Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Warning to Republicans

Despite having received Lou Dobbs' personal seal of approval, the California Border Police Initiative is a miserable failure.

A proposal to create a state-run border police force won't be on the ballot this summer after failing to garner enough signatures to qualify for the June election.

The initiative would have created a California agency to help the federal government patrol the California-Mexico border and arrest illegal immigrants in nonborder communities like North County and Southwest Riverside County. Backers of the measure fell about 100,000 signatures short of the 600,000 signatures required to put the initiative on the June 6 ballot, campaign director George Andrews said Monday, the deadline for turning in the signatures.
Please note that line about "nonborder communities." Despite its name, the "Border Police" would've operated throughout the state, creating a monumental headache for local law-enforcement agencies, and - almost certainly - harassing anyone who "looks illegal."

The Initiative was doomed to be struck down as unconstitutional even if it had passed, of course. It's probably just as well that it won't make the ballot, from the Republican perspective. Although some commentators have claimed that illegal immigration will be a huge issue in the 2006 elections, the defeat of Jerry Kilgore (R-VA) ought to be as sobering for the GOP as it was for the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Kilgore ran....on the death penalty and especially immigration, which ought to be a warning to Republicans in Congress who think getting tough on the border is the key to victory in 2006. At times Mr. Kilgore seemed to be running for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Commissioner, not Governor. But immigration is an issue, like trade, that always looks better in the polls than it does on election day; very few people vote because of it.
Even if they did, they might find themselves outvoted by big business. The Department of Labor estimates that illegal immigrants comprise 53 percent of the nation’s agricultural laborers; the real number is probably a good deal higher, given that capitalism thrives on dirt-cheap, disempowered labor. The Bush administration - like the GOP as a whole - tends to give factory farms a regulatory pass at the expense of family farms that obey the law, and the corporations that run these huge farms have generally been willing to fill Republican coffers in return. Thus, as I argued earlier:
GOP politicians must promise much, and deliver as little as possible, while pretending that liberals are tying their hands.
A new study questions whether illegal immigration has actually hurt California's economy, all things considered. Whether it has or not, I suspect that stupid, expensive, bigoted, and hysterical responses to illegal immigration ultimately pose a greater risk to California than the immigrants themselves do. Consider, for instance, this pointless border fence:
The wall will devastate the Tijuana Estuary, home to some of the rarest plants, birds and coastal land in the country....

History has shown that walls don't work; they just push migrants into more dangerous crossing areas where they are more likely to die. Data compiled by the Mexican Migration Project shows that in 1988 about 70 percent of crossings occurred either at Tijuana-San Diego, or in Texas at Juarez-El Paso, while 29% crossed in more remote border regions. After the construction of walls, that 29% had grown to 64%. Undocumented migrants simply started going around the more fortified sectors.

That has made border crossings more deadly. The chance of dying while crossing is triple what it was a decade ago. The inland landscape east of San Diego is harsh, outside temperatures range from over 100 degrees to well below zero, and there is no water. This year, 472 have died as of Sept. 30 and 26,000 have been rescued.
As I see it, we're wasting money, sacrificing natural resources, and killing people in order to pretend that illegal immigration isn't being driven primarily by the firms that profit from it, most of which tend to back - and be backed by - the cheap-labor wing of the GOP.

1 comment:

Engineer-Poet said...

The businesses which benefit the most from illegal labor don't pay for the schools, ER visits (because illegals don't have health insurance) or other excess costs their practices impose.

Of course they're in favor of shifting their expenses to other people.  It's great for the bottom line!

As for the expense of illegal labor, you can go through and find all kinds of figures regarding the expenses of welfare benefits for the children of illegals, schools, roads and other infrastructure which have to be built to accomodate their swelling numbers (and don't forget the ecological damage of that), and the human and financial cost of the crime they cause.