Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pity the Poor Immigrant (with thanks to Bob Dylan)

It was in the paper today that St. Michael of Homeland Security is going to Get Tough with those awful illegal immigrants. Specifically, he's going to start chasing down and fining U.S. employers who don't clear up those "no match" letters - the ones that say, your employee's Social Security number isn't in the file. He's going after the employers because, of course, his department's ongoing attempts to find all these illegals and deport them have had about as much effect as spitting into the wind. I have one question for St. Michael:

You and what army?

The standard estimate of the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. is around 12 million. There are more illegal immigrants in the U.S., on that measure, than there are people in any of almost 150 countries (courtesy of the population list in Wikipedia).

In 2004 (the latest numbers on the official web site), Homeland Security had 183,000 employees. Of course that has changed; say it's doubled, to 366,000. Unlikely, given how cheap the Bush administration is for everything except the Iraq war; but assume it. That means that each Homeland Security employee, everybody down to the janitors and the guy in the mail room, has to go, and find, and process out, 33 illegal immigrants, in order to clean this up. And that assumes they do nothing else, including guarding the border and issuing the passports that everybody now has to have to go to Canada and Mexico and anywhere else.

So - this isn't possible, they're just blowing smoke to make the Republicans look good for the presidential campaign. Or, as one nurseryman I heard on the radio complained, they plan to turn local businessmen into their enforcement officers, and without any pay or benefits for doing the job, either. In fact, for some businesses, complying with this initiative will put them out of business, because as far as I can tell (from a couple of completely unscientific chats with people in the field), these really are jobs that many Americans will not do. It isn't just picking fruit, either - the jobs include a lot of stuff that used to be standard blue collar work: Hanging drywall. Painting. Doing garden maintenance. Making beds in hotels. Looking at the five guys roofing a house down the street from us, I have to wonder about them: do they have papers? Valid papers?

Which raises the question: even if it were possible to deport all these people, is this a good idea?? As far as I'm concerned, and even leaving aside the effect on agriculture, the service industries, and the construction trade, the answer is no. This is a country of immigrants. Everybody here, if you go back far enough, descends from an immigrant - even the Indians. They just got here first; but they came (it's pretty clear) from Asia. This country was built on immigration (see the verse on the Statue of Liberty); and it's been a good thing, too. The "greatest generation", the people who fought in World War II? Immigrants, or children of same, most of them.

I discussed this whole issue before, back in May 2006 (see The Immigrant Uprising), where I, and the commenters, covered many more aspects of this than I plan to go into here. If you're interested in the subject, I recommend you go read that thread. What got me posting today was the sheer chutzpah of the whole announcement, with no resources to enforce it any better than what we're doing now, except to put the whole thing on the business community, with threats of fines for non-compliance.

And, oh - if the immigrant has stolen an actual, valid Social Security number and is using that? No problema, amigo, the system won't catch it - and what an incentive to identity theft that is!

And given that Congress has already failed to produce a workable immigration bill, and has further covered itself with disrepute by handing the Attorney General the keys to the telephone system before scuttling home for a vacation which I hope they do not enjoy - I guess we're stuck with these yokels until the election.

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