Friday, April 14, 2006


An employer weighs in at NRO's the Corner about illegal immigrants in Texas:

"I've worked with illegals in the 70' to the 80's and I have a few first hand observations.

"Many are young men here for the money, they do not wish to become American citizens. When there are 10-15 young men living in a 1 bedroom apartment they are here for the work, their families are in Mexico. A big roll of cash buys a lot of freedom in Mexico.

"They are not just illiterate in English, they are in Spanish too.

"When you see groups of these guys waiting for work outside Home Depot here is how it works:

"You're a sub-contractor who wants to hire a 5 man framing crew. You talk to your guy (jefe) who is the go between and he knows who the good framers are. Now, you'll get 1-2 guys who know what to do. The others will consist of his worthless cousin and some one's son to whom he owes a favor. You strike a deal for 10 hours at 5 bucks an hour/man.

"The jefe takes a cut from each of the workers for a dollar an hour so they make four. That's how the 'bite' works in Mexico and it's the basis for the
deep corruption, no reason the think it stops here. Maybe you think construction is unskilled labor and you just take a board off the top of the pile and hammer it up. That's what'll happen if you don't supervise. If you have a house built in this part of the country, you need to go by daily and inspect it you'll see cracked, knotty 2x4s and 4x6s used as main supports for example. These guys don't care and besides they're not here next week anyway. If the building inspector doesn't catch it (another story), oh well. Not to mention the other ways thing can go wrong with a bunch of untrained labor doing plumbing, electrical, etc.

"By the way, if you don't get picked you go do what idle young men always do a long way from home: fight, drink, gamble, whore, thieve and generally get into trouble.

"The way to start a voluntary exodus is have the ICE start going around raiding the day labor sites. You only need to start scattering these guys from the sites disrupting their money flow for a short time and they'll go somewhere else, maybe home."

So corruption is present in an underground market for labor--now there's a shocker. Workers who can't be intimidated and threatened with imprisonment and deportation for trying to do their job generally don't feel the need to pay a cut to their boss. Or, alternatively, how different is this from temping, where you pay half your earnings to a temp agency which basically does nothing?

On the post more generally, I fear that many Americans share the views of the employer--that illegal immigrants are lazy (that must be why they sacrificed everything to come work here for peanuts), dishonest, ignorant, and unruly. Never mind the evidence to the contrary that should be plain to anyone who has their lawn mowed, eats at a restaurant, or buys produce at the grocery store. How many 16 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week for $3 an hour has this employer from Texas worked lately? Probably not too many.

Forget about pointing out that we all [correction: most of us] descended from immigrants at some point, the Cornerite who posted the email above was an illegal immigrant himself at one point. His response to charges of hypocrisy: things are different now that I'm a citizen, and besides, I would never have been so presumptuous as to publicly demonstrate for the right to citizenship. Hard to know how to respond to something like that.

On balance, though, I think enough people in this country agree with the employer above to make this a winning issue for the Republicans in the short-term. The more attention the issue gets leading up to November, the more that gains the Democrats would have otherwise reaped will be wiped out. Democrats are newly hopeful that the unexpectedly fervent immigration rallies show the tide is finally turning in their favor on this issue, not realizing that the rallies are only setting the stage for a massive backlash. The only hope, if one can call it that, is that (1) voters will be confused enough about the actual positions of politicians on the issue to not vote overwhelmingly for either party (i.e. Bush supports a guest worker program and higher visa levels, many Democrats are taking the populist line on this--Kaus has a lot on this but he annoyingly doesn't provide links to individual posts) and (2) voters will think Democrats, as the more competent, non-corrupt party at the moment, will better address their concerns on immigration. The problem with (1) is that, under pressure, positions are likely to solidify and become publicized before November. The problem with (2) is that people will realize as we get closer to November that Democratic leaders are unlikely to address concerns about illegal immigration that they do not share with most of the country. My gut tells me Republicans are against illegal immigration more than Democrats, and I suspect lots of voters will feel the same way.

In the long term, of course, the Republicans run a serious risk of alienating Latinos permanently (see on this the Southern strategy, which won Republicans the South but decimated black support for the party, and Proposition 187, which did much the same thing in California with regard to Latinos) and ensuring for themselves minority party status for the next 30 years.

No comments: