Huddled Masses, Yearning to Breathe Fareed

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Fareed Zakaria has a sharp Washington Post column that I think hits on the best objection to "guest worker" programs, to wit: Large populations of people with no real prospects of becoming full members of the community (by way of citizenship) aren't particularly likely to integrate well while they're around. Or, as he puts it, why would we decide to start doing immigration on the French model?

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  1. From the comments around here, my guess is that the fundamentalist libertarian counterpoint is:

    The issue of whether the population integrates or not is not a proper concern of gov’t. All gov’t should care about is having a sufficient security force so that nobody’s car gets tipped (because that would be coercion). Keeping the guest workers in secure facilities is probably the answer on security. Or do the security the way Switzerland, whatever that is.

  2. That’s a fair enough point, but at least the guest worker status will give immigrants more access to mainstream society than being forced to live underground.

    It’s a step in the right direction, and while I’d like to see bigger steps, I don’t know if there is any better deal on the table.

  3. The issue of whether the population integrates or not is not a proper concern of gov’t.

    It is also:

    * A task that is economically inefficient.
    * A task that is next to impossible to implement without being a full-fledged police state.

  4. I don’t think you need a full fledged police state if the guest workers are housed in secure facilities.

    I am not sure whether Switzerland is a full fledged police state or not, so their approach might be another non-police-state solution.

  5. “”Keeping the guest workers in secure facilities is probably the answer on security. Or do the security the way Switzerland, whatever th
    at is””

    How do you keep workers in secure facilities? Do you do bed checks to make sure they stay there? Do you do sweeps into motels to make sure they are not checking there? Do you have guards at the door?

    There are many sceneraios for this, none of them precisely libertarian….

  6. There are many sceneraios for this, none of them precisely libertarian….

    1. yes, they would look a lot like prisons (or Central American plantations or Asian factories, same things).

    2. no, these particular prisons are not incompatible with fundamentalist libertarianism

    3. Because: the people housed there have consented.

  7. 4. i am assuming that the employer’s would be willing to either pay taxes for the security (less preferred), or agree to do a good job providing it themselves (more preferred).

  8. When I hear people talking about deporting “all the illegals,” I have to wonder how many of them know what they’re talking about.

    That would require the rounding up, holding in custody, and transportation of some 10-15 million people. This would represent the largest forced migration in the history of the Western Hemisphere.

    This would require rooting out the “illegals” living within, and as integral parts of, communities that also include documented immigrants, as well as native-born Americans. How many doors get kicked in during this roundup? How many people stopped in the street because of their skin tone, accent, and style of dress?

    It would quickly become apparant that no such effort could hope to succeed through normal means. One solution would be to get creative with technology. I bet that sentence produces some great imagery.

    The logistics of such a thing could not be accomplished without changing this country into a racist police state on the model of a dystopian sci-fi movie.

  9. If we can make secured housing for 2 million, then we can do it for 10 million. Especially with such a wonderful revenue source to tap to pay for the security.

    If there were 10 times as many secured housing facilities in the US as there are now, would you even notice? There are lots of places to put prisons where we don’t have to look at them. On an environmental note: think of the fuel savings.

    This would require rooting out the “illegals” living within, and as integral parts of, communities that also include documented immigrants, as well as native-born Americans.

    I diagree with this. This is no objection to my secured guest worker housing plan. The secured guest worker housing is only for people who apply and consent. Convicts shouldn’t be mixed in there. That would be gratuitously cruel.

  10. We’ve been dealing one way or another with Mexican immigration since the early 20th century. Nearly every type of guestworker program and the like has been tried since then; none of them have stemmed the tide of “illegal” immigration and most of them have (because they involved the coercive power of the state) led to rather abusive living conditions for the guestworkers.

    So the question isn’t why do what the French are doing; the question is, why are both countries continuing policies that have clearly failed during their long efforts to actualize similar policies?

  11. why are both countries continuing policies that have clearly failed during their long efforts to actualize similar policies?

    C’mon Hakluyt – The War on Drugs, The War on Poverty, New Deal, Prohibition, laws against consensual sex between adults, Antitrust laws, etc, etc.

    When was a government policy ever stopped for failure?

  12. hey man, lay off the French…

    the most famous “guest worker” program is that of Germany, who extended a warm greeting to their Turkish “guests”…who ended up overstaying their welcome, inviting their families, and never integrating into the German culture.

    It’s surprising to see US law modeled (perhaps unknowingly) on such an undisputed failure.

