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March 08, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-08

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 8, 2006


clbe Stagu aI

Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editors

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

It will make
America more
secure, and
that's the
bottom line."
- Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), on the House's
vote to renew the USA Patriot Act yester-
day, as reported yesterday by CNN.com.

*u- "I o
~ y

Needless deaths and failed policies

undreds of thou-
sands ofmigrants
make the danger-
ous trek between Mexico
and the United States each
year. Many of them make
their way up to Michigan
to pick fruit, to work as
day laborers or to fill the
back rooms of restaurants.
Some stay for a season,
others stay for the rest of their lives - but none do so
with even a fraction of the legal protections or privi-
leges that citizens or documented residents enjoy.
But before they face what would, under any other
circumstances, be considered illegal and unethical
working conditions, they must cross the desert.
Only the most extreme horror stories - 14
migrants found dead of heat exposure in 2001, 18
suffocated to death in a locked trunk in 2003, count-
less women raped and left for dead in the Arizona
desert - make the news. But every year, hundreds
of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border looking
for work find only a death sentence.
Our government's response has been both
hypocritical and ineffective. The administration's
policies of beefing up border security while doing
nothing to discourage employers from hiring
migrants sends a mixed message that we simulta-
neously fear and rely upon undocumented migrant
Individuals and communities, whether frustrated
with the supposed (and inaccurately labeled) "Mex-
ican invasion" or concerned with the legitimate side
effects of illegal immigration, have often chosen to
lash out at migrants, missing the underlying eco-

nomic causes. Those coming across know jobs await
them - jobs that most Americans wouldn't work
but that allow.them to scrape by, send a little money
home and help lift their families back in Mexico, in
Honduras or inNicaragua out of poverty.
There is nothing radical in complaining about
U.S. immigration policies. Everyone, from the
migrants working for less than minimum wage to
the lawn-chair minutemen who spend their free
time "protecting" America, is frustrated with cur-
rent policies - and with good reasons. National
parks, private ranches and public land are littered
with empty water jugs and tattered clothing, pos-
ing both a nuisance to residents and a threat to live-
stock. Cities near the border shell out millions each
year in medical care and coroner's fees to cover the
expenses of migrants who fall ill or die before com-
pleting the trek across the desert.
The United States has roughly tripled the number
of border patrol officers over the past decade and
walled off sections of the border. But as shown by
increasing immigration figures and the number of
deaths each year, these practices have only diverted
migrants into more dangerous, less inhabited sec-
tions of the border. From one Mexican checkpoint
alone, some 4,000 migrants currently enter the Ari-
zona desert each day. The border patrol apprehends
about one in five migrants making the journey.
Beyond spending millions walling off the border
and employing border patrol officers, immigration
enforcement is half-hearted. Today, there are an
estimated 12 million undocumented residents in the
United States, who compose about five percent of
the country's labor force. Particularly during sum-
mer months, when temperatures will stay over 100
degrees for weeks, border patrol will often drop

ill or dying migrants off at hospitals without pro-
cessing them. This practice shifts the cost of medi-
cal care from border patrol to local taxpayers and
allows migrants to avoid deportation. Each year, the
government does less to penalize those who employ
undocumented immigrants. In the mid-1990s,
around 1,000 citations were handed out each year,
but in 2004 the government gave out just three.
When the government does get around to hunting
down undocumented immigrants already settled
in the country, it does so in disturbing ways. Last
summer, agents arrested 48 workers who attended a
fake event advertised as a mandatory Occupational
Safety and Health Administration training session.
Although OSHA and Secretary of Homeland Secu-
rity Michael Chertoff came out against the practice,
immigration officials stood by the raid, despite the
distrust it fosters.
At best, current U.S. policy indirectly welcomes
undocumented migrants but reduces them to a sec-
ond-class status, allowing them to work and live for
years in the country without the protection of our
laws. At worst, it labels them as a threat to nation-
al security and puts their lives at risk. Frustrated
with the failures to address immigration policy, the
fashionable thing to do has become blaming the
migrant, passing laws and ordinances to further
marginalize those without legal status. But how can
we accuse the migrant who, out of desire to feed
his family or afford to send his children to school,
abandons his family and his community to travel
thousands of miles, risking his life repeatedly to
work jobs Americans shun?

