I GUESS I'M OLD ENOUGH, and have seen enough, to state unequivocally that the people who run this country are no smarter than you and I, but they are definitely more self-dealing. A cursory look at illegal immigration makes this abundantly clear. The solutions to this problem are so simple, and the politicians so attuned to ignoring them, that only one explanation is possible: they don't want to solve the problem.
Why? Illegal immigration costs this country millions of dollars in social services, education, health care, and border enforcement each year. Clearly, we could afford to pay a little more for our burgers if these costs were reduced. Again, the only clear answer is that the politicians see a benefit to illegal immigration. The most direct is gaining potential voters; the other is cheap labor for the millionaire industrialists who donate to the politicians. Either way you slice it, politicians' failure to enforce current immigration law benefits primarily themselves. Which is why they have the lowest approval ratings of all.
I have a solution, though I have no illusions it will be adopted by the political class. It is simple, will cost very little, and will result not only in a vast, voluntary reduction in the presence of illegals in this country, but will transform Latin America into a true partner for progress and peace in his hemisphere.
It is this: Latinos are here to work. We all know that. Latino men do not loiter in front of Home Depot pleading for hand-outs---they are pleading for work. And who employs them? Everyone from landscapers to multinational corporations. The solution is to remove the incentive for these people to be here, to deny them employment. And the way to do it is not to round them up, load them in vans, and transport them back to Calexico. It is to enforce current laws which make it illegal to employ undocumented aliens.
But we won't be going after Joe's Landscaping Service. Instead, we should prosecute and imprison a small number (say ten or so) of the CEOs of the largest law-breaking corporations. This will send a message: employ an illegal, go to jail. The word will spread like wildfire. Before long, Joe and his competitors will not dare employ illegals. Yard maintenance costs will go up, but with the reduction in taxes due to lower health care, education, courts, border fence, and ICE costs, we will be able to afford higher landscaping fees when Joe hires a 17-year-old kid to run the leaf blower instead of 42-year-old Juan from Chiapas. All it will take are a few high-profile prosecutions. No ridiculous and ineffective wall, no 24-7 border patrols, no immigration court hearings. Just a few weeks in federal court prosecuting the president of General Mills.
What will happen then is Econ 101: since Latinos are here to work, if there is no work, they will go home. By the millions. If there is no employment, no school enrollment, and no access to health care, they will return to their own countries.
Having spent a substantial amount of time in Latin America, I know the kind of governments they have there: most are dictatorships or are ruled by a small cabal of rich families. What Americans fail to recognize is that most illegal Latinos in the U.S. are the best and brightest in their native lands. They saw the dire state of their home state and looked northward for opportunity and freedom. If I was a campesino in Nicaragua, I would do the same and so would you. To realize this dream, they leave home, family, and culture, travel thousands of miles, and risk their lives crossing the border, all to run a leaf blower for ten bucks an hour. I admire these people, but they are still law-breakers and a tremendous drain on our health, education, security, and court system. And if I were one of them, I would not be surprised that the U.S. is trying to enforce its borders---after all, Mexico's southern border is tighter than James Browns' pants. Ask any Guatemalan.
So what happens when the best and brightest return to their pueblos? They will look around with new eyes, eyes that have seen the possibilities of a free country. As they ran a leaf blower across your driveway in Malibu, they did not fail to notice your million dollar home and the new BMW parked out front. They now know what they only dreamed of before: the possibilities of freedom.
And standing in the muddy calle of their tiny, poor hamlet, they will ask their neighbors, "What is going on here?" And their neighbors will tell them about the malvado down the block who boldly extorts money from them in full daylight; about the corrupt politician who skims local revenues for his own profit; about the greedy factory owner who works their children mercilessly for mere pesos.
And the people who have returned will say, "Well, then, let's put a stop to this now." For they have seen a country of laws, where the police are not uniformly corrupt, where politicians can be thrown out of office if they misbehave, and where most of the rich achieve their wealth through honest industry.
What will follow will be bloody but necessary: the town mafioso will be found dead outside his home; corrupt politician will be ousted in the next election; and factories will be shut down as people organize and make their voices heard.
We should and must support this kind of grassroots revolution through financing, fomenting, and even special ops if necessary. It is time to take the gloves off. Vicente Fox is no less corrupt than his predecessors have been; he just speaks better English. The CIA and other covert agencies must help the Mexican people especially (since they are our closest neighbors) run the half-dozen families that control Mexico out of the country and help the Mexican people take control of their homeland. No Mexican (or Guatemalan or Ecuadorian) wants to live thousands of miles from his family and country. They, like you, want to be near their homes and friends. If their own countries were not so corrupt and the ruling regimes so ruthless, they would not be here raking your leaves. So we must aid and abet revolution in these countries, the kind of revolution that built our country. Remember "No taxation without representation"? That is going on in Chiapas, Guatemala City, and Guayaquil.
If the U.S. wants democracy in Latin America, then we must make it happen. And I'm not talking about propping up petty tin-pot dictators. I'm talking about making it possible for villages to operate under democratic principles: honest and verifiable elections, secure banks, and access to proceeds from the great natural resources of these countries: mining, oil, forests, the ocean. In short, remove dictators and ruling cabals from their positions by helping the very guy who is mowing your lawn to achieve the same kind of life you have. Give him, by the sword if necessary, freedom and security, and you will be astonished at the near over-night transformation of Latin America.
In short order, tens of millions of Latinos will stream across the border---southward this time---and in Mexico, instead of slave-labor farms and factories, we will see the advent of an industrial revolution. The U.S. has graduated from its manufacturing phase; it is a service economy now. Our greatest talent lies in creativity: software, entertainment, business, medicine, innovation. Instead of yard workers, we should be importing automobiles, microwaves, and cellphones from their countries. It is Mexico's (and Latin America's) turn to enter the industrial phase, to follow in our footsteps. As such, it needs steelworkers, automotive assembly line workers, and oil rig wildcatters.
And in the short term, Americans must pay more for a burger and teach their kids how to mow the lawn again.