Invasion of the Mayans

A few quick thoughts on the Central American illegal immigrant crisis at the US-Mexican border, none of them pleasant:

1) The protests in Murrieta are absolutely disgraceful. They’re a national embarrassment. Blocking immigrant transport buses, banging on bus windows, chanting “USA! USA! USA!”, forcing Border Patrol agents to abandon their original plan to process the immigrants at the facility they deemed best equipped for the job and revert to backup plans: this is a combination of vigilante lawlessness and near-feral jingoistic bigotry.

These are our borderers. If that’s the best we can do, I’m tempted to take my chances with another horde of illegal immigrants. At least they’re less likely to be openly vile in English.

2) The Border Patrol’s internal checkpoints are now shown to be even more useless than previously known. Border Patrol officers are waving known illegal immigrants through these checkpoints unchaperoned on common-carrier buses when they present processing papers. This is being done on the assumption that these immigrants will appear as instructed for hearings, likely including deportation hearings. This is an impressive leap of faith for federal officers operating general-warrant checkpoints in blatant disregard for the spirit of the Fourth Amendment, ostensibly for the purpose of intercepting illegal immigrants who weren’t caught at the border.

We need to shut the damn things down.

3) As a rule of thumb, these immigrants are unassimilable. Realistically, they won’t be integrating into US society. They’ll be lurking in a parallel anti-civic underworld, many for the rest of their lives, functionally without civil rights, to our detriment and to their own. The federal authorities do not have a grip on this situation. Their inadequate staffing, facilities, and oversight procedures are going to allow these people to fade into the woodwork, distorting the aboveboard economy by their presence. We have a fucking mess on our hands.

4) They aren’t coming for frivolous reasons. In the best cases, they’re fleeing chronic severe poverty and badly dysfunctional governments. In the worst cases, they’re fleeing levels of violence indicative of an undeclared civil war.

5) This is one of the reasons why the nativist protesters in Murrieta are such asshats. The problem isn’t their nativism per se; it’s that they’re cruel and hateful about it. This country needs a robust nativist politics as a counterweight to the mushheaded Chamber of Commerce/SWPL noble savage enthusiast pro-immigration politics currently dominating both major parties. What it doesn’t need is the kind of savage, uncouth, immoral nativist politics that spew all over everything, driven not by love of country but by hatred of foreigners. If that kind of ugliness goes unchecked, we’ll destroy ourselves in our zeal to destroy the Central American peasant diaspora.

6) Something needs to be done to restore civil order in the roughest parts of Central America. The level of violence in Honduras is so high that it’s clearly threatening the domestic national interest of the United States, and probably its national security as well. The US government should be sending civilian cops and MP’s to Central America to help the hapless local governments restore order. Instead, it’s sending personnel to Iraq.

7) The Mexican government needs to be pressured into taking a more active role in dealing with the refugee crisis. As a Spanish-speaking country, Mexico is better able to deal with the Spanish-speaking refugees than the US. Its government shouldn’t be given a free pass to dump the problem on the Americans by allowing a flood of refugees to pass through without any official intervention.

8) The non-Spanish-speaking refugees? Fuck. Some of them speak languages that no one fifty miles away can understand. Not too soluble.

9) Facilitating birth control access in Central America to women who want to use it is clearly in the US national interest. If I have to explain to you why this is important as a matter of realpolitik and a perfectly moral outreach effort on the part of the US government, you’re beyond hope.

Bad shit going down, folks. This mess ain’t cleaning itself up.


4 thoughts on “Invasion of the Mayans

  1. Sometimes the positive law-natural law distinction is valuable. If natural law is dictating some phenomenon or other, there’s very little postive law can do about it. Years ago I was going through the Miami airport and it was quite clear that the dominant langauge being spoken there was Spanish. A lot of people I told this to thought that we should pass a law to make English mandatory, or some such. Ridiculous, really. People will speak the language they naturally speak. You don’t pass a law about things like that.

    There are so many factors coming into play on this latest immigration fiasco. Some of it has to do with our own decadence, our long history of domineering and exploitative behavior, our own persistently low birth rate, our stubborn devotion to the frivolous (Kim Kardashian, Emily Gould) while the important and necessary are increasingly neglected.

    More border guards? Build a wall? Please. The communist countries built walls to keep people in and in the not-that-long run the result was implosion.

    A weak, decadent, frivolous, infertile society breeds lawlessness and gets overrun in due course. The solution is not to be such a society.

    • Very well said. Natural law theory is an excellent philosophical framework for understanding this refugee crisis. As a nation, we’re on the hypertonic side of a strong osmotic gradient. We may not be interested in the deluge, but the deluge is certainly interested in us.

