I think the link says it all. And, like anyone who utters that incantation, I’m now going to explain it at length.
Eleven percent is a big number. It’s more than twice the healthy unemployment rate we learned back in Economics 101. So the loss of eleven percent of the state workforce in Arizona is a pretty big deal, especially once you factor in the multiplier effect of losing that many consumers as well.
So, in the interest of American businesses, the same man behind the law to eliminate illegal immigration is now spearheading a new law that would … bring the immigrants back again. Since it seems that Arizona agriculture, construction, tourism, hospitality, landscaping and housecleaning need cheap, available Mexican immigrant labor to function, Senator Russell Pearce is proposing a guest-worker program.
You know, like this guy. Another case of how, if it’s Obama, it’s socialism, but if it’s a white, Republican lawmaker, it’s good business sense.
Except Pearce wants to make sure that they don’t get too comfortable. To start with, under Pearce’s plan, Mexican immigrants could only work out of doors, in agriculture.
“The crops have to be brought in. But I don’t need ‘em here to wash my car, mow my lawn, or do I need to eat at fast food restaurants.”
Given how badly the work he’s just named needs doing in Arizona, I have to wonder what the hoteliers and service business owners think of that. He also wants to insure that, just because they’re here, renting apartments, buying food, working, spending money, they absolutely don’t feel like they’re part of the country or anything.
“[My plan] doesn’t lead to citizenship, doesn’t lead to any permanent status, can’t bring family with you, can’t come here and have your babies, can’t come here and be a burden on the taxpayer, come here, work, earn your wages, pay your taxes, and go home when it’s done.”
Way to go, Senator Pearce. Do you plan to blackball anyone in the guest worker lists from applying for a visa, too? Better make sure they can’t marry a native and sneak in the back door, either. And it’s not like a large group of immigrant men has ever had other profound social effects, like widespread prostitution. Or that separating men from their wives, for no reason other than your ideological bent, pretty much makes you look like a dick.
But what’s most important about the guest worker program is what isn’t being discussed. Neither the proposal by Senator Pearce, nor the comments by Obama, say one word about the employers of Latin guest workers. This may come as a surprise to most folk, but we’ve actually had a guest worker program, the Bracero program from 1942 to 1967.
Read up. It’s illuminating.
The parts I want to draw attention to, in particular, is that the Bracero program was instigated at the behest of agricultural interests claiming ongoing labor shortages, that it ended because the same agricultural interests realized that illegal immigrants were cheaper, and that the United States was involved in lawsuits into the 1990s over the substandard wages and work conditions that the guest workers faced. Shafted pay, tarpaper shacks, no legal recourse for abuses…it was bad, folks.
Of course, as business argued then, requiring them to pay guest workers reasonable wages (so they aren’t forced onto some kind of welfare such as foodstamps) or benefits would cost money, and that hurts business. Which would send businesses flying back into the arms of, drumroll please…illegal immigrant labor, since the company would own all the cards again. But on the other side, if you gave guest workers decent pay, and access to courts of law, and things like that, they might be inclined to stay.
I think my friend Roberto Martinez summed it up best: “This is Arizona’s new stance: ‘We want the illegal workers back, but only for jobs where we don’t have to see their faces.’”
Seriously, though, I’d pay dollars to donuts that Pearce has an undocumented Guatemalan maid and gets his lawn cut by two guys from Mexico.