Several hundred "Minutemen" -- American citizens -- stationed themselves at the Arizona-Mexico border. They intend to monitor 23 miles of border, and alert Border Patrol agents when they spot someone entering the country illegally. This 20-plus mile border area is one of the highest traffic corridors for illegal border-crossings. Last year, more than 40 percent of the 1.15 million illegal aliens caught by Border Patrol were taken into custody in this southern Arizona region, known as the Tucson sector. Although President Bush called the Minutemen "vigilantes," the administration reassigned several hundred Border Patrol agents to the area.
The Minuteman Project, co-founded by former schoolteacher Chris Simcox, claims it stopped some 4,000 people from entering the country. Simcox says that their presence caused the Mexican government -- which calls the Minutemen "migrant hunters" -- to place its military on Mexico's side of the border. The Minutemen, the added Border Patrol and the heightened awareness all combined, according to Simcox, to "shut down" this part of the border.
Simcox says he intends to continue the project until the Bush administration puts sufficient manpower on the border. But Simcox agrees that most people attempting to enter the country illegally from Mexico do so for economic betterment, and he feels sympathy for someone leaving a poor country to seek a better life for their family. He agrees that we need some orderly system to match willing sellers of labor with willing suppliers. Simcox realizes what others refuse to acknowledge -- there are jobs Americans simply will not take, and he supports some form of guest-worker program, as proposed by President Bush. But, he says, it cannot work without first securing the borders.
A few years ago, I interviewed a man who started an inner-city restaurant to provide jobs for the mostly black kids living in the area. He opened the restaurant, but soon found difficulty in attracting competent help. He put ads in the newspaper, and advised churches and many community organizations of the availability of work. Soon, he said he "resorted to hiring Hispanics" because he could not find reliable help at wages he could pay.
When I interviewed Chris Simcox on my radio program, an Oregon farmer called. He said, "Some of the people who are employing these so-called illegal immigrants get a real bad rap like . . . 'you're providing these people with jobs that other Americans should have and need.' But I'm tellin' ya, as a farmer . . . we don't have any other alternatives than to bring those people in. . . . Why should an employer turn a deaf ear to people who are willing to come here and willing to work and do the job that no American will do?"
Simcox replied, "I agree. No one can deny that there are jobs in this country that are available, jobs other people won't take. . . . We're not talking about preventing people from coming to work. We're talking about people entering the country illegally. We need to know who is coming into this country, where they're going, and their intentions. If their intentions are to work, then, by all means, we should welcome them. My plan would be that we have a way to expedite workers coming in."
Americans, our neighbors and friends, employ them. Nearly 11 million people, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, live illegally in America. Dealing with illegal immigration requires a combination -- more Border Patrol agents, beefing up the INS, allowing local police to inquire about the immigration status of criminals they suspect were previously deported who have returned.
Experts differ on whether illegal immigration adds to or detracts from our economy when one considers all costs. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, U.S. households headed by illegal aliens used $26.3 billion in government services during 2002, but paid only $16 billion in taxes, an annual net cost to taxpayers of $10 billion.
But according to a CATO Institute Trade Policy Analysis on illegal migration, "Economists generally agree that immigration benefits the United States. . . . Immigration does lower the wages of the relatively small segment of the workforce that competes directly with immigrants, but those losses are exceeded by the higher return to owners of capital and the lower prices that all workers pay for the goods produced by immigrants. In one of the most comprehensive economic studies ever done on the impact of immigration on the U.S. economy, the National Research Council concluded in a 1997 report that immigration delivers a 'significant positive gain' of $1 billion to $10 billion a year to native Americans. The President's Council of Economic Advisers, in its February 2002 Economic Report . . . estimated that immigrants raise the income of Americans by $1 billion to $14 billion a year. Those sums may seem trivial in a $10 trillion economy, but the gains from immigration are positive and real and recur year after year."
In either case, national security requires us to do a better job of tracking those who enter the country. But let us acknowledge that there are jobs Americans will not do.