Tuesday, April 04, 2006

On the Border

Fareed Zakaria is one of my favorite talking heads when it comes to international affairs because he appears to be one of the more pragmatic voices on the Sunday morning news shows. He wrote an excellent op-ed in today's WaPo about citizenship and immigration which couldn't be better timed for me since I recently had blowup with my parents concerning immigrant workers in my hometown.

I grew up in Herndon, VA which has been in the news a lot because the town voted to use public funds (about $75k, I believe) to establish a "Day Labor Center." In the last 20 years Herndon has seen a large influx of Slavadoran, Honduran, and Mexican immigrants many of whom make a living as day laborers. As a result informal day labor recruiting sites cropped up around town, most notably at a 7-11 on one of the main thoroughfares. The sheer number of people at this 7-11 alone was causing the town logistical problems and that coupled with continued loitering throughout the day, incidents of petty and violent crime, and a general parnoia experienced by the town's "original" population brought many different groups calling for many different solutions to the problem.

The solution that won out was to create an official site where day laborers could be recruited efficiently, activities could be monitored, and would eliminate ovecrowding in commercial parking lots. As was to be expected several in the town went apeshit and started talking about booting all of the ilegals. Even the Minutemen (those bored whackos who run their own vigilante border patrols in the southwest) established a chapter in good ol' Herndon where they could write down license plate numbers of contractors who hired any of the day laborers.

All of this makes me glad I don't live in Herndon anymore because I don't want to be around a group of people who want to prevent labor from entering the market. The fact of the matter is that there is a high labor demand in the service industry, most notably the construction industry. All of these McMansions, strip malls, and condo dvelopments shooting up around the metro area are being built by immigrant labor. Affordable immigrant labor. I wonder if those people supporting the most radical of anti-immigration rhetoric (like building a fence/wall around our southern borders) have given any thought to the impact on our economy that a major reduction in the labor pool would have.


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