Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Bush gave a speech on immigration the other day. I heard enough of it to catch the dehumanizing words “catch and release” and to realize the fact that the content of the speech would probably disappoint liberals and conservatives in equal measure. But that’s Bush’s m.o. these days: announce that you’ve got something important to say, get up there, look clueless, run out the same old tired policies, drop a couple coded shout outs to the far “religious” right and basically underwhelm anyone with a functioning cerebrum. Oh well, ER used to do that too. The guy that says “Rated R” on movie trailers would make a big deal on the promos about how this week’s episode was an “ER that you can not miss” and then when the closing credits rolled (pushed to the side of the screen while the NBC news team did their intro) you wondered what the big deal was. You couldn’t even remember what they said was going to happen.

Anyway, part of Bush’s proposal on immigration, the part that enrages conservatives, is the notion of temporary work permits. Part of me likes that idea because I feel that responding to what is actually occurring on a local level and giving it the government stamp of approval is a good thing usually. It applies the imprimatur of the law to something that rose organically from a working community and affirms that law is not to be created at a ruling level and imposed upon people’s lives, but created at a local level and approved and enforced by national authority. But another part of me does not like the idea of allowing foreign workers to come into the country on a temporary basis. And not because I think they will “take our jobs.”

Many industries depend on the quasi-legal working arrangement of below minimum wage transient workers. Instead of continuing to enable industry to essentially break the law, I think we should call Bush’s bluff and demand that every single illegal immigrant be deported tomorrow. If the government is serious about this, then market forces will drive business to relent and call for a quicker, easier and more equitable immigration policy. Policies will then be drafted, voted on and passed into law. Many Mexicans choose not to legally immigrate to the U.S. because the process is extremely difficult. For some, perhaps, it is impossible. People will choose legal immigration to the U.S. over just swimming across the Rio Grande only if the proper channels are indeed the easier option. For industry, the easier option is the status quo. After all, why would they interrupt a system that allows them to pay below minimum wage with no benefits to a group of migrant extra-legals whose very situation allows for almost 100% turnover? As an added bonus, since they’re not citizens, if they get hurt at work, they can’t even sue for damages. Can you think of a better set of circumstances that keeps wages low and unions out? Why should industry get to prop up their earnings at the expense of keeping an entire class of people in a legal limbo? It seems harsh to advocate for immediate deportation, but I truly believe that market forces will exert such an enormous amount of pressure to come up with some kind of solution that we would have one relatively quickly.

Is it any surprise that Bush is advocating exactly what will give industry the greatest ability to abuse their workforce? Whatever rights these workers would have under a temporary work permit are a far cry from what they would receive as proper U.S. citizens. Every day we enable industry to take advantage of this situation we do a dis-service to migrant workers.

This blog is based on a true story.