Immigration in the Rear View Mirror

5 thoughts on “Immigration in the Rear View Mirror”

  1. “The United States has a long history of loving cheap labor, but hating the people who provide it.”
    I agree with the first clause, the second depends on what station you hold in the workforce yourself. People who work with their hands or on their feet can be harmed irreparably by discount off-the-books labor. People who sit at desks, not so much.
    ‘Hatred’ in this context, is perhaps not directed at people but at the institution of illegal immigration in American life.

  2. Borrowing wisdom from Granny Weatherwax, sin is treating people as things. We make up lots of different excuses for why it’s okay, and we don’t accept any of them when someone does it to us.

    I agree that there’s much more history to this pattern of cheap labour. Johnny, if you feel like doing some historical research, I’d love to see what you’d dig up and conclude from early immigration of the poor and dispossessed from England, Wales, Scotland and especially Ireland. There’s this folk song titled “No Irish Need Apply”…

    I’m also thinking of the immigration history of the Caribbean and southern US. I ran across it while looking up Barbados, which was a British colony. British colonies around then were likely to be settled by somewhat rich folks hoping to make a killing by producing luxury goods using cheap labour. Said cheap labour force had plenty of imported poor British white folks who were in what today we might call a poverty-to-prison pipeline. This is at a time when prison was a way to die quickly in filth, disease, and misery. Sentences of transportation (being banished to a colony) or indenture (debt slavery for __ years, usually in a colony) were relatively merciful outcomes. Australia was built on transportation.

    So at first Barbados relied mainly on that supply of indentured poor whites for the backbreaking labour. Then in the 1600s some rich white planter had the bright idea that enslaved blacks would be even cheaper and even more exploitable, and set a trend. The white underclass got economically displaced, and some of them migrated again, particularly to British colonies in what is now the southern USA.

    Now play the same tune over in the southern USA: rich planters use cheap exploitable labour from their poor white underclass that has freedom but not much else. Rich planters realize black slaves are cheaper and more exploitable, and fire the poor white underclass. Some of said underclass had been around this block once before, too. I can see how the injustice of it, especially twice or more, would give rise to a long-lasting resentment among that poor white underclass. I can see how they might turn that resentment on the wrong target, because it’s the one they could hit. And I can see that the rich planters might deliberately aim that resentment, because the planters’ fat bank accounts and luxury homes depended on keeping all the sources of cheap exploitable labour busy fighting about which one was supposed to the cheapest and worst exploited. Without occupation, labour might get up to mischief, such as noticing the extent to which labour outnnumbered the owners.

  3. Agree 100%. A stable, healthy Mexico is in US best interests in so many ways, but having cheap labor and a political scapegoat serves economic and political interests. If the US really doesn’t want Mexican immigrants, there are two things we could do immediately to decrease the numbers. Stop subsidizing corn (US corn subsidies have been incredibly destructive to Mexican farmers) and decriminalize most drugs (Mexican cartel violence creates refugees.) But this would raise the price of food, household help, etc.

    See:
    http://www.acton.org/pub/commentary/2012/02/29/corn-subsidies-root-us-mexico-immigration-problems
    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/mexicans-fleeing-drug-cartel-mayhem-seek-ing-u-s-asylum-record-breaking-numbers-article-1.1493183

    1. A more direct and instant way to reduce illegal immigration would be to arrest and fine the employers who knowingly hire illegals. Start with poultry processing plants, hotels, restaurants, farms, landscaping companies, and construction sites. That would go a long way to forcing industry to hire citizens, boost wages, and improve working conditions. (I suspect The Donald would be one of the top offenders.) This will happen exactly after Hell freezes over. The fact that we criminalize the workers but not the people who exploit them says a great deal about what illegal immigration is really about – cheap easily manipulated labor.

  4. Great post! I went to school with kids who were first generation immigrants from Mexico, and it pisses me off to no end how immigrants get scapegoated and otherwise hated on.

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