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Sunday, October 16, 2005


cenizo in Austin

Even though the North won the Civil War, we still live in and on a plantation. The Miniature Men of today are no more likely to work the fields than were the slaveowners of old. Both prefer to sit on the porch, or the border, rifle in one hand, cool drink in the other.

Michael Balter

Good stuff, and not as hypothetical as you might think! During one of Cesar Chavez's grape strikes around Delano during the 1970s, some locals tried to fill in for the farmers--and didn't last an hour in the hot sun.


Bravo, Marc! One of your very best.


What is more likely, the Minutemen taking up Marc's call to hoes or the Republicans taking up Tamar Jacoby's call to pragmatism (also appears in today's LA Times opinion section) regarding our border, er, policy?


And what tool could be better suited for a Mini-Man than a short-handled hoe? Helps you stay fit and keeps those back muscles strong. Try one and feel the burn!


Excellent! Bravo!

Virgil Johnson

Excellent witty proposal Marc, one of the best I have seen. Gee, think of what we could do if we reproduce similar proposals:

All you supporters of the Iraq war, you know the ones with the "Support Our Troops" on the backs of your massive SUV's. Sign up with Uncle Sam! Be a real hero, and lend a helping hand in Iraq!

For Arnold - hey Arnold, I have an idea. Switch you governator hat for that of a schoolteacher! It could be just like Kindergarden Cop - show those teachers how to do their job's. Why, we could drop you off at one of the inner city schools, especially one of the liguistically challenged ones in a poverty stricken area, and you could make short work of it! Show them how to collect those performance bonus'you proposed!

Etc. , etc. - hey we could start a trend here :)


Excellent irony...but are we on "the left" (or whatever, because I mostly share your disdain for the self-annointed "left") supposed to just shrug our shoulders and add our voices to the chorus of "Americans won't take those jobs", add some PC wishin' & hopin' about the importance of farmworkers' organizing (improbable organizing that's even less likely to happen precisely because the workers are illegals) and move on.

Personally, I think this is a bargain with the devil and not doing anyone any favors at all in the not-so-long run - not even the desperate folk who slip over the border for the promise of exploitation. I don't have any easy answers, but frankly anyone who's not shamed by the working conditions that guarantee availability of super-cheap raw ag produce - or disgusted by the parallel destruction of an organized working class in the meat-packing industry - needs to check their fundamental values. I'm not accusing anyone here of this, but "normalizing" exploitation of immigrant labor isn't a solution.

I don't know exactly what a solution looks like - and I'm adamantly against draconian measures like 187 that punish entire families in areas like basic education and access to health care that have nothing to do with the circumstances of the parent's employment or immigration status, but I know that if employers were afraid to hire illegal immigrants because of more intensive regulation of the labor market, several thing would happen. Far fewer illegals would try to cross if they couldn't easily get jobs. Wages and working conditions would have to improve to some degree in the labor markets currently populated by illegals in order to draw employees. Legal immigration could be increased if real labor shortages existed in lower-wage markets, which would be a boon to at least a segment of people who currently seek those jobs via illegal immigration.

I don't think that our borders should be ignored because of "imperialism" or any other leftwing cliches. Nor do I think that American citizenship - or (shades of Pat Buchanan, although my interpretation of this phenomenon is wildly at odds with his) our national culture - is meaningless. Far from it.

I also think it's idiotic - politically and pragmatically - to view the U.S. labor market as an essential safety valve for the failures of the folk who run Mexico and routinely oppress and exploit their own people, rob their state coffers, and oversee a corrupt and often openly terroristic military/police apparatus.

A few cents, admittedly far from definitive...

richard lo cicero

Bravo Reg! You said everything I could say on the subject except that I'll add the info that, thanks to Bush's suspension of Davis-Bacon there, the majority of laborers in the Katrina area are Illegals. Why the Left dosn't scream and yell over another slap at Black America is beyond me because there should be no doubt as to the identity of the screwed over here. And make no mistake about it. Retreat into the "We can't can't live without Immigrant labor" won't stop the Tancredos of this world and the new combination with "Homeland Security" (all those Arab terrorists in TJ you know) will only make this the GOP's last stand all that more effective. So let's come up with some answers. I've suggested real employer sanctions and an understanding with Mexico that the safety valve is shut, A joint development plan is in order but that means real reforms South of the Border -enforcement of their labor and environmental laws that are fine on paper for one thing - in order to qualify. One thing I know, the present situation is unstable and will lead either to open borders (unlikely) or legislation that will make 187 look enlightened.

