The new Arizona anti-illegal immigrant law is, to put it extremely kindly, a real mess. I’m not even talking about the racist motivation; the drafters could have had the kindest intentions on Earth, but the law they wrote is vague, ambiguous, and internally contradictory. It’s the last part that’s actually the most troublesome. The law contains a section forbidding racial profiling and allowing law enforcement agencies to be sued for doing so. At the same time, it creates a private enforcement action for citizens who don’t think the city or county pursing illegal aliens sufficiently aggressively. Cities in Arizona will now be liable for questioning anyone who looks like an alien and also for not doing so. I suppose Arizonans have been complaining about all that extra money they have to do something with and wanted higher taxes. That will certainly be the result.
That said, immigration policy in the US is one giant mess. Transients crossing the border trash buildings on ranches near the border, and at least one person has been murdered by some guy on his land. Those doing the crossing routinely die of thirst, heat, and hunger. I do have to wonder what kind of a life they have to be leaving to making walking across the Sonora Desert look like a good idea. It’s not like they’re going through this to work in air-conditioned corner offices, either.
And that’s what I want to talk about. There was a time when people, especially liberals like me, talked about the nature, and the necessity, of certain kinds of jobs. Was the work useful? interesting? what were the working conditions? I have to wonder if the availability of a large group of entirely disposable people prevents employers from making necessary improvements in working conditions and automation, especially in the stereotypical illegal alien agricultural work. The number of native-born Americans willing to pick lettuce in the Arizona sun for $0.20/ head is statistically equal to zero, and few Americans want to pay $35/ head for iceberg lettuce or $20 for a Subway footlong with shredded lettuce. Still, it looks to me like there should be some way to automate, or improve automation in agriculture. I think any debate on immigration reform needs to consider ways of making work better for everyone.