Beam can be reached
at ebeam@umich.edu.

Fixing Michigan's economy

The Michigan Daily and The Michigan Review will periodically run
a point-counterpoint on issues of the day. This installment will debate
what needs to be done to revitalize Michigan's struggling economy.



Student activism can
uphold labor standards
Do you own any clothing from Steve &
Barry's? They're well known as the cheap-
est store on our campus, and recently, we
found out why. Students Organizing for
Labor and Economic Equality hosted a
worker tour where two women shared
their stories that exposed the truth about
the clothes that we wear (Workers describe
life in sweatshops, 02/17/2006)
One of these women was Branice, who
works in a factory in Kenya that produc-
es clothes for Nike, Champion, Russell
Athletic ... and Steve & Barry's. At her
factory, Branice previously faced strip
searches, abuse from her managers, exces-
sively long days without pay, unpaid wages
and pay below even the miniscule Kenyan
minimum wage - barely enough to sur-
vive on. That was before Branice and other
workers organized and formed their union.
Last month, she told us the story how she
and her female colleagues fought for this
right. After a passionate struggle, they
won their union, better wages and the right
to work with dignity. Think of it - Bran-
ice had to form a union and go on strike
just to get the minimum wage! But now
companies are moving their business to
other factories that don't respect workers
rights - like paying minimum wage and
not forcing strip searches and pregnancy
tests - and they can do it because of uni-
versities like ours.
Our university has not agreed to a plan

which would guarantee business to facto-
ries like Branice's. This proposal ensures
that a certain percentage of clothing is
made in factories that practice worker's
rights. It would also ensure that we, as
students, are wearing sweat-free clothing.
These women fought for their rights, and
they won. If we don't take action as stu-
dents, they stand to lose everything that
they've struggled for.
Kaitlyn Koch
LSA first-year student
'U' students use break to
rebuild after hurricane
This past week, 55 students from the
University of Michigan spent their spring
break helping us in southern Mississippi
recover from the devastation of Hurricane
Katrina. They cleaned homes, yards, pulled
stumps, painted, removed debris and ful-
filled any other needs they recognized.
They assisted in the cleanup of a retirement
home in our city and assisted many elder-
ly with so many needs. They slept in our
church, worked despite sore muscles and
never once complained. They showed so
much concern for their fellow man.
They truly gave of themselves to help
make our lives a little easier. We thank
them from the bottom of our hearts for all
they gave to our community. Thanks to all,
and we hope you'll come see us sometime
- thanks, Wolverines!
John D. Jones
Pascagoula, Miss.

Back in the 1950s, Flint - yes, that Flint - had one of the highest per-
capita incomes of any city in the country. The wages "Generous Motors" and
other industrial firms paid to line workers straight out of high school made an
education almost superfluous. Those days are gone and will not return. The
state's economy - particularly its manufacturing sector - has been stagnat-
ing for years, driving residents from the state in search of greener economic
pastures. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Metro Detroit led the nation
in the outflow of its young adults between 2000 and 2002, well before auto-
motive suppliers like Delphi and now Dana Corp. went bankrupt.
To revitalize the state's economy, Michigan needs neither the greater pro-
tectionism some on the labor left advocate nor the slash-and-burn tax poli-
cies of the political right. Rather, the manufacturing-dependent state that was
once the "Arsenal of Democracy" must develop and retain a highly educated
workforce that can compete in the high-tech, knowledge-based fields that are
shaping the 21st-century economy.
Protectionist tariffs - such as the 25-percent duty on trucks imported from
Thailand likely to be axed in an upcoming U.S.-Thai free-trade deal - might
provide some temporary breathing room for Michigan manufacturing workers,
if at the expense of broader national economic growth. There is, however, hard-
ly enough political support for increased protectionism to override the broader
trends embodied by the so-called Washington Consensus. And Michigan's
leaders can do little but beg to change the nation's trade policies anyway.
The notion that slashing the state's taxes will return it to prosperity,
promoted by many an ardently pro-free-trade Republican, is even further
off-base. The argument that the cost of doing business in Michigan drives
companies away might have made a bit of sense when the state's competitors
for unskilled manufacturing jobs were nonunion states in the South. But in
an era when we face competition from foreign workers paid less in a day
than even poorly paid American workers make in an hour, no state in the
union can hope to attract much investment through the comparative advan-
tage of low-wage labor.
The path Michigan needs to follow is that set by states such as California
and Massachusetts, where a commitment to education and a culture of entre-
preneurship that starts at research universities and extends to startup firms
has built a knowledge economy hardly affected by the ongoing decline of
American manufacturing.
The alternative model is Alabama, which recently lost out in its bid for a
new Toyota plant to a better-educated workforce in Ontario. Alabama has low
taxes and lousy schools, and Japanese automakers with plants in the South
have had trouble training poorly educated workers there - in some cases,
even needing to use "pictorials" to teach illiterate workers how to operate
complicated machinery.
Michigan needs to boost its standards for K-12 schools. We need to make
sure all residents, not just affluent suburbanites, have access to higher educa-
tion. We need to commit to retraining workers whose jobs have left for good.
We need not just a greater number of college graduates but a greater propor-
tion of recent grads who will stay in Michigan. "Cool Cities" might not be
enough; one useful idea that's been tossed around is making some student
loans forgivable on condition of working at a Michigan company.
So far, the state's political climate hasn't allowed this agenda to flourish.
There are, however, some recent signs Lansing might be starting to get it.


