Thursday, April 07, 2005

April 6, 2005

Immigration Whores

Ah, terrorism, the all-purpose excuse for almost anything these days. Whenever politicians are up to no good they mask their monkey business in a great cause; fighting Communism, war on poverty, making the world safe for democracy and of course, protecting Americans from terrorists.

Since 9/11 we have seen terrorism used for a lot of questionable stuff, including torture, and bombing, or threatening to bomb, the crap out of any country that looks at us sideways.

Which brings me to the latest anti-terrorism scam… immigration reform. Did you hear? If Osama bin Laden wants to sneak into the US across the Mexican boarder he has only three years left to do so. Beginning in 2008 he will need a passport. That’s the Bush administration’s idea of immigration and national security reform.

Feel safer? Yep, that should do it. Unless of course bin Laden’s minion decide to take the scenic route into the US along any of the few hundred miles of rusty two-strand barbwire in New Mexico or Arizona or Texas or California.

So, what’s really up with all this? Well, first, it has nothing to do with bin Laden or keeping terrorists out of the US. It’s about getting elected in 2008.

We are talking immigration here… the new Third Rail of politics. With US voters split almost 50/50, red/blue, Confederate/Union, both parties see the Hispanic vote as their ticket to office. Remember when being black was all the rage in Washington? Well, African Americans are so yesterday. Affirmative action what? It’s “que pasa, amigo,” time in Washington now.

Proof abounds. Today’s news that the US is going to get tough on illegal immigration by requiring passports when crossing Canadian or Mexican boarder points is just a way members of both parties can look like they’re doing something about illegals without risking pissing off Hispanic voters in key states like Arizona and New Mexico. After all, down there “they don’t need no stinkin’ passports.” They just stroll across the boarder.

As for the national security angle, give me a break. No self-respecting terrorist would be lame enough to apply for a passport. Why would they when they can just slip on a Corona tee shirt, a baseball cap and blend into a group of Mexican workers sneaking across the boarder during the normal Monday morning commute? It’s so easy I am surprised some enterprising American entrepreneur hasn’t organized a “Run For the Boarder” adventure tourism business for bored yuppies.

Let me stop here for a moment to make something perfectly clear. I am not a white supremacist nut or anti-immigrant. I am here because my grandparents immigrated (legally) from Sicily early in the last century. I am just against uncontrolled, illegal immigration – as you should be as well -- and, as should all our elected representatives.

Don’t look to Washington for any genuine help. Members of both parties are too busy selling their votes to phony Hispanic “immigration rights” groups. These groups have already succeeded in making it politically incorrect to oppose illegal immigration. I call them phony because they are not talking about protecting legal immigrants. They are talking about illegal immigrants. This has to be the first political movement in US history with the chutzpah to insist that law enforcers clear the path for illegal activity.

But they a good, I’ll give them that. They hit the political correctness jackpot with their new slogan, “No human being is illegal.” Cute, but spare me the phony bleeding hearts. It’s not their humanness that is illegal, but their immigration status. (That kind of crap really pisses me off.)

One of the dangers of talking straight about illegal immigration is that the issue has always been a favorite of rightwing and racist groups. And the immigration rights folks have used that unfortunate fact skillfully to keep liberals and progressives away from the issue. On the right side of the political spectrum they play a different game. By encouraging GOP pols to side with them they offer them the opportunity to chip away at a traditionally Democratic voting block and to look less like the Wonderbread party at the same time.

So, how much is all this nonsense costing you? Plenty, according to a recent Center for Immigration Studies Report: I am not going to snow you under with numbers but here are few you should chew on:

• Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 while paying only $16 billion in taxes a $10.4 billion deficit, or $2,700 per illegal household.

• Among the largest costs are those to already hard-pressed Medicaid - $2.5 billion for treatment of the uninsured ($2.2 billion); plus food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).

• Even if illegal aliens were given amnesty and began to pay taxes and use services like households headed by legal immigrants with the same education levels, the estimated annual net fiscal deficit would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total net cost of $29 billion.

