The government can’t find the 22 million undocumented, but it will find and track every coronafected human inside the U.S.?

The technocracy here in the U.S. seems to be pinning its hopes for beating coronaplague on testing and contact tracing. Example: “Here’s A Way To Contain Covid-19 And Reopen The Economy In As Little As One Month” (Forbes, by a Boston University econ professor). Excerpts:

The solution is PCR group-household testing of all American households every week. Doing so will require running only 6 million tests per week, which is eminently and imminently feasible. … all household members can spit into a single container and deliver or mail that container to a test-collection site with a filled out label detailing all contact information of all household members. … If a household tests negative, each household member would be notified to go to their local pharmacy to receive a green wristband coated to change to red after one week. After one week, everyone in the household would provide a new sample and be re-group tested.

This system is voluntary. But if you choose to have your household tested and receive your green wristband, you’ll be permitted by your employer to return to work, by your teachers and professors to return to school, and by proprietors to enter their restaurants, shops, cafes, etc. You’ll also be allowed to frequent the beach, attend concerts, go to the movies, …

Any household that tests positive will be required by the local board of health to quarantine in place for two weeks and then be re-tested. Households that don’t voluntarily get tested will be free to come and go as they wish. But without their green bracelets, they will have a hard time entering into workplaces and other establishments. Employers who hired the untested could face legal liability. The same holds for any business serving the public who lets someone onto their premises without a green bracelet.

So it will be sort of like the First Amendment free speech guarantee. You can say that you’re opposed to race-based or gender-ID-based hiring (“affirmative action”), for example, but not if you want to get or keep a job/paycheck. Under the new public health regime, even those without jobs will find that what had been their Constitutional rights can be kept only if they never want to leave their house to shop for food, get on an airplane, meet friends at a restaurant, send a child to school, etc.

Let’s assume that the Constitution does not get in the way of building the glorious police state envisioned by the technocrats. Do we think that this can be accomplished successfully by the U.S. government?

Yale estimates that there are roughly 22 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Our government can’t find any of these folks, presumably, because otherwise they would have been deported. Yet now we’re saying that we can leave our houses and go to work if and only if the same government is able to find and then precisely track every American who ever becomes infected with the coronavirus?

And what about those 22 million soon-to-be-Americans whose documentation is not quite in order. Do they answer the phone and open the door to the friendly government testing and tracing agents? Do they supply a biological sample so their DNA can be extracted and parked in a database? Do they give the government agent a list of all places visited, with dates and times, and the names of everyone else who was there?

(It will be like “I live in constant fear that Trump will deport my Latina mother-in-law who lives at 1837 3rd st, LA 90023, blue house. She gets off work at 6.”?)

Is it credible to think that this hyper-efficient government operation will materialize and that Americans, including the undocumented, will cooperate with it?

(How does this play out on Facebook? A rich (via marriage) white woman (Ivy League PhD and college professor) in Manhattan, noting that her neighbors, especially the young healthy ones, were ignoring social distancing directives:

The combination of this protracted, seemingly endless sheltering with the better weather means that unless new regulations are put in place to indicate some sort of progress or at least some sort of action plan on the part of officials to facilitate and catalyze progress (yes, we all know that means more testing, contact tracing, etc), people are just going to break the same old regulations we’ve had for the past two months.

I asked

There are roughly one million undocumented immigrants in New York. Why do they open the door and cooperate with the friendly government testing and tracing agents?

She responds:

it seems you are claiming that undocumented immigrants are responsible for propagating the corona virus.

I clarified:

That wasn’t my claim. In your post you talk about a technocratic solution, testing and tracing, that requires all residents of the city to cooperate with government officials. The residents will supply samples from which DNA can be extracted. The residents will give the government agents detailed information about everywhere they’ve been and everyone they’ve interacted with. My point was that not all residents of NYC may be equally eager to cooperate with this dream of technocratic coronaplague control.

She comes up with a new epidemiology theory:

well, then easy: it’s up to the documented people to comply in order for their “documentary herd immunity” to help protect the undocumented and vulnerable. The terms here are metaphorical as well as literal/ technical.
In any event, the undocumented are largely the ones still hustling out there and, eg, doing the deliveries to keep the lives of many of the documented comfortable and sheltered.

