Saturday, August 27, 2005
Normally I’m suspicious of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ as a force for good. The whole idea that everyone flourishes in a free market is so clearly nonsense that you forget that sometimes it actually works.
A great article on immigration in this week’s Santa Fe Reporter (that now I can link to, because they finally sorted their website out) argues that large US corporations are way ahead of government policy in recognising undocumented Mexican migrant workers, and giving them the sort of services that ordinary people deserve.
So Wells Fargo and Bank of America will let you open a bank account with your Mexican ID card (which is very handy, as it stops you getting mugged on your way home on Friday night with a pocket full of cash). Citibank and some credit unions will also give you a loan for a house, so you can get out of that dodgy rented place you were in.
Oh, and you’re paying your taxes too. The IRS allows you to apply for a Tax Payer ID number, even if you don’t have a social security number, and many people have done just that, thinking that if ever there’s an amnesty and a chance to get full legal status, having been an upstanding tax payer (if not actually a legal resident) will stand to them.
Of course the reason the IRS and the other organisations are doing this is not because they’re selfless souls with a progressive stance on immigration reform. It’s because, as Adam Smith would point out, they want your money. These aren’t people who are just coming to the US for a summer and then leaving – they’re part of the community, they’re raising families (with their children as US citizens, of course), and they’re here for the long haul.
The economic certainties that bring migrant workers here in the first place (11 million and counting, according to the SFR story) are the same ones that mean companies are going to provide services to them when they’re here: there are plenty of low-wage jobs here that need doing, and plenty of hard-working people willing to do them. Bush’s surprisingly moderate stance on immigration issues (to the chagrin of the hard-liners in his own party) is based on the understanding that the US needs these workers as much as the workers need the US.
As an immigrant myself (albeit a legally documented one), I have a great deal of sympathy for people arriving here looking for work, and it’s good to see that there are moves afoot to acknowledge the permanence of their lives here. It would be nice if the sweeping immigration reform needed to create a path to permanent legal status for them, would at the same time drastically simplify the Kafka-esque hassles we went through to get a spousal visa.