Get back to work.
I’ll say it again: some of you have literally made a job out of preventing other people from doing theirs. Stop, go back to work and do something useful. You busy yourself with the task of harassing people who are coming to this country and busting their ass with insanely hard work in order to make a better life for their families. Granted, they don’t have the appropriate papers to be here but instead of wasting your time trying to keep them out, why not embrace the reality of this situation and find a workable solution to cope with what is happening? Somehow along the way you have confused citizenship with what it means to be American. What these people are doing is in fact the very essence of what it means to be American. Remember that we came uninvited to this country to escape a crappy situation at home and build a better life. We certainly didn’t get our papers from the Indians when we arrived. And yet because the illegals that come over now lack official documents stamped with official symbols, you decide to waste ungodly sums of money raised through the efforts of those of us who are working in a futile attempt to prevent them from being here. And the worst is that they’re doing jobs that nobody wants to do anyways. Frankly, those people are way more American than the ones that are born here who choose to sit on a couch and collect welfare.
I’m an Arizona native of thirty-two years. I’ve had the privilege of watching Phoenix evolve to become the fifth largest city in the US. It’s a place of incredible potential and yet we are home to some of the most right-wing, close-minded curmudgeons imaginable. We have a sheriff that makes his prisoners wear pink underwear because he can. We have wacko, sanctioned vigilantes at the Mexico border called “minute men” who are armed with rifles and pistols volunteering to pick off anyone who comes across. I love this State but we are famous for our “Rambo-style” idiocy and legislative blunders like the conversion natural gas debacle. About once a year we seem to fall on our face with a new piece of ill-conceived legislation from our government. And in keeping with that tradition this year we now have this latest disaster-of-a-law (House Bill 2779) that is supposedly the magic cure for stopping illegal immigrants. Let me explain why this is not going to work.
I am not a lawyer but from what I can understand from reading this bill, this law which becomes effective 1/1/08 proposes to attack the problem of illegal immigration by giving the State government teeth to go after businesses that hire an illegal. Sounds great on paper, right? Consider though that one infraction from a company doing business in AZ made unknowingly can result in suspension of their business license. A second infraction discovered (not committed) during the probationary period results in the permanent revocation of their business license. Companies headquartered in AZ that have employees in other states? All employees layed off. Companies with thousands of employees where two somehow slipped past HR’s eligibility screening? Goodnight. Critical infrastructure companies like hospitals, public transportation, utility companies? Not exempt. The obvious flaws with this legislation that somehow escaped those signing it into law:
How does the State propose to process the influx of complaints? The government staffing necessary to receive and enforce the complaints – where does that money come from?
How about the fun new burden on HR in every company in Arizona? They’re required to maintain compliance by periodically re-verifying each employee’s I-9? How many person-hours per year across every company in AZ will be required to perform this task and from where will these hours come?
Provided that resources magically manifest on both the government and business sides of the equation, do you really believe this top-down approach is going to stop some guy from hiking across the desert or piling into a van to come to America when his family is starving and there’s no way to provide for them at home?
So what we end up with is the same number of illegal immigrants entering the country now with zero chance of doing anything productive for society once they’re here. They’ll still have the same starving family at home so either they’ll turn to crime to raise the money necessary to feed them or you’ll see them begging on the median at the highway on-ramp. All this law does is guarantee extra headaches for employers, added taxes to fund more beaucracy and paper-pushing in government, and the displacement of illegals from constructive jobs to crime and destitution.
I love Arizona but I’m afraid this is shaping up to be another faceplant in our tradition of ill-conceived legislative moves. This bill is not the product of trying to come to a realistic solution, it’s clearly the re-election tactic of a few politicians wanting to win votes by pinning the hard-ass immigration star on their lapel. Were they to be responsible for actually implementing this (beyond signing the parchment) there is no way in hell this would fly. We need to take a Freakonomics perspective here and ensure incentives are at work at every juncture of solving this problem. We need to establish a scorecard for how effectively the bills passed by each Senator actually performed at accomplishing their objectives- basically a fantasy league for Senators that tracks what they did. Campaigning becomes dramatically less important at that point- just look at their scorecard for how well they did last term.
So to summarize: yes I realize we need some kind of mechanism to deal with illegal immigration but this law is not the way. Piling up sandbags to prevent a flood works in situations where there are acute and infrequent downpours. But when it’s the ocean that’s steadily encroaching, sandbags aren’t going to help- you need to rethink the problem and figure out how to work within the reality of the new terrain. As cheesy as the acting in this movie is, it has an interesting premise: what would happen if all the illegal immigrants suddenly vaporized? Think about it: agricultural industry would grind to a halt, restaurants would be left with nobody in the kitchen, good luck finding a gardener, the construction industry would collapse… These people perform jobs that nobody else wants to do. Who is going to tar a roof in a 120deg Arizona summer? Certainly not the guy sitting on his couch collecting a welfare check, he’s busy watching Jerry Springer. Rather than wasting immense resources to “vaporize” these immigrants, we need to figure out how to utilize them. Think amnesty programs. Think multi-lingual centers for processing new entrants and having probationary “parole office” arrangements whereby these people check in, contribute taxes on their earnings and are accounted for. Contrary to belief, reduction in the supply of menial labor jobs does not take away gainful employment from American citizens, it frees them up to do more interesting, fulfilling and skilled work.
I’ve already wasted too much time in writing this letter. And you as well in reading it.
Get back to work.