I.e., you can have a substantial share of the population, which is in fact the most likely to contract the coronavirus, be outside of the testing and tracing umbrella, and still eliminate the coronavirus because the people who cooperate (and therefore don’t get infected) will provide a “documentary herd immunity”.)

23 thoughts on “The government can’t find the 22 million undocumented, but it will find and track every coronafected human inside the U.S.?

  1. Mooooving in the direction of herd immunity, one documented contract trace at a time. I love Ph.D. educated Manhattanites.

  2. As I said a couple of days ago, I think the group-testing idea is great for reducing the number of PCR tests done, and that’s it. It will fail miserably in practice when trying to collect the weekly samples and then distribute all the individualized wristbands. If there is any delay or snafu, people will have to remain in quarantine while they wait for their results and wristbands. Samples will get lost and contaminated. Pharmacies will not be able to keep up. People who should be able to emerge from their prisons and return to life will be forced to remain at home. Wristband production and distribution 330 million a week – accurately coded to the group testing results?

    We’d have to build a completely separate infrastructure for it, from scratch. Or:

    Let’s say instead that we let UPS, FedEx and the US Postal Service handle all the collection and distribution. Once a week you put your samples in a one-size-fits-all box and place it out on the front stoop of your residence. As things are right now, UPS is not guaranteeing adherence to their stated delivery times, so that’s going to take a lot of effort to ramp up also. Someone had better start negotiating prices with them now, because dumping it in the lap of local pharmacies and making people visit the pharmacy is absurd from a logistical point of view.

  3. > Is it credible to think that this hyper-efficient government operation will materialize and that Americans, including the undocumented, will cooperate with it?

    Look at how well we do with the Census, and how cost effective it is. 1400% cost increase since 1970. One form to fill out, no back and forth, you can do it online, and we only do it once every 10 years and it’s still a massive logistical undertaking. We are talking here about running a U.S. Census every week, on time, accurately and with laboratory testing, color coded bracelets, and all the rest.

  4. Why not just give the undocumented amnesty in exchange for their participation and continued labor protecting the sheltered and documented everywhere in the United States? This is a national emergency, the virus knows no borders, and no person is illegal. I’m surprised it already hasn’t been proposed. Wait! It has! And it passed the House of Representatives four days ago: Section 19123 of the HEROES act (H.R. 6800). Sixteen pages of essential workers and it’s not exclusive.

    • I think this pandemic has made clear that even if we could deport every single illegal immigrant, we wouldn’t want to, because we need people to do jobs that are crappy and dangerous for low pay and everyone else would rather collect unemployment. I also think it’s very clear at this point that not all of the US’s problems are actually Mexicans’ fault as was previously believed.

    • @Ryan mowing your own lawn is not crappy or dangerous. Unless the homeowner is a soy boy. In which case death by lawn mower accident is a merciful end.

    • @Ryan: I never said that Mexicans were at fault for everything. But the HEROES act designates 16 pages of occupations as “essential” and is written so that virtually any undocumented person can find a classification to work under the rules.

      I invite you to explain that to “protected” documented people (meaning the rest of us) whose businesses have been destroyed by the shutdown. Like mine.

    • Are you envious of the meatpacking workers Trump has ordered back to work using the Defense Production Act even though it makes no sense from a safety or an epidemiological perspective because the workers are all getting sick?

      > “People keep dying and no one is doing anything,” Quintanilla said. “These people are being forced to go back to work even if they are sick and tested positive for the virus.”

      I suspect most of the people involved here are not legal immigrants.

    • It’s one thing to have to kill animals to eat meat, but now we have to kill people too.

    • I suspect the “protected” Ph.D. who was the subject of this post can work from home and will never have to worry about the shutdown impacting her livelihood. And yes, I would go to work in a meat packing plant. I don’t envy them, but I’ve worked equivalently difficult jobs in my lifetime. It sucks that it’s happening during the coronavirus, but I’d go back to work right now if that were my job. And I know a lot of other people who feel the same way.

