Saying No To a Day With No Immigrants

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The SF Chronicle has run a version of my April 18 Reason Online piece mocking advocates of mandatory English instruction for immigrants; the Chron's reworking is online here.

In the same Opinion section, Chron columnist Debra Saunders explains that she's turned off by tomorrow's planned protests, in which legal and illegal immigrants are planning to skip work, school, etc.:

The bottom line is that while these demonstrations, I am told, are supposed to make me feel better about illegal immigrants, I feel angry when I see thousands of people who knowingly break American law, yet somehow feel entitled to do so and outraged that they have not been sufficiently rewarded for it.

And I'm someone who wants to find a compromise that accommodates working families that have put down roots in California.

Whole thing here.

I don't share Saunders' discomfort with illegal immigrants–whether the discomfort is economic (there's no good reason to believe that low-wage migrants seriously screw domestic workers much less consumers) or cultural (as I've noted elsewhere, Latinos learn English at about the same clip as the old-time immigrants from Southern and Central Europe did).

But I do agree with her that tomorrow's protest is a pretty damn bad idea. Part of the moral high ground that illegal and low-wage legal immigrants hold is that they're willing to work harder and longer than many other people. This confuses that basic message. And so does the idea of yanking your kids from school. And it's not helping anything that the date is May 1.

The nationwide protests a couple of weeks ago were models in political persuasion–totally peaceful and quietly forceful in their rhetoric and sheer numbers. Tomorrow's seems set to undo a lot of that.

NEXT: One Way To Stop the Invasion Across Our Southern Border

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  1. “The nationwide protests a couple of weeks ago were models in political persuasion–totally peaceful and quietly forceful in their rhetoric and sheer numbers. Tomorrow’s seems set to undo a lot of that.”

    Do you expect the marches to be violent tomorrow? Whats wrong with pulling your kids out of government schooling for a day? If the rallies get 5-10 million in the streets tomorrow, I can’t see a bad side.

  2. I wonder how many will actually show up to the protests. If an illegal immigrant walks off the job for a day, there are a dozen more who will be more than happy to do the job.

    On the general issue of immigration, I’ve talked so much about my Italian ancestors (dark-skinned, uneducated, Catholic, Romance language, etc.). So let’s talk about my grandmother, who has no respect for sovereignty.

    She was born in Canada. Her parents moved around a lot in the Northwest, living in British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alberta, etc. Her father was basically a migrant worker, going where he could find work and never worrying too much about whether the available job was north or south of a line drawn by government officials. Eventually they settled in Washington (the state, not the city) and in WWII she joined the US Army as a nurse. During the war she met an officer descended from swarthy Italians and converted to his papist faith, and after the war they were married in Manilla by a Spanish priest.

    Multiple choice test: Which of the following best describes my great-grandfather:

    1) Threat to American sovereignty.
    2) The damn Cannuck who stole your great-grandfather’s job.
    3) Member of a sleeper cell bent on reclaiming this continent for the British Crown.
    4) Probably a decent guy, but he should have worked legally, dammit! If he doesn’t fill out forms in triplicate and obtain permission from a government official then he is undermining our way of life!

  3. 5) Patriarch of sophist(s)?

  4. Threats without any substantive leverage do not bode well in negotiations..

  5. “Part of the moral high ground that illegal and low-wage legal immigrants hold is that they’re willing to work harder and longer than many other people.”
    This point is trotted out constantly without any data up back it up.
    Having worked in the service industry from washing dishes to bartending/waiting and the trades (mostly roofing and painting some carpentry) I’m curious how many people commenting on this page have ever done these types of jobs. If you haven’t kindly refrain from pontificating on the subject. You really don’t know what you’re talking about. Plus in the Northern Midwest these types of work experience are considered an essential right of passage. If you haven’t come home from work with your hands shaking from fatigue you don’t know what real work is.
    I’ve worked with hard working people from Mexico and I’ve worked with lazy people from Mexico. The point is if you really need a job you’re going to make sure you work hard to avoid being fired. End of story. In Chicago service industry jobs are so plentiful it’s hard to find anyone to do them with any effort. There must be some model in economics to explain this phenomena.
    As for having open borders are they open to everyone or just to people from the south. What about all the Indians(from the sub-continent) who work here? do they get citizenship. What about the ones who work long hours manning phone banks(and having breakdowns due to the stress) do they get citizenship? They live in India but they work here essentially.
    I’m against open borders and any sort of amnesty. Just because some works is not sort of virtue it’s par for the course. I’ve been working since I was 12 years old. Paying taxes before I could vote drive etc. I got no special consideration. But I think I should have a say in what happens in the country over someone who crosses our border illegally and works for a while.

