When Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain proposed an electrified fence along our nation's southern border as a solution to its gnarled immigration situation, the first response from most people was not laughter. This, apparently, was our mistake; we were later accused of a lack of a sense of humor during his appearance on Meet the Press.
Well, Mr. Cain's business is pizza, not comedy, so he can perhaps be forgiven for not "killing" with that gag. It is, after all, no “Imagine There’s No Pizza.”
My business is entertainment, not pies, so I may be off base here, but where does Cain get his toppings? I mean, you know, pepperoni, sausage, garlic, bell peppers. The reason I'm asking is that labor in the meat-packing and agricultural industries is largely supplied or—to make a funny joke!—infected by undocumented immigrants.
Have you ever picked garlic? Slaughtered a cow? Cleaned up centrifugally expressed spinal-column meat? I haven't. Want to know why? I don't want to! And neither do the vast majority of citizens, whether employed or unemployed. You'll be shocked—shocked—to know that the immigrant workers who have been forced to leave backbreaking labor in the fields of Georgia and Alabama due to restrictive anti-immigrant laws have not been replaced by armies of the white, documented unemployed.
This is the dirty little secret of big business, the Republican Party, and undocumented labor. Big business—and big businessmen like Cain—love illegal immigration. Undocumented immigrants are hardworking, uncomplaining (you would be too if you could get turned in to the authorities at any moment!), and cheap. They are easily exploitable, and they lower the wage base of the entire workforce. Worried about hiring them? No problem! There are "subcontractors" willing to take on that risk for a price. Which is how, for instance, Mitt Romney can claim that he "never hired an illegal." He just hired a company that hired “illegals."
Cain’s hilarious fence idea, by the way, was put back on the table during a recent hi-how-are-ya with noted nativist-sadist Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz. Arpaio, who likes raiding predominantly Hispanic neigborhoods, is currently being investigated by a grand jury, and has been holding court for one Republican candidate after another, withholding his endorsement until he finds out who is the most hardcore, presumably. Will the kill fence be enough to make Sheriff Joe give Cain the rose?
Even imagining that an electrified fence could be built along the border—or, say, an equally practical proposition, like a wormhole in the space-time continuum, or roaming packs of feral citizenship-sniffing Dobermans, or a moat full of crocodiles—there would still be the teensy problem of the 11 million or so “illegals” living in our country, or, if you prefer, about 3.5 percent of our population.
The Fence of Doom is what you call an “enforcement only”–type policy in the immigration world. The idea is, hold back the barbarian hordes, and excise the cancerous growth that is sucking the lifeblood from our economy. Possible issue: with the cost of apprehension and deportation running to $19,127, including due process (I assume we’re not throwing that one out, fellas?), the tally for the current population of undocumented workers would be $200 billion over the next five years. This, by the way, is going by official ICE figures. In a 2006 Senate floor debate, John McCain (version 1.0) stated, “We all know we aren’t going to find and deport so many millions and suffer the dislocation and agonizing moral dilemmas that such an impossible task would engender. So let’s be honest about that, shall we?”
Let’s be honest, shall we? Let’s think. When you pass by the Home Depot and see those guys lined up in front, are they lining up to do work that other people want to do? Are the millions caring for our elderly, our children, our lawns, busing our tables, really taking the jobs that were cut after the collapse of 2008? Or are they in fact the very foundation that we step on as we ascend to the jobs and comfort that we hope to enjoy?
But millions of angry people can’t be wrong … can they? Well, they can. They can because nobody at these debates is speaking for the undocumented, who are living in fear and who want nothing more than to be Americans, to take care of their families, to go to church, to work for us and themselves, and to live the American Dream. Remember that? That’s the thing everybody says is dead. Well, it isn’t. I’ve seen it in the eyes of a lot of people. They just happen to have brown skin.
With Osama bin Laden inconveniently dead, the party out of power needs someone to fulminate against. I can remember, back in 2004, the inquisitorial depths to which Democratic candidates promised to sink in order to inflict pain upon al Qaeda. Now the Republican candidates are falling all over themselves in their efforts to get at the “illegals.”
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free? Nope. Give me a coliseum full of illegals and Republican lions. Give me bread and circuses. Give me a big, tall, electrified fence.
Wait—who are we gonna get to build it?