by José de la Isla
HOUSTON — A lingering question has surfaced: Did Mexico and the undocumented traffic that crosses its northern border into the United States cause the war in Iraq?
If “illegal immigration” is becoming a presidential campaign issue, you should ask each and every candidate about his or her position on this.
The issue might have stayed in the closet had it not been for a recent essay and a round of commentaries in the high-brow tabloid New York Review of Books. It started this way.
Christopher Jencks, in the Sept. 27 issue, presented one of the best summaries in print in the English language about immigration-policy issues.
He was reviewing Patrick Buchanan’s ridiculous book, State of Emergency.
In his essay, Jencks argued that about half of the undocumented immigrant men and women hold regular jobs. The other half work off the books. The regular half provide employers with a Social Security number. The Social Security Administration (SSA) credits their retirement accounts with both workers’ and employers’ contributions. But what if the account doesn’t belong to anyone? What if no one claims it at retirement time?
Jencks says State University of New York political scientist Peter D. Salins estimates “no match” accounts hold more than $586 billion. Most “no matches” come from fake numbers migrants who lack papers use to get work.
There are two outstanding facts about U.S. immigration to take further into consideration. One is that migrants from Mexico make up 60 to 65 percent of this total (depending on the place, time and circumstances).
And those who use fake, or other people’s, or made up Social Security numbers may never claim the money they and employers contributed.
Basically, after the Treasury collects the money, it allows the SSA to carry the amount as a receivable for bookkeeping purposes. And Treasury uses the funds to pay other government expenses.
The biggest one is the war in Iraq. Right now it is running coincidentally about $500 billion, according to the National Priorities Project. If no one claims this SSA windfall, it’s free money to pay for the war.
Some may claim the funds do not automatically go to cover war expenses. True. So let’s say it goes to Medicare and Medicaid and we launder it that way. That means undocumented migrants are actually huge contributors to the U.S. fiscal well-being.
Since Mexicans and “illegal immigrants” cannot be heroes in this scenario, would there have been an Iraq war unless they caused it? You know we would not pay for it in our right minds. Forget about the alleged falsified CIA-intelligence information, the invented “weapons of mass destruction” and the later argument about punishing Saddam for torturing his own people.
Couldn’t U.S. foreign-policy leaders now claim the Iraq War was really an immigration sweep to prevent “no-match” dollars from causing inflationary pressures inside the government.
The war in Iraq was the fastest way to spend the money.
This has a perverse logic to it. By more tightly regulating our fluid borders immediately after 9/11, we forced millions of undocumented visitors from Mexico to stay here in order to pay for what they started.
So it makes sense then to have them pay. As a suspicious class of people, their illicit activities — like renting, seeking work, driving, having families, going to college, getting sick — is just like what terrorists would do. So it’s not demented to say these immigrants are not unlike terrorists. And it is not shameful for this nation to apply the unclaimed money to fight terrorism.
Some have argued low-skill immigration is needed because immigrants will do the jobs most of our citizens won’t. Now, with this new understanding, we can have immigrants who do our other dirty work pay for our war, too.
We don’t want to foot it ourselves with new taxes, nor do we want our grandchildren stuck with the bill. We want to go shopping at the mall, remember? Well, here it is. The “Illegal” part of immigration is necessary because that way our millions of undocumented workers will never have the right to claim their money.
Let’s keep vilifying them, so we won’t feel bad about taking the dough.
Now tell me again, what is it about “illegal” you don’t understand?
[José de la Isla, author of “The Rise of Hispanic Political Power” (Archer Books, 2003) writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org]. ©2007