  6. The heads side of the coin says a people should be able to have a say about who comes into their country, no less than a homeowner should be able to say who come into her living room.

    But then, old money New Englander’s ancestors had far less right to come here and take the Indians’ land than does a hard working Mexican have to take a job offered to him by a GOPista.

    Fences make good neighbors! Let’s hire Mexican labor to build a wall from sea to sea and start arresting at the top the CEO’s of companies that hire illegals. And let anyone who’s here now stay.

  7. I agree with thoreau. The expectations for this protest are way too high. I predict that the big story tomorrow will be that turnout is much lower than anticipated, which will, of course, be followed by accusations that the media and government have maliciously undercounted them. There will be accusations of racism, classism, and right-wing conspiracies. Expect at least one statement saying something like “Immigrants have always been America’s invisible peoples. It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that America still fails to notice us.”

  8. “The bottom line is that while these demonstrations, I am told, are supposed to make me feel better about illegal immigrants, I feel angry when I see thousands of people who knowingly break American law, yet somehow feel entitled to do so and outraged that they have not been sufficiently rewarded for it.”

    Wait, is she talking about illegal immigrants or the Bush administration?

  9. Thoreau,

    You ARE aware, are you not, that not all Italians are/were swarthy-complexioned, brown-eyed, Catholic, guinea-wops? Some, from northern Italy, are/were actually blue-eyed blondes, light complexioned and Protestant. Bigotry and stereotypes? Back at ‘cha, bozo!

  10. 5)

    A touch! A definite touch!

  11. The companies that rely on immigrants have been relying on the mob to get them to work. Hopefully it will affect who hires and who uses the mob. It would be nice to see a list of who hires to see the connections to the mob.

  12. “The bottom line is that while these demonstrations, I am told, are supposed to make me feel better about illegal immigrants, I feel angry when I see thousands of people who knowingly break American law, yet somehow feel entitled to do so and outraged that they have not been sufficiently rewarded for it.”

    I wonder if she gets angry at pot rallies? How about civil rights era civil disobedience? Did she get pissed at MLK jr for going to a Birmingham jail or the Freedom Riders?

    As for turnout I know a lot of companies are supporting the rallies by having a day off like Tyson and Goya and a lot of smaller companies that rely on cheap labour. My prediction: 5 million.

    Open Borders por favor!

    Cynic says:
    “ARE aware, are you not, that not all Italians are/were swarthy-complexioned, brown-eyed, Catholic, guinea-wops? Some, from northern Italy, are/were actually blue-eyed blondes, light complexioned and Protestant. Bigotry and stereotypes? Back at ‘cha, bozo!”

    Northern Italians didn’t immigrate to the US in any large numbers, the ones that did tended to go to places like Argentina — a lot of Mexicans are white, few immigrate to the US.

  13. You ARE aware, are you not, that not all Italians are/were swarthy-complexioned, brown-eyed, Catholic, guinea-wops? Some, from northern Italy, are/were actually blue-eyed blondes, light complexioned and Protestant. Bigotry and stereotypes? Back at ‘cha, bozo!

    Not that thoreau needs me to defend him but seriously, you must not come here often if you’re accusing him of bigotry. Try reading the post again and maybe you’ll realize he was making a point about the parallels between what was commonly thought of those immigrants, such as his ancestors, at the time and what seems likely to motivate some of the anti-immigrant sentiment today. Seems pretty clear to me that he was pointing out the ignorance of the very bigotry you accuse him of.

  14. The heads side of the coin says a people should be able to have a say about who comes into their country, no less than a homeowner should be able to say who come into her living room.

