The Latest in GOP Extremism: Internment Camps
by Charles Lemos, Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:23:41 PM EDT
Last month, Marg Baker, a Tea Party-backed candidate for the Florida State House, suggested that illegal immigrants be rounded up and placed in internment camps. She floated her idea at a local meeting in Tampa of the 9-12 Project, the Glenn Beck-founded group.
After the video of remarks surfaced earlier this month, Justin Elliott of Salon caught up with Ms. Baker where she expanded on her idea.
"We can ship them out to the middle of the country and put up high walls and leave them there," said Marg Baker, the middle-aged real estate broker vying for the Republican nomination in the state's 48th district, north of Tampa.
Baker was filmed advocating the camps idea at a local meeting of the 9-12 Project, Glenn Beck's activist group, earlier this month. She told Salon today that she was upset at the way some had misinterpreted her comments. "They're trying to think I want to erect some sort of prison camps like over in Germany" -- which she is not, Baker said.
Asked if what she had in mind was more like the Japanese internment camps of the World War II era, Baker said, "something like that. But unfortunately in the Japanese camps they detained American citizens. The only ones I want to detain are the ones who are illegal."
She added, "You've gotta have places for them to eat and sleep and breathe fresh air. It can be a tent city ... You don't want to make them too comfortable or they'll want to come back."
While illegal immigrants are held in detention centers, they are generally processed quickly and then deported. It may surprise Ms. Baker to learn that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency expects to deport about 400,000 people this fiscal year, nearly 10 percent above the Bush Administration's 2008 total and 25 percent more than were deported in 2007.
Perhaps that number remains a drop in the bucket but the deportation of all illegal aliens is a non-starter. The economic impact would be severe. A 2007 study put the economic contribution of illegal aliens at $1.7 trillion. Add in that illegal aliens perform tasks at 20 percent below market rates, the inflationary impact would be immediate. Few Americans are willing to work for or able to survive on wages of $8.00 an hour. The Washington Post in a June 4, 2007 editorial article titled "Immigrants Equal Growth... Reform Isn't Just Humane. It's Self-Interest," offered the following position:
Amid the blizzard of data concerning immigrants' effects on wages, welfare and municipal budgets, the essential point is this: The latest wave of immigrants - legal and illegal, skilled and unskilled - has stimulated enormous economic activity and wealth generation in this country, and it is implausible that the American economy would fare as well without them...
Since most immigrants come when they are young and working... they tend not to collect Social Security or Medicare for many years - even while paying into the systems with payroll taxes, in many cases with phony Social Security numbers (meaning they will contribute but not collect). In fact, illegal immigrants do not get federal welfare benefits of any kind. At the same time they often pay income tax (through paycheck withholdings) and sales tax, thereby helping directly or indirectly to underwrite transportation, health care, education and other services.
But beyond the economic impact, we can't hold people against their will. There's the matter of due process and then there's the matter of how you round up an estimated 8 to 12 million illegal aliens. The suggestion is ludricous but such are many of the suggestions emanating from the Tea Party wing of the GOP.
Now comes word that a Tea Party backed Republican candidate for Governor in New York Carl Paladino said he would transform some prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they would work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in "personal hygiene."
From the Associated Press:
Throughout his campaign, Paladino has criticized New York's rich menu of social service benefits, which he says encourages illegal immigrants and needy people to live in the state. He has promised a 20 percent reduction in the state budget and a 10 percent income tax cut if elected.
Asked at the meeting how he would achieve those savings, Paladino laid out several plans that included converting underused state prisons into centers that would house welfare recipients. There, they would do work for the state — "military service, in some cases park service, in other cases public works service," he said — while prison guards would be retrained to work as counselors.
"Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we'll teach people how to earn their check. We'll teach them personal hygiene ... the personal things they don't get when they come from dysfunctional homes," Paladino said.
New York, like other states, receives a federal block grant to provide cash and other forms of welfare to very low-income residents. Federal law already requires welfare recipients to do some form of work to receive benefits.
New York's welfare rolls have grown slightly during the recession, while food stamp eligibility has almost doubled, according to the state.
Paladino told The Associated Press the dormitory living would be voluntary, not mandatory, and would give welfare recipients an opportunity to take public, state-sponsored jobs far from home.
"These are beautiful properties with basketball courts, bathroom facilities, toilet facilities. Many young people would love to get the hell out of cities," Paladino he said.
He also defended his hygiene remarks, saying he had trained inner-city troops in the Army and knows their needs.
"You have to teach them basic things — taking care of themselves, physical fitness. In their dysfunctional environment, they never learned these things," he said.
The racism inherent in these remarks is stunning. Carl Paladino, by the way, is a wealthy Buffalo real estate developer, who first gained notoriety for forwarding hundreds of racist and sexist emails to his family, friends and employees.