I’m so sad for Arizona right now. In one week they passed themselves two archaic laws, tried to pass a third, and handed down racially biased edicts on their school system. The first law encourages, or perhaps requires, police officers to demand proof of citizenship from anyone who “looks like they might be an illegal immigrant.” Governor Jan Brewer was asked point blank by a reporter “What does an illegal alien look like? Do I look like an illegal alien?”
That same week Arizona made it legal for any of their citizens to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. I said archaic, because it’s true. Do we need to walk around carrying guns in our pockets and purses? Really? In what way does this lead to a safer, saner, more civilized society? I already know for a fact that the vast majority of gun murders are carried out in this country using pocket pistols. Those murders far outweigh the same statistics of personal handguns being used successfully and legitimately for self defense. Point of fact, too, that if you own a gun and anybody gets shot with it, the most likely statistical candidates are you, your spouse, or your kids. As you may have guessed, having that gun on your person raises the stakes against you and yours dramatically. I encourage you to check those stats for yourself, and I say again that those most likely to die by the gun are those who are personally closest to the gun owner: husband, wife, kids, in descending order to close friends and business associates. And yet with all this I tell you that I’d rather the good people of Arizona can carry guns legally as long as they are banned from passing more stupid, racist laws.
But maybe something did happen in Arizona that I’m not aware of--- maybe Billy the Kid suddenly resurrected and I didn’t hear about it, formed a new gang and he’s a riden’ agin', robbing stagecoaches wherever he may go.
Also that same week the Arizona House passed the “birther law," the one which legitimizes a crazy conspiracy theory that our president is not an American citizen and would seek to require of him to provide proof directly to Arizona of his citizenship before he can campaign for re-election in the state in 2012. So far, the law has only passed the Arizona House and not the Senate, but I see no reason to hide the fact that it was authored and passed by Republicans -- the party of “I don’t know what” at this point. Last but not least, Arizona has mandated to cut any ethnic studies classes across the state and to fire any English teacher who speaks with a foreign accent deemed “too thick”. All this in about one week, and all taken together, these things paint a very vivid picture of a state which slept through the last century keeping their un-evolved values perfectly preserved. There is a point at which it behooves leaders to be leaders and not to pander and encourage the basest of all human traits: fear, anger, or hate. Understand that it's not any one law or act or bit of legislation -- it's the combination of events painting this state one monolithic shade of ugly.
There are nearly two million Mexican American citizens in Arizona, about one third of the total population of this State, versus an estimated 450,000 illegal immigrants. I venture to guess that nearly all of those Mexican American legal residents bear some resemblance to Mexican Nationals. Just in numeric terms, there aren’t enough police officers in Arizona to question them all. If you were to stop, detain and search these specific US citizens -- a process which would probably extend into the next century -- you will have violated the constitutional rights of two million Americans right there, all for a one in five chance of finding what you’re looking for. But hey, lawsuits, our constitution, and sheer impracticality aside, who have you caught and what have you accomplished for it? At best you’ve apprehended a low wage worker who is in this country for a job. Make no mistake: as long as this “problem” has existed-- decades at least, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of workers in this state, working. In terms of criminal offenses, how bad is that really? I was always taught that labor was noble, and not exactly bad for the economy. How is it that this illegal workforce equals about eight percent of the population, gainfully employed, or at least, employed, when the documented unemployment rate in this State is higher than eight percent? Does this not strike you as peculiar?
This is where the “they took our jobs!” argument would normally come in. But did they really? Show me. Show me that the same employers who habitually hire illegal aliens to do various types of work, who have been doing so for decades, hiring nearly half a million undocumented aliens, would so happily hire an American citizen instead. They can right now, can’t they? So what stops them? They don’t want to. They make a lot more money by hiring illegal labor. They keep their costs down. They compete in the marketplace by doing so. They even compete against foreign markets in the same lines of work. They know it’s a risk, they know they’re breaking the law and they do it anyway because it keeps them in business. Hmmm, and how much easier would it be to bust businesses known to habitually employ not one, but tens or hundreds of illegal workers? Answer: much easier. That’s probably do-able. Ask your local police force where most of the illegal workforce is employed-- think they don’t know?
Next concern: but what about all these low wage workers who aren’t paying taxes? Well what about them? Do we collect income taxes on Chinese laborers working in China? How about the same Mexican laborers working in another state, like California, or what about all those strawberries we buy out of season from South America? But no, you’re right, Arizona. Let’s mock up the scenario of all the illegal aliens in this state, gone. That’s 450,000 jobs suddenly vacated. What a boon to the unemployed US citizen who will obviously and immediately be offered living wage work by these same employers! Why, we’d wipe out unemployment in this State entirely. Ok, Ok, it’s a little hard to write for all the laughing going on at this end, but I’ll indulge the theory: go ahead. Kick them all out. California will be happy to have them. Texas too. California already kills Arizona in the marketplace, why not take it all the way.
These industries, tax paying businesses no less, which habitually rely upon cheap foreign labor in Arizona would not survive the blow to their bottom line. They’d be gone too. Those businesses which are able to relocate most certainly would do so. Those which can’t will surely file for bankruptcy in this fine State of Mavericks where everyone they owe--Arizona banks, Savings and Loans, private investors--all take the hit. Of any single destructive act I could visit on Arizona -- one designed to bury their economy-- removing all the illegal aliens would have to rank in the top three. Truly lock up the borders and every job associated with border patrol in this state is gone too.
The undocumented workforce is here because our businesses want them here, working to keep them in business and keep them profitable. Turn all those jobs legit and legal and the first thing you’ll find is that Americans won’t tolerate those wages, hours and working conditions. Next you see those businesses go belly up, relocate out of State or out of country, or outsource the jobs overseas if they can, just to stay in business. We have always, always relied on cheap labor in this country to stay competitive. It’s a sad fact, but hiring illegally is like getting two employees for the price of one and that’s a big incentive. If our precious politicians want to make a real impact they know right where the law enforcement needs to be applied, and they don’t put the pressure there. It’s absolute hypocrisy. The last thing they want is to drive business from their State. I know it’s a big shock that a politician would pass ridiculous laws which have no positive impact on an issue just to make themselves more popular with voters, but take a deep breath, have a seat, and know that this is true.
I’m sure I didn’t mention it yet but last time Arizona pulled a racist hissy fit and refused to recognize Martin Luther King’s birthday, they lost at least 350 million dollars over it due to boycotts from saner states and more enlightened individuals. Workers and commerce equal prosperity, plain and simple. Disrupt that and how can you be called anything but stupid? I have hardly begun to argue the human indignity of it all. My hypothetical argument is that Arizona be granted their bloody wish and that half a million hard working producers of real results go back to Mexico murmuring apologies for all that rampant productivity. Learn that your final solution is no solution at all. Put real dollar values on your estimates which include the prosperity of your local businesses-- at the expense, in fact, of illegal laborers who enjoy no protection under the law, no overtime, no health care, no workers comp, no paid leave, no SSI, no unemployment. Just admit it already: you hate them, but you need them. You are the threat. The “other” is, in fact, you.