Jim Rockford

Marc -- glad to see you got in the LAT.

However, my own modest proposal is to hire Mexican journalists for minimum wage, no benefits, and drive wages in journalism to the lowest possible level. There are plenty of hard-working Mexican journalists who would glady work in the US for much less than American journalists.

Any takers?

I agree with Reg 100% on this. I can't say more than that.


Might I add that focusing on the food production and processing, garment, restaurant and hotel industries would - I think - be the key to dealing with this. Simply beefing up policing of the border as an answer isn't feasible and some of the "border solutions" like building a "Great Wall" aren't desireable or practical for a variety of reasons. Deal with it on the level of supply and demand, which is what's driving the situation as it stands. Reverse the equation. And don't trip on trying to ferret out yard workers and domestics...who really cares about that ? No 100% solution, but clamping down on the trend in the most glaring segments of the labor market might well be possible IF there was a political will. Any response coming from any direction depends on that. I do think the Dems could turn this to their advantage without proposing stuff that either singles out the poorest and most defenseless among us as the villians in this scenario or simply caves in to ethnic lobbies.

Our immigration policies are among the most liberal in the world. I don't think we have anything to be ashamed of in the "welcoming immigrants" department, except that we've allowed special interests - mostly of the business variety - to override any attempts to find effective ways to enforce the laws.


What reg said, what Richard said, and what Rockford said. I agree wholeheartedly. Criticizing Americans for not working $7.00 an hour for jobs that no American family can live on? That's ludicrous, Marc. We probably all agree here that we are in an unsustainable position with respect to the dual-edged problem of illegal immigration and immigrant abuse. I've said this here several times, and I'll continue to say it, ad nauseum: if agribusiness did NOT have access to cheap (cheap because illegal) labor, then agribusiness would simply have to pay more to attract workers to do taxing labor--in essence, letting a free domestic market respond naturally. Again, just like in any other market industry. Can't compete with other countries whose ag industry takes advantage of labor that is dirt cheap? Guess that's just tough luck, in the same way it's tough luck for any worker who's been downsized.* Otherwise, friends, it's a feeding into a not-inevitable race for the bottom. I think this is unsupportable.

This might sound snarky, but weren't we just arguing recently about how "progressives" can actually give vocal support to issues that the majority of folks care about? Ways of reaching across to red state folks who commonly vote Republican because of issues such as this one? I'm not arguing for Minutemen-style demonization of undocumented workers (give me a break--I worked as an immigrant advocate for years), but I believe there are much more effective ways of engaging the public (including those sympathetic to the Minutemen) on this issue than simply attacking these fringe groups, and identifying once again with the loser position of "defending illegals". Why not put in this corner the companies who are actually responsible for exacerbating illegal immigration? It's possible, I suppose, that Marc is being truly sly here: he's challenging Minutemen to do the work that undocumented laborers are doing, thereby drawing national attention to the labor abuses themselves, thereby forcing us to attempt to resolve the issue not by simply focusing attention on the border, but rather on the locus of abuse: the exploitation of workers. But let's be clear about one thing: the problem is not that Americans don't want to do agricultural work for $7.00/hr, but that companies are able to get away with paying a wage so low by cheating the market through illegal hiring practices. Cripes, what American couldn't get behind that? On the other hand, putting our eggs in the attack-the-Minutemen-support-immigrants basket sounds like an approach straight out of the Gospel According to Answer. Yikes.

*Of course, Rockford has also brought up in previous posts on this issue that U.S. agribusiness can compete by utilizing improved farming technology--i.e, increased mechanization of labor. This kills jobs, of course, but the jobs were essentially "outsourced" (read, performed by undocumented labor) in the first place, so no net loss.


Reg hits the nail on the head in saying that the Dems could turn this to their advantage.

On immigration, like so many other issues, the Republicans are vulnerable to the observation that they are against economic freedom.

