Arizona Republic
June 10, 2007

Author: Linda Valdez, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 3

Can we have an Olympic event for Creative Scapegoating? I'd like to see Rep.
Tom Tancredo get the gold medal.

The guy's amazing.

At last week's GOP debate, Tancredo took the increasingly popular sport of Blame the Immigrant far beyond the usual conspiracy theories about the reconquista of the Southwest.

He put culpability for one of the modern world's true evils squarely onto the backs of Maria and Diego.

"And how long?" he asked the audience in New Hampshire. "How long will it take us for that -- for us to catch up with the millions of people who have come here, both legally and illegally, and assimilate them? I'll tell you this. It'll take this long -- until we no longer have to press 1 for English and 2 for any other language."

The crowd applauded. And no wonder.

Is there anything more pernicious -- more dreaded -- than the recorded telephone "menu of options"? It is the bane of modern existence.

Find a way to link immigrants with the anguish of Americans who get endlessly transferred into deep and inescapable circles of Phone Menu Hell, and you've won the immigration debate.

If all it takes to put real, live operators back on the other end of the line is deporting 12 million people, then start lining up the buses.

But Phone Menu Hell was not created by migrants, and the Spanish-language option isn't the result of Latino lobbying.

Free enterprise gets the credit.

Spanish is a menu option because it's good business to court the Spanish-speaking customer. Spanish-speaking customers are plentiful because it has been good business all these years to hire poorly paid Latino workers.

You may think things will change for the better if all the migrants go home.
Be careful what you wish for.

Businesses eliminate employees, such as phone operators, the nanosecond an automated option can be found. They move offshore as soon as it becomes more profitable. If cheap migrant workers are no longer available in the United States, a lot of farms and meatpacking plants will move to countries where cheap labor is available.

Communities that now rent apartments to the millions of illegal immigrants that Tancredo blames for not assimilating will experience high vacancy rates. Stores that sell them clothing, cellphones, furniture, food, toys, cars and assorted other goods will suffer a big drop in sales. Jurisdictions that collect sales tax on what they buy will also see a drop in revenue.
That's reality.

Migrants don't live in a vacuum. They spend money. They create demand for goods and services.

They also live according to a work ethic and set of family values that was considered all-American back in the days when real people answered business phones and earned decent money doing it.

If you ever get lucky enough to call a business and get an operator on the line, be very, very nice to her. She's an endangered species. You might also want to smile at the person who rings up your groceries. Those self-checkout lines that keep appearing in stores weren't designed for your convenience, no matter what the signs say. They are about eliminating the cost of salaries and health benefits.

These jobs aren't disappearing because of migrant labor. They are falling to the free-market, profit-seeking business strategies the Republican Party endorses.

Blaming the migrants is a handy diversion for GOP candidates who want to appeal to the working man or woman who feels understandably threatened by today's workplace realities.

Tancredo is a master at this type of scapegoating. Give that man a medal.

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Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Viewpoints
Page: V1