Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for April 30, 2010
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.
Well, it’s now official. Arizona has lost its marbles. First, due to budget considerations, they closed highway rest stops so if you’re driving through Arizona and you have to pee, you’d better bring a can. Then they passed a new law that could effectively result in making it illegal to Walk While Mexican. So, Mexico – Mexico? – yes, Mexico, the same travel destination that is regularly the target of American travel advisories due to drug war shootouts and kidnappings and murders – has issued its own travel advisory warning Mexican tourists heading for Arizona that they may well get stopped and harassed, so they’d better keep their passports handy. Especially if they actually look, er, “illegal.”
Then other American organizations, city councils and various other politicos piled on, calling for a boycott of Arizona, which could cause real damage in a state whose current shaky economic health relies heavily on tourist dollars. (And all those “illegals” working in the tourist hotel/restaurant industry.) All of which was accompanied by the usual Maximum Righteous Outrage, which plays so well on TV and talk radio. And, naturally, the whole insane mess will head directly for the courts since it appears to violate some of our most cherished myths and mixes up state and federal authority concerning immigration laws.
All of which came about because this country refuses to get honest about what it’s been doing for years – which is running businesses on the backs of illegal immigrants because its cheaper to do so – no union wages, no health insurance, no pesky disability insurance, no income tax – just work “off the books” with unverified workers as much as possible. Higher profits for the business, cheaper products for the consumer, and the well-to-do get a Don’t Ask/ Don’t Tell gardener and nanny without having to worry about paying SSI taxes. So, everybody’s happy, right?
Well, no. When you live a lie, it’s impossible not to keep running into problems. Unless you reinstate a system of slavery or keep your illegal, off-the-books workers hooked into chain gangs housed in guarded compounds, each illegal worker will be joined by family. Now, instead of one single employee, your community suddenly has a wife and children. And children need educating, paid for by taxpayers. And families need health care which, if not covered by the employer, has to come from the taxpayers as well.
Multiply that a few million times and concentrate the numbers into a small geographical area (like Arizona) and you’ve got problems. It’s no coincidence that it was Arizona that passed this law, not North Dakota. North Dakota does not have a large influx of “illegal Canadians” putting a strain on public coffers and social services.
Toss in good old basic racism, which only complicates the issue further by making it an issue nearly impossible to discuss honestly without an ugly subtext, and you end up with a mess. And there’s nothing politicos love more than a mess they can demagogue.
Over the years our congresspeople have earnestly asserted that “Something Must Be Done,” while quickly tabling the “Something” because our dirty little secret is this: Our economy needs and wants and hires and relies on the very people we scapegoat and demagogue when times get tough or when politicians need an “issue” to stir up voters.
So, before any of this can be fixed, this country has to get honest about the role “illegal immigrants” play in keeping this country’s economy afloat. We could certainly try some version of the funny movie, “A Day Without Mexicans,” and see what happens. In an aging country filled with Baby Boomers who are rapidly losing the ability to pick their own lettuce, slaughter and dress their own chickens, mow their lawns, bus their own dishes or get services in a nursing home, the results of such a boycott would be interesting.
Or we could pass a federal law making it mandatory for every citizen to carry tamper-proof “papers” at all times. Then spend gazillions to beef up INS agents and start raiding businesses all over the country to frog march all the CEO’s who are employing these illegals right to prison and all the illegals right to the border. That’d solve the problem, but would empty out our farms and factories and slaughterhouses and hotels and restaurants and nursing homes and hospitals and gardens and construction sites.
Or we can get honest and admit that we need and like the benefits “illegal” low-wage workers bring to our way of life, then sit down to honestly figure out a fair and just way to deal with the liabilities such a wink-nudge system brings with it.
Or we can all just drive to Phoenix and get out of our car and walk around wearing “illegal-looking shoes” and a big sombrero and see what happens.