Dave Neiwert has been serially presenting a research paper on the Minutemen this week (as of today, there's at least one more installment to go). You know the Minutemen: they're the New Militias, born when the old "militias" (read: scary, gun-toting rednecks) became widely known as too dumb even for self-respecting scary, gun-toting rednecks. Left without the laughable fantasy that Bill Clinton would send black-suited troops through the streets of rural America to confiscate their weapons and force their sons to marry homosexuals, a new organizing principle was needed. Illegal immigration fit enough of the paranoid/racist vibe, and supported the vigilante delusion of grandeur that some people use to confirm their manhood.
Hence, the Minutemen Project. A bunch of scary, gun-toting rednecks hanging out on the Mexican (and, in an instant of fleeting semi-rationality, Canadian) border. Promising that where the gov'mint has failed, they will keep us secure from brown people taking our high-paying yardwork and custodial jobs. I know I feel safer already.
I hear the questions now: Thomas, these Minutemen sound like just the thing for those empty Saturday afternoons that I've been spending watching taped American Idol episodes, listening to Toby Keith and cleaning my many semi-automatic weapons, but I live in Northern Virginia! The area has become increasingly friendly to its booming Hispanic population, and my blatantly racist legislation keeps failing. What can I do? It looks like my only other option is to harass day workers in Herndon, to no effect.
In all seriousness, what annoys me about the Herndon Minutemen is that they've taken the prototypical liberal immigration argument ("Why not go after the businesses that are breaking the law by hiring illegally?") and actually implemented it, albeit through thuggery and intimidation. When it was revealed that Wal-Mart had been systematically exploiting illegal laborers to lower costs, the chorus from the left was to prosecute Wal-Mart, not the workers, for breaking the law. But either way, let's face it, the poor slob with the mop and bucket still ends up out on the street trying to support his family.
And look: I've just got nothing against that guy. I don't see any reason that he should be hurt. Granted, that's easy for me to say, because I'm a knowledge worker who works for an international organization. He's not threatening my job--if he were capable of doing the work I do, he almost certainly wouldn't be here illegally. So talk is cheap.
At the same time, take someone who can be hurt by the day-laborer system: construction workers, maybe. Their unions are being undercut by the threat of cheap labor. The immigrants are also getting shafted, because they're being employed without benefits or fair wages. Leave the law unenforced and everyone loses, except for the employers. Enforce the law, and business maintains the status quo while the full burden falls on the illegal immigrant--and like I said, I've got nothing against that guy. I don't see why it has to be a zero-sum game. It's only made that way because we've created the artificial distinction of "citizen" and "illegal." Documented and undocumented. Mine and yours. Business can exploit that distinction, and in turn exploit their employees.
With regards to employment, remember the lump of labor fallacy, which mistakenly asserts that there is a fixed amount of labor available in any given economy. In the case of immigration, as Max Sawicky notes, increased immigration does not correlate to fewer available jobs. Those immigrants are also consumers, who will buy goods and require services, including housing (construction). There is no ceiling on the number of potential jobs. Clearly, it goes without saying that I'm in favor of very open borders. With that said...
Discussion question: why do we need citizenship anyway?