      Batshit crazy comments from authoritarian Republicans in Congress advocating the suspension of foreign aid to Central American countries until they secure their own borders against citizens trying to emigrate do nothing but alienate Central Americans. It’s no wonder that Hugo Chavez was so popular; he was a bumptious blowhard with a poor domestic policy track record in Venezuela, but he was shooting fish in a barrel. When members of one of the major US political parties don’t get thrown out of their caucus for demanding that desperately poor countries build a new Berlin Wall to contain their own citizens in exchange for foreign aid, it’s no wonder that Latin Americans are happy to join an anti-US geopolitical alliance. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a savvier diplomat to Latin America than many of our own Congressmen. Many Americans would think I’m nuts to say it, but it’s true. He was never a condescending prick towards his Latin American colleagues, and his country has never been an existential threat to theirs. If US politicians want to have decent relationships with Latin American officials, they should stop treating them like wayward children.

      This bit of peevishness about foreign aid is just one of the latest examples of the multiple systemic failures of positive law in relation to the refugee crisis. It takes different forms in the different countries involved, but these failures complement each other in a bad way.

      In Central America, the failure of positive law takes the form of communities that are effectively run by teenagers. At puberty the boys are sucked into gangs (and bad ones at that), and the girls into motherhood. The rate of pregnancy among ten- to fourteen-year-old girls in Central America is burgeoning. It isn’t adequate to refer to this problem as one of teen pregnancy; this is routine pregnancy at menarche, a whole different kettle of fish from sixteen-year-old mothers. There simply isn’t enough adult supervision in these barrios to keep them from turning into Lord of the Flies.

      In Mexico, the failure is in at the governmental level. The best way to understand US relations with Central America is to realize that we share a land border with these countries, and that this land border is Mexico. Mexican cops and border guards are willing to extort indigent children in exchange for not arresting them on their way to the United States. This is morally shocking, but functionally it’s nothing more than a form of parasitism in which the parasite does not kill the host. From a US perspective, it means that the sole neighboring country in a position to intervene is unwilling to do anything to stanch the flow of refugees to the US border. The US Border Patrol is doing what it can to deal with these refugees in accordance with the law; its Mexican counterparts are not.

      In the United States, the failure of positive law takes the form of a native populace that rampantly exploits Mexican and Central American immigrants, often in ways that are expressly unlawful and deliberately harmful to the civic fabric and the economic prospects for working-class Americans. Some of the things I heard about Mexicans in San Diego were repugnant. I briefly worked for a lady who hired day laborers without even asking them their names and talked about them in ways that a decent person might talk about draft animals. (“That Mexican rocks!” “There was this younger guy I wanted to hire, but he said he was going back to Tecate. This other guy looked old and worn-out, so I didn’t want to hire him at first, but he’s worked really hard….”) I was working for this woman through a dubious volunteer arrangement, so even though I had a very cordial relationship with her overall, hearing this stuff from her was disgusting. She’s the same one who had fired an employee for getting pregnant by the neighbor’s day laborer. She’s an extreme example, but I think she’s just an unfiltered version of what many affluent Californians think about Mexicans but are too bashful to put candidly.

      Consider all these people who use the black market to hire nannies who can barely speak English. It seems like every fucking politician with major ambition gets caught up in an illegal immigrant nanny scandal. I have a friend from North Orange County who managed to get work as a nanny in South County, truly a salt-of-the-earth girl from a comfortable enough but distinctly working-class family and a neighborhood that is beyond modest. I’ve always thought that it was against the odds for her to score a position that was effectively on the household staff of a family in a city with a median household income in the six figures. It was the equivalent of my finding paid farm work in one of the major agricultural valleys in California, i.e., damn near impossible for a gringo. And that’s absolutely not because we’re all soft; I’ve had a fairly easy time finding paid farm work in Oregon. The difference is that Oregon’s formal labor market hasn’t been as thoroughly trashed.

      The family of this former nanny friend of mine is a useful microcosm of the kind of people who are being shunned by the wealthy in California for non-professional-track jobs. She’s now an RN, and as far as I know the only member of her immediate family with bachelor’s-level professional training. Her father and brother are in the building trades, her mother is a restaurant manager, and her sister is a hairdresser. Every one of them is perfectly employable, and they all have excellent work histories. But I have no doubt at all that thousands of wealthier Californians would smugly shut them out of the job market if they could find illegal immigrants to take their jobs. My friend probably wouldn’t have gotten her nanny gig without connections, by which I mean peer-to-peer, not high-level influence-peddling, but still, there’s a big luck factor involved.