    • Let me tell you something, pal. My family came here in steerage class on steamships in the late 1800s from Poland and lived in an area of Massachusetts that was so impoverished, rock-strewn and useless that nobody with money wanted anything to do with it, so they got to live there. They built their own houses and farmed and raised hogs and chickens, which they slaughtered themselves and sold what didn’t eat. They made all their own clothes whenever they could. My great grandmother’s home wasn’t electrified until the late 1940s and my grandfather had a sixth grade education and lived in a chicken coop during the Great Depression. No plumbing. There were no unemployment benefits, no OSHA, no disability, no medical care, no FDA, no Obamaphones, none of it.

      My grandparents stacked one dime on top of another for 20 years and sent all three of their children to college – who worked while they were there – without taking a dime of money from the government. When I was a boy of seven years old, I got up in the morning with my grandfather for two weeks with a chainsaw and some boots and gloves and cleared away the land to build my uncle’s house. By that time my uncle had enough money to pay someone to do it, but my grandfather said: “These boys need to learn how to work.” He put in his pickup truck (we rode in the back!) with a chainsaws and gasoline and went and did the job.

      He worked in a steel mill in Massachusetts making armaments during World War II. One day his left thumb got caught in by industrial lathe and was yanked off his hand and left dangling by some tendons and blood vessels. He went to the hospital, they sewed it back on, and he went back to work the next day, and I’m not kidding.

      You’re barking up the wrong tree with me when you ask whether or not I’d do dirty jobs during dangerous times if I had to survive, because I would, and lots of people in my family have on many occasions. I don’t think it should be made any more dangerous than it is, the companies have to do their part to protect those people as best they can, but you’re not going to get much slack from me when the Ph.D. manhattanite claims that we have to do special things for illegal aliens because they protect her rich ass sitting in an Upper East Side apartment and she feels bad.

    • @Alex “rich (via marriage) white woman” was born with her livelihood between her legs

    • @Ryan: And furthermore, yeah, it’s true: my Dad is an old white man and he studied engineering at a very good school. Do you know why he got in? He built a functional transmission electron microscope himself. He wound miles of wire to build the high voltage supplies and the electromagnets to guide the beams. When I was a kid he had IBM mainframes – 360s, 370s, 4341s, 4841s, etc. We didn’t have those installed by IBM. We bought them from companies that were selling them off lease and built the computer rooms for them. The framing, the sheetrock, the raised floors, the drop ceilings, the 220V 3 phase power, everything. And he maintained them. I helped him.

      I’ve also done a few other unpleasant and dangerous jobs over the years. I worked for UPS in one of their largest hubs, fixing broken packages of jelly and pickle juice, among other things.

      I think we should have a safety net in this country. I think companies should take precautions to care for their workers’ safety. And I don’t envy people who have to work hard jobs during a health crisis. But my business is being destroyed right now – everything we’ve worked for over more than 20 years – and I’m not interested in hearing how Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats want to give amnesty to 16 pages of illegal immigrant workers by deeming them essential while I have to sit here in my mask and wait until I go bankrupt.

    • On the mainframes, that’s an interesting story of labor and production here in the United States. We built the rooms and installed, ran, programmed, and maintained the mainframes ourselves. The only things we didn’t install were the fire suppression and the HVAC, but we put in all the ductwork.

      The mainframes were used to process key-entry work. In other big room, my grandfather helped us build 50 ergonomic desks and we bought nice chairs and installed a kitchen and bathrooms for the key entry workers we employed, in two shifts and sometimes three. It was nice, clean, air-conditioned workspace, we paid our workers very well, stocked the fridge and kitchen, etc., and the benefits (because we did all the data processing, machine upkeep and maintenance plus printing and so forth in-house we saved a lot of money, and we could afford to pay for the best key entry workers). They were all women, all races and ethnicities, Black, White, Hispanic, Indian, etc. etc. Most of them had families with children and were working to supplement their family’s income. They were ecstatic to work so close to their homes (this was in suburbia!) rather than having to travel 30 or 50 miles or more every day, or work in some crappy job where the boss was an asshole.

