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Washington, D.C.: Capital of Hypocrisy

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If anyone were ever to conduct a study on hypocrisy, he couldn’t go wrong by focusing on the U.S. government. One of the best places to begin would be in the area of immigration.

For example, every Democrat in Washington will tell you that he loves “the poor, needy, and disadvantaged,” while the favorite bromide of D.C. Republicans is “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.”

Yet, for decades both Democrat and Republican administrations and Democrat and Republican members of Congress have waged a vicious war on undocumented immigrants, people who normally rank among the poorest in the world, by arresting and deporting them for working for American employers who are ready and eager to hire them.

That’s about as hypocritical as one can get.

But a couple of weeks ago, Americans were treated to what might well rank among the greatest examples of U.S. immigration hypocrisy in history.

In an article entitled, “Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor,” the New York Times reported that the federal government has been putting jailed immigrants to work … at around a dollar an day or less.

Imagine that! The feds first tell us that it is horrific that illegal immigrants are working for private employers here in the United States. It is imperative that we catch them and deport them, they say, because they’re “stealing jobs from Americans.” Thus, federal gendarmes raid private businesses, check to see if everyone has a proper identity card (just like in communist countries), arrest those who don’t have their papers in order, incarcerate them, and then deport them.

And yet, here the feds have these same people working in government institutions called jails, where they have them doing much the same type of work they were doing in the private sector when they got busted, such as “mopping bathroom stalls, folding linens, stocking commissary shelves” and cooking.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, why is it bad when immigrants work in the private sector but good when they work in the public (i.e., government) sector? Aren’t they “stealing jobs” from Americans who could just as easily be doing all that work inside the prison industry?

And what’s up with paying these people a few cents an hour? What about all that glorious federal talk about a “living wage”? What about all that glorious federal love for the “poor, needy, and disadvantaged”? What about all that glorious federal opposition to “exploitation”?

As Pedro Guzman, who worked in restaurants in various states put it, “I went from making $15 an hour as a chef to $1 a day in the kitchen in lockup.” Even worse, it turns out that he was here legally. The feds screwed up in arresting him and keeping him incarcerated for 19 months. But hey, maybe $1 a day isn’t so bad, compared to those immigrants who are working in prison for free or for sodas and candy bars.

Federal officials say that its incarcerated-immigrant work program is “voluntary.” Yeah, sort of like when people are asked to “volunteer” in the army. If you don’t “volunteer,” bad things coincidentally start to happen to you. As Guzman pointed out, prison guards threatened him with solitary confinement if he was late to his 2 a.m. shift. That’s what passes for “voluntary” in the army and in federal jails.

On the other hand, the private sector is genuinely voluntary. Employers and employees come together and voluntarily enter into a mutually agreeable working relationship. What’s wrong with that? In fact, why shouldn’t they be free to agree to work at any wage they both voluntarily agree upon? If the federal government isn’t bound by its own stupid and destructive minimum-wage laws, why should private businesses be bound by them?

Meanwhile, Washington Democrats continue to prate about how they love “the poor, needy, and disadvantaged?” and about how much they hate labor “exploitation,” while Republicans continue to glow with pride over their devotion to “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.”

What better place to learn about hypocrisy than Washington, D.C.?

 

 

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.