    Well, except for the fact that the homeowner actually, you know, owns her living room, that would have been a good analogy. A better one is the homeowner who is prevented from inviting someone into her living room by her neighbors when they refuse to allow the person into “their” neighborhood.

  15. I agree that this protest is a bad idea, but not because of the message confusion. I don?t see why the whole ?jobs that American won?t do? is an argument that is even used. Maybe they do jobs that people who are currently here aren?t jumping in line to do, but isn?t that classism? And won?t their children go to school and get the same jobs the rest of us do?

    In the end, it really doesn?t matter because everyone knows what a day without an immigrant will be like. We aren?t confused about the work they do. Just like we know what would happen with ?a day without a doctor? or ?a day without a waiter.? In any circumstances, employer?s whose employees skip work to prove a point should fire as many of them as they possibly can. It?s not about immigration. It?s about doing your job.

    And I?m for (virtually) open immigration

  16. Brian Courts,

    I HAVE read Thoreau’s posts and the many that he has made over the last several months on this subject. And everytime he mentions Italians, it is always something like “dark-skinned, uneducated, Catholic…” etc. I’m merely castigating HIM for perpetuating the very same stereotype that he seems to suspicion in those who hold an opposing view regarding immigration.

  17. thoreau,

    If your great-grandpap’s employers paid payroll taxes, and he paid his income taxes then I would have no problem with him at all.

    Otherwise he and his employers were freeloaders.

    The real culprit: Employers of illegal immigrants. They are exploiting the unfair competitive advantage of not paying the appropriate taxes for their undocumented workers. Enforce that part of the law an illegal immigration is almost a moot point.

  18. If an illegal immigrant gets the job a legal citizen was applying for, I’d say the reduction in wage for that specific American worker is closer to 100% than the 3.6% figure given in the link.

    As I mentioned in the previous mexithread, I suspect the biggest hit to lower income citizens is the effect millions of illegal aliens have on the bottom end of the housing market.

    Maybe Monday would be a good day to shop for a home – LOL.

    In all fairness to our illegal brothers from the south, the right thing for the United States to do would be to adopt the same immigration laws as Mexico.

    http://www.americandaily.com/article/13045

  19. garbage, denovich. the culprit is the government, because if the government didn’t do trillions of dollars in unnecessary and unconstitutional “work”, then taxes wouldn’t be an issue.

    Take your cloaked racism elsewhere…people should be able to live where they want and work for whatever wages they can negotiate. Your attitude towards immigrants emerges from the BS argument about “taxes”.

  20. They [employers] are exploiting the unfair competitive advantage of not paying the appropriate taxes for their undocumented workers.

    Explain to me how that works.

    A business cannot issue a paycheck to an employee without payrole tax. That is a fact of life in business. A non-employee can be payed up $600 without a tax filings, after that, a 1099 is required. An employer who does not do this is going to get busted for tax evasion.

    Payroll taxes *can* be avoided, but only by a cash-based business. Even then, some tricky number fudging and risk-taking is required.

    The government is incompetent at many things, but tax collecting isn’t one of them.

  21. JK,

    As often happens in the construction industry, pay roll taxes can be avoided by paying the sub-“contractor” by cash or check and deducting it as a legitimate business expense. The sub-contractor then pays his “boys” (usually in cash and off the books) after pocketing a substantial amount for himself. He may or may not pay self-employment taxes on the money he keeps for himself, but he certainly isn’t going to pay the various taxes due on his “boys”, because officially, they don’t exist. It goes on everyday in the south and southwest and is what allows some contractors to bid the work so low. Everyone who works in construction knows that this goes on (regardless of some assertions to the contrary.) It’s quite a racket and I seriously doubt that the IRS has the resources to investigate all this corruption. The best it can do is to crack down on some and try to put a scare into the rest.
    On an ironic note…an acquaintance of mine who is dark and of Italian ancestry (although a fourth or fifth generation American) once took a job where all the crew was Hispanic. After he had collected his first week’s pay from the company who had hired him, the Hispanic crew chief demanded “his cut” and threatened to turn him over to Immigration if he didn’t fork it over!

  22. “Take your cloaked racism elsewhere…”

    If there was racism in that post, it was cloaked pretty damned well.

