October 19, 2001
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An article in today's New York Times reports that "the state attorney general's office is investigating complaints that day laborers hired to clear debris from office buildings surrounding the site of the World Trade Center have not been paid, some of them for up to two weeks of work."
The article goes on to report that "Day laborers are frequently illegal immigrants who are promised payment in cash."
Well, "frequently" doesn't really do the job here. The story leaves totally unanswered the question of whether these particular workers who are complaining about not being paid are in America illegally. If they are here legally, then it is unfair to tar them and their employers by lumping them in the group of "frequently illegal." If they are not here legally, it is a violation of the law to hire them, and the authorities and the Times should be investigating that in addition to the alleged failure to pay them.
Smartertimes.com believes that America's borders should be open and that, at the very least, the current levels of legal immigration should be dramatically increased. Still, until the immigration laws in this country are changed, they should be enforced. In fact, enforcing the immigration laws would probably only underscore how unreasonable they are and therefore increase pressure to reform them.
Terrible Setback: The lead editorial in today's New York Times comments on the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister. "The implication of Mr. Sharon's ultimatum is that if his demands are not satisfied in the next few days, Israeli military forces could try to retake Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by force. That would be a terrible setback for Israelis and Palestinians as well as Washington," the Times says.
A setback? The CIA's World Factbook reports that real per capita GDP for the West Bank and Gaza Strip (WBGS) declined by 36.1% between 1992 and 1996. The 2000 estimated real GDP growth rate was negative 7.5 %. Economically, at least, the Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza were better off under Israeli rule.
A setback? Terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians have increased dramatically since Israel turned much of the West Bank and Gaza strip over to the Palestinian Authority. If retaking the area would be such a "terrible setback" for Israelis, why would a democratically elected national unity government with broad popular support in Israel consider doing it? Do the Times editorialists think they know better than the Israeli public what is good for Israel? Sure, governments, even popular and elected ones, sometimes make mistakes, but given the circumstances, if the Times is trying actually to convince anyone of its editorial position rather than simply asserting it, the newspaper needs to make an argument.
The editorial concludes by saying, "During the 1991 Persian Gulf war Israel wisely honored American requests for military restraint, even in the face of Scud missile attacks on Tel Aviv. After this new killing, Israel must again summon the political strength to act wisely and carefully." The Israeli restraint in 1991 in fact seems hardly wise in retrospect. Symbolically, the Israeli willingness to contract out its self-defense to America was the beginning of a pattern that led directly to discussion of more radical proposals like U.S. troops on the Golan Heights and a NATO force in the West Bank. And the very dictatorships that America was trying to appease by demanding Israeli restraint in 1991 -- Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt -- have returned America's favor by unleashing some of their restive populace to crash passenger jets into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. "Wisely," indeed.
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