Thursday, May 20, 2010


By Ivan G. Goldman

During his visit to Washington, Mexican President Felipe Calderon used coded language to assert once again that the best U.S. immigration policy along our southern border is not to have any. That’s been Mexico’s unofficial policy for decades, and all major political parties there support it.

The U.S. is a terrific safety valve for Mexico’s unemployed, and the dollars its displaced laborers send home keeps the place going. Adherents on both sides of the border, Calderon among them, figure anyone who’s managed to get inside the U.S.A. one way or another ought to be allowed to stay, especially if they stop looking for scarce jobs in Mexico and send money.

In my last post, when I juxtaposed Hitler’s infamous Nuremberg laws with the new Arizona law designed to catch and deport aliens, many readers seemed to think I sided with Calderon. I don’t. A country needs to control its borders. Otherwise, why be a country? We’d be attracting not just people looking for legitimate opportunities and freedom but also a wide range of felons and terrorists.

But stopping people and asking them for their papers because they look somehow foreign is a grievous practice that doesn’t reflect what our country is supposed to stand for. The solution to this quandary is in your wallet in the form of your high-tech ATM card. We need Social Security cards that, like ATM cards, can’t be forged and can be plugged into a central data bank. Anyone who employs people who don’t have the card should suffer serious penalties.

Under this logical system many people here illegally would go home and far fewer people would try to sneak in. But this very obvious solution is opposed by civil liberties advocates on the left and right because they fear it would infringe on our civil rights. They’re allied with greedhead corporations that don’t want to pay people what they’re worth.

We all know the current system. Would-be employees produce fake or borrowed Social Security cards printed with nineteenth century technology. They can be produced with a few clicks of a mouse. The corporations wink at these silly cards, record the bogus numbers for the IRS, and eventually, if the worker doesn’t skip to another job, the feds may catch the discrepancy, but then the employer can plead he did exactly what he was supposed to, so don’t blame him. Meanwhile the worker has moved on to another job site with the same bogus card or perhaps another one, starting the process all over again.

The meat-packing industry, for example, pays its lobbyists to keep the system in place so it can continue to hire eminently exploitable undocumented aliens to do dirty jobs for half their economic worth. Working on offshore oil rigs and mining coal that’s deep underground are dirty, dangerous jobs. Americans fill them because those industries pay what the jobs are worth.

If all industries did this it would raise the price of some goods – lettuce, for example -- but it would also create good-paying jobs for people who need them and we wouldn’t be saddled with a system that makes no sense.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) have a bill in the hopper that would create what they call a “high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card” that would be required for all employees in the United States. But their bill specifically prohibits the information from being plugged into a national data bank, making it pretty much unworkable. The fact is, we need to know that people working in this country have a legal right to do so, and if people like Calderon don’t like it, they can earn the right to influence our domestic policies by applying for U.S. citizenship.

My new political satire Exit Blue (Black Heron Press; 2010) is now available online and in stores.


tnlib said...

I lived in AZ for a time and the illegal immigration problem is very real. But what also is very real is the fact that employers can't find Anglos who are willing to work for slave labor wages.

In an interview with Fox News McCain said illegals should be deported but employers should not be prosecuted for hiring them. Of course most people recognize that the former POW is getting a bit senile, but even for him this is a bit over the top.

The very people who supported this law are the same people who've been hiring illegals for years - to tend their lawns, do the housework, take care of the children, maintain the golf courses, muck out stalls, plant and harvest the crops, and so on and on. It's a very feudal society.

Ivan G. Goldman said...

Maintaining a system that winks at employers hiring workers from the Third World desperate for any kind of job is not humane for these exploited workers or for the Americans who should be filling those jobs at higher wages. What it does is turn the system of supply and demand on its head. And there's a way to stop it.

Greg said...

To start with, your blog is excellent. I wish writers of your caliber and - more importantly-conscience, were the voice of the mainstream.

I just wanted to add, Robert Kennedy Jr. cited an interesting statistic recently: there were an estimated 1 million illegal immigrants when Reagan took office; there were 11 million when he left. The main reason, the destruction of unions in America. As always, the public is sent chasing the wrong villains. Stop illegal employment.
(oh but no american's WANT to do those jobs. Yes that's true, so lets get to the real problem - create a federal living wage, and enforce it, subsidize it where it makes sense.

Ivan G. Goldman said...

Absolutely. Pay workers what their jobs are worth and citizens will take the jobs. Many of these problems can be traced to a Constitution that gives more representation to archconservative rural regions than to places where people actually live and to a political system of legalized extortion. It seems all we can do is try to control the worst excesses. And thanks for the kind words.