If Only We Had Some Kind of Institution that Allowed Us to Force Non-White People to Work for Us for Free…

In pre-Civil War Tennessee, it was pretty straightforward, in exchange for minimal room, food, no legal claim on personhood, and the right to be whipped and have your family torn from you and moved far away from you where you’d never hear from them again, you got to work your whole life so that others could make money. We called that slavery.

One hundred and fifty years later, it’s a little more complicated. But we’re still trying to figure out how to force non-white people to work for us for free. The work-around the Democrats are proposing is that we’d pay the “illegal” people among us, but then take the money back and put it in the state coffers instead!

I guess this is an improvement because now the people with no legal status as persons won’t technically belong to individuals but to the State in general.

The state constitution reads, “That slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, are forever prohibited in this State.” So I can’t help but wonder how the legislature plans on getting around that.  But I guess we’ll get to see.

16 thoughts on “If Only We Had Some Kind of Institution that Allowed Us to Force Non-White People to Work for Us for Free…

  1. Confiscating the wages obtained during and through the commission of a crime. Should we let the drug dealers and embezzlers keep their money too.

    Also, I’d say bondage is kind of a requirement for slavery. They are free to leave whenever they want.

  2. Nice try, but, in order to play it that way, they’d have to charge and convict these folks AND THEN confiscate their wages. And by then, as I mentioned in the post, they’re usually already back in their country of origin. Shall we use our tax dollars to chase them there?

  3. Just want to remind folks that there are a LOT of white illegal immigrants. (Think Bosnia, Serbia, Chechenwhatever). Not ALL immigration legislation is about skin colour.

  4. Not ALL immigration legislation is about skin colour.

    Unfortunately, it seems that all immigration discussion is about skin colour (is that spelling a legal or illegal immigrant? ;-) ). Most of the time, the people I hear talking about illegal immigrants tend to use the terms “illegal immigrant” and “Mexican” interchangeably.

  5. Many states own laborers which they use for the general welfare of citizens. They call them prison gangs.

    In Tennessee, the state leased convict labor to mine owners as a way to break strikes in coalfields in the 1880s and early 1890s; it started what is known as the Convict War. Karin Shapiro wrote a damn good book about that a couple of years ago. Maybe everyone’s forgotten that eastern Tennessee workers took up arms against the state militia, burned down convict camps, and freed all the prisoners. The convict workers were then…uhh…withdrawn. (Similar things happened anywhere in the US where there were miners.)

    Your state’s ongoing quest to pretend the 20th century didn’t happen when it comes to labor relations never ceases to amaze.

  6. Most of the time, the people I hear talking about illegal immigrants tend to use the terms “illegal immigrant” and “Mexican” interchangeably.

    It’s because they are a) ignorant and b) not living in an area where the majority of illegal immigrants are white.

    Fort Wayne, (aka the land of my birth) is awash in Bosnians, Chechens and some white illegal immigrants from somewhere else that I can’t remember. One of those places that’s been a country for like 11 minutes or something.

    Of course, they are also awash in Chinese and Rwandans, so it’s sort of an equal-opportunity mecca.

    Frankly, I think it’s funny that many anti-illegal immigration folks are so focused on The Evil That Is Mexicans, because more drugs–according to some guy I talked to once, so I have no good source link–come through the Chinese and Chechen illegal immigrant traffic. To hear that dude (he works for the DEA) tell it, the Mexican i.i.s are bringing in mostly pot, while the Chinese and various-types-of-eastern bloc-i.i.s are the ones bringing in the majority of the heroin.

  7. I’d imagine the South Americans are supplying a good deal of the Cocaine, but yeah, so far as I know there isn’t a whole lot of poppy growth in Latin America.

    Ultimately, lets be honest, this wouldn’t be an issue if the people didn’t bitch about it, and they wouldn’t be bitching about it if these immigrants were white Europeans.

    Ultimately, this is a racial issue for the most part…we can pretend all day long that it isn’t, but that is what drives the animus with which this debate is waged. It isn’t about the “rule of law” its about keeping the dirty brown people out.

