The Ethics of Immigration

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
India Daily
Bush on Immigration
Center for Immigration Studies
US Citizenship and Immigration Services
George Weissinger
Adam Davidson, NPR
About.com Illegal Immigration
China Daily
Visa Lottery, CIS


kdawg68 said...

Very stirring write-up. I'd expect nothing less from such a deep thinker.

I agree rather whole heartedly. Rather than automate, I think it's simply that our jobs will still go to "foreigners" (using that term loosely for the illegal aliens), only they will go overseas.

I think we need to legalize the folks that are here, but being a right winger I'd prefer the govt was more efficient with the funds it already has rather than burdening tax payers will millions of folks looking for entitlement handouts. In other words, I'm all for giving them access to services, and maybe some of those Billions we annually can't account for or that get earmarked for pork spending can be appropriated to such causes.

I am in favor of stronger border security, as I do think we have a right and in the case of criminal trafficking an obligation to defend ourselves, but I say you wipe the slate clean. If you're here, you're an American. If you want to come here, you're an American, and we need to make it easier for you to get here legally.

It is rather comical though that we, as folks who take our lineage from people who usurped lands unethically from Native Americans, have the gumption to become upset when others are trying to gain access to our land and resources.

Claire said...

I wish I could write more than 250 words sometimes, especially on subjects like this. As its great to be able to get your point across in a obviously well thought out way.

This is very much like the situation in the UK, well how I see it anyway. There is a lot of confusion about where the actual immigrants are coming from, are they illegal, legal or here seeking political asylum. This then in turn generates hatred towards anyone not born here, as a lot of peoples automatic thoughts are that they are stealing jobs and getting benefits from the government. There is also the thought that 'We' as in the UK are just a little island and how many immigrants can 'We' take. I wish I had the answer but I don't.

Claire said...

Hmm I didn't make my own thoughts very clear on the matter. I think If your here to work, then let them work. Its down to the business owners to pay fair wages and not seek this lower paid market to get a cheaper work force. Also the amount of UK citizens that just sit on their arses and claim benefits, why don't we cut your benefits and motivate you into the work place.

Tamera Daun said...

kdawg. And, it is your last paragraph that enrages me when immigration is discussed. Not only do we forget the story of the Native Americans. We also forget why the hell we are all here, and why our ancestors came in the first place!

One side of my family came from Norway in a time of such poverty, that it was a matter of survival. They came over on a cattle boat through Quebec. At that time the borders were quite open, and it was cheaper to come via Canada than it was Ellis Island. Also, at that time, Federal Consensus records were pretty much non-existing, meaning that many people were already plowing this land before there was any record of them being here.

I now live in a city and state that is filled with Mexicans sweating it out in the heat, and doing jobs that NONE of us want! I feel that we have lost a sense of humaneness in the immigration debate. Although, my husband and I do not hire people to work in the neighborhood (we only lease, and the relocation-services take care of hiring), I recently experienced something tragic at the last house in which we lived.

A new fence was to be built, and a company hired to do it. One of the men that came to work only had one arm. His other had been torn off in the attempt to jump a train in his travels to get here from Latin America. This man told us how happy he was to be here, and actually have a job. With one arm he worked 14 hours the first day by himself for this boss, and carried fence-posts with one arm. He would not leave, and he wouldn't take a break. I had to bring drinks out to him, and bribe him to drink, b/c I was afraid he was going to collapse in the heat. He still wouldn't leave after it had become dark. He finally had to give up.

My husband and I discussed this whole situation. It reminded me of MY side of the family that slept on the ground for 2 weeks while building a one-room home up in Minnesota. When a neighbor finally discovered them, they helped out, and my family was allowed to sleep in their barn.

We called these poverty-stricken immigrants HEROES in their time. Yet, with arrogance, look how we turn around, and view other poverty-stricken people. OK..I have to stop now, because this is getting too long.

JafaBrit's Art said...

Not much I can add, your write up was excellent with many points that I have pondered over the years as a legal immigrant.

Funny how the focus/punishment is always on the immigrants but not much angst against the companies that are hiring them. They come here because people err, well HIRE them.

Tamera Daun said...

Exactly, JafaBrit...
And, the drugs come over the border, because there are people here that want to buy them.

Jillian said...

