Sep 13

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.


    19 Responses to “An open letter to anti-immigration fanatics”

    1. Kingofpunk says:

      Thank you for this post, I fight for the same things as you in France and Europe, and I am totally agree with you

    2. Billy Halsey says:

      I agree with everything you’ve said, Sean. San Diego is a border town if ever there was one. I am going to take some time, though, to respond, because, hey, I’m not working at the moment.

      One thing you didn’t address was that when Arizona businesses begin to feel the pressure, they’re going to leave Arizona. How’s that going to help your state economy? Alternatively, I could sit here in San Diego, create a corporation that employs hundreds of illegal workers from Yuma to Tucson, and presumably (I haven’t read the law you’re referring to), my corporation would be immune. Sounds fair? Definitely not.

      One thing I have never understood, and I never stood for, is citizenship by inheritance. I believe that everyone, even those of us who are born in the US, should have some sort of citizenship requirements beyond simply where or to whom we are born. But then, like John Lennon, what I’d really like to see is an end to borders entirely.

      Just like any other class of people (widowers, Republicans, those with HIV, or atheists), you can’t tell by looking whether someone is a permanent resident, natural-born citizen, holder of a temporary work or student visa, or a completely undocumented alien. That goes for Mexicans and other Latinos as well as people of other nationalities; while most people would argue that “Mexicans are the problem,” let’s not forget that people from every country come to the US, and Latinos aren’t the only ones who do so illegally. But who ever suspects an illegal French family? Meanwhile, the guy at the corner taco shop catches hell all the time, even though he was born and grew up in Orange County.

      Last thought: It was their country first, just like the Indians. I live in San Diego, you live in Phoenix. Wait — weren’t those part of Mexico before we went to war over Texas? New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming, too. Or have we forgotten that, like we’ve forgotten the Native Americans?

    3. TOMAS says:

      Whoa, it takes some guts to throw a post like this out there – kudos on the post Sean.

    4. J.J. Merrick says:

      I totally agree. Here in the south I really think it is just a way for Good Ole Boy’s to let out their pent up racism. They yell the mantra “But they ain’t legal, send them back!” and I feel it is just a way for them to “legally” be racist towards Hispanics.

    5. Zach says:

      I don’t mind people coming here to work hard. I mind people coming here and executing teenagers at a high school (New Jersey) and killing people in car accidents when they don’t have a license or insurance (which happens a bit here in NC).

    6. Justin says:

      I think the issue for the biggest anti-immigration supporters is the conversion of small town America. Perhaps in your ‘big city’ you’re used to the big mix. However, in rural areas where the downtowns were once WASP shopping and ‘cultural’ havens, it’s a different story. Like some illegal immigrants don’t want to integrate with American culture, rural folks don’t want to integrate with Mexican culture.

      I, for one, am from a small town that went from one little Mexican restaurant to every single store front catering to Spanish speaking only. Mexican flags are the only flags present other than the courthouse and banks. The local Walmart went from mostly English to mostly Spanish. The only performing arts center was burnt down by a latino gang as part of an initiation.

      So what? Well, that kind of thing makes a lot of people angry. In a relatively short time frame it went, from classic America to “little Mexico City”.

      Cities can absorb those changes by calling them cutesy “neighborhoods” — “little Italy”, “china town”, “ghetto”. A small town is only one neighborhood; it can be only one thing.

      The other side of the coin? Rural downtowns are a dying thing. Classic America is really a relic and immigrants could be a scapegoat for its departure. Perhaps the immigrants are actually saving little downtown America. Who knows, I moved five years ago.

    7. reusha2000 says:

      It’s people like you that’s the problem. People like you are why this situation has reached this point. We have laws follow them! Stop nickpicking the ones you want to follow. Stop being a “MAGNET” and aid for this. Look beyond that thing on your face. Millions have died protecting this country. Do you sit at your physical home with your door open letting every Tom, Dick And Harry walk thru? NO!!
      We are a country with “OUR” laws Follow Them!!!

    8. Encouraged says:

      I think it is wonderful that we can get all this cheap labor in American and don’t have to go to China to get it. I have a business that I can’t export to Chinese laborers who will work for 70 cents an hour. But when I use latinos, I can pay them cash without because they are subcontractors. I don’t have to worry about workman’s comp, insurance or any other governmental nonsense. Not only that Latinos work harder than Americans

    9. Excellent – well put! I remember some particularly disturbing / bizarre footage taken of an anti-immigration protest. One of the protest leaders was standing on the steps of the town hall, tears streaming down his face shrieking into his bullhorn “GO HOME! YOU CAN’T HAVE MY COUNTRY”. I found myself wondering where he ate his dinner that night – and what the chances were that his meal was prepared (and in some way subsidized) by an immigrant.
      As my father always says.. “when a tomato costs $5 people will get the idea”.

