Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Arizona -- again?

In "Arizona's Monstrosity of a Law," veteran journalist Dan Thomasson describes the problem with Arizona's new immigration law better than anything else I have seen. Thomasson is no radical, and his comparison of Arizona to the Third Reich is, sadly, not unwarranted. He suggests that "every American with a suntan to stay the heck out of the state" and in fact a movement is afoot to -- once again -- encourage fair-minded people of all hues to boycott Arizona.

I am not a big fan of boycotts (except for Walmart, of course), but I lived in Arizona during the last round, which did in fact work. In 1992, Arizona became one of the last states (aside from New Hampshire) to have a Martin Luther King holiday, following a boycott. As a resident student at the University of Arizona from 1990 to 1994, I was not really able to participate, but I was glad to see that it worked. I hope another way can be found this time, to avoid economic harm some of the very people who would most likely be victimized by this foolish law.

Thomasson is no radical on the question of immigration; like President Obama, his critique of Arizona's tactics is paired with a fairly conservative position on immigration in general, which is that the border should be "secured." To some degree, this is reasonable, but I cannot help but notice that the degree has become quite unreasonable as the economy of the United States deteriorates. No border in the world separates two countries with a wider gap in prosperity than does the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, the prosperity of the U.S. economy actually depends to some degree on poverty in Mexico and Central America. When hard times hit both sides of the border, the pressure to migrate grows.

Immigration "reform" essentially boils down to this: the United States wants cheap labor -- in fact, needs cheap labor -- but does not want more people. Keep the people on the other side of the border, but send their labor across in the form of cheap stuff. Or bring them over here to cut grass, process meat, and wash cars (remember -- Mitt Romney was caught twice having undocumented workers taking care of his lawn), but not with the rights of citizens. In my view, if we want someone's labor, we should welcome that whole person.

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