Skip to comments.Minutemen at the Polls (Last week's special election in California was a sign of things to come)
Posted on 12/12/2005 1:03:53 PM PST by nickcarraway
Last week California State Representative John Campbell won a special election to fill the U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated when Chris Cox was appointed to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission this summer. But Campbell's victory, which was never in doubt, wasn't the headline of the election. Jim Gilchrist, founder of the volunteer border-watching group known as the Minutemen, ran as an independent on a border-security platform, and garnered about a quarter of the vote, 10% higher than his showing in the 19-candidate "jungle primary" in October. Campbell's share of the vote dropped a percentage point from the primary, to 45%. In fact, Gilchrist actually won among voters who cast ballots on election day; Campbell needed absentee ballots to put him over the top.
Lawmakers in Washington are taking this political signal very seriously. Before the election, Bob Novak reported that the sense among Republicans on Capitol Hill was that "a strong showing by Gilchrist -- anything above 20 to 25 percent" would doom the guest-worker program favored by President Bush. After the election, an anonymous congressman told John Fund that "members will be spooked at the thought of primary challengers or third-party candidates draining votes from them with an immigrant-bashing platform."
As is often the case, arguments over illegal immigration and legal immigration are being commingled (and both sides are guilty of blurring the lines). Legal immigration is a boon to America. According to estimates in a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research by economists Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano of the University of Bologna and Giovanni Peri of the University of California, Davis titled "Rethinking the Gains From Immigration: Theory and Evidence From the U.S.," immigration in the 1990s increased the average wage of American-born workers by 2.7 percent. This runs counter to many assumptions about the economic effects of immigration; Harvard economist George J. Borjas, whose work has been quite influential in immigration politics, has estimated that immigration in the '90s depressed American-born workers' wages by 3%.
But Ottaviano and Peri have the better economic model. Rather than treating labor as a standard commodity (supply goes up, price goes down), they account for the fact that even moderately skilled labor is not perfectly interchangeable -- a Chinese cook is not the same as a Texas barbecue chef, as Virginia Postrel memorably put it in a New York Times column on this topic last month. And rather than treating demand for labor as if it is independent of supply, they account for the fact that businesses respond to an expanded labor supply by increasing their capital investments: As Peri put it to Postrel, "investment adjusts not to keep fixed the amount of capital but to keep fixed the return to capital,'' so ''more workers means more business.''
A company that hires immigrants to make more widgets will hire more American-born widget-salesman to move them. In Peri and Ottaviano's model, the effect on wages is positive for 91% of the American-born workforce and negative only for the 9% of American-born workers who are high school dropouts. (Stay in school, kids.)
ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS ANOTHER kettle of fish. Many Americans are rightly horrified by this country's inability to enforce its immigration laws, and Gilchrist's strong showing is a symptom of the mood. Gilchrist's Minutemen have been unfairly caricatured in much of the press -- one AP dispatch led with the description of one of the group's operations as "an exercise some fear could attract racist crackpots." But still the Minutemen have a 54% percent favorable rating and only a 22% unfavorable rating, according to Rassmussen Reports. Last spring President Bush dismissed them as "vigilantes" (though they've broken no laws), but he and his political allies ought to take a second look at the Minutemen and their works.
The Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, led by Tom Tancredo of Colorado, issued a staff report in June titled "Results and Implications of the Minuteman Project" indicating that during a month-long period of intense activity in Arizona, the volunteers demonstrated some important facts about border enforcement. For one thing, adding manpower at the border is quite effective: "An average six additional personnel on station per border mile proved effective in dramatically reducing illegal crossings." For another, adding manpower at the border does not require the two years of training that the Border Patrol officers receive: "[T]he Minutemen demonstrated that auxiliary personnel can be trained and deployed in three days. The lesser duties of supporting higher-trained Border Patrol and other state and federal law enforcement agencies does not require the full legal skills of Border Patrol agents."
It would take 36,000 additional personnel to seal the Southern border. Tancredo and Gilchrist favor using the National Guard for this purpose, but that would be a dubious use of military resources: The permeability of the Mexican border, while dismaying, is not the national security emergency that many immigration hawks portray it as. As Richard Miniter persuasively argues in Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror, it is very unlikely that terrorists would enter the U.S. through Mexico. Canada has Muslim communities that radicals can blend into and move through freely; Mexico does not. (The Canadians, thankfully, have been cooperative in helping beef up border security.) But a new force to support the Border Patrol along the Minuteman model, which could be built up relatively quickly, is well worth pursuing.
