April 26, 2005

On the Minutemen

I was reading up on the lobbying efforts of the Minutemen to force Washington to tighten immigration control on the Mexican border. This is supposed to be one of those fissure issues that cuts across the GOP base, although I haven't yet heard anyone suggest that, in and of itself, it would be enough to put Hillary in the White House in '08.

I have to say that I am extremely ambivalent on this issue.

On the one hand, I understand all the arguments related to border security in the face of the terrorist threat. I also understand the arguments about sovereignty, the preservation of legal immigration and not penalizing those people who go through the proper channels. And I suppose that I understand the argument that tighter border security will serve to foster badly-needed political and economic reform in Mexico.

On the other hand, I also understand that the average guy trying to get across the border is just trying to find a way to make enough money for his own and his family's survival. And he braves extremely harsh climate, hordes of poisonous wildlife, murderous banditos and a host of other dangers just so he can get into the U.S. and make less than minimum wage harvesting fruit, working as a laborer or taking on some other scut-work that nobody else wants to do. He's neither a statistic nor a political pawn. Rather, maybe he's both, but he's a human being also. And if I were in his place, I'd probably be trying to swim the Rio Grande, too.

What should the U.S. actually be doing? I dunno. As I say, I haven't figured out where I come down on the issue. But I'm somewhat dubious that a bunch of vigilantes added to the mix is going to do anybody any good.

UPDATE: Eric at Classical Values has a post up about the semantics of the debate. I see in the comments that I've already fallen into this trap inadvertently.

Posted by Robert at April 26, 2005 12:11 PM

Unless you can specify a case where one of the Minutemen detained an illegal immigrant, you should probably replace the term "vigilantes" with "neighborhood watch (for a huge neighborhood)."

My understanding is that the Minutemen simply observed, tracked, and reported illegals to the Border Patrol. Did I miss a story somewhere?

In any case, until the immigration law changes, illegal immigrants are still criminals, whowever noble their aspirations.

Posted by: Scott Crawford at April 26, 2005 12:54 PM

Personally, I have no beef with making legal immigration easier while at the same time clamping down on illegal immigration.

Posted by: Brian B at April 26, 2005 01:19 PM
What should the U.S. actually be doing? I dunno. As I say, I haven't figured out where I come down on the issue.
How about encouraging reforms in Mexico that would encourage growth there? The number of things that could be done is vast (from tax reform to land reform) and we have plenty of sticks to use cf. remittances. Posted by: Dave Schuler at April 26, 2005 01:37 PM

The other needed reform, which no one talks about, is the establishment of some kind of casual labor category that would allow business owners and consumers to legally hire workers without the expense of calculating and submitting FICA, Unemployment insurance and Social Security. If you did that, I don't think you'd even need to lower the minimum wage for this class of worker.

I firmly believe that the ability to escape these requirements is what leads most employers to hire illegal aliens, more than the ability to pay them sub-minimum wage. (Agricultre jobs possibly excluded.)

Posted by: Eric J at April 26, 2005 01:41 PM

The use of the term vigilante is pretty much a smear term, IMO. Just ask yourself, what would a neighborhood watch look like for that neighborhood? If the Minutemen aren't doing anything different, vigilante is inappropriate. If the only thing that differentiates them from vigilantes is that they don't actually live on the border, that makes them about as threatening as Curtis Sliwa's Guardian Angels group, still not vigilantes by any stretch of the imagination.

If La Raza/Mecha et al would do the same thing as the Kosovo Albanian diaspora did, collect a voluntary 3% tax to fix their homeland we'd have a winner as long as they had a Rugova figure spending the money and not a KLA type.

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