Although the debate included the typical give and take, the part that got everyone's attention was this comment by Lloyd Carter, who represented the environmentalists. When asked about job losses that may result from a reduction in water exports to the southern San Joaquin valley, he said:
They're not even American citizens for starters. Do you think we should employ illegal aliens? What parent raises their child to be a farm worker? These kids are the least educated people in America or the southwest corner of this Valley. They turn to lives of crime. They go on welfare. They get into drug trafficking and they join gangs.To view this quote in context, watch this video, but -- even after watching the video -- I do not think that Carter's comment was either appropriate or an accurate description of farm workers. Yes, they are poor, but their criminal activities are probably at/below the criminal activities of people in that income class. Further, job losses are only likely to increase criminal behavior...
I asked Lloyd to explain his comments, and he gave me two references: the apology in his blog and a working paper that he is submitting to a law journal. The apology says:
My comments were directed at the exploitation of farmworkers in the southwestern corner of the valley, which is the poorest place in America but, as worded, implied that ALL farmworkers turn to lives of crime or gangs, which is obviously not true. My remarks were intended to focus on the social costs of exploiting an immigrant worker population which is denied adequate pay, housing and education.The paper (which I said I would not post) makes the important point that poverty in the Westlands area is much higher than elsewhere in the Valley (West versus East side), and that those who are in poverty are more likely to turn to violence, drugs, etc.
While I agree with him (Westlands is NOT interested in the welfare of its workers), I DO have to say that his comment is not helpful.
There are plenty of xenophobes who blame "immigrants" for budget, water, and economic problems. Those racist bigots are hypocrites (with few exceptions, we are all immigrants) and useless analysts: The poor, by definition, use far fewer resources than the rich. Their "foreign" nature makes them easy targets and scapegoats, however.
Carter should have been more careful with his words.
People who lose their jobs suffer, and we should take care to help them find other jobs. Some may turn to crime, but that's not often their first choice, and there are far bigger criminals (cf. Wall Street, Sacramento and DC) who get off with far less punishment.
Bottom Line: If water were allocated by markets instead of bureaucrats (Carter calls them the hydraulic brotherhood), we'd all be better off.