I understand the argument that says welcoming a sudden influx of immigrants and refugees into the United States is the compassionate thing to do to. I also understand the argument that says embracing waves of immigrants is part of what makes America exceptional.
What I don’t understand are the arguments that suggest it is compassionate to protect the flow of cheap, underpaid labor coming up from Central and South America. It requires a special sort of cognitive dissonance to think one is being high-minded when one argues, "Hey, these people will make a terrific underclass!" Yet, this is the argument that Democratic and Republican lawmakers tend to make, even though it is elitist and ignores the economic reality that many American jobs are lost to grossly under-compensated immigrant workers. The argument also seems a bit racist.
“That’s right, terrified white people, the brown zombies are 1000 miles from the southern border and they’re coming to mow your lawns, wash your cars, harvest your crops, pack your pork, raise your kids, mop your floors, vacuum your office, and pay taxes. Time to flip out,” Boing Boing blogger Xeni Jardin said this week, referring to the infamous migrant caravan.
CNN’s Bill Weir said elsewhere this week in a remark aimed at Fox News’ Tomi Lahren: “The vast majority will never make it in, Tomi but YOU will be paying the ones that do … every time you order a salad they picked, stay in a hotel room they cleaned or buy a house they built.”
(Full disclosure: I spent roughly 14 years in the food service industry, from busing to dishwashing to waiting tables. The Americans-will-not-do-these-jobs argument has always rankled me.)
“I was up all night, worried about this caravan of people who are willing to do the jobs that most Americans won’t,” said late-night comedian Conan O’Brien.
I, too, lie awake at night, worrying about whether celebrities will have to pay higher prices for goods and services because lawmakers and law enforcement officials act to limit the labor pool to those lawfully within the U.S.
Speaking of celebrities, let’s not forget this terribly misguided bit of preening from actress Amber Heard: “Just heard there’s an ICE checkpoint in Hollywood, a few blocks from were I live. Everyone better give their housekeepers, nannies and landscapers a ride home tonight.” She added, "Checkpoints on your home streets … Is this the ‘great’ America we’re aiming for? Raids, fences and police-state like checkpoints don’t feel like the ‘land of the free’ our immigrant ancestors built.”
This all reminds me of the ill-advised 2004 mockumentary, "A Day Without A Mexican." The film, which was supposed to be pro-immigrant, explores just how terrible it would be for California should anything happen to change the fact it has a semi-permanent underclass of underpaid laborers. How progressive.
There are good arguments to be made in favor of accepting huge swaths of immigrants and refugees. The argument that they're cheap and efficient toilet scrubbers is not one of them.