FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Border Control vs. Cleaning Up Wall Street

Governor Cuomo’s recent decision to withdraw New York from the federal Secure Communities program?which sent the fingerprints of all jailed suspects to Homeland Security–got me thinking again about this country’s never-ending struggle with illegal immigration. Upon reflection, the worst thing about illegal immigration is that it’s, well, illegal.

I’m sympathetic to the plight of?undocumented workers. I came of age playing high school soccer in Southern California with some of their children; no one works harder than these people. But as a strong believer in the rule of law, it’s hard to get beyond the basic fact that crossing borders without passports and visas is against the law. Here in the US, and everywhere else.

It doesn’t matter that undocumented workers provide far more to the US economy, welfare state and Social Security than they take from it.

Or does it? Doesn’t that count for something? Given that we’ll never be able to fully choke off the arrival of the undocumented–even with an alligator-filled moat–it’s fair to do a little comparative analysis of American law-breaking, routine and otherwise.

Is the rule of law under greater threat from paperless immigrants or from bankers on Wall Street and the Obama administration in Libya? How many bankers, mortgage brokers, and the rest of the well-renumerated hooligans who brought the economy to its knees have been investigated or prosecuted for what appears to be some highly questionable activities? Very few.

How many Bush administration officials have been investigated and tried for the long list of crimes committed during the Global War on Terror? Answer again: very few. Hardly any, in fact. Far fewer than deserve serious, sustained scrutiny.

Yet we deport tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants every year.

The aim of law enforcement is, of course, to serve justice and provide deterrence against copycats. Failing to investigate what looks like blatant criminality leaves us with neither. Thus, bankers and government officials continue on their merry (sometimes illegal) ways. Look at the continued shenanigans on ‘self-regulating’ Wall Street (ever hear of Raj Rajaratnam?) and the refusal of the Obama administration to abide by the War Powers Act in Libya.

Who commits the more serious crime? What are the stakes? An honest financial system, a country that abides by its own Constitution, and an immigration system that has failed to keep out millions who toil to feed and clean up after us. Not much of a contest.

You complain that you’re neither a banker, nor approve of presidential failure to respect the separation of powers. My examples apply to too few of us. You pay your taxes, stay out of trouble, and otherwise contribute to society. So do the vast majority of undocumented workers.

Do you ever exceed the maximum speed limit in your car? Speeding contributes to thousands of deaths every year on America’s roads and highways. Ever cheat on your taxes? Ever jaywalk? Ever get in your car and drive after one too many? Ever make a rolling stop before turning right at a red light? Always wear a seatbelt? Ever talk on your handheld phone while driving? Ever knowingly overcharge a customer? Ever claimed more from an insurance company than was fair? Insurance fraud costs us tens of billions dollars per year, and contributes to higher premiums. Always pay your child support on time? Ever smoked marijuana?

Are these less serious crimes–in social terms rather than in terms of the penal code–than overstaying a visa or sneaking across a border?

Have you ever left a restaurant because you thought there were illegal aliens in the kitchen? Have you stopped buying or eating lettuce or other produce? Chances are that your salad fixings were picked by an undocumented farm worker. Ever refused to stay in a hotel because you suspected the housekeepers had fake papers? Ever failed to enjoy yourself at the horse track because some of the stable help may be here illegally?

The point is not to justify illegal immigration. It’s only to put it in the proper social context. As law-breaking goes, it’s the sort that actually enriches all of us, not just a powerful few. Think how we could clean up Wall Street if we devoted even a fraction of the resources to it that we expend on border control. Think how we might rein in official lawlessness if we spent even a fraction of the time and energy debating it that we do with illegal immigration. I’ll take an undocumented busboy over a native-born criminal banker or government official any day. ?

Steve Breyman is Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

Limited Time Special Offer!
Get CounterPunch Print Edition By Email for Only $25 a Year!

More articles by:

Steve Breyman was a William C. Foster Visiting Scholar Fellow in the Clinton State Department, and serves as an advisor to Jill Stein, candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail