Iowa radio host to immigrants: Leave or become our slaves

Taking the concept of self-deportation to new heights, Iowa radio host and conservative kingmaker Jan Mickelson openly advocated enslaving undocumented immigrants who don’t voluntarily exit the United States, citing the legal, financial and bureaucratic inconvenience that would come with mass deportations.

As Mickelson proposed, immigrants would be given two or three months to leave on their own. After that, any person who couldn’t prove their citizenship would become “property of the state,” who we could then set to work on things like building Donald Trump’s big, beautiful, classy border wall. As Mickelson said, quoted by Media Matters:

…if you are here without our permission, and we have given you two months to leave, and you’re still here, and we find that you’re still here after we we’ve given you the deadline to leave, then you become property of the State of Iowa. And we have a job for you. And we start using compelled labor, the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do.

Jan Mickelson, screenshot via YouTube

Jan Mickelson, screenshot via YouTube

Well how would you apply that logic to what Donald Trump is trying to do? Trying to get Mexico to pay for the border and for the wall?

Same way. We say, “Hey, we are not going to make Mexico pay for the wall, we’re going to invite the illegal Mexicans and illegal aliens to build it. If you have come across the border illegally, again give them another 60-day guideline, you need to go home and leave this jurisdiction, and if you don’t you become property of the United States, and guess what? You will be building a wall. We will compel your labor. You would belong to these United States. You show up without an invitation, you get to be an asset. You get to be a construction worker. Cool!”

That would certainly help Trump keep his promise of building his wall “on time and under budget,” a promise he has kept in the past by hiring undocumented immigrants and then refusing to pay them.

Asked by a caller if he had any problems with the fact that this sounds an awful lot like slavery — because that’s exactly what it is — Mickelson said no, because “What’s wrong with slavery?”

CALLER: Well we know what’s wrong with slavery.

MICKELSON: Well apparently we don’t because when we allow millions of people to come into the country who aren’t here legally and people who are here are indentured to those people to pay their bills, their education of their kids, pay for their food, their food stamps, their medical bills, in some cases even subsidize their housing, and somehow the people who own the country, who pay the bills, pay the taxes, they get indentured to the new people who are not even supposed to be here. Isn’t that a lot like slavery?

CALLER: Well you know, you’re singing my song; we’re all slaves today the way the government is growing –

MICKELSON: If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to reverse the process. Isn’t this a perfectly good time to do that?

If you followed his logic, everything currently happening that conservatives don’t like is slavery — government growth, immigration, taxation, etc. — and so enslaving the immigrants back is a fair and just solution. You know, as a proportional response. As much as Mickelson insists that he’s in a state of servitude, that word really doesn’t mean what he says it means.

The caller also wondered aloud if we had settled the whole slavery question in 1865, when the 13th Amendment was passed. Irrelevant, says Mickelson, because the Constitution permits slavery as punishment for a crime, which immigrants have committed by nature of their, you know, being here. In this respect, all Mickelson is calling for is a “Show Me Your Papers” Law, modeled after Arizona’s, in which we lock up everyone who doesn’t have proper documentation and put them to work.

Throughout the exchange, Mickelson seems to legitimately believe that undocumented immigrants aren’t people, referring to them as “assets” and “property,” which is always the first move one has to make when justifying slavery. Sure, owning people is bad, but if they aren’t people, then it might not be bad. Then all you’ve got to worry about are logistics.

But even on that front, enslaving anyone who can’t show proper paperwork has a ton of problems. For starters, it would almost certainly ensnare quite a few American citizens who don’t have access to their passport or birth certificate. As Kansas is finding out, requiring American citizens to prove their citizenship in order to exercise basic rights, in their case voting, results in quite a few people losing those rights. Lots of American citizens don’t have documents handy in order to prove their citizenship; is Mickelson ready to lock them up, too?

And then there’s the question of cost: You don’t pay your slaves wages, but you do have to give them food and housing so they don’t die. Pressed with this concern, Mickelson cited Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City — in which the criminally racist lawman and his posse have been keeping prisoners in an open-air jail for over 20 years — as an example of how he would feed, clothe and house Iowa’s new slaves. Because when I think prison camp for slave workers I think of…well, I guess there’s no need to be sarcastic there: I think of Joe Arpaio.

That we have to reiterate that slavery is bad is nothing short of astounding. But given how many other basic legal and moral questions are being thrown into the realm of serious public debate in the last two months, I guess it was only a matter of time.

Here’s the audio of Mickelson’s program:

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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