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.