Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken a principled stand in favor of the "Minutemen," a patriotic organization sworn to protect America from those dusky-hued fiends who are - at this very moment! - plotting to work for the low wages offered illegally by American agribusiness and suburban homeowners:
"It's no different than if you have a neighborhood watch person there that's watching your children at the playground. I don't see it any different....(The) key to the whole thing that we have no violations, and we have no one carrying guns, and no one is harassing people," he said. "But they notify the border patrol if they miss somebody -- end of story."Interestingly enough, these are pretty much the same words Tom DeLay used when asked on April 14 about the Minutemen:
It's no different than neighborhood-watch programs and I appreciate them doing it, as long as they can do it safely and don't get involved and do it the way they seem to be doing it, and that's just identifying people for the Border Patrol to come pick up.Great minds think alike! Unfortunately, an article from the Brownsville Herald, dated September 18, suggests that they also think inaccurately:
"The group has been infiltrated by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and slightly unstable gun types," said Heidi Beirich, the deputy director for the SPLC.You can't really trust the SPLC, of course...they're partisan. However, these charges are echoed by actual members of the Minutemen:
Janet Ahrens was one of the original Minuteman organizers in Goliad, a chapter that dissolved earlier this week. Her letter is rife with criticism of the group's leadership, truthfulness, regulations, sexism, racism and intentions.I must say, most of the political outrage over illegal immigration seems to me to be spun from the finest, frailest gossamer. In my neighborhood, virtually every house sported one or more pro-Bush banners in the weeks prior to the election. And virtually all of these households hire illegal immigrants on a weekly or even daily basis. Even in cases where they hire white contractors, much of the actual work tends to be done by Mexicans and Central Americans.
"This operation has been based on deceit," Ahrens wrote. "I find it deceitful for such an important cause (to) cast the shadow of racism." She called the group "just a bunch of misguided souls" who want to "shoot the taco meat."
To be fair, I personally know contractors who pay skilled illegal workers the fair market value for their work (which is between $30 and $50 per hour, in this area). But this is much more the exception than the rule.
The American economy doesn't just like cheap, disempowered, non-organized labor...it literally relies on it. The political noises to the contrary are, in most cases, a cynical recognition that this is an issue to which lip service must be paid. As with abortion, GOP politicians must promise much, and deliver as little as possible, while pretending that liberals are tying their hands.
It seems to me that the only consistent libertarian or free market position would be to view immigration controls as a non-tariff barrier to trade. Services are clearly tradeable goods, and regulating trade - to say nothing of the freedom to enter into contracts - is supposed to be an inherent evil.
If the brutal sweatshop conditions in Saipan aren't a moral issue for global capital's fearless advocates, than I don't see why illegal immigration in the United States should be. If we're to sacrifice all our ideals to the bottom line, with the understanding that what's good for business is good for America, then it's clear that illegal immigration - which fulfills the capitalist wish-list of low wages, limited human rights, and little or no regulation - is an inestimable boon to our nation. The fact that the blame for any negative effects of this system can be deflected away from the businesses and politicians who profit from it, and onto the immigrants themselves, is the cherry on top.
The protectionist arguments that illegal immigration depresses wages, increases healthcare costs, and enables terrorism are all true, to varying extents. But many other corporatist policies depress wages, and increase healthcare costs and the risk of terrorism without exciting complaint from the anti-immigration crowd. This makes one suspect that the latter group is driven less by patriotic concern than by garden-variety xenophobia and scapegoating.
At any rate, our reliance on illegal immigrant labor is simply another example of our preference for short-term profits over long-term sustainability. The people who are getting most upset about it may want to rethink some of their pet theories and political affiliations.