Friday, March 9, 2007

For better or worse, richer or poorer?

Here in northern California, as in much of the country, we are married to our illegal immigrants. Not necessarily in the going-to-the-chapel sense, but we are in a committed relationship. Just the same, we are married to sewing machine operators and call-center tech support in India, steel makers in China, and soccer ball stitchers in Pakistan. Our high standard of living and the low cost we pay for goods and services is built upon cheap labor.

Immigration rhetoric is meeting reality in Colorado these days. After passing strict laws on illegal immigration there, a shortage of farmworkers has led to a proposal to use labor from the prisons to pick the crops. Maybe there is some truth to the "this is work no one else wants to do" line of thinking? California has the largest ag economy in the country. We rely on the immigrant workforce. Fortunately, we also have one of the largest prison populations in the country, too, so if the anti-immigrant camp gets the crackdown they're crying for, at least we have reserves. But will it be long before someone is filing suit to block the use of prison labor? We're playing for big stakes here, people...

Interesting to note from the new edition of Atlantic in an article titled "The Mexican Connection," the money that is earned in the US and sent back to Mexico totalled some $20 billion annually as of 2003. That means the "20 million Mexican origin workers in American create a larger gross product than Mexico itself."

There are a lot of marriages that continue because both parties understand that splitting up will cost them financially as well as emotionally. Something for the anti-immigrant idealogues to keep in mind...

1 comment:

hillbilly deluxe said...

I think Colorado's onto something here, Barry. Bring on the "chain gangs" of old! Hell, the labor's free and they don't have anything else to do except lift weights and get meaner and stronger for when they are unleashed back into society. There's nothin' more I love than the sight of a prison boss wearing mirrored sunglasses and holdin' a shotgun, ridin' herd over a gang of criminals. Rent "Cool Hand Luke" for a good taste of what I'm talkin' about. "..shakin' the tree, Boss, I'm shakin' the tree!"