15 June, 2007

Whether you like it or not...

The Mexicans are coming.

They're coming to harvest the produce you eat.

They're coming to work your gardens.

They're coming to nanny your kids.

They're coming to...do whatever the hell other jobs Mexicans do in the U.S.

They're coming because, despite what you tell yourself, you want them to come.

You want them to come, because none of you who are going to bother to read this ever had any intention of spending your lives in an orchard or in a field, 12 - 14 hours or more a day, five or six or seven days a week in the blazing sun breaking your back to harvest produce. Because you never had any intention of spending your days planting flowers and pulling weeds and spreading fertilizer and changing mulch in someone's garden. Because you never had a dream of taking care of someone else's kids for a living while their parents are gone. Because you never had any intention of doing the myriad other menial jobs you now think are being taken from you.

You went to college, instead. Or got any number and types of technical certifications. Or joined the military. Or started your own business. Or got a job that requires a higher skill level and/or a linguistic and cultural fluency that an immigrant doesn't have. You wrote off those jobs as beneath you, and assumed that there's a whole bunch of 'other' Americans (not you, or most anyone you know, of course...but out there, in some abstract sense) clamoring for them.

The thing is, though, it seems that those Americans we think of as 'others' consider Americans they don't know as 'others,' as well. And they all seem to think that those 'others' want those jobs and would be doing them if it weren't for the sneaky immigrants.

Oddly enough, I don't recall ever reading any stories about born and bred Americans, Minutemen included, lining up outside of farms and the like looking for that sort of work, despite the ~5% unemployment the U.S. has today. Nor do I recall reading any such instances years back when unemployment was much higher (bear in mind, I'm talking about the past 30 years or so. No need to bring the Great Depression to my attention). People were still eating in the recession, and crops were still being grown and harvested, so I can't imagine that those jobs simply didn't exist for a few years...

"A-HA! Because the Mexicans drive down the wages for those jobs!"

Indeed, they do. Because you want them to. Because just as you won't work those jobs for those wages, the employers won't pay you the wages that might make those jobs seem more enticing. Because if they did, you, and the vast majority of other Americans, wouldn't buy those goods at the resulting price. Not when there's always imports competing with them. And you and most others couldn't afford those personal and home services if they were provided by born and bred Americans.

Of course, low wages to us are several times what they'd make doing the same thing back home. Crowded, spartan living conditions to us are probably almost luxurious to them. A generally rotten, unacceptable deal to us must be a pretty sweet deal indeed to them, or they wouldn't be coming in droves like they are.

And make no mistake, they will continue to come as long as it is profitable for them to do so. They come because, whether you like it or not, there's a demand for them. They come because of the basic law of supply and demand. They come because our system works. Short of digging WWI-style trenches along the border, complete with minefields and machine guns nests and pre-sighted artillery and orders to shoot border jumpers on sight (none of which is ever going to happen, you and I all know), they will come. Anything we do short of the extreme, politically impossible and morally unacceptable, will be building a razor wire fence to stop a tsunami. A useless waste of time and effort on one hand, and an embarrassing display of impotence on the other.

So, instead of making fools of ourselves trying to prevent the inevitable, why don't we concentrate our energies on making the inevitable work out better for us?

Our immigration system can't process people at the rate they're coming in? Expand it, and/or streamline the visa process. More people want in than the quotas allow? Raise the quotas. If there aren't jobs, they won't come.

They're overwhelming our welfare state? Trim the welfare benefits (yes, I know, easier said than done).

They don't speak English, aren't familiar with the cultural norms? Teach them. Get an ESL job in Cali or Texas. Or volunteer. Or freelance.

Find a bunch of them and get a business loan or investment and open a genuine, gourmet Mexican restaurant, or simple diner in your area. Organize them to teach private Spanish lessons. Start a landscaping firm and use their cheap labor. What? Someone's already doing that in your neighborhood? Do it faster, better, cheaper.

Be a capitalist and entrepreneur and seek out and exploit opportunity.

Anything. Just stop lamenting the rising and setting of the sun.


Daniel McIntosh said...

"...building a razor wire fence to stop a tsunami."

I LOVE that image. Perfect.

I want these people here. In the long run, considering the demographics, America may not be able to survive without them. I also want them to become American, rather than "guest workers" or "transients" or "cultural enclaves" (i.e., eternal ghettos). The key is assimilation. Assimilation is a dirty word in some quarters. But without it, we run the risk of two nations in one country, with all that implies.

I want these people here. I suspect that most people with a basic understanding of economics (too few people, unfortunately) realize the net effect is beneficial. But beneficial for whom? Some will suffer. There are ways to compensate for that, but there's no way to avoid it, short of either placing a force field bubble over each country or raising the standard of living of the whole world high enough that there's negligible economic pressure to migrate. In the long run, if the movement of people comes to parallel the movement of capital, the second option is possible--but the transition could be really, really rough.

Jeremy said...

Assimilation is the key, indeed. But I'm finding myself deeply at odds with many other Republican-types these days in that as I see it, assimilitaing forces in America today are stronger than they've ever been.

American culture is blasted all over the world in movies, tv, music, the internet, et al. One would be hard-pressed to find an urban sub-Saharan African, let alone a Mexican, who doesn't have at least some concept of Disney or hamburgers or Nike or iPods or anything else we can call distinctly American.

They'll learn English, rudimentarily in the case of 1st gen folks, competentyly and fluently for the rest, for the same reason the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Russians, Arabs, Indians and everyone else on the face of the planet is learning it: it's the global language of virtually every field. They'll learn it a lot better and faster in the US simply due to immersion.

Ethnic grouping will happen, inevitably, just like it did with all other major immigration waves, but just like all the others, 2nd and 3rd generations will branch out more widely. They'll do it all the more easily now because of the far greater availability of transportation, and because employment opportunities are far more widely advertised. You don't have to be living in Smallville, Wisconsin in order to see job postings there, anymore. Just browse them online, make a phone call, and go Greyhound. Mingling? Who doesn't shopping at Wal Mart or go to Regal or Cinemark cinemas or eating at BK or McDonald's or KFC? How many people have no transportation available to them? A beat-up old car bought and fixed up by some teenagers/20-somethings, or a few motorcycles... Someplace, TX might be 95% Mexican and rural, but the Starbucks and the mall are in that trendy suburb 30 miles straight-shot down the interstate, and that's where all the girls are, anyway...

Enforced segregation and lawful ethnic discrimination are things of the past... Jobs and schooling get harder and harder to deny based on skin alone...

And yes, America will also be assimilated in part by them... But is American culture facing an existential threat if 51% of people, 51% percent of the time, prefer tacos and beans over burgers and fries? If Latin-sourced Salsa music consistently beats out African-sourced Rock on the charts? Or do we get some strange new combimation of tacoburgers and Mexi-metal-hop that sells like mad to the kids and leaves everyone over 50 (or over 30, for that matter...) scratching their heads and pining for the good old days?

America is far and away the most successful, insidiously assimilating and re-packaging and re-marketing brand-name machine...ever. Or, for the negativists out there, the most destructive and cheapening force against 'pure' cultual aspects in history. And a lot of people just don't give her enough credit on that score.