      Multiply my friend’s family by hundreds of thousands, throw in some bad to mediocre luck and a bit less social savvy and engagement, and you can get an idea of how the native working class gets reduced to a peasantry on public assistance. One needn’t be a total fuck-up to get totally fucked over by the existence of a parallel shadow labor force that has no civil rights. I’ve personally experienced it in the farm labor market, and I’m currently on seasonal furlough from a physically demanding and semi-skilled vineyard job that I’ve held for two months (it’s borderline-menial work, but it’s the kind of work in which very simple mistakes can cause a lot of grief the next time someone has to tend the vines). So I’m clearly employable in spite of a haphazard work history. But I have no way to catalog all the employers who would dismiss me, and millions like me, as constitutional fuck-ups.

      One way that this is done is to employ parallel application procedures for native and foreign applicants. There are stories about LaborReady, one of the major temp agencies in San Diego County, having Latin American applicants bypass the personality testing that they impose on US applicants. There’s no telling how much shit like that has gone unlitigated. The rule of law in labor relations is often a pleasant fiction in regions and lines of work that are not overrun by an illegal immigrant labor pool. When there’s a huge surplus day labor supply, such as exists in California, it’s inevitable.

      This is why I get disgusted when I hear employers enthuse about the work ethic of foreign-born Latinos. I know, often for a fact, that it’s a disingenuous fuck-you to perfectly employable and qualified Americans and a moral cover for the maintenance of a de facto Jim Crow regime. The objection of these employers to American employees isn’t really a poor work ethic; it’s that we demand decent working conditions and pay roughly commensurate to the difficulty and danger of the job.

      A great example of this is the contribution of SoCal avocado growers to the chronic Farm Bureau bitchfest about how Americans don’t want to work in the fields. I’ve looked at help-wanted ads for jobs in the avocado groves, and the growers are providing a one-sided story. The prevailing hourly wage for nonsupervisory positions is usually about $12, which is what I’ve been making for vineyard maintenance work in a part of Oregon with a lower cost of living. And my job doesn’t require me to carry up to a hundred pounds of fruit down 36-foot ladders propped up against trees on 40-degree hillsides. Nor am I subject to production quotas, with a daily tonnage bonus that doesn’t trigger until I’ve picked 1,800 pounds of fruit.

      What these growers are really upset about is that they have trouble recruiting people for dangerous positions requiring mandatory overtime, climbing skills at a level needed to be an electrical lineman but without any of the industry-standard safety equipment that a lineman would be issued, speed, brute strength, and mechanical aptitude, in exchange for likely squalid dormitory housing in a remote rural area and a base salary cap in the mid-five figures. And there has been at least one case in which a California avocado picker was fatally electrocuted by his ladder when it brushed a 7,500-volt overhead electrical line running through the grove. The details are really fucking relevant, but they’re never included in the press releases about the need for immigration reform.

      It’s the kind of thing that makes me wonder whether California isn’t really a third-world society. It has a feudal planter class whose behavior is bizarrely arrogant but overwhelmingly ignored by a nominally free and independent press. It also has a native-born population that is increasingly bifurcated into two tracks, a professional track for the college-educated and a public assistance/incarceration track for the K-12-educated and the less employable community college alumni, while an ever-larger swath of the menial, semi-skilled, and skilled-trade jobs are reserved for a meek foreign peasantry. Mencius Moldbug’s five-caste model fits this situation perfectly. Under this model, California’s native-born are turned either into Brahmins or Dalits because the middle-class Vaisyas have been obliterated, while day-to-day operations are handled by the Helots.

      That’s a longwinded explanation for why I cling to California legal residency and voter registration. California’s overclass can drive me out of the state’s labor market, but it can’t purge me from its civics. I won’t allow it, and neither, so far, will Humboldt County.

    • A few other, briefer, vignettes about the farm labor market in California just came to mind after I posted my initial comment. They’re instructive windows into how lawless the job market can get down there.

      One set involves water. There’s an appalling tradition, mainly among fly-by-night farm labor contractors, of not providing a ready or adequate water source to farmworkers on triple-digit days. In one case, a pregnant seventeen-year-old farmworker died of dehydration near Hanford because the only water source provided by her employer was located thousands of feet away and her crew was not being paid for water breaks. Only the good die young. In another case, in 2009, state regulators revoked the farm labor contractor license from a swell fellow by the name of Joel Salazar after they found that he had deployed a fifteen-man crew to plant date palms in the Imperial Valley with less than a gallon of water for the lot of them. The high that day was 116 degrees.

      The other set involves shit. There’s a pretty bad problem, at least in the Central Valley, with growers and contractors failing to provide portapotties for their field crews. Field hands who have to defecate during the workday are left completely to their own devices. Some of them deliberately skip lunch in the hope of preventing a gastrocolic reflex. Others take lunch, get to a point where it’s uncomfortable or just plain not gonna stay in, and find as discreet a place as they can to shit in the field. A third, rather unlucky, group steps in it, or if they’re lucky, smell it first.

