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January 04, 2010


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What's missing here? Let's start with the need for strong, cohesive diplomatic and economic development linkage with Mexico. Once again, the Bush era had a myopic focus on their war on terror. Our neighbor to the south was subjected to a combo of ridicule and disinterest . . ultimately upstaged by the racial stigma. As long as the Obama-rama is focused on shovelling out of the Bush debacle, Mexico is likely to take a back seat. We'll pay for this later.

Under Presidente Calderon there is a chance to help him fight his battles with the PRI and the narcotrafficantes. We ignore this at our own peril.

Ah yes, what to do about Mexico.... I think it has more to do with our own country's internal policies and attitudes about the necessity of whatever fabled model of assimilation we seek. Even when the Italians and other immigrant groups flooded into the U.S., there were growing pains. But our outlook was such that those growing pains were necessary and beneficial back in the good olde times of yore.

In our current era, we've become both the world's police and the sheltered colonizing state that just sits back, wanting everything to go as planned. We have lost much of our fortitude in recent years, motivated by fear rather than hope and perseverance. This, I believe, is why we have seen, among other ills, such immense susceptibility to the scams that led to our great recession and this overwhelming sense of helplessness in so much of American society.

Interesting discussion. However, while running out of oil may create some short-term instability, research indicates it may well be in the long-term best interests of Mexican society. A 2005 University of Chicago study finds an inverse relationship between oil reserves and degrees of democracy within countries, i.e., the more oil a country has, the less democratically its government operates.

"...discovering oil significantly decreases a country’s 30-year change in democracy, as measured by the Polity Index.... on average, discovering 100 billion barrels pushes a country’s democracy level 30 percentage points below trend."

The sooner Mexico is forced to create an economy based on the skills of its workers rather than natural resources extraction, the sooner it will have a society where regular folks will want to stay rather than emigrate.

I offer the following respectful comments.

Who is Emil Pulsifer?

What is the author really arguing for? I'm confused.

Please don't tell me that you are supporting amnest for immigrants, and open borders.

We have more Americans begging for jobs than there are jobs for them.

We have hospitals firing experienced, smart, hardworking American nurses, and replacing them with immigrants who are paid less, but who are often incompetent.

Instead of allowing immigration, we should shut our borders and expel immigrants who are already here -- until there are enough jobs for American citizens.

34% of software engineering jobs in the US are held by immigrants -- while the IEEE reports mass numbers of unemployed US citizens with computer science and engineering degrees. Along with years of work experience.

That's why we must not have open borders or immigration. We don't have enough jobs for our own people. This is not a matter of being heartless or inhumane. I don't want immigrants to suffer and starve either. But it is wrong to starve American citizens, and fire and replace Americans with immigrants just because immigrants work for less..

In truth, businesses hire one round of immigrants, and then as soon as they can find another set of immigrants who will work for even less -- they fire the first bunch. After several rounds, we have masses of unemployed people, and businesses who are screaming for still more immigrants.

"DisenchantedFred" wrote:

"What is the author really arguing for? I'm confused...Please don't tell me that you are supporting amnest for immigrants, and open borders."

Fred, unlike the talk-radio jocks you seem to get a good deal of your information from, it was not my intent, with respect to immigration, to ADVOCATE any particular position (though I tried to make a good case for changing the quota numbers) so much as to provide factual, well-documented information, rationally analyzed, which might be of use to anyone interested in the subject, regardless of their position, inclinations, or biases.

My own view is that the current system, in which hard working and generally law abiding immigrants risk their lives to perform (in the main) a lot of disagreeable manual labor that most anglos don't want anyway -- such as mowing lawns in 115 degree weather, shinning up palm trees, etc. -- a system which has become increasingly inhumane as immigration has become criminalized, families are broken up, and individuals awaiting deportation are held in civil detention (often under cruel conditions) for indefinite periods, is inhumane, expensive, and needs fundamental reforms.

If someone took the position that they would accept amnesty and the appreciable enlargement of annual immigration quotas in exchange for a system of strong immigration controls that works, I'd be confortable with that, but they would have to explain how those "strong immigration controls" would work. I took some pains to explain that even a biometric national ID card is not the panacea which advocates claim it to be, at least not without considerable additional planning.

If someone argued for open borders and citizenship, along libertarian lines -- especially with the additional of features (e.g., card-check and expanded NLRB enforcement) empowering workers to unionize, I might be amenable to that, but I am not yet convinced that this would be practicable.