  13. SmokingPenguin,

    Excuse me for my brief lapse. 🙂

  14. Well, you have workers living in prison-like facilities because that is their contract.

    Can they go look for another employer? And if they decide to end their contract, leave their employment and go seek work somewhere else without those requirements, what does it mean?

    Does it mean that he has the freedom to form a new contract on terms that he prefers?

    Or does it mean that the resouces of the State are called in to catch him, to penalize the new employer, to deport him and all that?

    In other words, for a libertarian, you seem to be accepting a lot of coercion by part of the State. I guess that because it is used against “non-citizens”.

    Reminds me how slave owners could get misty eyed about liberty. After all, the slaves were “non-citizens”.

    The problem with libertarianism is that people are a lot more worried about their freedom than that of anyone else, not to mention that they include among their rights, the right to deny someone else’s freedom…

  15. The problem with the guest worker program is that it still assumes central control over markets is a good and desireable thing. What should be focused upon is that it’s simply another way for government to grow bigger and more intrusive than ever.

    I have a tendency to think the best practical solution is for the government to do nothing at all. Let the economy continue to function with no further govt intervention, and I think we have the path to least damage.

  16. It’s all in the attitude, and the attitude comes from the pandering President and the pandering Congress.
    There were times in the history of the US, when the attitude was 180 degrees different.

    Immigrants are a blessing, not a curse.
    With that attitude, a “problem” would evaporate.

  17. Adriana,

    Get a clue. Most libertarians promote a policy of open borders and a free labor market and eschew the use of government coercion regarding immigration policy.

    Your problem is that you don’t seem to understand what libertarianism means.

  18. Hakluyt,
    I think Adriana has the number of many “libertarians.”

  19. Another careless anti-French zinger. The guest worker model is not the French immigration system. The French model appears similar to the U.S. green card system.

    Zakaria wrote this.

    “Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?”

    Nice zinger, but untrue.

    According to Wikpedia, Immigrants to France can apply for naturalization after 5 years of residence, and children born in France regardless of foreign parentage are entitled to citizenship at age 18 if they have resided in France for 5 years. Seems very similar to the U.S. green card system.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_nationality_law

  20. To contextualize this discussion, I want to repeat that the following is not how I look at the situation, but rather how I would look at it if a was a fundamentalist libertarian. I think this discussion is a useful pedagogical excercise in that it keeps us from sliding into fundamentalism. On with the discourse.

    Can they go look for another employer?

    Their contract says that their employer will decide which employer the employee will work for for as long as the employee participates in the guest worker program. If the original employer no longer needs the employee, then he is free to sell the employee’s services to another employer. Employer’s will write the contract this way for three reasons: (1) guest workers will consent to anything (the desirable ones anyway); (2) this way gives the employer maximum prospect of economic gain from his investment in the guest worker; and (3) this will help keep the guest worker in line as the labor conditions become more, errrr, rigorous.

    And if they decide to end their contract, leave their employment and go seek work somewhere else without those requirements, what does it mean?

    Whether by taxes or by private means, this plan is contingent on employer’s paying all the security costs associated with their guest workers. This includes shipping them back to China if they get too uppity and want to leave the secured facility.

    Does it mean that he has the freedom to form a new contract on terms that he prefers?

    Freedom of contract dictates that the answer is no if the sponsoring employer says no. The sponsoring employer’s will say no. Donchu worry bout that.

    Or does it mean that the resouces of the State are called in to catch him, to penalize the new employer, to deport him and all that?

    You better believe the employer pays for escapees. that has got to be part of the quid pro quo in order to make sure that employers really do absorb security costs. We may have to limit sponsoring employers prerogatives to declare bankruptcy. We don’t want these companies dumping escapees the way they dump pensioners. This is serious.

    In other words, for a libertarian, you seem to be accepting a lot of coercion by part of the State. I guess that because it is used against “non-citizens”.

    ABSOLUTELY NOT. Every sponsored employee will give full consent. If the employee didn’t collect enuf info about the deal b4 consenting, then that is just too bad. Consent is consent. Consent entirely destroys allegations of coercion such as yours.

    Reminds me how slave owners could get misty eyed about liberty. After all, the slaves were “non-citizens”.

    Then let citizens join the guest worker program if they want, too. I don’t see the need for discrimination based on nationality.

    The problem with libertarianism is that people are a lot more worried about their freedom than that of anyone else, not to mention that they include among their rights, the right to deny someone else’s freedom…

    Fundamentalism . . . crumbling . . . libertarian resolve . . . weakening . . . HELP!