While the internationalization of labor is inevitable, driven by the nearly complete globalization of capital, the empowerment of global labor is emphatically not a forgone conclusion.

The migration of global labor cannot be halted or even significantly slowed without imposing unbearable costs on the economies involved. The real issue is how to manage that migration so that the benefits are shared by workers on the bottom rung across the planet.

Democrats have an opportunity to make the connection between global labor rights, U.S corporate responsibility and rights for U.S. workers. This is a difficult, nuanced position and, at the moment, politically risky. But there is no more important economic issue and the party that gets it right will, eventually, win broad support.

"Wages and working conditions would have to improve to some degree in the labor markets currently populated by illegals in order to draw employees. "

Organize the 'illegals'. There's no good reason a liberal should oppose their organizing, they're here now and working, no changing that reality. Besides, who cares if they're 'illegal'. How many millions of us are descendants of 'legal' immigrants who could come here because the legal immigration of millions of Chinese workers was cut off? What does it mean in America to be 'legal' really?

Marc Cooper

Most of this debate has little to do with reality. That reality is that we are in currently in the midst of what demographers recognize as the LARGEST, SINGLE MIGRATION IN HUMAN HISTORY. There are currently some 11 million "illegal" Mexicans living in the U.S. Maybe 14 million. Over the next 15 years, even if the Mexican economy slightly improves (unlijely), you can estimate about another million per year making it into the U.S.e're talking 25-30 million people in a 20 year window. The world has never seen anything like that.

This is what happens when the richest economy in the world shares a 2000 mile border with a country of 150 million whose economy continues to implode.

Anyone reading this blog who believes that -put in the same position as a Mexican dirt farmer-- he wouldnt do whatever necessary to come here for a job is just plain in denial(and would be apretty irresponsible father or provider).

To believe there is some techno-legal way to "close" or "seal" that border is, I am sorry to say, to understand absolutely fucking nothing. You might as well try to build urban shock absorbers to avoid earthqaukes, giant city-roofs to to fend off rain, or if you prefer, earthen levees to stand against Category 5 hurricanes.

That doesnt mean we standhelpless before a human tide. Rather it means you drop the bullshit from-Mars rhetoric about sealing the unsealable and you find a rational way to control, regulate and manage the best way you can something that is inevitable. Put 2 million troops and 50 foot barbed wire along the entire border if you wish -- and if you can afford the tax the American people the billions it would cost. Then watch illegal aliens: dig two mile tunnels, form networks to corrupt American border gaurds, and build an endless flotilla of seacraft to wash up on the shores of California, Oregon, Texas and Florida.

What would u do to feed ur family and escape a Oaxacan village where ur best shot was to make $40 a week? Don't make me laugh.


"drop the bullshit from-Mars rhetoric about sealing the unsealable and you find a rational way to control, regulate and manage the best way you can something that is inevitable. Put 2 million troops and 50 foot barbed wire along the entire border if you wish"

Marc...I respect your views and sympathies on this and you've done some excellent reporting on the issue. Also you're right about scale and intractability of "the reality" as well as why people cross the border in droves, but you're also constructing a straw man here because I'm not aware of anyone so far on this thread who's proposed building a wall or putting 2 million troops on the border. I specifically rejected that route, just as I reject draconian stuff like 187 (I would, however, endorse a Swiftian modest proposal that if we're going to withdraw education and healthcare from the families of illegals who are working here, we also cut off any and all access to education and healthcare for the entire families of people who hire them, with no exceptions. Now that would resolve the issue rather quickly and dramatically.)

Maybe my belief that we can better regulate the labor markets that attract illegals is naive or impractical for some reason, but your response to the comments above reads as though you've ignored what's actually been written. I had a similiar experience with "anon" above (no doubt Steve) regarding this subject on another thread and it's frustrating to say the least - as you can attest from your own experiences with his penchant for tendentious mischaracterizations and strawmen. I'd rather hear why you think I'm full of shit, than why you think people who haven't shown up as part of this discussion (and who I agree are full of shit) are full of shit.

