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Plain Dealer columnist dislikes 'illegal' Mexican workers

Tom Jackson • Apr 15, 2014 at 3:14 PM

Kevin O'Brien, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's deputy editorial page editor, took time last week to explain why he doesn't like "illegal immigrants." He seems to be particularly unhappy if they come from Mexico. 

Here's what the top-ranking PD editor wrote: "In no way does the scant benefit of cheap labor begin to offset the damage that is being done to American law and culture." 

I'm not clear how much damage is being done, since journalists who pay attention to the actual numbers know that cities with a large immigrant population are low in crime. Here's an article by Radley Balko on "The El Paso Miracle," a city in Texas with a remarkably low crime rate and a large Hispanic population. (Balko's article dates from 2009, but the latest numbers are here.)

O'Brien's column contrasts Mexican immigrants with the supposedly superior immigrants of yore. Of yesterday's high-quality immigrants, O'Brien writes:

"They didn’t break the law to come, in hopes of being hired by an employer willing to break the law, under the nose of a government that declines to enforce the law. They came to learn and assimilate into the culture, not to change the culture so it resembled what they had left behind."

I'm all for respect for the rule of law. It's a legitimate issue, particularly at a time when the Obama administration tends to show little deference for the U.S. Constitution, or for laws as they actually are written. (The U.S. Court of Appeals is scheduled to rule, in Halbig v. Sibelius, on whether federal bureaucrats can simply rewrite the law if they don't like what Congress actually passed.) 

But I'm not ready to buy into the idea that a willingness to disobey the law is something peculiar to Mexicans.

When I came to Ohio about 10 years ago, I was determined to pay the state's use tax. I carefully saved my Amazon receipts so I could tell our tax preparer what we owed. (I'm sure I don't need to explain this to all of my law-abiding readers, but the "use tax" is what you are supposed to pay for online orders, if you haven't already paid a sales tax.)

The tax preparer expressed astonishment and told us he had never dealt with a taxpayer who wanted to pay the use tax. When he filled out the tax forms for us, I discovered that he had "forgotten" to enter the use tax information on the state return. 

Here's a simpler example. Does anyone reading this blog post drive a car? Try driving the speed limit on any highway, and see how many people drive past you. They can't all be Mexicans.

Has anyone you know ever had a car damaged by a motorist who didn't bother to carry liability insurance? Every state has a financial responsibility law, but millions of Americans drive around illegally without insurance.  

I'll add that it's pretty well known that many of the Mexican workers O'Brien dislikes are known for working hard in jobs that Americans don't want to take, such as cleaning toilets and picking crops. 

I happen to think there's a kind of dignity that attaches to hard work. 

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