Does this answer your question?

P.S. One conclusion that might be taken away from my essay is that the answer to the "immigration question" may be that there are NO simple answers -- no matter what your viewpoint or your preferred method(s). That's something to consider the next time your local politician spouts his cant on the subject.

Emil, honestly, you have me up until you start repeating the "jobs Americans won't do" meme. The first thing I ask when I hear that is "why won't they?" And if your answer is something like "because Americans just don't have the strong work ethic of X ethnic group" the conversation is over. That is the talking point of exploitation apologists and I cringe when I hear it from progressives.

That said, I thought your piece was excellent overall and very informative but I think you are mistaken about the extent to which immigration reform would curb the abuse of workers. Research shows that both native born and immigrant (legal and not) low wage workers are cheated out of wages regularly. And recently NY Atty Gen. Andrew Cuomo indicted a carnival company contractor for egregious violations of labor laws, including massive wage theft and employees living in squalid dormitories. The workforce was 100% legal immigrants on visas. There similar reports of rampant abuse against legal immigrants brought in to rebuild New Orleans after Katrina. Like I said, native born workers are often mistreated too but immigration offers employers a steady stream of pliable and politically neutered workers who are scared of losing their jobs regardless of their legal status.

And the problem with comparisons to waves of immigration in the 20th century is that the New Deal and the rise of the labor movement played a big role in the assimilation and success of immigrant groups such as European Jews and Italians. For a really good exploration of this I highly recommend the recent HBO documentary "Schmatta", which is about the rise and fall of the clothing trade in NYC. This is why I'm skeptical of claims that immigration reform (though it is undeniably necessary for a variety of reasons) will lead to better treatment of workers. 30 years of Reaganomics and union-busting have led us to Walmart being the model for employment. IOW, we are screwn.

Good points, Donna. However, I didn't argue that immigration reform would solve America's labor exploitation problems -- merely that citizens are in a better position to fight abuse through the system and to organize into legal unions, than non-citizens are (whether here on legal visas or simply undocumented).

If the democrats had an ounce of sense they'd pass card-check, strengthen the NLRB's power and budget and the labor laws it enforces, ten-fold, work closely with the unions to make sure those new immigrants learn their labor options and rights, and reap the political benefits of immigration reform, regardless of the exact details of that reform.

That would only be a start on what's needed to restore the balance of power in this country which, as you point out, has for a variety of reasons shifted so far in the employers' favor, but it would be a good start.

P.S. Donna, just to play devil's advocate for a moment, don't forget that the number of jobs available isn't fixed, provided that the economy is growing; that new workers spending new wages on new goods and services produced in response to that demand, is one way to grow the economy; and that Arizona has, in fact, depended on population growth (both legal and illegal) until the Great Recession as a means of growing its economy: new residents need housing; new housing creates opportunity for new and expanded retailers, etc.

I'd be interested in hearing your take on this because you seem informed and connected with respect to labor issues.

Now, with respect to your rhetorical question, "Why won't they?" I can think of several possible answers. I won't talk about a "work ethic" but I don't think any reasonable person would argue that someone deperate enough for work to cross a burning desert, risk kidnapping and beatings and extortion by coyotes, and risk legal problems from authorities, is what you might call "motivated".

Are there really a lot of Whites itching to do landscaping in the middle of summer in Phoenix? To climb those palm trees? To mow lawns? To weed and trim? Yes, there are construction jobs too, but many of those involve heavy manual labor in the heat of summer also. Roofing. Portage.

Then, there's the question of wages and hours. Yes, part of the problem is that foreign labor is willing to do these jobs for less money, whether in actual wages (say, minimum wage) or in effective wages (with lots of unpaid overtime, which means a real wage less than the nominal minimum).

Problem is, there's still that problem now, isn't there? The undocumented workers stream in. Any way to stop them? If they were legal, and labor law and enforcement was strengthened, they would at least be in a better position to agitate for better conditions (i.e., equal to those or native citizens). Nobody wants to stay at the bottom of the heap if they can help it. Illegals have no options. They can't organize. They don't want to get the attention of the authorities in any way, which labor complaints surely would.

There may be a way to strengthen the ID card or right to work card tactic so that it would work as intended. Right now I'm not sure what that would be.

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