Do good businesses attract smart employees, or does a skilled popula-
tion attract business? The answer to this question will determine the form
of Michigan politicians' attempts to revive Michigan's ailing economy in
years to come.
It appears, though, that the latter is the case. What's accepted as a given is the
need to revive the economy. Not only do an estimated 1,000 Detroiters leave the
city per month, but Michigan is hemorrhaging residents as well. According to a
recent Detroit News editorial, Michigan lost nearly 80,000 people over the last
two years and is the largest contributor to other states' repopulation.
Worse than the abnormally high amount of people leaving Michigan is the
type of people who leave it. I'm sure we all know plenty of fellow University
students who plan on leaving the state after graduation, preferring metropolitan
locations with several fields of employment to a Michigan economy that's a
one-trick pony at best - and even that pony is galloping out of town. The very
people who could save the failing Michigan economy leave because - irony of
ironies - the economy cannot support their ambitions. Save innovative think-
ing, this could be the vicious cycle to which Michigan is doomed.
But economic improvement is often misconsidered. We debate whether
small-scale tax cuts create an entrepreneurial climate in Michigan that encour-
ages risk-taking and innovation. Whether or not Michigan's Single Business
Tax is eliminated is immaterial to the state's economic prospects. It'll grab
headlines and inspire plenty of rhetoric in Lansing, but it won't seriously affect
the number of businesses in Michigan. Businesses don't relocate wholly or even
largely on account of taxes - if so, why do businesses continue to operate in
New York and California? They stay because of the skill and education level
of the population, who are the potential workforce. and consumer base for a
firm's products. Innovative technology firms simply can't count on the Michi-
gan workforce being educated enough to fulfill its needs. The only way to keep
the 6,000 University grads and the thousands of other young college graduates
in Michigan is to create an atmosphere which supports their ambitions. In this
day and age, young people justifiably loathe putting their trust in one employer,
one corporation or one industry and would find the opportunity to chart their
own course empowering.
Many on both sides of the political aisle agree that education is the key to
prosperity. As many high-paying factory jobs are leaving the state and coun-
try, it has become increasingly difficult to find employment without a college
degree. However, the traditional approach to "improving" education - through
increased funding and stiffer requirements - has been misguided and funda-
mentally flawed.
Make no mistake - school funding and high standards matter, but they are
by no means the solution to Michigan's economic crisis. Quite frankly, those
who fail to graduate fail to care about graduation requirements. Also, all the
standards in the world matter little to a teacher in charge of 35 students who
have no motivation to learn, no role models, no aspirations and no real sense of
how education can improve their life.
The bottom line is that the current K-12 educational system - regardless
of funding or standards - is designed strictly to impart knowledge and polish
skills. Nothing in the current system provides motivation, mentorship or the per-
sonal relationships that are critical for many students - particularly those who
come from low-income families - to succeed. Scholarship money and gradua-
tion standards have little effect when students drop out before the 11th grade.



Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Kevin Bunkley, Gabri-
elle DAngelo, Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared
( flrlhaAk hwn ia nathn.Mark lKuehn. Frank Manlev Kirstv McNamaira, Raiiv



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