Thursday, March 15, 2007

La Migra at work

[Via Amy] A Boston Globe article on a raid at a leather-goods factory in Massachusetts last week. This didn't make the news here, so I'm reading about it for the first time.
SUPPOSE YOU LEARN that a New England manufacturer is exploiting its employees, many of them illegal immigrants, with wretched working conditions. It fines them for talking on the job, refuses to pay overtime, and penalizes them for bathroom breaks of more than two minutes, all in addition to low wages, long hours, and squalid facilities. What do you do?

Well, if you're the United States government, you send armed agents to haul the workers off in shackles to a military base 100 miles away, then fly scores of them more than 2,000 miles to a holding pen in Texas. You provide the frightened detainees with little information and no access to lawyers. You act so rashly that many of those you seize are separated from their children and can't get word to spouses or babysitters. You display such ineptitude, in fact, that babies end up in the hospital, dehydrated, after their nursing mothers are taken away.
And the employers? Fined, and released on bail. The factory is open for business the next day.

Something stinks mightily, doesn't it?

And then:
If tens of millions of drivers consistently break the interstate speed limit, do we assume that they are all criminals who should lose their licenses and be banned from the highways? No: A more plausible explanation is that the speed limit is too low for safe highway driving and ought to be raised. By the same token, if hundreds of thousands of immigrants come here illegally each year, is it realistic to conclude that we have a massive crime problem for which a ferocious crackdown is the only solution? Perhaps it is the case instead that America's immigration quotas are simply too low for the world's most dynamic economy. And perhaps the persistent influx of industrious workers is not a plague to be cursed, but a blessing to be better managed.


Dogwood Dell said...

At times I wonder about my country.


Gashwin said...

Oh I wonder that quite often, about both "my countries." :-) I think in the US one does have this sense, "this is America! This ought not to happen here!" The idea that America is the "city set on a hill," that things ought to be different here, is ingrained deeply into the national psyche and self-understanding. (And this is a good thing too. The level of acceptance of injustice in America is consequently a lot lower than say in India.)

And yes, in many ways, the American way of doing things is admirable.

It always comes as a rude shock to realize that, well, America is populated by humans. And humans in authority without any checks or oversight on that authority, will behave atrociously, especially when it comes to lording it over the poor and vulnerable.

Dogwood Dell said...

My statement was rhetorical......

I've never been too shocked by the reaction of humans - regardless of country. Frustrated, angry and often P.O. are emotions I still carry.

But you are correct with the America's "City on a Hill" observation first provided by the Puritanical Winthrop. It's still amazing how the US still embraces this ideal. But when it was first stated, it only included white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (really Puritans) and not the rest of the world’s population. Now it includes everybody today within the US.