Monday, May 23, 2005 | America’s borders are out of control. Every year, 500,000 new undocumented aliens come to California. The cost to California taxpayers is billions of dollars for food stamps and other un-reimbursed services. The economic benefit of hiring cheap, exploitable labor is a bonanza for California agribusiness, and a boon to families. But the human cost of maintaining a system of American apartheid is incalculable.
When the federal government fails to take responsibility for enforcing borders, the people will do so. A group of self-appointed Minutemen are patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border.
But self-declared patriots who take the law into their own hands are nothing more than “vigilantes.” So says President George W. Bush, who ought to know one when he sees one.
If vigilantism is ruled out, what’s our poor little state to do?
“Why not set up a state agency that could enforce these (immigration) laws … with trained police personnel in a comprehensive and uniform manner,” says Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta. These cops will be on the border, in neighborhoods and on street corners. “It will cost about $200 to $300 million dollars, but it could save us $5 billion,” claims Haynes, who authored a bill to establish the California Border Police. Simultaneously, a well-heeled group is circulating petitions to put the California Border Police Initiative on the state ballot.
“If it qualifies, (Haynes) proposal will probably be approved,” predicts political analyst Daniel Weintraub, of the Sacramento Bee.
Does California, or any state, have the authority to carry out federal immigration enforcement? Apparently so. Section 133 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 authorizes state agencies to arrest undocumented aliens and turn them over to federal authorities, according to the initiative’s supporters. Opponents disagree, saying it usurps federal power. Most likely, it would wind up in the “liberal-leaning” Ninth Circuit Court.
Assemblyman Haynes of Murrieta must have conceived the California Border Police while meditating on moonbeams in the Murrieta Hot Springs. In order to empathize, I asked my house servant, Pepe, to fire up my hot tub and mix me a strawberry margarita, fresh picked by Oaxacans sleeping in spider holes in the sunny fields of Oceanside. Luxuriating in my Zen garden, tended by my Chinese gardener, Xi Kung, I conjured up the result of this border cops thinking.
The California Nanny Patrol will lurk at playgrounds, parks and neighborhood school yards, waiting for nannies to roll in with their charges. Then, with infants sleeping soundly in their strollers, agents will nab those dangerous nannies. If working parents complain that their beloved children were abandoned to local coyotes, they will have no one to blame but themselves for hiring immigrants.
The California Garden Patrol will tie gardeners by their green thumbs, seize lawnmowers, blowers, and hedge clippers and auction them off to the highest bidder. We can use the proceeds to buy lariats for the California Student Patrol to lasso young scholars caught in the act of learning, and drag them from classrooms.
The California Bedpan Patrol will sweep retirement communities and convalescent homes. Then the California Elder Patrol will escort seniors to the homes of their children and grandchildren, so busy Americans can care for their aged at home.
The California Taxpayer Patrol will purge the tax rolls of aliens who pay withholding taxes but never receive benefits. Maybe not – we need their money to subsidize our government.
An estimated 3 million undocumented immigrants currently live in California. They are farm workers, nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, students, day laborers, hotel maids, car washers, eldercare workers, students and mechanics whose hard work for little pay keeps California running. This same group is made up of small business owners, engineers, investors, doctors, scientists, inventors, musicians, artists and technicians who are leading California’s technological and cultural advances. A small minority are criminals, but the vast majority are decent, hard-working people with strong families.
Do we really want California Border Police (and their $300 million dollar price tag) arresting window cleaners on our doorstep, pulling children out of schools, snatching nannies while pushing strollers?
Before creating a new state bureaucracy with profiling powers, let’s put humanity back into the equation.
Jonathan Freedman is the author of an upcoming novel, CANYON OF THE DEAD, about an American journalist accused of murdering an illegal alien in a canyon near the border. Freedman was awarded a 1987 Pulitzer Prize for editorials advocating immigration law reform.