Monday, May 01, 2006


In 1966, the British film company Hammer Productions, purveyors of splendid low-budget gothic horror, unexpectedly displayed a leftist social awareness with their wonderfully titled opus Plague of the Zombies. The story involves an investigation into a series of deaths in a small Cornish village. There are no outward signs of illness, just sudden, unexplained death. The only people dying are the solid, hard-working citizens of the town, decent family people the lot of them, though lately they've run into financial problems, since jobs at the local mine have become scarce. The town's upper crust, frequently and unsubtly decked out in fox-hunting finery, aren't affected by this plague at all.

Of course not, since it turns out there is no plague. The wealthy mine owner has employed a voodoo priest to put the town's citizens into a state of seeming death. Once they've been buried they are awakened as zombies, fodder for the mines. They are able to work until they drop, with no need for doctors or unions or even payment. A permanent underclass.

Which brings us to George W. Bush's plan for immigration reform.

You've got to say this for the people who favor building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, who want all illegal immigrants deported, no questions asked: They are at least honest. If you want to see them as a bunch of racist crackers--which they are--well, they don't seem to have a problem with that. At least they aren't pretending to be something they're not.

Bush, on the other hand, pretends to be a friend of immigrants. Sure they're illegal, but they're here, and they're willing to take jobs Americans won't, so let's grant them (extremely) limited rights and let 'em stay. At least until the landscaping's done.

This idea has more holes than--well, I was going to say than a Dick Cheney hunting companion, but that would be cheap. But its a truly ugly plan, for any number of reasons. First of all, it's a myth that immigrant labor is "willing to take jobs Americans won't." Sure, many of the jobs in question are physically demanding, but with decent wages and benefits, many people would be happy to take them.

Ah, but that would cut into profits, and that's the bottom line. What Bush is proposing is to give undocumented workers just enough rights to stay in the country and do grunt work for little pay, but not the right to demand anything better. The promise of a better life but the reality of a living death. A permanent underclass. A plague of zombies.