    Mark’s point was wrong, but not because of his obvious subconscious seething hatred for illegal Mexicans-Americans. It was wrong because everyone knows only Jews get away with not paying taxes. And the niggers. Oh shit! Did that slip out? I meant to cloak it…

  23. cynic,

    Yes, that happens, but you’re skimming over the fact that most of the taxes will be payed anyway. If a contractor sub-contracts labor, that is a perfectly valid business expense. But it just lays the payroll tax on the sub-contractor. Somewhere down the line a sub-sub-sub-contractor is going have to pony up some cash to make that work. And there is just no such thing as untaxed cash.

  24. “The nationwide protests a couple of weeks ago were models in political persuasion–totally peaceful and quietly forceful in their rhetoric and sheer numbers. Tomorrow’s seems set to undo a lot of that.”

    Anybody here heard of the Boston Tea Party?

  25. cynic:

    I HAVE read Thoreau’s posts and the many that he has made over the last several months on this subject. And everytime he mentions Italians, it is always something like “dark-skinned, uneducated, Catholic…” etc. I’m merely castigating HIM for perpetuating the very same stereotype that he seems to suspicion in those who hold an opposing view regarding immigration.

    If you’ll re-read thoreau’s posts again, you might discover that he is talking about his own Italian ancestors! He is not “stereotyping,” he is describing actual members of his own family! Presumably, he has a better idea of their actual complexion, religion or level of education than you do.

    Yeesh.

    (Sorry about the exclamations points; it was all I could do to referain from using ALL CAPS.)

  26. The Boston Tea Party was perpetrated by some not-so-swarthy native Americans.

  27. I’m aware that there is a difference between northern and southern Italians. My ancestors were southern Italians. My grandfather has a very dark complexion, darker than some Latin American immigrants that I’ve known. The entire family is Catholic, and his parents were poor and illiterate.

    My goal is not to suggest that Italians are all exactly like my family, merely to suggest that my ancestors weren’t so different from the people that scare so many Americans today. And yet my grandfather served his country, went to college, and married an Anglo woman.

    As to my great-grandfather from the Canadian branch of the family: I don’t know what his tax situation was. I know that he eventually settled down on a ranch in Montana. Either he was a good tax-paying American, or he was a tax-protesting redneck. Which one would make libertarians happier?

    I suspect that I’m not the only person here whose ancestors have a lot in common with illegal immigrants of today. One branch of my family has a lot in common, culturally and ethnically, with the Latinos who scare so many Americans. Another branch of my family didn’t care all that much about borders.

    My ancestors had the good fortune to come here in a time when immigration laws weren’t terribly strict. They had the freedom to simply follow market forces and go where they could find jobs. It would be easy for me to sneer at today’s illegals and say “Well, my ancestors obeyed the law!” but the simple fact is that the law wasn’t terribly burdensome back then, at least compared with today. I have no clue whether my ancestors would have put up with any paperwork nonsense had the laws been stricter. And neither does anybody else whose ancestors came when immigration laws were laxer.

    So, since I and many other people have no idea what our ancestors would have done in a different legal environment, we shouldn’t thump our chests about how our ancestors came here legally. Instead, we should ask whether our ancestors had anything in common with today’s illegal immigrants.

    Also, Brian Courts has it exactly right: You have every right to decide who enters your house. You have no right to decide who enters your neighbor’s house.

  28. And yet my grandfather served his country, went to college, and married an Anglo woman.

    Hypothesis: That last part scares the hell out of some people, even if they’ll never admit it. Hence the reluctance to let more Latinos in.

  29. I do suspect that Thoreau’s hypothesis may, just may have something to do with the situation.

    Nah, prolly not.

    From CNN:

    SPRING, Texas (AP) — Two white teenagers severely beat and sodomized a 16-year-old Hispanic boy who they believed had tried to kiss a 12-year-old white girl at a party, authorities said.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2006/US/04/27/texas.attack.ap/

  30. Did she get pissed at MLK jr for going to a Birmingham jail or the Freedom Riders?

    This situation is completely different. The “Letter from San Ysidro Jail” will be written in Spanish.

  31. ILLEGAL ALIENS: Expert swimmers who heroically volunteer for the least desirable jobs, thereby sparing unemployed Americans the degradation of underemployment and funneling their hard-earned cash back to their corrupt regines.