      Of course, all that business was obsoleted by the late ’80s and disappeared overseas, except for high-end customers and so forth. This country has changed enormously in the past 40 years and not for the better in a lot of ways. We’ve stratified the economy. We’ve made health care so exorbitantly expensive that people don’t know what to do a lot of the time. The “middle class” hangs by a thread. It’s not a pretty picture.

      But I know that having the government run everything is going to make it worse.

  5. What a truly brilliant idea, at least until the government figures out how to implant chips in citizens’ bodies to make sure they are doing the right thing & thinking the right thoughts all the time. That too could be consensual, like if you dont agree to have the chip implanted you dont get food and water — your choice. But wait, haven’t the Chinese already come up the BU professor’s brilliant idea? — they call it social credits, well social credits in Chinese anyway & if you have lots of social credits you can get the good things in life like a job or a place to live or even own a pet (for companionship). This is more your line of work than mine, Phil, but do you think the BU professor has stolen this idea from the CCP & might he be on the hook for patent infringement — assuming the CCP has patented the idea?

  6. 9-11 brought us tyranny in airports. China virus is bringing us tyranny through our whole life. The communists are winning.

  7. Okay, you heard it here first. Manhattan saw 400,000 of its wealthiest residents flee the city in this crisis. Trump should COMMANDEER those residencies under national emergency powers and house the one million undocumented who are currently living in cramped conditions in Queens and the Bronx.

    We are all in this together, right?

  8. Here in Arizona the state had 16 disease trackers for Maricopa county before COVID. This is all for the Phoenix metro area. So this will cover 5 Million of the 7 Million in Arizona. Of that number maybe 10-18% are illegal. They are ramping up to 58 trackers and 15 other helpers with a hiring binge. They are also setting up a 211 phone line and other stuff. See below. They hope to be able to track 400 to 500 new cases a day of COVID with this staff. We are mostly opened up this week for all kinds of business. But the open businesses have to follow masking and social distancing and employee tracking guidelines. TBD if it this will help or slow down the virus. Our numbers were not decreasing but half or more of the population was ignoring the lock down and people were too restless to obey so the Governor opened up anyway. This is the wild west after all.

    And Alex please quit sniveling. Many of us (Me and my brother) have done hard dangerous work in our lives. Some of us worked out way thru college so we did not have do that any longer.

    PS. My Dad went to work at 12 after he finished 6th grade. His Mom passed away from Spanish flu and he had to help farm. Go lookup Agua Calente Arizona sometime. I lived there and went to a one room school with 12 kids and eight grades.

    • I think it was Ryan who did sniveling about how America cannot survive without illegals doing the jobs that Americans won’t do, not Alex, unless you consider Alex’s life story sniveling. In this case, why your own story is not sniveling too ?

      P.S. I can contribute my own life story fragments, as a lowly agricultural worker picking up rotting sugar beets in the cold rainy fall weather when I was still in the secondary school 10th grade. But I cannot truly snivel because I recall the experience as rather fun. E.g. I got to drive a small truck without a license because the collective farm driver was unable to function being too drunk !

    • @Bill: I did a little reading about Agua Caliente and there was a lot of heartache to go around that little place at various times. Nobody lives there now and it’s amazing to think that Sam Hughes and King Woolsey still own it, through their estates, presumably. Not that it’s done them much good recently. At least you survived and made it here to listen to me rant and rave.

      There’s an article in today’s MIT Technology Review about contact tracing. I won’t pick it apart too much right now, the difficulties speak for themselves and they’re significant. Getting Re < 1 by contacting asymptomatic people fast enough and getting them to lock themselves away for two weeks is going to be no easy task. To make it "work" the government is going to have to use force, not recommendations or requests. It's going to be a mess, and not "maybe." I love how the article implies that distrust of government and wanting to protect one's privacy from scammers and telemarketers is some kind of aberration that we need to subdue. I guess everything must be sacrificed in the name of public health, and it will be. Alan Dershowitz says the government can show up at your door and drag you to a doctor to plunge a needle into your arm, so they can start by playing nice with the phone calls but if it doesn't work they're going to get "pushy."

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