Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Thursday, January 08, 2004  

I spent yesterday pondering Bush's proposal to grant illegal workers legal status. While I saw the obvious benefit to the workers themselves (however marginal), I wondered what Bush's angle was. So I did what I always do; I asked myself, "How does corporate America benefit?" That's the calculation Bush always uses, and it's the key that unlocks the mysteries of his legislation.

It's an ingenious proposal, because most of the benefit appears to go to workers. A closer look, though, and it appears mainly designed to protect employers--illegals get almost nothing new. They get to stay in America--but only so long as they stay employed. Working and living here for 6 years doesn't put them any closer to citizenship, nor give them any of the rights of citizens. They become, in effect, workers who the law regards as having no legal rights. It cleans up a messy problem with illegal immigration without actually changing anything.

Business, on the other hand, gets huge benefits. Now they have a vast, replenishable pool of workers not subject to the usual rules of American law. No more fear of INS raids, no more transient workforce--just a clean system of cheap labor. It accomplishes everything business loves with regard to labor: drives costs down, bypasses ugly human rights, environmental, and health concerns, breaks up organization. Another trifecta!

Of course, it may also give Bush an election-year issue, adding to his "compassion" platform. This is what the newspapers have picked up on thus far. I don't think that's particularly significant--Americans haven't cared about illegals heretofore, and I doubt they will now. Recent legal immigrants--particularly Latino ones--are also unlikely to see this as great news: their own employment position can't be strengthened by millions of new, unregulated workers flooding into the workforce.

No, the big benefit isn't a political one. The beneficiary is the same as in all of Bush's proposals--big business. When will we learn?

posted by Jeff | 9:18 AM |
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