Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Throwing illegal immigrants out has a price

According to this front page NYT article, apparently some towns are deciding that price is too high:
RIVERSIDE, N.J., Sept. 25 — A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in this faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.

Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.

The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.

With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.

There are a lot of academic studies on the impact of immigrants, legal and illegal, on a community. But nothing illustrates the impact of people as starkly as chasing those people away.It gives us a sort of It's a Wonderful Life glimpse of what things are like without them. According to this article, many (but certainly not all) people are having second thoughts about successfully chasing away illegal immigrants. Some of the ordinances are being changed back.

I hope some of these stories filter up to affect our national conversation about immigration reform. Right now, it seems like the Democrats are sitting it out as the Republicans whip their ever-shrinking base into a xenophobic fury. So it seems unlikely that anything meaningful will be done in the near future, which is sad. But who knows. Sometimes the unthinkable becomes commonplace faster than one would think.


Anonymous Ron said...

Hey Zac,

I think the immigration question is a little more complex than "Dems sitting out vs. Republican xenophobes."

Both sides have factions at war with each other on this. Republican (business) faction wants the immigrants here because they are willing to do very onerous work for very little. Republican (xenophobe) faction wants them out, ostensibly because of law and order concerns, but I think we know bigotry when we see it.

On the other hand, Dems (pro-union) are trying very hard to keep this portion of their base in the party on this one, and so exist in conflict with the others -- Dems (reasonable) and a few enlightened Republicans (I include myself in here, but perhaps there are others.)

- Ron

1:08 PM, September 27, 2007  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

I agree Ron. I've written about the Republican split on this before, but I haven't talked about the Democratic split you mention, which is very real. I suspect the Democratic split between the protectionist wing and the welcoming wing is one reason why Democrats haven't capitalized on the more public Republican schism.

I think right now, the Republican business/pro-immigration reform faction is much less visible. The McCain candidacy has suffered in part because he's viewed as insufficiently "tough" on immigration. Interestingly, Giuliani seems to have a pro-immigration past, but the Republican base seems willing to forgive him just about anything because he strikes such a macho pose on fighting terrorism and the occupation of Iraq.

4:02 PM, September 27, 2007  

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