One of the top concerns for American citizens right now, during the ever so precocious election season, is immigration. Legal immigration, illegal immigration, the economy and immigration, crime and immigration, national security and yes, you got it, immigration. It would seem that all the world's evils are precariously balanced on the legislation surrounding US immigration, and what to do about "border crossing" by illegal aliens, and furthermore what to do with the illegal aliens who are already here, all ten million of them, give or take a million.
Do we give them amnesty, and grandfather them in? Do we continue to keep illegal aliens with US born children, as we have done in the past? Do we issue temporary guest passes, visas, and U visas for those willing to work with law enforcement? Who should we blame for their arrival? The country they came from, the immigrants, or the corporations and businesses who employ them?
And what about legal immigrants? Should we narrow our borders, letting fewer and fewer in? Manage immigration with a stranglehold technique? Do immigrants really have a negative affect on our economy? So many questions, and so few answers.
One of the top concerns is of course, the question of illegal aliens. Some people would like to build a great big wall, so they can't walk across the border, that is assuming of course, that all illegal aliens come from Mexico. I would highly doubt they are flooding in from Canada, but there are a great deal of aliens who come here with a temporary visa, but set up shop past their expiration date who aren't from Mexico. Either way you slice and dice it, they are here, and they are working.
It would be prudent to remember that illegal aliens provide services for US companies, who do employ them knowingly or unknowingly (and if the worker is receiving less than minimum wage, you can be sure the employer knows they aren't legal), and that course of action has its benefits and its drawbacks. Again, either way they are inextricably linked to our economy, thus complicating the problem a great deal.
A large portion of the population who cry out against any sort of amnesty use unemployed Americans which are now on the rise as well as supposed crime statistics for their argument. Get rid of the illegals, and we'll get our jobs back! Oh, if it were only that simple.
The fact is, many Americans either won't, or can't work the jobs that illegal immigrants fill. I say won't, because most Americans are over qualified for the jobs or have some issue of social status pride and they feel they must not "lower themselves" by working such tedious low paying jobs. Leading me of course, to the second problem, many Americans can't afford to work such low paying jobs. Even if the company does pay minimum wage, and not the slave wages they pay illegal aliens. With the ever increasing cost of living, and the stagnation of wages American are finding they can only work so many jobs to make ends meet before they end up making less because they have to work three and four part time, minimum wage jobs. Never mind the loss of benefits.
Therein lies the problem. Of course, people assume that once the illegal aliens go away (at what cost, and who will pay for it?) companies will be willing to up their wage base, and hire on a bunch of Americans, even the high school drop outs who can't get a beginner's management position. That assumption is of course, false. For a company to do that they will be forced to take a profit loss. There mere thought of it sends upper management types running into closed board rooms where there will be much wrending of garments, and gnashing of teeth.
What will happen, is the companies will automate whatever positions they can, thus eliminating an entire employment base, they will outsource what they can, and they will force high salary earners with little to no influence into the company into retirement before their pensions are collectible with a small severance package, a gold watch, and a note not to let the door hit them in the rear end on the way out. "It's been nice working with yu, but you simply earn too much, oh yeah, you retired before your contract ended, so no pension for you."
Then they will hire the just out of college fresh face willing to take any job available in their field, for a fraction of the salary. Needless to say, the CEOs and upper, upper management will get their yearly bonus for doing such a fine job.
What was I saying? Oh yes, so the ousting of illegal immigrants will inevitably only serve for a larger loss of jobs, not the security of more jobs for Americans. It should be noted, that their 9immigrants) effect on our economy will have little to no effect on consumer costs, or even our economy as a whole. In fact, not having them here could make things for us harder to buy, as we won't have our jobs at all.
There is another, more human side to this story of course, and that is immigrant exploitation, and crimes against immigrants. Mainly illegal immigrants, how ever legal immigrants have their fair share of problems in the US as well. Many foreigners who live in poverty and oppression are tempted by the very corporations who entice them to come here, to the US legally or not to work for them for twice, four times, or even ten times what they earn in their home country. If you were starving, didn't meet the criteria for US immigration, didn't win the Visa Lottery and were desperate...what would you do? What we consider to be slave wages, many consider to be fair-er wages then what they receive at home. So, employers entice, then exploit. Forcing workers to work in just as harsh conditions as they expected at home, for many hours, even entering into the human trafficking network if they need to, and for only a little more than what they earned at home.
Never mind the crimes that occur against them on a normal basis. Illegal aliens are easy targets for criminals. They fear deportation, so the pickin' is easy as criminals know they are less likely to report the crime to police or other authorities. Now I know what you're thinking, if they were here legally this wouldn't be an issue in the first place. Please see the above economic reasons for that answer. Our corporations, our government and our economy are simply too entwined to let go of such a cheap labor force. Then of course you have the camp that blames every little rise in crime on illegal immigrants. That's xenophobic propaganda for you, though. The US has consistently blamed our woes on the influx of foreigners since the beginning of the country, and immigration here. This is nothing new, and it certainly is no truer now than it was then.
Now, legal immigrants have their share of problems too. Approximately 50% of legal immigrants to the US, in the last eight years live at or below the poverty level. Remember what I said about US citizens not being able to afford the minimum wage jobs? This is why. A great deal of legal immigrants, permanent or temporary workers aren't qualified by US standards, or are simply discriminated against because they are foreign, and so they work low wage jobs. They too, still suffer at the hands of discrimination and xenophobia, just not as badly as illegal immigrants do.
What then is the moral of the story here? Quite frankly it is that the marriage of Big Business and Big Government has left any serious regulation of corporate companies and conglomerates on the outskirts of real legislation that would help both the immigration issue, and our economy.
So what is the solution? Well, that is widely debated, and certainly not easily solved.
John Sileo, '06
Bush on Immigration
Center for Immigration Studies
US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Adam Davidson, NPR
About.com Illegal Immigration
Visa Lottery, CIS
Posted by Anok at 9:33 PM