If the president doesn’t like what the Arizona Legislature and governor may be doing, then I call on the president to immediately call for the dispatch of 3,000 National Guard troops to our border and mandate that 3,000 additional Border Patrol [officers] be sent to our border as well. And that way, then the state of Arizona will not have to enact legislation which they have to do because of the federal government’s failure to carry out its responsibilities, which is to secure the borders.McCain, who at one time favored comprehensive immigration reform that included amnesty for illegal immigrants, did not note that National Troops are deployed at the discretion of state's governor; that Border Patrol arrests in the Tuscon and Yuma sectors exceed arrests in Texas, New Mexico, and California combined; that from 2002-2006 Border Patrol agents apprehended 1.8 million migrants crossing into Arizona; or that heightened security in California and Texas (Operations Gatekeeper and Hold the Line) diverted the immigrant traffic into Arizona.
Big John speaks loudly but wields a mighty small stick. For one thing, it's hard to see what he expects to accomplish by adding 6000 National Guardsmen and BP agents to the 3000 already in Arizona. The Arizona-Mexico border is 351 miles long. Even filling his request (which would require diverting agents from other border areas, leaving them more vulnerable to crossing) would place one soldier or agent every 205 feet, or two-thirds the length of a football field. It won't take LaDanian Tomlinson to run through that hole.
Not only that, experts argue that an immigration policy based only on security is counterproductive. Directed at the most heavily trafficked points of crossing, security crackdowns succeed in diverting immigrants to remote and dangerous areas. Not only does this result in more immigrant deaths (not that the people who enacted this law care about that), it encourages illegal immigrants to stay put once they are here and to bring their families over.
No matter what the teabaggers and vigilantes think, the United States is not about to round up 12,000,000 people and deport them. The affront to civil liberties and the cost in dollars is too immense to contemplate. Even if Big John and colleagues wanted to spend the money, their own fiscal policy has rendered that impossible.
The fundamental issue is one that any free marketeer can understand: The United States per capita income is $46,400; in Mexico, it's $13,500. Unless and until there's a more equal balance, people from the south will come to El Norte even for low wage jobs that Americans traditionally haven't wanted to do at any pay. Some of them will smuggle drugs along the way, and why not? The supply is there and the demand is here, it pays, and it's not like they're welcomed into this country with open arms. Moreover, we can't expect much help from Mexico because it is a desperately poor country that depends on the money sent back by the migrants.
Some claim that the employment issue has become more complicated. Says one BP agent:
It’s a flat-out lie that illegals are doing the jobs Americans won’t do. American companies are hiring skilled workers at low wages compared to US wages. We’re now catching welders, auto mechanics, heavy equipment operators, even nuclear power-plant workers. The strawberry pickers are a thing of the past. These people don’t live in wigwams. They have stuff, and want more stuff.Which makes them different from Americans how?
According to the same article, over 8,000 American companies of all sizes have undocumented workers on payrolls. But if this is the case, doesn't it make more sense to go after the employers and not the workers?
One thing I am not is an expert on immigration matters. But I don't see an answer here as long as the income disparity exists. We can initiate an amnesty program for workers already here, but that does nothing to remove the incentive for others to cross the border. And they'll come for the same reason immigrants have always come to America: For the money and the opportunity.
We could try to build a fence, I suppose, but at what cost? A 2006 non-partisan study estimated a cost of $49 billion for 700 miles of fence (the entire border is 1,952 miles long) that would last for 25 years before needing replacement. Another study found that "the $49 billion does not include the expense of acquiring private land along hundreds of miles of border or the cost of labor if the job is done by private contractors -- both of which could drive the price billions of dollars higher." And the price hasn't gotten cheaper since 2006. Plus, a fence is unlikely to work: When you're talking about a 4:1 income disparity, people will figure out ways to go around, over, or through a fence to get on the 4 side. Anyway, do we really want to fence ourselves in? It seems like an expensive idea driven by paranoia and frustration and doomed to failure. Then where will we be?
We are in grave danger of a policy that will be expensive, fruitless, frustrating, and as futile as the War on Drugs. It's time to face facts: If the United States wants to significantly reduce illegal immigration, then it must recognize a national interest in Mexico raising its standard of living. How we go about assisting in that without provoking a political upheaval at home is another story.
If you want to take the long view, we're harvesting the fruits of Manifest Destiny and imperialism. The Mexican War, which was essentially a land grab, established an artificial political border that never took into account the indigenous populations. A young officer named Ulysses S. Grant served in the Mexican War and later wrote that it was "one of the most unjust ever waged on a weaker company by a stronger." Maybe it's true: As ye sow, so shall ye reap...
Nicholas Lemann analyzes the new discipline of terrorism studies. According to Lemann's readings of these books, everything works and nothing works: The same tactic that works in one locale can fail so dismally in another as to be counterproductive...
Robert Creamer writes optimistically that the Arizona of 2010 is the Alabama of 1963, meaning that the obvious injustice of the law will cause decent people to speak out. I wish I shared his optimism. In 1963, white America outside of the south tended to view Civil Rights as a southern problem; that America was never enthusiastic about addressing race issues in its own back yard. Maybe people will see the Arizona law as an outrage; I hope so. But I fear that too many whites will regard it as a necessary step to stemming a brown horde that they see as overrunning the country. As long as it doesn't raise the price of lettuce...
Robert Kuttner thinks it's a good thing that Obama has rejected a bipartisan approach to health care reform. Along with Paul Krugman, there is no better writer about economic policy than Kuttner...
Freddy Fender sings Ry Cooder's "Across the Borderline" (music starts about 1:20 in and includes an effective montage):
Bruce Springsteen's tender "Across the Border" is one the Boss's best songs: