Friday, April 30, 2010

Let's talk a little bit about immigration

So, Arizona has gone and passed a law requiring the officers there to harass brown people.

Congratulations, Arizona.  You officially suck.

But don't get me wrong, I get the sentiment.  The feds have laws on the books that are not being enforced.  They turn a blind eye to immigration issues.  Drug wars blaze along the borders, illegal immigrants trample the frontier, they bring crime, drugs, their gutter-speak foreign clicks and beeps that nobody can even hope to understand, all their babies and strange music...  It's scary.  I get it.

But in all seriousness and with sarcasm set aside, I do get it.  The feds are not enforcing the laws and don't seem particularly interested in doing so.  What's worse, any solution that comes out is likely not going to really solve the problem.  I mean, why would these illegals, who have shown that they have no regard for the law, voluntarily pay a fine in order to keep doing what they're already doing for free?  Why would they quit their job, go home, get back in line, and then wait to come back here to do what they're already doing?  Any real solution is going to have to involve some sort of system so that those who are here illegally will be able to remain here legally, but that's called "amnesty" by certain hysterics and that's just not going to fly.  It's clear the illegals are not going to be rounded up and sent home, and foolish to believe they're going to voluntarily go home only to get in line to come back, so the solutions seem unattainable and the problem considerably intractable.

So, we get garbage like SB 1070 that requires officers to request proof that someone is here legally if there's reason to suspect the person might not be here legally.  Not, mind you, asking for documentation during the normal course of interaction, such as asking for insurance, registration, and driver's license when you get pulled over.  You see, that's during the investigation of a crime--specifically someone getting pulled over for a moving violation--and an officer is simply verifying everything is in order.  No, this law authorizes--actually, requires--an officer to pull over, say, a mini van that has a dozen occupants because it MIGHT be carrying illegal immigrants.  Mind you, having 12 people in a car is not against the law.  Because 12 white people in a car might simply be doing some kind of stupid prank thing.  But apparently having 12 brown people in a car is reason to suspect someone is up to foul play.

That, quite honestly, is repugnant.

And I'm not saying that illegal immigration is not a crime.  It is a crime.  Hell, "illegal" is part of the term.  But the shocking (but true) thing is that the solution to the problem--the REAL solution--is not simply "enforcing the laws on the books".  Enforcing the laws on the books is what caused illegal immigration in the first place.  It's the laws on the books and regulatory rat-maze that has been created that makes simply picking up and walking across a desert a more appealing option than waiting for proper authorization.  It's like taking pain killers because the cancer inside you causes debilitating agony.  Sure, you may dull the pain, but the cancer is still there.

So, maybe enforcement is not really the solution.  After all, there's a reason people leave their homes, travel halfway across their country to a barren landscape, cross an increasingly hostile border on foot through some of the most brutal terrain you can imagine risking their very lives, only for the opportunity to work for nearly slave wages in jobs that afford them the opportunity to die from heat stroke, fertilizer poisoning, work hazards, or any number of other misfortunes that would never, ever befall workers afforded basic legal protections in the US.  Some of these jobs even allow us to enjoy the lifestyles we currently have, but could never afford if we paid a fair price for things like, oh, say food.

Why on earth would they put themselves through that?  And what on earth makes people think that if they get dropped off at the border with a stern warning to not come back that they won't, in fact, come right back?  

I mean, it's not like the typical immigrant is living in a lush condo on the outskirts of Mexico City and thinking to himself "this comfortable lifestyle is way too easy for me, I'm going to leave my comfortable middle class surroundings to be a slave in America!"  Maybe, just maybe, what they're leaving behind is far worse than a trek through brutal terrain that risks their very lives, or working for slave wages in jobs that afford them the chance of dropping dead from a plethora of maladies that you and I will never have to face.  Maybe, just maybe, state and federal policies actually encourage illegal immigration so that there will be a ready work force available to companies so that they can keep prices down and hire people to do jobs that Americans don't want (to do at prices the companies are willing to pay).  Maybe (and this is a big one, so keep up with me here) cheap oil keeps the price of fertilizer (which is derived from liberating nitrogen from fossil fuels) low enough to allow industrial farmers to produce ever more quantities of corn, which works to keep the price of corn low, which, in turn, requires subsidization from the federal government to guarantee a minimum price but also allows (and requires) mass commoditization of the corn grains in order to handle ever growing quantities of the crop which, in turn (and here's the real kicker), keeps food costs shockingly low for you and me but ALSO allows the US to export cheap corn across the border to Mexico (tariff free, thank you NAFTA) which, in turn, decimates the agricultural sector of Mexico that is centered around...  CORN!!  

Guess where those displaced farmers go.

And do you think rounding them up and shipping them back to Mexico is going to solve the problem?

I'm merely suggesting that illegal immigration isn't so much the problem, as it is the symptom.