniel: You can e-mail me at htwtrman@aol.com if you want to respond to by post. Thanks for reading (at least I hope you read it.) Bruce.

Daniel said...

Bruce, thanks for posting. You are obviously very passionate. If you spoke to me at the PCUN rally (you would be one of the few on the opposing side who did) you would know that I'm not a racist.

To respond:

On the tax issue, I'm talking about federal income taxes.

"But it seems to me that you also are refusing to acknowledge a fact - and that fact is that these workers are truly needed and there would be serious consequences if you woke up one day and your wish of an all white all english speaking with no detectable accent no mariachi music boy scouts and bubble gum nation suddenly came to life."

I wouldn't presume to know your wishes, I don't think that you know mine. And you conveniantly left out any specific "consequences" that would happen if we deported all the illegal aliens in this country. I'm failing to see a downside...

Anonymous said...

Hey! Thanks for responding Daniel.

Re: Federal income tax. Yes, indeed, I do pay federal income tax on my modest hi20K income. I never get a full refund and Uncle Sam and Uncle Ted keep about $1,500 of my hard earned dollars each year. I am quite confident that if you did an informal survey of other modest wage earners you would find this to be the case.

I apologize for not being specific about the consequences of 11K+ service workers suddenly going "poof." Convenience was hardly the reason. I guess I assume the consequences are clear, but perhaps that is because I view the issue from a different perspective.

My first thought is: unemployment is currently hovering at around 5%, correct? So, this means that with only 5% of able workers not working that those 5% just plain don't want to work (for whatever reason) or they are highly specialized workers who may have a harder time replacing their jobs than the average joe. But, regardless, 5% pretty much concludes that everyone who can work IS working. That being said, exactly whose job are these people taking? If all illegal aliens were taken out of the workforce who would fill their jobs? 5% is awfully slim pickings from which to draw employees.

In addition, recent numbers from Social Security indicate that illegal aliens contribute 7 BILLION PER YEAR in unclaimed social security and medicaid contributions. This 7 billion makes up 10% of the social security fund. If social security coffers were drained of 10% of their revenue it would be serious indeed. I'll send you web site address where you can get this info.

Most illegal aliens send a good portion of their income home to thier families in South and Central America. What they don't send gets spent on the same kind of merchandise you and I buy. That's why retailers choose advertise in spanish. Gather 100 rural Oregon retailers together and ask them what would happen if 10% of their customer base stopped shopping. I'll bet they won't be thrilled.

As I said, I am not exactly thrilled that most of the people coming across our borders are doing so illegally. Our government is squarely to blame for this. But, like teen sex, it ain't gonna stop. Politicians don't stay away from this issue simply for votes. Its all about revenue, its all about cheap labor, its all about consumerism. No one has the BALLS to say it on national news. When someone does have the balls to say it and reveal the REAL reasons the gov't looks the other way...then we can get somewhere with this issue.

Personally, I think I'm going to do a few things to gain a better perspective on this issue. I'm going to find out exactly what its like to apply legally to get into this country, exactly what its like to become a citizen. Is it relatively easy, or is it difficult? Then, I'm thinking maybe I will start my own campaign to encourage illegal aliens to become citizens. I am going to encourage organizations to spend more time helping illegals to get legal. I was shocked to find out today that Woodburn has no agency or organization that offers citizenship classes. I am going to make sure that changes and that a concerted effort is made to start and maintain a class and promoting it so heavily throughout Woodburn that we will have no problem filling it to capacity each session.

So while you and your group are feverishly working to get rid of "every last illegal alien in Oregon" perhaps we'll be working with equal fervor to make every last one of them citizens! To my way of thinking that is a much more positive and constructive use of energy.

Hopefully, our gov't will pull it's head out of it's ass and realize that a porous border might as well be a red neon arrow pointing the direction for terrorists to enter. To me, that is the real danger, not people who are coming here to work.

As far as the matricularia card goes, at least it serves to document these people. However, with Oregon's budget woes it is kind of ridiculous to serve up a buffet of free services to further burden our budget. But I guess I just don't mind so much that my $1,500 tax contribution might be spent on food and shelter for my fellow man vs. a bridge to Nowhere, Alaska.

Oh, and this thing with your opinion that once an American, anyone with an identifiable ethnic heritage should cease to identify themselves as anything but American? That just seems absurd to me. I picture a black man from the Congo working and saving to bring his family to another country - lets say France. If we follow your reasoning, he must stop saying "I am African." He must buy a beret and say "Wee Wee, I am French!" The visual is as ludicrous as the concept. Someone from China does not stop being Chinese simply because he becomes an American citizen, and you have no right to insist that he do so. As American citizens, we all have the right to identify ourselves as we see fit. No one else has the right to tell anyone how they should identify themselves. We all have the right to speak the language of our choosing, to worship in the manner of our choosing, to pursue happiness as defined only by each individual. Speaking another language is not against the law. I don't think it is particularly wise to move to another country and choose not to learn the language, but it is not my choice to make, nor is it yours.
And telling someone that they are not good Americans unless they shed any ethnic tradition or mother language as if they were a snake shedding a skin is, to use your word, presumptous and indeed,in my view, rather un-American.

Surely, if you boil the Constitution and the Bill of Rights right down to their very essence it is the truly deomcratic (and I'm not talking party here) concept of "LIVE AND LET LIVE." Insisting that a free human being with inalienable rights speak ONLY the language of your choosing, worship ONLY the God of your choosing, display ONLY the flag of your choosing, and follow ONLY the traditions of your choosing contradicts this in a major way. That is, of course, ONLY my opinion.

Thanks again for hearing me out. Best holiday wishes to you and yours.

htwtrman@aol.com said...

Okay Daniel. If you want to read info re: Illegal Aliens Bolster Social Security....simply google that phrase and you will get a variety of articles discussing this topic, along with source info. I can't find the specific article I read but googling will get you there.