  21. Then let citizens join the guest worker program if they want, too.

    In other words, if a citizen can’t pay his credit card bill, it would be nice to have a realistic private alternative to prosecution in the gov’t courts.

  22. Yes, let’s keep guest workers in a company version of Cabrini-Green. This will of course not sow any discontent among anyone.

    Dave W’s language certainly makes it sound like a parody (uppity?), but since he’s the only person advocating such a strategy, I can’t figure out who he’s supposed to be parodying.

  23. but since he’s the only person advocating such a strategy, I can’t figure out who he’s supposed to be parodying.

    No parody. I am just saying that people who think *everything* should always come back to consent and coercion don’t really believe that. This is the thd we will link to the next time somebody tries to take the concept of consent too far in some other context.

    This isn’t the first time I have asked the commenters here how they feel about indentured servitude. This isn’t the first time that that has shut the fundamentalists up.

  24. Everybody back up for a second.

    As long as we are throwing silly ideas around, lets deport all of the lazy and/or overpaid native born Americans to Mexico and give the hard working immigrants their homes and jobs.

    Open borders for all. Only the unskilled, the overpaid, and the lazy need to fear immigration from Mexico.

  25. I provided six reasons his article is misleading here.

    Now, seriously. If a small-timer like me can spend just a few minutes – that’s all it took – pointing out errors in FZ’s “argument”, should you really trust what he or Reason say?

  26. Lonewacko, do you have -any- purpose here other than self-promotion and bitching about Mexicans?

  27. When I hear people talking about deporting “all the illegals,” I have to wonder how many of them know what they’re talking about.

    Are you listening to the shortwave band when you hear that? I’m not aware of a mainstream politician or pundit who favors immediate mass deportations of the type you describe.

    But, if Reason wants to think for a minute, here’s something I wrote a couple months ago, well before the recent illegal alien marches. Study a bit of history – especially of the military variety – and even Reason writers might start to get a slight bit of a clue.

  28. This isn’t the first time I have asked the commenters here how they feel about indentured servitude. This isn’t the first time that that has shut the fundamentalists up.

    I don’t have a big problem with indentured servitude. After all, it allowed a large portion of this country’s population to come to the US.

    But I don’t see the relevance to indentured servitude now. In the past, a person indentured themselves for a period of years upon arrival to the US because it cost a few years’ wages to get to the US.

    Today you can get from anywhere in the world to the US for less than two months’ wages. And most of the anti-immigrant whining is about people who can walk here. Why would anyone indenture themselves?

  29. I say let them all in, that way we can tax them like everyone else. That way, when they get busted at H&R Block by NBC News for cheating the IRS out of its share of their 11 grand, they’ll think long and hard about maybe heading back to Juarez.

  30. Why would anyone indenture themselves?

    1. Guest workers are a security issue.

    2. If employers will agree to secure the guest workers, then they are not a security issue.

    3. political solution: have the employer who wants the guest worker to agree to handle the security responsibility.

    4. Yes, this is harsher for guest worker than the old fashioned indentured servitude you are talking about, because the guest worker has to consent to living in a secured facility. However, if the guest worker consents then the perceived harshness or the futility of hope of sneaking away from the contractual responsibilities are rendered unprolematic by the guest worker’s consent.

  31. Your premise seems hopelessly broken.

    I have no reason to believe that guest workers are a security issue. Those who wish to pursue citizenship should be able to bide their time and traverse the hoops that they would need to. Those who wish to remain citizens of their home countries are free to come and go as desired. Why is there a security issue?

    If your point is that the guest worker plan being praised as the best thing on Congress’s plate right now is worse than doing nothing, then I might agree if you presented a reasonable argument. I haven’t read the plan, so I don’t know the artificial limitations on number, time, and employment it might be piled with.

  32. So the question isn’t why do what the French are doing; the question is, why are both countries continuing policies that have clearly failed during their long efforts to actualize similar policies?

    …and it isn’t just France either. It’s the Netherlands, Germany and others too. Not that this would be the first time in history that we’ve watched other lemmings go over the cliff and decided to just keep running anyway.

    I said something along the lines of this comment in another thread about a week ago, and followed up with the observation that I haven’t seen a single anti-immigration person bother to mention of assimilation problems as an issue.

    If I had to hazard guess as to such people’s motives, assuming they’re trying to achieve their goals, I’d guess that discouraging assimilation is what they’re all about. I’d guess that they want immigration policy to discourage the assimilation of other peoples into our culture.