Reg, you're the pot calling the kettle black, you yourself post anonymously!! Who knows who Reg is, no email address, no homepage, just someone who posts as 'reg'. you could be hillary or howard for all we know.
steve's right, you don't have any way of explaining why the INS would suddenly enforce your rules to protect "American" workers and to punish employers who hire "illegals".
Probably the best book ever written on the games of the border control agencies is this one by Peter Andreas
Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide, Cornell University Press, 2000 (paperback
edition 2001).

Pick it up or order it from Amazon...


"Who knows who Reg is...?"

With perhaps an occasional curious exception, the same number of people who could possibly give a shit.


Incidentally, steve, I wasn't criticizing you for posting anonymously - I was criticizing you for arguing tangents and straw men when I countered your citing a Zogby poll as evidence African-Americans are "liberal" on immigration compared to most others , when in fact the most significant and general indicator on the Zogby poll showed exactly the opposite (majority black support for a moratorium on legal immigration, no less, by very high margins even over whites). When I called you on this you did a dance around the issue at hand - conjuring all sorts of tangential things that I supposedly "believe" - which was, quite frankly, ridiculous - rather than simply admit that your selective use of the poll was deceptive (the piece you isolated from the data also showed blacks aren't disposed to punishing illegal immigrants' kids by denying them educational opportunities, which doesn't strike me as contradictory or surprising given the particularities of black people's history.) My only minor quibble with you posting anonymously is that you give yourself away by telegraphing every familiar "steve" foible with such consistency that it takes all of the fun out of it.

Michael Turmon

>>My only minor quibble with you posting anonymously is
>>that you give yourself away by telegraphing every familiar
>>"steve" foible with such consistency that it takes all of the
>>fun out of it.

Why, that Reg must be a latter-day Sherlock Holmes! I have no idea what tics he's referring to...


Less than American journalists? You're obviously not talking the editors I am about signing on.

richard lo cicero

Reg beat me to it again but I will acknolege that the immigrants who come here are hard working and do it for their families. But that dosn't exonerate businesses that exploit them, or expect us to pick up the costs of these people like health care or who won't support the infrastructure of schools, housing, etc. involved. I know that real employer sanctions will be hard given who pays what to whom but simply saying that they do work no one else will do is a cop-out. What jobs couldn't be "de-salaried" to that level? Just remember that a generation ago the janiors and maids in LA buidings and hotels were Blacks and in unions. We know what the situation is now.


Do you really imagine all the Mexicanos will go back to God's Country once US agriculture is totally mechanized? We're almost there, you know.

No, just let them all stay so middle class tax rates will be pushed back up toward 75% to pay for all the social services they'll require. Especially after all that miserable back breaking labor we forced them to do at slave wages...oh yea, there's a case for reparations.

Ed Watters

I think it would be better to deploy the minutmen along the corridors of power in Sacramento and Washington with orders to be on the lookout for men in suits who, without compunction,pursue policies that create a "virtual exodus" of subsidized agricultural products and manufacturing jobs southward and cheap, unskilled, wage depressing laborers northward.

Let's make it crystal clear to the minutmen (and all left-wing pundits) that by pursuiing these policies, the men in suits seek to drive down labor costs for the business class and have no problem socializing the costs of healthcare, education etc
on the backs of the working class.

I'm certain that once the minutemen understand that the goal of these policies is to render the US into a third world economy they will deploy northward and eastward.

Hopefully the left pundits will follow suit and realize that this is basically a quality of life issue for for legal residents (of So. Cal. for now, soon most of the country) and begin to advocate for the citizens of the US.

Until that time the left in this country will contnue to be what it is: a tiny out-of-touch fragment of the population
whose commentators curiously cheerlead for the US Chamber of Commerce and Dept of Labor Statistics


I can see where your point is; but why even waste time making it. Respect our citizens who stand up and "try" to make a difference. The United States of America has been invaded, and the time for action is now, I applaude them and wish we would have a serious wall built on our borders so we would not have citizens who felt they had to dedicate their own time trying to help solve a problem that should not exist. Look at war in Iraq, Katrina, 911- because of irresponsible media and democratic propoganda, things that happen get bent out proportion and blame has to get placed. We used to be a nation of problem solvers, but now sit back and blame each other. Same as some current campaigns (Hillary). Too bad we have an open border with a country who does not respect our laws. I propose to SOLVE that problem. In fact, as a citizen of this country....I demand it.

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