The political hypocrisy on both sides of the US/Mexican border is so thick you need a chainsaw to cut it. Recently President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox met. Fox used the occasion to lash out at those in the US who want to do anything about illegal immigration.

Ah but all you have to do is look south to see something very different. Mexico has, you might say, it’s own Mexico south of them, Honduras. Mexico has been complaining for years that their southern neighbor wasn’t doing enough to control illegal immigration. It seems Mexicans did not appreciate even lower wage Hondurans and drug smugglers flooding into their country.

And, while Fox complained bitterly that Mexican illegals face rough handling by US border patrols, things are a lot worse for Hondurans sneaking into Mexico. Many of the illegals in Mexico, who emigrate from Central and South America, complain say they are robbed, beaten and murdered by Mexican authorities and organized gangs. (According to human rights group, El Universal, 142 Hondurans died in Mexico in 2003 while migrating north, and Mexico deported approximately 36,000 others.)

For President Bush immigration is not a national security issue, but a political issue. And, for President Fox it’s a national economic imperative. Illegal immigrants produce more revenue each year for Mexico than the country’s oil resources. By not only allowing illegal immigration, but also actually facilitating it, Fox shifts his country’s fiscal deficit from Mexican taxpayers to American taxpayers. Simple as that.

But members in Congress are facing increasing pressure from southwest voters to do something about illegal immigration. Notice the so-called “Minute Man,” citizen patrols going on this week in Arizona. The heat is on from legal Americans. Even many naturalized Mexican/Americans worry that the flood of illegals into the US threatens to turn this country into the country they fled.

Bush’s solution is to legalize illegals that want to work here while holding out the promise of a future amnesty. He figures that’s going to be a real vote getter in the southwest, and he is probably right. The trouble is, while the issue may be win for some politicians, it’s a losser for the country. One of the key findings of this CIS report was that legalization would dramatically increase the costs of illegal immigration.

Even if illegals were given green cards and began to pay taxes and use services like legal immigrants, the net annual fiscal deficit at the federal level would increase from $2,736 to $7,668 per household under the most likely scenario. (Total costs could grow from $10.4 billion a year to $28.8 billion. That’s how much the vote selling on this issue will cost you if they succeed.)

Just Do It!
So, what should Washington do about illegal immigration? Requiring passports is not going to stop a single determined illegal. Period. And, we have too long a boarder to build an Israeli-type wall. Nor can we hire enough boarder patrol agents to stop all illegal crossings.

Bu the solution is really quite simple, and cheap. Focus on the two magnets that draw illegal immigrants form Mexico in the first place: jobs and US citizenship for children born here.

Begin by aggressively enforcing sanctions against American companies that employ illegals. Instead of wasting time futilely patrolling a thousand miles of border, INS agents should put on suits and ties and audit workplaces. And this time put real teeth into the law. Any employer caught hiring illegals should face a stiff fine calculated as a percentage of that company’s gross adjusted income for the last tax year. Any subsequent offenses and the percentage penalty doubles, then triples, etc. Sooner or later the fines would be so large that it just would not be worth it to hire low-wage illegals.

Then change US citizenship law to require than any baby born of an illegal must apply for US citizenship just like anyone else, whether baby is born to a foreign “visitor” or an illegal. Sorry kid, but don’t blame us, blame the people who run Mexico.

Don’t hold your breath though. Niether of those two changes will happen. Why? Because they would work, that’s why. And, because they would work, they would lose contributions and votes from two of Washington’s most important constituents these days, businesses looking for low wage workers and Hispanic groups looking to re-colonize El Norte and then, using simple birthrate demographics, finish the job.

But instead of doing anything real Washington will hire more people to check passports of regular chumps and tourists crossing the border legally. Meanwhile there are already large sections of Los Angeles and Miami and other major US cities where, if you don’t speak or read Spanish you’re a foreigner. I call it the Quebecization of America.

Oh, and of course our ballots are available in Spanish now too, which is another reason nothing is going to change.

I wonder what would happen if I snuck into Mexico and started demanding that their ballots be available in English. But then, I don't have to wonder too long.

Hasta amigos y amigas. Or something like that...

Raconteur at Large

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