    I see the same sort of stupidity in the Drug War. …Sure legalizing drug use may have all sorts of social benefits, but how will it stop people from using drugs? For the anti-immigration activists, assimilation seems to be the villain. They demonize it with fairy tales of job losses, lower pay and higher tax burdens. …Just like I hear fairy tales in the drug war about meth epidemics, etc., etc. Sure, giving immigrants a clear path to citizenship may aid in assimilation, but how will that stop immigrants from assimilating?

  33. I have no reason to believe that guest workers are a security issue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_civil_unrest_in_France

    My point is not that I have a solution to the guest worker problem or to the indentured servitude problem generally. My point is that libertarian principles would point to a political solution that nobody wants to pursue, not even HnR’ers. This doesn’t mean that libertarianism is wrong. I am making a more general point of the limitations of consent as a way of creating a good world for people to live in.

    Anyway J. (not Jennifer) raised the security concern, not me. I just happen to take the security concern a lot more seriously than I would have 3 years ago because of the above WIKI entry.

  34. My point is that libertarian principles would point to a political solution that nobody wants to pursue, not even HnR’ers.

    Libertarian principles would point to a political solution that ignores the borders of the United States with respect to migration, labor, and trade.

    An article highlighting the fact that an underclass in a state whose labor laws are virtually guaranteed to create an underclass staged riots is hardly an argument against free migration.

    Last month young workers of all stripes rioted in France, essentially against the changing of those labor laws. Did that pose a lesson for US immigration policy? Should France set limits on 18-26 year olds? Should they have to carry permits to work in France?

    I am making a more general point of the limitations of consent as a way of creating a good world for people to live in.

    Let’s just say that “French labor laws” and “consent” don’t get along to well… Be careful drawing lessons from them.

  35. MikeP:

    If we could convince everybody that guest workers would not be a security problem, then the guest worker program, or unrestricted immigration or your other ideas would be more popular.

    If me and Julian’s premise about potential security issues cannot be taken seriously, then my little thought excercise on this thread is not a good one 4u.

  36. We would be in deep trouble if the illegals we have were not mainly Mexican. How about a market approach to guest workers, H1B’s included? Instead of making companies spend a lot of money on lawyers to make the case that they need Sanjay Punjabi, just charge them about what they would have paid the lawyer. This would at least bring in more revenue than our current system.

    An organized guest worker system sounds much more gentle than the current system. If guys knew they could come up a few months a year unhassled and then return to their families then they could afford to keep their families in much better style in Mexico than dragging them around the Central Valley from crop to crop.

    The downside would be that there would be a lot less Mexicans around. So there would be noplace to buy dried chipotle by the pound, or buy a taco after last call, … I just don’t understand the process by which getting rid of Mexicans creates paridise.

  37. “This isn’t the first time I have asked the commenters here how they feel about indentured servitude. This isn’t the first time that that has shut the fundamentalists up.”

    Hmmm… I guess I haven’t actually seen this occur. But the bottom line is that I would argue taht in a country founded on the premise that there are certain “unalienable rights” you can’t sign away your personal freedom to a corporation or any other entity. Of course, I could sign a contract that gives you my personal freedom for say, $1 million dollars. That doesn’t mean that you can illegally incarcerate me, or that one’s personal freedom is even legitimately sellable. Once the courts finished with us, you’d get your money back (assuming I haven’t spent it all and declared bankruptcy!) and it would be determined that there was no way to seel this.

    It’s like saying, “I’m considering selling off my 5th Amendment Rights. What’s your opening bid?”

    Now, selling your personal freedom to the gov’t via military enlistment is a whole separate bad idea. Let’s face it, corporations though capable of some really evil actions, have nowhere near the potential for evil as the state.

  38. This whole illegal immigration publicity blitz is well timed just for the 2006 elections, isn’t it?

    The reality (IMHO) is that there are some real issues surrounding illegal immigration, but nothing worthy of generating the sort of media/political hysteria we’ve seen in recent weeks.

    –No, we’re not going to deport 12 million people. The issue has already been decided on the ground, so to speak.

    –On balance, I believe the USA gets more benefit from illegals than it loses, economic or otherwise.

    –The wisest policy would acknowledge the reality on the ground and work to minimize harmful side effects, such as use of welfare usage and a lack of knowledge about who is coming over the border.