      I read about this shit problem in reference to table grapes. The weird fecal bacterial contamination problems with salad greens become a lot less surprising in this context.

      This is what happens when there’s an intimidated shadow workforce that has no civil rights. The rule of law and common decency collapse. The First World dissolves into the Third.

    • Re: birthrates:

      American infertility definitely plays a role in our national weakness, but I’m on the fence as to just how important it is. The best way I can describe the societal effects of our low birthrate vs. the high birthrates in Central America is probably that our infertility is causing mild to moderate dysfunction, some of it yet to fully manifest itself, while the high fertility (esp. among younger teenagers) in Central America is causing serious human development problems, mainly in Central America but also in the United States. In short, we are in much better sociological shape than they are.

      Most of the sociological problems that are quite reasonably attributed to low birthrates can maybe be more accurately attributed to low average sibship sizes. These variables work in concert, so they’re hard to separate, but I suspect that a low birthrate per se is tangential to the pathologies in question. Birthrates remaining equal, I’d expect less preciousness and neurosis among people who have four to six children or siblings than among people who were raised in, or are raising, families with one or two children.

      I say this as an only child. Small bourgeois families put a destructive amount of pressure on their children to succeed, often in ways that have a negative effect on society. I don’t have corroborating data at the ready, but I’m sure that this K-strategic parental pressure is a significant contributor to the cutthroat professional, academic, and even extracurricular behavior that has been corrupting young people in recent years. I’m talking about students taking on worthless “leadership” positions to pad their resumes, extreme GPA neurosis (3.5 supposedly being a horrific career killer), and outrageously immature behavior like parents and children alike flipping their shit over adverse refereeing calls at youth soccer games. A brood of five gives parents some spares so that they don’t totally lose it when Little Precious ends up working as a cashier at Stewart’s.

      The Roman Catholic Church is really on to something when it advocates a sort of dual-track demographic model split between a fecund cohort of those called to marriage and a childless cohort of those called to holy celibacy. The flaw with this model isn’t in its demographic effects, which seem quite sound, but in its resort to meddlesome obscurantism for a moral basis. The sexual continence or laxity of the childless cohort is frankly a red herring as far as demographics and social welfare are concerned. What matter are its beneficial social effects, and any church that isn’t in business to do what it can to improve society doesn’t belong in business at all. (This is why Francis is more popular than Benedict.) When Catholic officials promote this fertile couple/childless holy celibate model for its contributions to the priesthood and the religious orders, they’re basically trying to draw the laity into their internal personnel matter. I’m one to pass on that bait. Not our circus, not our monkeys. (Likewise the Knights of Columbus. I’m not about to be guilted into taking part in weekly Italianate cosplay with pompous old men. Not in my thirties, anyway. Good grief.)

      The unfortunate irony is that by trying to lay a guilt trip down on their parishioners over their reluctance to join the celibate orders, Catholic leaders fail to explain the good that this dual-track model can do for society at a broader existential level. If the childless are engaged in the family lives of their nieces and nephews, for example, they’ll be less desperate to have children of their own and less likely to resort to extreme fertility treatments.

      The flip side of this coin is that it’s easy to find people who deliberately did not have children of their own because they were dragged into helping raise their younger siblings. So maybe the demographics at play here are more self-correcting than they appear at first glance.

      It would probably spare everyone a lot of grief to leave these family formation decisions to individuals and limit the role of government and religious institutions to the provisioning of a functioning safety net and a levelheaded policy framework. The childrearing urge is strong enough in enough people, women especially, that it shouldn’t require constant meddling in people’s private affairs and recalibration of the incentive system to maintain a healthy enough demographic profile. The problem is that too many bothersome fuckheads in positions of power have ulterior motives to get all up in other people’s business. This is how we end up with contradictory barrages of advice to women to forsake childrearing for career advancement and to forsake career advancement in favor of childrearing, with both sides constantly sniping at each other, but without coherent natalist policy.

      Most of our politicians simply are not serious about crafting policy to make childrearing manageable for parents. If they were, Oklahoma wouldn’t be in a class of its own for state-funded early childhood education. No political leader who sincerely wants to encourage a higher birthrate supports the perversion of housing from a utility into a speculative market with ever-rising prices or the perversion of higher education into a Veblen good and a wildly overpriced credentialing system paid for by usurious, nondischargeable student debt. Neither major party can be taken seriously as a source of workable natalist policy, and with Mike Huckabee and Ken Cuccinelli pandering to misogynistic wackos in the men’s rights movement, the Republican Party, long the more vocal one on “family values,” has no moral credibility on the subject, either.

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