The Minutemen don't just operate at the border, and their work in the interior can guide policymakers, too. Minutemen in Virginia, according to a Washington Post report last month, have been photographing day laborers and the contractors who hire them with the intent of creating a database to turn over to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS should be able to use this information to determine whether employers are following employment-tax laws. It's not a bad strategy for the feds themselves to try out, and may even appeal to liberals who fret over the treatment of "undocumented" workers: As Michelle Cottle put it in an online New Republic column, "why not go after the demand for [illegal] labor at least as vigorously as the supply? In the best cases, these employers are cheating the system by hiring dirt-cheap workers on whom they won't pay taxes. In the worst, they are abusing some of our society's most legally vulnerable members."
A guest-worker program -- including one that provides incentives for illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows -- is a good idea, but a politically injured one. Those who'd like to save it would do well to start by seriously tackling immigration enforcement, without dismissing those who demand as much as racist crackpot vigilantes.
John Tabin is a frequent online contributor to The American Spectator and AmSpecBlog.
Well I can see this guy is biased, and dismiss this liberal crackpot OBL whiner.
My thanks to those with the guts to vote for Gilchrist. Conservatives may save the Republican Party from itself yet.
I think yuo are reading it wrong. He is saying that people who demand seriously tackling immigration enforcement shouldn't be dismissed as racist crackpot vigilantes.
Any discussion of a guest worker program which does not explain in detail how the guests will be either induced or forced to leave the country when their visa expires is just a promotion of a sham amnesty. If they don't tell you how they are going to leave it is because they have no intention that they will ever leave.
That said, the author made lots of other good points and particular he seems to understand that enforcement must come first and he also understands that if the GOP does not get their act together they are going to get hit in the face with a 2x4 at the ballot booth.
the minutemen(sixty second thugs)are not wanted nor are they need here in Arizona.I live five miles from the border and I see the so called minute men screwing with mexican-americans, just because they can,they are bullies,if you don't believe me come on down and check for your self.
That sounds like a better description of the problem.
They are wanted, needed, and necessary. I live in AZ too, and it's on the verge of border anarchy.
You live 5 miles from the border? Which side?
Okay, I don't believe you. I'm quite sure the liberal media would be all over it if you were telling the truth.
>>Last spring President Bush dismissed them as "vigilantes" (though they've broken no laws), but he and his political allies ought to take a second look at the Minutemen and their works.<<
Protecting our homes, families and jobs is not vigilantism.
"Socialism needs two legs on which to stand; a right and a left. While appearing to be in complete opposition to one another, they both march in the same direction."
Protect our borders and coastlines from all foreign invaders!
Support our Minutemen Patriots!
Be Ever Vigilant ~ Bump!
If the US does not take care of the problems caused by illegal immigration, enforcement will be takened over by extremists vigilantes. Any government that suppresses the will of the people will create extremists and violent revolutionists. Especially if the policy will result in the destruction of their future and their children's future. Read your history books. Many of the revolutions do not involve poor desperate people, some are started by middle class people who fear losing their wealth and seeing their children ending up poor.
Lol! Makes it sound as if voting absentee is something less than voting in person. Third place is exactly where a third party candidate belongs, especially a nutter like Gilchrist.
Jim Gilchrist/Minutemen BUMP.
Close the border, build an Israeli-type fence, fine employers of illegals, deport illegals, restrict legal immigration, and return peace and security to our nation.
You are full of crap. I live near the border and the Minutemen had a manned observation post less than a mile from my house. I found NOTHING of that which you accuse them. In fact, I saw the opposite. You are a liar. In addition, I know several people who volunteered to serve as Minutemen and they were people from the local community. They are not thugs or bullies, just common people sick to death of the ongoing invasion. Seven of our good Republican legislators in Arizona came down and signed up as Minutemen too. Former Republican Majority Whip Randy Graf, who is running for Congress in District 8, was also a Minuteman Project volunteer. None of these people are thugs or bullies.
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