Thursday, October 23, 2008

Proposition 202: "Stop Illegal Hiring" by making bad policy permanent.

Federal immigration policy allows fewer visas to be issued than are demanded by market forces. As a result, Arizona (and several other states) is host to a substantial number of aliens who reside and work here unlawfully.

To a reasonable person, this is an example of Federal policy harmful to the states, that ought be reformed. But why be reasonable when you can believe that changing a bad law without first punishing everyone who broke it will, like gay marriage, throw the universe into disorder?--turning policy questions into black-and-white, right-and-wrong matters of morality is so much easier on the brain. Arizona plays host to a rather large "unreasonable" subculture, of whitebread types who worry disproportionately about catching diseases from foreigners, who see every immigrant laborer as a sign that somewhere a Good White Person is slipping into poverty, who scream "No Amnesty!" and "What party of ILLEGAL don't you understand?", and who consequently would like to see Arizona enforce the failed Federal law.

That the motive is xenophobic bigotry is rather clear. No decent, non-bigoted person would hold it against someone that he didn't get into a queue that doesn't exist. (Check for yourself; there's no process for temporary or permanent immigrants from Mexico to simply fill out some paperwork, wait for it to be processed, and then come, Ellis Island-style.) Ordinarily this attitude is confined to poor illiterates, but in AZ it has a few exponents in high places, such as Russell Pearce, of Mesa. Pearce is to Mexicans what Captain Ahab is to Moby Dick; he lost an appendage abusing his badge and has had it out for brown folk ever since.

Led by Pearce, the legislature passed an employer-sanctions law in 2007. Illegal immigrants started to leave the state before the law even took effect. Victory to Pearce ("They broke the law. They're criminals," he said, apparently ignorant of the fact that being in the country without the right visa is merely unlawful, not criminal.) but to the rest of us, it looks like an economic contraction, and it has resulted in business moving out of the state, sometimes even to Mexico.

As things stand now, this policy, detrimental to all save those kooks who breathe easier when they see fewer Mexicans in the neighborhood, could be repealed by a simple act of the legislature. Passage of Proposition 202 would change that. On this 'blog I ordinarily go over the text of a measure with the readers. For this, I make an exception. I won't speak to the question of whether the employer sanctions law established by Prop 202 is better or worse than the one Pearce pushed through the legislature and got Governor Napolitano to sign in the mistaken belief it would stop him from trying for an initiative.

It's better in some ways, and worse in some ways, but more importantly, it is still just plain bad, and could only be repealed by another initiative. That means another million dollars and a vote that includes those mouthbreathing folk who hate the scary brown people for not waiting in the nonexistent queue.

Don't get caught up in some sort of "better employer sanctions law vs worse employer sanctions law" calculus. Vote "No" on Proposition 202 this year, to make it easy to repeal employer sanctions. That is, unless you really believe Jim Click should lose his license to sell cars if his manager "turns his head" while making a hire. But if you believed that, you probably wouldn't be reading this 'blog.

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