Immigration is NOT a single issue
But a short, two-word partial answer is: Birth control
Readers of this blog have seen my occasional comments in favor of a border fence along the line with Mexico; readers of my Today Newspapers columns (link at right) have read the arguments for this in much more detail.
Needless to say, mine is not the “standard liberal position” (not to mention not being the standard left-liberal position) on this issue. Neither is my consistent, and insistent, use of the phrase “illegal aliens” rather than “undocumented aliens.” And my refusal to lump and mix illegal aliens into a larger discussion — let alone general, indiscriminate numbering — of aliens in general is of a piece.
On this one subject, I might sound like I had read a page from Pat Buchanon.
But, I have different reasons than Buchanon for my stance, and unlike Paranoid Pat, this is just one part of the larger issue of how to deal with illegal aliens.
I want a border fence not because I think Mexicans in particular, or Central American Hispanics in general, are diluting and perverting our Anglo-Saxon culture. Nor am I afraid of Osama bin Laden or his minions setting up secret shop in Hermosillo, Sonora, then sneaking across the Sonora-Arizona border.
I do it on union-oriented social democratic grounds, as part of keeping American wages from getting depressed; that, in turn is part of a larger issue to which I’ll turn below.
I also do it because of environmental and related concerns. America has more than 300 million people now. And, not even counting Alaska, just in our 48 contiguous states, about 40 percent is desert (less than 10 inches of rain per year, semidesert (10-15 inches of rain per year), semi-semidesert (15-20 inches) or higher-elevation mountains too cold for agriculture. In other words, about 40 percent of our land is of marginal carrying capacity, ignoring the massive stupidity of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Salt Lake City and Albuquerque being built, and being boomed, in the middle of desert or semidesert. (L.A. is a mix, and Cairo is the only larger metropolitan area in the world in a desert.)
The other environmental issue is that, largely due to poverty in their native lands (more on that, too, in a minute), illegal aliens have less regard for trashing up the planet. Yes, that’s a generalization; no, it’s not a stereotype. Sociological studies will confirm the poverty-environmental maintenance inverse correlation in spades.
Now, as said, this is all part of a larger whole.
First, the American union and wages issue.
I favor a guest worker program that offers adequate workplace and other protective conditions for guest workers, and has an adequate wage floor. That, then, must be tied to larger American wage issues.
First, of course, we need a minimum wage increase. Second, we need that indexed to the inflation rate, just as Social Security has its regular COLA.
On the protective and regulatory side, we need to make the NLRB again stand for National LABOR Relations Board, instead of the L having been replaced with an M for Management. Don’t (fully) blame Shrub for this one; this began as another brilliant triangulation of Slick Willie’s, coming from an anti-union, right-to-work state. And Democrats love him WHY?
Next, NAFTA does need to be revisited. We need to find a way to revamp it from destroying the more labor-intensive Mexican family or extended-family farm. That’s why a lot of Mexicans, and Guatemalans, etc., are coming north. Along with that, whether in NAFTA or GATT, we need to address corporate American farm subsidies. Period. At the same time, though, Mexico needs to do more to transition its farm labor into other jobs. And, we need to rewrite NAFTA to address labor and environmental issues elsewhere in the Mexican economy.
Finally, I have two small words that will stick hard in much of the collective Mexican social craw: Birth control.
If you look at a resource like the CIA Factbook, you’ll see that if you put our birthrate and that of, say, Saudi Arabia or some other high-growth Arab country on a line, Mexico would be half of the way to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. Guatemala would be equal to it.
Our birthrate is 14.14 per 1,000 population; Mexico’s is 20.69; Guatemala’s is 29.88; Saudi Arabia’s is 29.34 and Pakistan’s is 29.74. Of course, if you throw out the more than 10 percent of our population that is foreign-born, many here illegally, our native-born birthrate is about 12-12.5 per 1,000, not much higher than the U.K.’s 10.71 and right in line with France’s 11.99.
I don’t give a damn what the pope in particular and the Catholic clergy in general say about birth control. Nor do I care about what the growing conservative evangelical and Pentecostal Protestant movements in Latin America say about the subject.
If Mexico, and Central American countries (the problem isn’t so bad in South America) want more American foreign aid, condoms, diaphragms, birth control pills and even RU-486 — with counseling information on all four — need to be part of the price of foreign aid.
Cross posted at my Socratic Gadfly blog.