    10. Allen says:

      Jobs no one else wants to do? I didn’t realize that there weren’t people in America running away from IT jobs. Immigration is fine; just don’t flood the market.

    11. james says:

      Please do not equate being against illegal immigration with being against all immigration or being against immigrants.

      They’re different.

      Note to Encouraged: I don’t think most people will realize you were being satirical.

    12. I want to ditto James here. Just because someone is against illegal immigration, it does not mean they are against immigration. Many people try to tie the two together – or tie it to racism. I’m very much against illegal immigration, but my own kids were not born in this country, so it certainly wouldn’t be fair to say I’m anti-immigration (or racist, my kids skin color is definitely not the same as mine).

      While I disagree with this blog entry – I do have to say the way it compared illegal immigrants to early Americans was interesting and gave me something to think about.

    13. Just learn english and pay taxes. I dont care if you are purple and wear your underwear on the outside of your pants. Learn english and pay your taxes… so us mega billionaire IT moguls dont have to pay triple insurance premiums to subsidize your health care.


    14. Lots of people, including Dubya, put forth the argument that illegal aliens are “doing jobs Americans won’t do” as one excuse to keep the border wide open.

      In actuality I think it’s more that Americans can’t afford to do those jobs. Most of us aren’t too good to pick fruit or do landscaping, we just can’t afford to work for $5.00 an hour.

      When our government ignores border security and overlooks American companies hiring millions of illegal aliens it actually drives wages down. Why hire a legal American if an illegal will do the the same work for much less than a decent living wage and no benefits?

      Other state that they “pay tax”, so they’re good for the economy. Many are paid under the table (cash, as one earlier commenter admits), and those that do actually have tax withheld don’t pay much at all. How much tax do you suppose the average illegal contributes working for $5.00 per hour?

      If an illegal alien sends his two children to school it costs somewhere around $50/day from tax dollars. So on his $5.00/hour income he’s not paying in even remotely close to what he’s taking out. Since his “cash only” employer isn’t providing him and his family medical benefits we also get to subsidize the emergency room visits when the kids come down the flu or he is injured on the job.

      Millions immigrate legally from all over the world, there is no good reason to just leave the borders wide open. It’s a huge security risk too.

    15. Kirsten says:

      I won’t really speak either way except to say that individual businesses, colleges, police officers and (god forbid) individual citizens shouldn’t have to deal with immigration enforcement issues – it should be dealt with at borders and from a federal level.

      For a variety of reasons that hasn’t happened, but what makes me sad is how hate-filled many of my descendent of immigrant family fellow Americans have become…and how unappreciative we all are for the workers who pick almost all of our crops (fruits and vegetables), clean our hotels, houses and offices and serve us food every day (and MUCH more)…GLAD for the opportunity for a brighter tomorrow…just like our families felt several generations ago.

      Yes, immigration law should have kept pace, but I won’t become hate filled because that didn’t happen.

    16. Thank you for this post, I agree with you

    17. ephra says:

      Good job man, as an illegal immigrant my self, from El Salvador I always have the greatest appreciation for the help we get from people with a clear idea of what humanity is all about, and, that most of us immigrants wouldn’t be here if a pressing need to leave our homelands did not exist.
      I for one am here because I was displaced by the war the US

    18. ephra says:

      financed war against honest peasants, high schoolers,college students,labor unions, teachers whom in the vast majority where being subjected to every imaginable kind of human rights abuse by our puppet government and army; I more to say but let me finish by saying that anyone radically opposed to immigrants needs to:
      1- tell your government to stop every war they are paying for around the wars, because are the mayor creators of immigration flow.
      2- if people like “the minute man” groups think they are so good “patriots”; make this country a self reliant nation. if your answer is:you can’t, then shut your mouth.

    19. John RWC says:

      “Maybe when tomatoes are $5.00/pound, they will get the message.”

      That statement rings with the “us and them” mentality that permeates everything about immigration from Mexico.

      Take a hint. When tomatoes are $5.00/lb, people will eat potatoes or chicken. Mexico just isn’t that important. Not to the United States, not to the world – and probably most sadly of all, not to itself.

      Let Mexicans stay home and fix Mexico first and then teach American immigrants a better way.

      Mexico has burnt us to many times for me to want to be first in line, however if that day were to ever come in my lifetime, I might give it a try.

      It’s really not about nationality or skin color, language or culture: it’s about behaviour. One wrotten apple doesn’t spoil the bunch. More than a few wrotten apples have fucked it up for everyone.

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