Tucson v. Arlington on Immigration and Amazon

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Musings and questions from a left-wing socialist who is also a right-wing supremacist.

Americans are so divided on immigration and other issues that one risks being typecast as either a left-wing socialist or a right-wing supremacist for daring to send something around that one side or the other dislikes. Given that I believe that both political parties have failed to develop sensible immigration policies, I must be a left-wing socialist and a right-wing supremacist. 

My perspective on immigration is parochial, stemming from living close to the border in Tucson for the last four years, formerly living in metro Phoenix for 30 years, and, before that, in the barrio of San Antonio for five years, where I once got caught in the middle of a gun battle.

The problem with today’s massive influx of poor and poorly educated immigrants is similar to what it was a hundred years ago with my Italian forebears: It’s a net positive for the nation as a whole in the long run but can put a strain on local communities in terms of increased costs for education, medical care, social welfare, and law enforcement. In other words, such immigration is an example of concentrated costs and dispersed benefits.

The City of Tucson can’t afford the concentrated costs. It already suffers from a poverty rate twice the national average, a rate of property crimes near the top nationally, horrendous test scores in most k-12 schools, rundown and unkempt public and private property, crumbling streets from decades of deferred maintenance, and a brain drain of young talent that moves to Phoenix and other vibrant cities for opportunities. These problems are compounded by Tucson being largely bypassed by big, rich companies as a location for headquarters or major offices, even though the companies claim to value diversity and care about the poor.

The blame for Tucson’s travails shouldn’t be put on migrants, however—not when most of the travails are due to shortsighted, poorly managed, and highly partisan city and county governments, enabled by voters who have voted for the status quo for decades and by a media that doesn’t seem to know how badly the governments and the metropolis compare to well-run locales in key measures.

By the measure of the cost of municipal services, it doesn’t compare well at all For example, when my wife and I moved for family reasons from metro Phoenix to metro Tucson, to a house of equal value, our combined cost for property taxes, water, fire service, and trash pickup increased by 50% while the quality of public services and amenities fell significantly.

That doesn’t include the value of the time we spend picking up litter along a busy street every morning on our daily five-mile walk, a chore not done by government or by property owners that front the street, including retail businesses, apartments, condos, a gated HOA, a private and expensive golf course, an upscale resort, and a public school. Clearly, something is amiss with civic pride in the Tucson metropolis.

Amazon selected leafy, clean, prosperous Arlington, Virginia, as the location for its second headquarters for its highly paid professional and managerial employees. Arlington is next door to the imperial city of Washington, D.C., where bad immigration policies are hatched and imposed on the provinces. 

At the same time, local media celebrated when Tucson was selected as the location for two low-wage Amazon warehouses, which are two out of over 900 Amazon facilities across the U.S. They don’t question why Amazon doesn’t locate highly paid professional employees in Tucson but does locate them in Arlington and in scores of other cities across the nation, including Phoenix.

Pop Quiz: Do you think that Arlington or Tucson can better afford the costs of assimilating and aiding large numbers of poor and poorly educated migrants? Hint: The median household income in Arlington is $120,000, versus $43,400 for Tucson; the poverty rates are 7.6% and 22.5%, respectively; and the percentages of adults with a bachelor’s degree are 75.3% and 27.4%, respectively.

If your answer is Arlington, then that raises the question as to why, as a matter of immigration policy, migrants without visas aren’t transported to Arlington or similar wealthy towns for temporary living and follow-up actions instead of a poor city like Tucson.

Of course, by raising the question, I’m showing that I’m a left-wing socialist and a right-wing supremacist.

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