Vicente Fox is calling for open borders across North America, and his American
counterpart is two fingers shy of shaking on it. George Bush's plan: A temporary
worker program granting amnesty -- in three-year chunks -- to illegal immigrants
with American jobs. "Out of common sense and fairness," he says, "our laws
should allow willing workers to enter our country and fill jobs that Americans
are not filling."
"Those darn Americans just don't want to work," says John Frecker, vice president
of the National Border Patrol Council, mimicking the president in a letter
to his organization's 9,000 members. Frecker calls Bush's immigration agenda
"insulting" -- "a slap in the face."
Pat Buchanan isn't as kind. "Consider what the president is saying," he writes.
"[Bush] is telling us that he cannot or will not do his constitutional duty
to defend the states from invasion." And that's what this is, as Buchanan
sees it: An invasion. An "unstoppable foreign invasion."
Who's right, then: Buchanan or Bush? And is this, indeed, a full-scale invasion,
or should we be welcoming our neighbors with open arms?
Let's do the math.
There's no denying the economy ended '03 in spectacular fashion. The Dow
was back above 10,000 for the first time in 18 months. The gross domestic
product hit 8.2 percent, its highest mark in 20 years. Yet it's been a "jobless
recovery" -- as Democrats would have it -- thus far. Fully 5.7 percent of
America remains unemployed. Throw in the fact that there are 8 to 12 million
illegal immigrants in this country and the nature of the problem is suddenly
much more clear.
That's not to say that the illegals are the problem, though. They're not. It's the system that's screwing us up here.
The typical anti-NAFTA t-shirt will tell you that we've "sent our jobs to
Mexico." And similarly, a fuss has been made as of late about American companies
hiring overseas sales forces to boost their bottom lines. But let's put things
in perspective. Neither the Prohibition of the 1920s nor the more recent
War on Drugs succeeded in stopping bad behavior. In fact, for those willing
to risk behaving badly, both offered rewards. Same goes for illegal immigration.
Our border is porous, but it's rough terrain, and even if you cross it there's
the chance you might get caught. But look at the upside: You're all but assured
a gig working clean-up at the local motel. It's low-paying, sure, but it's
paying -- and for some of these people, that's the only thing that counts.
Black markets may be illegal, but that doesn't mean they aren't markets.
They are. Whether it's cheap labor, drugs, or bootleg movies, you're not
going to stop someone from tapping an untapped market. Period. That's capitalism,
and that's just the way it goes. The question, then, isn't how to stop illegal
immigration, but how to reduce the incentives.
So how do we do it? Let's start by shattering the myth of unwanted jobs.
Look at what's going on in California, a border state with an immigrant population
as large as they come. Seventy thousand local grocery clerks have been on
strike for months now, demanding better benefits. Meanwhile, millions of
people just south of the border are willing to work for dirt. The union is
forcing the supermarkets to pay for the privilege of employing its members.
They'll probably get away with it, too. Think about it, though: If I cursed
off my boss because he told me I couldn't have a raise, shouldn't he be within
his rights to fire me? After all, it's his money I'm working for, and his
place to say how much it's worth to him.
And if I'm unwilling to dig ditches for five bucks an hour, it only makes sense that my boss would hire someone who is.
So what are we talking about when we talk about "jobs that Americans aren't
willing to do?" Landscaping. Housekeeping. Things of that sort. Why aren't
Americans willing to do them? Because they've been taught to sit back, relax,
and collect unemployment rather than take inglorious jobs.
Employers don't deserve to be punished for this. They ought to be free from
social engineering tactics like quotas and affirmative action, and they ought
to be free to hire anyone willing to do the job -- and that goes for people
willing to answer customer service calls over in India, as well as people
willing to transplant their families to come to America.
As always, however, the politicians won't have it. Dick Gephardt, for one,
says he'd work towards an international minimum wage if elected president.
This would represent a greater victory in the worldwide workers' revolution
than any of the Soviet Union's Cold War accomplishments.
Between this proposal and our efforts to shut down sweatshops, it seems America's
bent on inducing unemployment all over the globe. Rest assured, if it occurs,
politicians will continue seducing the poor with talk of "job creation,"
recruiting the penniless in the same Standing Army already present in America.
You know the one: Its federally funded officers work in airports, tollbooths,
high schools, and so on. They bust into homes looking for drugs and porn.
They sit in parked cars with speed radars and bad attitudes, waiting to make
criminals out of soccer moms and NASCAR dads driving over 65.
On the heels of a spate of airline groundings, the government is already
proposing a color-coded security system to check air travelers' personal
histories against commercial mailing lists. Frequent flyers will be able
to buy their salvation from the God-State. Foreigners, on the other hand,
will be photographed and fingerprinted -- as if visiting Disney wasn't a
hassle enough as it is. This is the government's idea of protecting us from
foreign invasion. It doesn't hold up. It's an invasion of its own.
If you want to end excessive immigration, end the arms-wide-open welfare
state. Publicly subsidized scholarships and healthcare aren't making it any
easier to weed out the criminals from the folks who want to come here to
make an honest buck.
Oh, and forget about simply arming the border. Arming Americans would go
a much longer way. Replace the heavy-handed police state with a well-armed,
well-prepared population, and we won't have to worry about whether immigrants
are here to cause us trouble anymore. It's like Admiral Yamamoto said: You
can't invade America when there's a rifle behind each blade of grass.
And you can't invade our wallets, either, which might be the most important point of all.
Jonathan David Morris is a political satirist based in New Jersey. His website is Read JDM.