Many people at the highest levels of Government and industry have taken a cynical and duplicitous approach to illegal immigration. In a way, it’s symbolic of the approach most average Americans have taken. We rely on immigrant labor to fill jobs that Americans won’t do (at the wages and under the working conditions immigrants are subjected to), while complaining about the side effects – overburdened social services, crime, and cultural dilution in the border states. After all, it’s not hard to spot the illegal immigrants in any given neighborhood. In fact, it’s quite simple. They are the only people cheaply tending your lawn, babysitting your children, and running your restaurants. Illegal immigration in many ways acts like outsourcing for non-exportable jobs in this country.
But up until now the focus has been on curbing the supply. The approaches have ranged from the purely silly – like trying to erect a wall along the Mexican border – to the downright diabolical: private citizens forming vigilante groups and terrorizing hapless brown people who may or may not be illegal immigrants. The recent Arizona law, which revokes the business licenses of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants is the first real measure focused on the demand side.
The immigration debate contains many parallels to the debate over illegal drugs. Mexico and other nations’ authorities have for years tried to stamp out the cultivation and distribution of cocaine – with limited success. They have been pressured by U.S. officials to shore up their judicial infrastructure against corruption and intimidation, and confront the armed drug cartels with military power. In response, those countries have urged a reform of drug laws and a focus on curbing demand for illegal drugs in America. In their view, if Americans were not such profligate consumers of illegal drugs – their countries would not produce and export them. Recently such an approach has gained traction, with several states beginning to decriminalize, regulate and tax some of the less dangerous substances.
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