Archive for July 7th, 2011

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
  –  Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

When my husband and I first met he lived in the Los Angeles area, and after we were engaged I would travel there several times a year to spend a few weeks with him, leaving Grace to run the agency except for my shift on the phones.  Occasionally we had to run down to San Diego, north of which (along Interstate 5) lies an immigration control center which in those days was rarely open, thus allowing undocumented migrants to pass through the area unmolested.  Whenever we would pass and see this, my husband would say something like “I guess they must need dishwashers in Los Angeles or vegetable pickers in the Sacramento Valley.”

This was his way of pointing out what Americans who support greater restrictions on immigration love to ignore:  that the majority of jobs they whine about immigrants “stealing” from “real Americans” (most of whom are themselves no more than three generations removed from immigrants) are those no native American would touch, such as agricultural labor.  Some of them have an answer for that:  “if they paid higher wages they could get American workers.”  Of course, increased production costs would increase the price of the produce and any finished product which relied on it, which the anti-immigrant people would then complain about; perhaps these good Americans believe the farmers should simply accept decreased profits, or that the federal government should subsidize the greater costs?  But that would be socialism, wouldn’t it?  And judging by the noise these folks raise about the costs of “illegals” (as they’re so fond of calling them), they obviously aren’t in favor of that.

Proponents of tighter immigration are fond of saying immigrants need to “get in line”. Here, courtesy of Reason magazine, is a flow chart of that “line” (click to enlarge, and again to magnify).

I’m not denying that there are migrants who cross into welfare states in order to sponge off of their largesse, but how are they different from home-grown freeloaders?  A parasite is a parasite, and judging by America’s ever-increasing government bureaucracies, we have nothing against them.  Contrary to what the pundits claim, the majority of migrants want to work for a living, just as the majority of native-born citizens do, and since they are often willing to work harder, longer and more cheaply at less-pleasant jobs than those born to the softer life of a developed nation, they can out-compete natives at such jobs.  That’s called capitalism, folks; it’s what made this country the wealthiest one in the world, and if you don’t like it I’m sure there are a number of nice socialist (and a couple of leftover communist) countries to which you could yourself migrate.

So why am I discussing this topic?  Well, it’s partly because as I mentioned in my columns of June 22nd and 29th, increasing anxiety about unorthodox methods of migration is one of the root causes of “trafficking” hysteria, which is then conflated with prostitution and results in ever-more-Draconian prostitution laws and greatly increased anti-whore police activity, and that makes it my business.  But it’s also because I’m really sick of hearing the lawhead phrase “illegal alien”, which is of course intended to make them sound like criminals.  How, pray tell, are arbitrary immigration laws any different from the arbitrary laws you break?  Don’t say you don’t break laws, because everyone does.  And I don’t mean Silverglate’s inadvertent felonies (which are an entirely different issue); I mean the victimless “crimes” that you, I and everyone else purposefully choose to commit on a regular basis.  There is no moral difference between a migrant choosing to violate an arbitrary immigration law in order to have a chance for a better life, my violating arbitrary laws against my profession, your failing to pay state use taxes for online purchases, or your brother-in-law smoking weed.  And all of those actions are far more moral than the rampant violations we as a nation allow cops and prosecutors to commit every day, because their actions genuinely hurt people (often grievously), whereas breaking of arbitrary codes, statutes, ordinances and rules almost never does.

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal lately, and when I read this New York Times article posted on June 22nd, I felt it was time to write a column about the subject.  The article is the story of Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines who came to the U.S. in 1993 when he was 12, worked hard to learn English, discovered he was “illegal” when he was 16, excelled in school and became a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist…only to be told that the only way he could ever become “legal” was to accept a ten-year exile before reapplying (presumably this is intended as a paternalistic “punishment”, the governmental equivalent of “go to your room and don’t come out until I tell you”).  Vargas decided it was time to to tell his story in the hopes of educating people about the myths and realities of undocumented migrants, and a few of the things he said in his article may sound very familiar to my prostitute readers:

…I am still an undocumented immigrant.  And that means living a different kind of reality.  It means going about my day in fear of being found out.  It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am…There are believed to be 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.  We’re not always who you think we are.  Some pick your strawberries or care for your children.  Some are in high school or college.  And some, it turns out, write news articles you might read.  I grew up here.  This is my home.  Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.

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