    Zakaria raises some good points but ignores the fact that a large percentage of illegals are not interested in either permanent residency or citizenship. They are here to earn a few bucks to send back home and eventually to return there. That might slowly be changing, though. There was an interesting article (either WashPost or L.A. Times, I can’t recall) about how many illegals are returning home to find that their relatives pissed away all of that remittance money, and–surprise surprise–the old village is still the same corrupt shithole it always was. Compared to that, taking care of some gringo’s lawn or cleaning an office bathroom looks pretty good.

  39. . This is the thd we will link to the next time somebody tries to take the concept of consent too far in some other context.

    This isn’t the first time I have asked the commenters here how they feel about indentured servitude. This isn’t the first time that that has shut the fundamentalists up.

    What a bunch of egotistical self-congratulatory bunk. Yes, link away – I’m glad we have the likes of you (and presumably the government) who would protect us from the concept of consent being taken too far.

    The only problem is your example doesn’t show what you think it does. There is no problem here with consent being taken too far – only your strange extrapolations. The idea that someone can consent to a contract of employment under whatever conditions they want is quiet distinct from the remedy for breaking the contract. It is well-settled in law that you don’t get specific performance of an employment contract as a remedy – for just the liberty reasons that a fundamentalist libertarian would be concerned with. There is no problem with consent being taken too far.

    The problem is with your idea of a security risk requiring onerous contract terms that, as another commenter has mentioned, no one would likely agree to in the first place without the coercion of government. Simple competition among the employers would render such silly terms unusable absent that coercion.

    Using the riots as evidence of a general security risk for immigrants is no different than using the LA riots after the Rodney King trial (or those in the 60’s in various cities) as evidence that blacks are a security risk and should likewise be held in “secure” housing and subject to the same employment program. The mere fact that they happen to have been, quite arbitrarily, born on this side of the border certainly can’t save them from something as important as security, now can it?

    Obviously your parody parodies nothing. No extrapolation from the concept of consent or freedom of contract leads to the silliness of your posts. As a libertarian, the concept of freedom, (which includes consent, contract, etc.) leads inevitably to the conclusion that a society should not limit those fundamental human rights to a select few who happen to have the amazing good fortune to be born within some completely arbitrary geographic box. Every human is simply treated the same as every other, no secure housing, no bizarre contracts that nobody would agree to, just the freedom to live and contract for work as he pleases.

    After that, if someone is indeed crazy enough to agree to agree to ridiculous terms absent any government coercion or designation as a “security risk” then you should feel free to go counsel them to the dangers of their decision – I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to do so since there won’t be many. At any rate, it is precisely because of libertarian principles that no law is going to hold them to contracting away their freedom – perhaps they’ll face some damages for breach, but not specific performance. Just as we do not prosecute someone who doesn’t pay his credit card bill (i.e. deny freedom for breach of a loan contract, as your comment suggests you seem to think) but simply asses damages, we don’t hold people to perform employment contracts.

    My point is that libertarian principles would point to a political solution that nobody wants to pursue, not even HnR’ers.

    Bullshit. Libertarian principles would point to no such “solution.”

  40. Immigration on the French Quarter Model:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-labor4apr04,0,5618062.story?coll=la-home-headlines
    [Illegal] Migrants Find a Gold Rush in New Orleans

    Latino workers have gutted, roofed and painted houses and hauled away garbage, debris and downed trees. Undocumented workers have installed trailers to house returning evacuees at New Orleans City Park, their pay coming from FEMA subcontractors.

    “It’s all illegals doing this work,” said Rey Mendez, a FEMA trailer subcontractor from Honduras.

    No further comment.

  41. Further comment:

    Come to think of it, I’ve been an “undocumented worker” in both France and Mexico.

  42. I don’t know what your point is, but let’s try a little bit of thinking:

    – who pays when those illegal aliens get injured?

    – who pays way down the line when those former illegal aliens come down with diseases because they weren’t wearing safety equipment when they did that work?

    – who pays American citizens to live in hotels in Atlanta when they should have been doing the jobs done by the illegal aliens but they were prevented by corrupt U.S. politicians?

    – who pays for the corrosion of our political system caused by said corruption?

    Remember, libertarians: think with your brain.

  43. There is a scary scenario that one day might happen

    a) Illegal aliens with no health insurance.

    b) Illegal aliens who cannot afford to miss days of work for sickness

    c) Illegal aliens who work in food preparation

    d) Illegal aliens that come from countries with diseases that we consider eradicated here.

    From an epidemiological point of view, it is an accident waiting to happen.

    After all, it was something like this that sent the Chi Chi restaurants to bankrupcy court.

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