Aliens as Assets Among the more deeply entrenched popular beliefs in this country is that the United States is being flooded with illegal immigrants—mostly from Mexico—and that these aliens are taking jobs away from willing Americans. Research scientist Joseph Martino, in our September issue, contested that belief ("Two Hands, One Mouth"), arguing that an "immigrant is a whole person," with "two hands and one mouth," who brings with him the means to provide his own sustenance and in this sense creates a job.
Recent evidence backing up this thesis comes from economist Courtenay Slater, formerly with the Commerce Department. Slater says that Census Bureau data confirm that illegal aliens benefit local economies: by creating large pools of low-cost labor in various areas, illegals attract businesses, thus generating additional jobs for the areas' legal residents and lowering prices for consumers, as well. Slater's analysis was published in the January issue of American Demographics.
Slater also estimated the number of illegal aliens in the United States and came up with a figure around 2 million. Often-quoted estimates of this figure have ranged as high as 12 million.
Home Is Where the Workplace Is REASON's article last October on computer home work ("Telecommuting: Will the Plug Be Pulled?") described the liberating effect of home work for women in various walks of life. New confirmation of this came in a recent Wall Street Journal report on home-based businesses owned by women. It quoted an estimate by Marion Landis of the National Alliance of Homebased Businesswomen that more than 3 million women now own home-based businesses, including language schools, maid services, interior designing, and—of course—computer work.
"A home-based business appeals to women because of the low overhead, flexible hours, tax breaks, lack of commuting and, perhaps most important, the opportunity for greater involvement with family and child rearing," the Journal noted. Such advantages are not enough to satisfy Dennis Chamot, assistant director of the AFL-CIO's Professional Employees Department. In December, he argued that all home work involving computers should be banned for both semiskilled and professional workers. He contended that in the past, government couldn't enforce labor legislation for home workers—and "if history is any guide, we can say with certainty that abuse of electronic homeworkers is inevitable." His conclusion: "An early ban would try to prevent a repeat of past experiences in a new guise."
But at least for the time being, home workers have history on their side. One indication of where that history is going was the startup of Telecommuting Review: The Gordon Report, a new monthly newsletter that disseminates information on products and services for the burgeoning field, as well as on legal and regulatory issues that telecommuting raises. (It was actually a recent issue of Telecommuting Review that reported AFL-CIO official Chamot's call-to-arms against telecommuting.)
Yet another auspicious sign for home work was the Labor Department's recent lifting of its 41-year-old ban on home knitting ("A Right Hook for Home Knitting," Further & More, Feb.). An anxious clothing and textile- workers union official Jack Sheinkman warned in a letter to the New York Times that there has been "a resurgence of the sweatshop system, of which industrial homework is an integral part." But his warnings fell on deaf ears. Indeed, Marion Behr of the National Alliance of Homebased Businesswomen and Omri Behr of Women Working Home, Inc., took him to task in their own letter to the Times.
"Homeworkers are a diverse and individualistic bunch of people," the Behrs explained. "They all realize that working at home is a great thing." Sheinkman had argued that home work is used to exploit illegal aliens. The Behrs agreed but urged that this is a rationale for changing immigration laws, not for banning home work. "I doubt if Mr. Sheinkman would be very popular with his Detroit colleagues of the U.A.W. if he advocated banning cars because of the carnage on our roads," they wrote. And they very eloquently concluded, "The true voice of the new work force is not the plea for Big Brother's smothering blanket of protection; it is the voice of free Americans just wanting the chance to work as they please and where they please, whether as employees or entrepreneurs."
And More • Freeing the D.C. 2? As economist Paul Feldman documented in our September 1983 issue ("Free the D.C. 2!"), the federal government owns—and badly manages—two commercial airports: National, in Washington, D.C., and Dulles, in Virginia, near the capital. Feldman proposed that the government, having no business operating commercial airports in the first place, sell National and Dulles to private operators. Now Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole has endorsed a recent advisory-commission suggestion that the government turn both airports over to an independent authority and that improvements at both be funded through tax-exempt bonds rather than through federal grants. Congress, the District of Columbia city council, and the Virginia legislature must all approve the plan.