Great essay from 1990 by Bill Holm:
No papers, no pay. It’s an interesting equation, and I think it has not surfaced before in Minnesota. Neither of my Icelandic grandfathers, for instance, had papers enough to work in Marshall, and if you’re an old Minnesotan, it’s unlikely that your grandfathers did, either. Viking wetbacks, they were.
Though Section 1324A, Title 8, of the U. S. Immigration Code was passed by Congress during my nonnewspaper-reading absence in central China, it doesn’t take much thinking to figure out its rationale: it is intended, to use the vulgar cliché, to “stem the flood” of illegal Mexican labor. It also doesn’t take much intelligence to figure out that if you’re a Mexican laborer in southern California and know you have to sign this silly form, you will promptly dummy up an “original” Social Security card and a driver’s license or birth certificate. Meanwhile, imagine Enrique Lopez, whose family has been in California since before Plymouth Rock, being abused by an officious bureaucrat because, like the rest of us, his “original” Social Security card disappeared down his Maytag twenty-five years ago. Visualize this. And then visualize the Senate debate on this legislation. As Mark Twain said, the true native American criminal class must certainly be Congress, and its behavior in this case is a nice mixture of hypocrisy, cowardice and thoughtlessness.
A friend, after hearing me in high dudgeon and confessing that he had himself signed such a form with silent misgivings, suggested that I might be more sensitive to such issues because of my recent return from China. If this is true, it is a harsh and sad comment both about me and about American citizens generally. If we have to spend a year in an authoritarian country producing papers on demand before we become sensitized to the moral and political dangers of Section 1324A, then we are already a nation of slaves, passive and agreeable, ready for Orwell’s eternal “boot in the human face.”
I’m curious what he’s thinking today.