“I don’t want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas.”

I stumbled across this quote on the Internet.  It’s from Karl Rove, allegedly uttered at a Republican Women’s convention when talking about the benefits of Bush’s immigration policy.  I came across the quote in the context of an editorial on the conservative National Review website.

The editorial’s commentary is pretty interesting:

It is precisely Rove’s son (and my own, and those of the rest of us in the educated elite) who should work picking tomatoes or making beds, or washing restaurant dishes, or mowing lawns, especially when they’re young, to help them develop some of the personal and civic virtues needed for self-government. It’s not that I want my kids to make careers of picking tomatoes; Mexican farmworkers don’t want that either. But we must inculcate in our children, especially those likely to go on to high-paying occupations, that there is no such thing as work that is beneath them.

This is why the president’s “willing worker/willing employer” immigration extravaganza is morally wrong — it’s not just that it will cost taxpayers untold billions, or that it will beggar our own blue-collar workers, or that it will compromise security, or that it will further dissolve our sovereignty. It would do all that, of course, but most importantly it would change the very nature of our society for the worse, creating whole occupations deemed to be unfit for respectable Americans, for which little brown people have to be imported from abroad. In other words, mass immigration, even now, is moving us toward an unequal, master-servant society.

The use of the phrase “educated elite” gives me the fear, and the editorial’s ultimate conclusion seems  to call for a more closed-bordered approach to immigration.  Also, the idea that we don’t already have a master-servant society and attributing this toward mass immigration (um, slavery, colonialism anybody?) seems to make this argument rather rethorical.  Still, it shows that immigration is a complicated issue, even within Republican ranks.  Rove’s comment is disgusting and describes, for me; the desire to preserve resources and privilege for those who have it, at all costs, that I find so frightening.  However, I’m also really uncomfortable with the editorial’s idea that you could equate labor that a young, wealthy person could do voluntarily and temporarily, with the labor reality of many undocumented workers.  I’m not denying that in the history of many families with wealth, there is a working class history, and individuals who made some significant sacrifices for their families.  However, the rags to riches mythology that many conservatives (and punk kids for that matter) use to justify the preservation of resources and privilege is an incomplete narrative.  There are a lot of reasons why some people have been able to accumulate and preserve wealth while others have not, beyond just personal industriousness.  If we’re going to value hard work as a culture, we owe it to ourselves to do that in the open context of those other, often unfair and ugly, factors.