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Looking at illegal immigration in a whole new light

 

Asheville Citizen-Times, April 14, 2006

We know all about who decked whom in the halls of Congress this week. But heaven help us if we want more than dueling soundbites about stories with potential long-term impact on us. The national debate over what to do about illegal immigration is one such story. The options under consideration, particularly those put forward by House Republicans, have been misrepresented so badly in the press that only a satirist could sort them out. I'll give it my best shot.

What House leaders are proposing is not a draconian "enforcement strategy" that robs the United States of a valuable labor pool. The truth is almost exactly opposite. They believe that if we play our cards right we can bootstrap a solution to illegal immigration and grow the economy at the same time. Their proposal would go far toward healing an historic wound and revive a storied American institution. The plan is short-titled the National Involuntary Worker Program, or NIW.

It is true that NIW hinges on enforcement. But this is not some mindless roundup. Detentions will be implemented in stages, beginning with mass arrests of illegals in the construction trades. This skill bias is crucial because early detainees will build the minimum-security community-based prison camps in which they'll live. Detention sweeps will increase only as new beds become available--again cognizant of facility requirements. For example, we'll need the services of experienced chambermaids, busboys, and other hospitality workers early on to handle similar jobs in the camps. (Since these workers are, by definition, not US citizens and the crimes alleged against them fall under the purview of Homeland Security, the overburdened civil courts won't be inconvenienced.)

The major public and private benefits of NIW begin to accrue when detentions generate excess labor capacity. At this point, Phase 2 of the legislation takes effect. Detainees will be leased to the private sector for jobs American citizens won't do at a reasonable price: field labor, construction, hospitality, factory work, you name it. At a lease rate of only ten dollars a day per inmate, the US Treasury will realize a substantial and fully sustainable new revenue stream.

But that's the least of it. Compare wage costs in the existing system with a future employer's outlays under NIW: lease fees, beans, water, and a few armed overseers. No worries about green cards, vacations, or healthcare costs. (Ineligible for tax-supported medical services, illegals incapacitated by illness or injury will be deported.) Detainee children not claimed by relatives in the country of origin can help relieve supply problems in the domestic adoption industry. Finally, NIW will significantly lower the costs of goods and services for the American consumer.

Large employers will, in return for reduced lease fees, agree to construct on-site secured housing for their labor force, thus freeing federal beds for new detainees. By 2025, NIW backers project system capacity to far exceed the 12 million illegals currently in this country. For that reason we should take a counter-intuitive step in the near term. Increased border security is not only a waste of tax dollars; it is also a strategic mistake. Open the borders. Those who survive the coyotes and other hazards of entering the United States illegally will have demonstrated fitness for inclusion in NIW. What a revolutionary improvement on the labor procurement strategies of our ancestors!

Because NIW is founded in criminal justice rather than the chattel system, it will solve a problem left festering in this country since the War Between the States. Chattel slavery was wrong. Be that as it may, the agricultural old South did require a renewable source of cheap labor. Today our entire economy depends on it. NIW fills the need in a morally acceptable race-neutral manner. Citizens of all states, ethnicities, and stations of life will benefit. Under NIW we will once again be able to check our clothing labels and find that proud declaration, Made In America.

Don't be misled by the nightly news images of our leaders in Washington. It takes statesmen of the first rank to devise a program like NIW. Who cares if they relieve the stress of serving us with occasional indulgences in hair pulling and lobbyist gratuities? What does it say about our country when bright people can read this far and have to ask themselves how much of what they're reading is true?

—Michael Hopping
copyright © 2006 all rights reserved

 

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