  8. As a lawyer, I saw a case in a Tennessee courtroom in which the employer argued he didn’t have to pay his employee for cutting wood because the employee didn’t cut all the wood. The employer’s argument was that he had said beforehand that if all the wood wasn’t cut, he wouldn’t pay any partial amount. The no-nonsense judge would have none of it. No matter what the employer said beforehand, if the worker did part of the job, reasoned the judge, the employer had to pay him for the part he did.

    No matter what you say about immigration, legal or otherwise, if a man builds a house, he should be paid the minimum wage for building a house. If the employer wants to pay less than minimum wage, he should be punished. If a Tennessee politician or party wants to cause the employee to receive less than minimum wage, the residents of Tennessee should have none of it.

  9. On a related note, there is a bill going through the GA legislature, which would allow the cops to confiscate the vehicle of illegal aliens involved in accidents or pulled over.

  10. I applaud you for taking up this topic and sparking much needed debate about how to handle illegal immigration. It is–after all–an extremely complicated and deeply rooted problem. No matter where you come down on the issue, I think we can all agree that it’s high time we find a practical solution to ending illegal immigration as we know it and doing something about those who are already living and wokring here–deeply rooted in their local economies and communities.

    But TN’s costly, deportation-only legislation is like painting the house when the roof is on fire. It’s not just too little effort, too late; it entirely misdirects any meaningful effort to fix the state’s immigration problems. This tired strategy of enforcement without reform has failed over and over again. It’s just an opportunity for politicians to gain cheap political points at the expense of sound policy. (And in most other state’s (as with the recent defeat of Hastert’s replacement in IL) this strategy is backfiring on anti-immigrant Republicans candidates.)

    We are too smart to let these politicians hijack this debate and continue to lead us down the wrong path. We’ve got to say, No!

    Our immigration problems will not go away until we find a fair and practical way to get undocumented workers out of the shadows and into the system: passing criminal background checks, paying taxes, and learning English. Only then, after we replace an illegal flow with a controlled legal flow of immigrant workers, will these enforcement measures be effective.

  11. It’s quite sickening to see people comparing undocumented migrants to drug dealers. Of course, these are the same people that like to claim they’re all rapists and murderers.

    I guess when you see them this way it’s easier to convince others they should be robbed of their hard earned money.

  12. It isn’t fair for wages to be withheld from any worker, not matter what their citizenship or immigration status is. Great post!

  13. It’s quite sickening to see people comparing undocumented migrants to drug dealers. Of course, these are the same people that like to claim they’re all rapists and murderers.

    Katherine it’s unfair of you to blame immigrants for your city’s drug problem.

    I think you have an undistributed middle in your assumption.

    I said there are illegal immigrants. I said that drugs are being imported via illegal immigrants.

    I neither said–nor do I believe–that all illegal immgrants are importing drugs. Actually the truth of the matter is that smugglers are often using the same routes to bring in both drugs and people. That’s not a xenophobic misconception. That’s a cold hard fact. It’s actually more true when bringing in both the Chinese and Soviet Bloc immigrants because there is a larger transport network involved. Those coming up from Latin America have much less waterspace to cross and are therefore more likely to be able to make it into the country without extensive smuggling efforts. (Yes, I know they use coyotes and other transborder guides. I’m talking about heavy shipping.)

  14. DM, while there may be areas of disagreement between me and Katherine on this issue (and one or two others) I don’t believe she intended to paint all undocumented immigrants with the same criminal brush. I have been reading her comments about this issue for over two years, i think.

    And, yes, land routes can transport both drugs and people, often at the same time.

  15. Katherine Coble, on March 10th, 2008 at 1:59 pm Said:

    Fort Wayne, (aka the land of my birth) is awash in Bosnians, Chechens and some white illegal immigrants from somewhere else that I can’t remember. One of those places that’s been a country for like 11 minutes or something.

    It’s awash in Bosnians? I love it how you try to blame drug problems on foreigners. I’m pretty sure you’re not a true American because the only true Americans are the Native Americans. Your ancestors immigrated here. People from Bosnia are not illegal immigrants, they are refugees from a country thats been torn apart by civil war. Maybe you should get your facts straight. I also love how everyone preaches about the acceptance of Americans, and how they embrace diversity with open arms. That’s greatly exaggerated. You are the most ignorant person I have met in my short life. I’m sorry that your city is “awash” in Bosnians who fled their country so they weren’t killed in a genocide. You’re really suffering.

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