  32. As is clearly illustrated by the failed War on Drugs, Prohibition, and the ruinous War on Poverty, not all laws passed by the American government are wise, reasonable, or in accordance with the ideals behind our country.

    To blindly focus on the fact that these immigrants have broken American law, without judgment of these laws, whether they are appropriate, fair, and necessary, points to an utter lack of understanding regarding our origins. Inability to think critically about a sore issue, to respond only with a knee-jerk reaction heard countless times spewing from demagogues and dogmatics, is to brand oneself with ignorance of what makes this country powerful and desirable.

  33. Hypothesis: Hispanic immigrants all want to fuck Anglo women, even though they’ll never admit it. Hence the desire to come here.
    Makes as much sense as Thoreau’s hypothesis above. 🙂

  34. This MayDay thing is going to turn out to be a big zero, I think. They’ve already cancelled some march events here in Phoenix. I think what is really going on here is that the more extreme elements of the Mexican immigrant movement are trying to increase their power within the movement, but I think that instead of seeing their wet dreams turn to reality, they’re going to find out that their influence isn’t nearly as much as they might hope.

    I work Monday night, sleep through the day — I fully expect to wake to find the city pretty much the same as it was yesterday, in fact I might even go to a real Mexican taco stand later in the evening just to show my solidarity with the Mexican food movement.

  35. And yet my grandfather served his country, went to college, and married an Anglo woman.

    Hypothesis: That last part scares the hell out of some people, even if they’ll never admit it. Hence the reluctance to let more Latinos in.

    Oh for christs sake give me a break. We’ve got so many different skin tones here in Phoenix it’s like a paint chart, and if you tried to keep track of the pairings of darker to lighter skin couples your head would spin. There’s plenty of ass sucking backwaters in this country but if you really think what’s driving opposition to illegal immigration is that your average Anglo is living his life in fear of some eugenics nightmare from south of the border, I’d say you’re way off the mark.

  36. So, illegal immigrants decide to stay home and not send their children to school.

    This would be a preview of what would happen if all them would be deported.

    If Amercia does not like the result of what happens them, they can console themselves thinking that tomorrow it will be back to normal, but if the inmigrants are gone, this disruption to the economy will go on for a long time.

    Call it a reality check

  37. They are just bad for the economy. They drive down wages, they do not learn the language and they commit crime. Legal immigration is the only way. Neither party follows the law! A pox on both parties.

  38. “Hypothesis: Hispanic immigrants all want to fuck Anglo women, even though they’ll never admit it.”

    Mexican-Americans
    Don’t just like getting into gang fights.
    They like flowers and candy
    And pretty girls named Debbie, tooooooooooo…

  39. I’m cool with “A Day Without Immigrants.” Demonstrating immigrant pervasiveness and economic power by a one-day absence from economic life is a masterstroke.

    Problem is, it’s NOT a day without immigrants. They may not be working, shopping, or going to school, but they’ve all congregated in my city’s downtown area, making it impossible to go there just to mail a letter at the main post office. Streets are blocked off for the protests.

    So I think this day should be renamed: “Immigrants In Your Face Day.” And may I add that, while I applaud civil disobedience, I’m never very happy about active civil disruption. Today’s events crossed that line, in my humble opinion.

  40. Nick said:

    “I don’t share Saunders’ discomfort with illegal immigrants–whether the discomfort is economic … or cultural …”

    Who says those are the only choices? I can only speak for myself when I say that my discomfort is legal, or maybe ethical. Illegal immigrants are ILLEGAL!! Why does that seem so hard for people to understand? These people (wherever they are from) have either crossed the border illegally, or have violated the terms of a legitimate entry visa by staying past the deadline for returning to their home country.

    My wife is an immigrant from Asia. We followed all the rules, paid the money, and spent the first half year of our marriage apart as we waited for the documents to get approved. Now she’s legit: a “permanent resident alien” as they say, a Green Card holder. It was an arduous process, but we did it.

    Is it really too much to expect everyone to obey the laws of the land?

    It appears the answer is “yes,” and that is the root of my frustration and anger, not any economic or cultural impact.

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