Thursday, February 15, 2007

Waste to Energy

The Alamogordo Daily News has taken the remarkable step of fact-checking the pronouncements of anti-immigration activist Cliff Milburn, a member of the New Mexico Minutemen, who claims that "busloads of children...come across the border from Las Palomas, Mexico, to attend school in Luna County, New Mexico":

Las Palomas and Columbus, N.M., have a number of intergovernmental agreements to share various services. For example, Columbus provides fire and ambulance services to Las Palomas; kindergarten through sixth grade students from Las Palomas are bused to school in Columbus. The students are not illegal immigrants. Columbus and the school district are reimbursed by Las Palomas for providing those services.
Milburn also claims that "800 illegals a day receive medical service at Thomason Hospital in El Paso." The ADN begs to differ:
Thomason's emergency room treats, on average, 145 people a day, and the hospital has a total of 346 beds.
Apparently, Milburn is worried about disease, too. And with all those cases of Morgellons plaguing the Southwest, who can blame him? Even if it's not a real disease, we can still blame illegal immigrants for the prevalence of meth psychosis, one common symptom of which is delusional parasitosis.

Somehow, Milburn neglected to mention the link between illegal immigrants, meth, and identity theft:
“Look at the states that have the highest rates of identity theft -- Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas and Colorado,’’ Mr. Morales said. “The two things they all have in common are illegal immigration and meth.”
Actually, these states all have three things in common: illegal immigration, meth, and Carl's Jr. franchises.

I hardly think I need to spell out the implications.

Perhaps it'd be worthwhile to look at some accurate statistics relating to illegal immigration. Subtopia describes the exciting boom in inflatable detention centers:
“With roughly 1.6 million illegal immigrants in some stage of immigration proceedings, ICE holds more inmates a night than Clarion hotels have guests, operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines....”

[T]hese new immigration detention zones are reviving old communities leftover from the mining industry that now thrive around the replacement industry of operating prisons; truly a carceral urbanism.
We all know how valuable unregulated, disempowered, dirt-cheap labor is to agribusiness. The boom in private detention facilities shows another way in which illegal immigration contributes to the local and national economy, and helps to rejuvenate towns that have been devastated by offshoring and other desiderata of the Invisible Hand.

There are even more exciting possibilities, though. Large detention centers produce impressive amounts of sewage, which can be used as fertilizer for nonfood crops like cotton and alfalfa, or - for more enlightened communities - as a source of sustainable power:
"For every megawatt of (waste to energy) you make in the state, you keep a half-million dollars in the state," says Mulder, who estimates that converting all of Michigan's sewage into electricity could produce between 30 and 50 megawatts each year -- enough to power more than 25,000 households annually.
It's almost as elegant and impersonal as the nitrogen cycle: immigrants come across the border, perform a bit of quasi-slave labor, spend a year or two as part of a sewage-fueled power plant (with a bit of piecework on the side, perhaps), and then return to their home countries to begin the cycle anew.

Granted, this might upset a few people like Cliff Milburn. But the people who count don't care what folks like him think, any more than their early 20th-century forebears cared whether some old codger preferred his mule team to the Model T. You can't stop progress!

(Photo by Kirsten Luce.)

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