Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May Day mayday

Eric Zorn's column in the Chicago Tribune this morning addresses the immingrants' rights marches that were held across the country yesterday. He wandered down to the Chicago rally, looking for some unified message, trying to figure out what, exactly, those thousands of people want anyway. Then he threw the floor open for comments, and I must say it was far more right-leaning than I would have expected. The comments run probably 90% in favor of fuck 'em, they're criminals, send 'em back to Mexico if they don't like the way things are here, where they shouldn't be anyway because my grandparents took the time and effort to come through Ellis Island like everybody should.

My comment, as posted on the Trib website, below:

The people who complain about illegals from Mexico (and other Latin American countries) "cutting the line" and sneaking into this country while legal immigrants wait to do it "the right way" appear to believe that the Mexicans come skipping across the border with ice cream cones, waltzing in droves down a wide paved street. I wonder if the complainers can understand the desperation that will spur people to walk a couple hundred miles across the desert in the middle of the summer, when the air temperature right above the ground pushes 120. Or to scrape together a couple hundred bucks to pay a coyote to cram them into a container truck, which may or may not deliver them to the place they thought they were going, and whose driver may or may not unlock the container and let them out before they asphyxiate or roast.

It's too complex a problem to be addressed by throw-away sound bites of either the "deport 'em all" or "give 'em all amnesty" variety. Did my desperate ancestors walk over here from Ireland and Bohemia? Nope, mainly because they couldn't walk across that ocean. Does that somehow make them--and, by extension, me--better than this generation's crop of desperate people looking for the chance to earn a living for their families? I don't think so.

Sanction the businesses that knowingly hire illegals to take advantage of a cheap labor pool? Absolutely--but don't naively assume there won't be direct effects on the economy. For most businesses, it's simple math, or at least one of those word problems from 8th grade algebra. Business B needs 3 workers in job X, two in job Y, and five in job Z. The available payroll is quantity P. For B to stay afloat, 3x + 2y + 5z better be less than or equal to P.

With gas climbing over $3 in many parts of the country, how happy will people be to see consumer prices rise as well, to the often cited $5 head of lettuce? Maybe a guest worker program would be a solution, but that legislation would effectively create a permanent official underclass of cheap workers who, American laborers could logically argue, actually are being sponsored by the gummint to take American jobs.

Meanwhile, as our knees jerk in both directions, a couple hundred people continue to die every year making that long walk across the desert. Consider them felons if you want, call for them to be deported if you want, but don't shrug at the desperation that drives them to risk their lives to get here and then work their tails off once they do. That may be any number of things, but "lazy" ain't one of them.

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