UPDATE: April 30, 2010: I’ve read reports now that other states, to include Oklahoma and Texas, are considering Arizona-type immigration laws. When the federal government fails to act, states will, it seems.
While I still think the Arizona illegal alien law is the wrong way to go, if I can believe a story I just read in today’s newspaper, maybe it has had some positive effect — positive if you are against illegal immigration, and I am.
The headline in the Sacramento Bee read: Day laborers plan to leave after Arizona jobs dwindle. The subhead read: Effects of immigrant law already felt in Phoenix.
To summarize, the story said that many day laborers have decided to leave Arizona because they are undocumented workers (illegal aliens, if you will) and they do not want to get caught, feeling they are more vulnerable under the state’s new law that would supposedly make it easier for law enforcement officers to check their immigration status and in fact makes it a separate state crime to be in the U.S. (Arizona anyway) illegally (the law actually does not go into effect until July, as I recall, but the buzz is out there).
Not from that story, but separately, I hear that Mexico has warned its citizens against traveling to Arizona lest they be ensnared in the illegal alien trap — kind of ironic being that Mexico is basically a third world country in the throws of something akin to civil war (a drug war that has is some respects made the nation a failed state). I think the U.S. has warned its citizens to beware of traveling in Mexico.
At any rate, if the law is really discouraging illegal aliens (even if it is primarily ones from Mexico) then maybe there is some positive effect from this new law that on its surface might seem problematic — what with racial profiling and an extra burden being put on police.
Its defenders are certainly correct that Arizona felt pressure to do something because the federal government has not been effective in policing the border.
As we all know, the problems are that illegals, many from Mexico, pour across the border and compete with our own citizens for work (well some say they don’t compete because they take jobs U.S. citizens won‘t do, but that is a different issue, which could be debated and is addressed to some extent later in this blog), and that drug traffickers, the same ones who are challenging civil society in Mexico, and wreaking havoc on the border and elsewhere in the U.S.
As for the lure of jobs, I along with so many others cannot understand why more is not done to keep employers from hiring illegals. I believe that in the case of farm workers (an area that I have had contact with) government authorities are actually complicit in the practice of using illegal labor. In other industries, this may be true too.
Even before word of the new crackdown in Arizona, illegals had already faced the reality of fewer jobs, especially in constriction, due to the sagging economy.
The Bee story (actually Associated Press, by Amanda Lee Myers) said, in part: “the law’s supporters hope the departure of illegal immigrants will help dismantle part of the underground economy here and create jobs for thousands of legal residents with a 9.6 percent unemployment rate.”
Another paragraph in the story quoted an Arizona researcher as saying: “That’s really the question, as to whether the existing population is willing to work those (low level) jobs… I think economics provides the answer. If job openings have no applicants, then businesses need to address that by raising the offered wage.”
And as I have blogged before, that last part is really the whole issue. There just seems to be a feeling among some, primarily employers I suppose, that certain types of work must be filled by people willing to accept lower wages and thus a lower standard of living than most of the rest of society. Certainly supply and demand does answer this problem. If citizenship or other allowed documentation were required for employment, the nation would benefit from a workforce that is a full-fledged part of the economic system and theoretically the government would not be on the hook nearly as much for jobless benefits because more work would be available. Employers still fear, however, that if only U.S. citizens were available they might have to offer better compensation and working conditions. What is wrong with that? I ask.
I also read an article in the New York Times Opinion section that defends the new Arizona law that is aimed at giving police there more authority to detain illegal aliens and makes it a separate state crime to be an illegal alien. It said that predictably the law’s detractors had not even read the bill. I plead guilty. I blogged against it and I had not read it — still have not. I depended upon news summaries. I read the afore-mentioned article and took in its summary. It gave me something to think about, but I was still not convinced it is the way to go. I doubt I will look up the actual text of the new law. I imagine it will be challenged in court and justices will do their own legal analyses.
We do need immigration reform, which basically in my mind means we need stepped-up enforcement. But it needs to be on a national level, in a coordinated approach.
But meanwhile, maybe Arizona is getting what it wants, and, who knows? other states might feel compelled to copy it in the absence of action on the national level.