By MANIFESTO JOE
By signing the new Homeland Security bill last week, George W. Bush ensures that the United States will keep throwing billions of dollars of taxpayers' money at an illegal immigration problem that's as intractable as that other perennial money pit, the war on drugs.
It won't matter in the long run how much money goes to the border patrol, or to any other "enforcement" campaign. There are two root causes of illegal border-crossing that neither the U.S. nor Mexican power elites are willing to address.
The first cause should be obvious. About half of Mexicans live in hopeless, abject poverty. Robbed and exploited by corrupt officials and a rich ruling class that is almost feudal in arrogance, the Mexican worker has no incentive to stay home, however dearly he or she loves his or her homeland. Desperation has driven millions north to a strange land filled with unsympathetic English-speakers. And unless there is ever real socio-economic reform south of our border, we will see millions more of them.
The second cause is that many thousands of U.S. employers are most happy to hire illegal aliens, especially Mexicans. They work cheap. They don't usually make waves because they don't want to draw attention to themselves. They can't demand paid vacations. And -- here's the real payoff for scofflaw employers -- they aren't necessarily covered by any kind of health insurance or workers comp, nor can they generally demand it.
Unofficially, there's a cozy arrangement between the rich and powerful of both countries.
In Mexico, there's a distant memory of what can happen when millions of angry peasants unite. Ninety years ago, the country was in the middle of a bloody 10-year revolution. I suspect that at some point it occurred to Mexico's elite that every time a poor worker heads north, that means one less potential troublemaker. It's a way to get rid of their surplus of low-wage laborers and subsistence farmers.
Here, for scofflaw employers, every undocumented worker is a living subsidy. He or she is corporate welfare with arms and legs. If the worker is unfortunate enough to get hurt or sick, that generally means a trip to the nearest charity hospital -- courtesy, for the most part, of U.S. citizen taxpayers. You, Mr. and Ms. U.S. taxpayer, are paying for all these trips to the ER.
Low wages, no health care costs, obedient and quiet workers, no possibility of unionization, undercutting the wages of American workers both union and "non" -- Dude! Business has never been better!
And if the immigrants don't like the deal, maybe they can go back to their side of the border and work at a maquiladora, where pay and safety standards are even worse.
What is even more enraging about this is that, instead of Mexico becoming more like America, America is slowly becoming more like Mexico. Wal-Mart, for example, has a business plan that gets 'em coming and going.
First, they hire desperate workers at wages so low, they often qualify for food stamps. This is a public subsidy that we, the taxpayers, are paying indirectly to the company. Then, because their payroll is low, they sell cheap, undercutting competitors dumb enough to pay better wages. They don't offer some of their workers health insurance, so the public charity hospital gets even more business. And since their "associates" are so poor, where do they shop? (Duh!)
Wal-Mart, the corporation, is like a big, private-sector Mexico. It has adopted poverty as its corporate culture. No wonder their international division, Wal-Mart de Mexico, is doing a booming business.
True, we've got a long way to go to get in a hole as deep as Mexico's. But believe this: Our corporate rulers, with the Bush administration's help, are steadily digging. It means richer rich people, while the ranks of the poor grow. "Tinkle-down" economics is the all-too-familiar formula. And as long as you're among those doing the "tinkling," hey, it works.
Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers are screwed yet again, with our government hurling money quite futilely at the immigration problem. It's like heroin or cocaine -- but in this case, it is greedy, venal employers who are hooked. They are addicted to cheap, docile labor -- and you, Mr. and Ms. "Murkan" Taxpayer, are subsidizing their habit. The "enforcement" is just a ludicrous show.
MANIFESTO JOE IS AN UNDERGROUND WRITER LIVING IN TEXAS.