Tuesday, September 4, 2007

In praise of illegal immigration

A statewide boycott of shopping and work by (mostly) Mexican immigrants to protest Arizona's draconian new law which punishes business that hire illegal workers appears to be sputtering. I'm not surprised. Mexican immigrants, legal or illegal, are probably too busy working and raising families to stand on corners waving placards.

I've recently admitted the obvious limits of my home-improvement skills and hired professionals for three big renovation projects. In two of the cases, much of the work ended up being done by Mexican workers with limited language skills who put in long hours under the summer desert sun. I didn't inquire as to their immigration status--I don't really care. But I'm sufficiently plugged into the local building contractor community to make an educated guess that any green cards held by the workers who helped make my house so much nicer to live in are about as legit as the ID I used to get into bars back in the age of New Wave music.

Contractors and skilled craftsmen I know tell me that there are two groups of preferred workers in the construction trades in this area: "older" Anglos who've seen their 40th birthdays come and go (and it pains me to refer to 40-plus as "older") and Mexicans of any age. That's because those workers tend to be stable and reliable--they show up on time and give value for the money they're paid. Younger Anglos, on the other hand, have a reputation for disappearing after they get their first paychecks. I have no doubt that it's unfair to paint all twenty-something carpenters named "Smith" as meth-heads and layabouts, but that's the stereotype.

There aren't enough older Anglos to go around, and some of them are, perhaps, not as spry as they once were, so that leaves the other preferred group. Tradespeople I've spoken with are convinced that the industry would collapse without the flow of illegal immigrants from across the border.

What does that all mean?

It means that, at least in the small area in which I live, illegal immigrants are largely seen by employers as a vital boon to the economy--they're high-quality imported labor for a region that is no longer so good at producing decent labor on its own. They come to an area where the jobs are ripe for the plucking, leaving behind a country that may produce good laborers and tradespeople, but which fails to produce a sufficient stock of well-paying jobs.

It seems to me that both Mexico and Arizona are benefiting from a cross-border flow that wouldn't exist if the two places didn't have complementary assets--and deficits.

So, while I don't expect the current boycott to have much effect, I do appreciate its message. I wish more Americans were fully appreciative of the willingness of some people to risk arrest and even death to sneak into a foreign country, just so they can work.



Blogger Al Lulla said...

I share a lot of the same libertarian views as you do, particularly in this post regarding immigration. If you're interested in some of my ideas, I just started up a new blog: lullapalooza.blogspot.com

September 10, 2007 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 18, 2009 11:30 PM  

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