Wow, I thought this was a very well written and thought out post. I admit (although I shouldn't) to not being on top of my Politics.

Anyway, I agree with your post and would like to see some viable solutions from The Powers That Be. It's easy to try and point the finger and get people all worked up... but I want answers!

Again, nice post!

theoffendedblogger said...

Great post, Anok. It is a very complex issue, with no easy solutions.

I feel like it is no different than punishing the drug user while letting the dealer off the hook.


RickB said...

Capitalism works predicated on a certain level of unemployment, this varies as labour costs vary and is a method of controlling workers and wages. Attacking people on benefits is to do the work of the same corporations that exploit migrant labour, it is a straw man, a scapegoat, just as migrant workers being victimised is. }

And as a general point using the term 'illegal aliens' is to use the framing of the state to classify human beings based on a legal abstraction based on notional ideas of geography, otherness and borders which in turn is used to justify and sanction ill treatment of human beings. Capital is able to move freely across the planet in an instant in order to make elites richer, people though are caged by borders, that is the basic inequality the demogogic arguments are utilised to obscure.

Tania said...

What a well written post Anok! I must admit that I don't follow politics but what great coverage of the topic. The comments that have been posted are great as well. Guess if I were more politically oriented, I'd have more to say.

Daniel Owen said...

Immigration is a complex issue but ultimately I have to agree with Joe Lane, one of the first English anarchists:

"As socialists, we contend that emigration is no remedy for poverty. We are opposed to the forcing of our fellow workers by their economical condition, to flee from the land of their birth to other countries to escape from removable evils, and which they are sure to find in large or small degree in any country to which they may go; even if they were sure of finding a paradise in a distant land it would be cowardly on their part to go without striking a blow for freedom, leaving their fellow workers in slavery at home."


The pro-immigration lobby is a very powerful one -- it's called the capitalist class! The liquid flow of labour and capital is one of the defining features of post-Fordist capitalism (aka the "New World Order"). Immigration has put a downward pressure on wages in the UK and has increased racial tensions.

Here are some interesting views on immigration:

"...immigration is harmful to workers to the same degree as it benefits capitalism – racist as ever, whenever they get the opportunity they pay foreigners even less than they pay the indigenous workforce."


"Immigration for the neoliberals is an anti-working class (and indeed racist) strategy that saves this government the costs of training British workers in favour of plundering third world countries, which invested in training their workers. The neoliberals deliberately hold back developing economies in order to create a reserve army of labour for rich countries and consolidate environments favourable to the multinationals and their allies."


For a free England a world cooperative commonwealth!

- Daniel Owen

Anok said...

Wow, thanks for all the great comments everyone! I think everyone can agree that it is a complex issue - Tamera your account and comment is very deep, and thought provoking Claire, Tania, Jillian, - I've said this before but I firmly believe that one need not be entrenched in politics to understand what's going on - and make suggestions on how to fix it.

RickB, an astute observation I can always count on you for that. Although for the sake of argument, sometimes these categories are necessary evils.

Chelle, Jafabrit...Thanks for stopping in, I agree I couldn't have said it better than Tamera...

Daniel, a great reply and on the surface I agree with you. Where I disagree is in the notion that I believe humans are inherently migratory anyway - regardless of economic superstructure, if any. We tend to go where we can survive, and live well - and in modern society we also travel for the sake of experience. So yes, I agree but I don't think that emigration and immigration will ever stop. Not really.

It could change, however...

Daniel Owen said...

Inherently migratory? My folk have lived in England and Wales since before the Roman invasion! I am currently living in the USA and I think one of my family moved to Germany -- other than that, we've stuck in one place for several thousand years.


- Daniel

2sweetnsaxy said...

I straddle the fence on this one. On the one hand my heart reaches out and understands why anyone would want to come to America and risk all to get here. On the other hand there is a problem when it starts to eat up financial resources meant for citizens who need it. My one unswerving problem is this - speaking English should be mandatory. If you're going to come and work here, we should not have to bend over backwards to speak someone else's language.

Tamera Daun said...

Of course there has to be requirements.

I ran away overseas at the young age of 21 to Scandinavia, and had to begin immediately to pick up the language, so it takes a real effort. Yet, one cannot really understand the system in which one lives if one does NOT speak the language. Life then ultimately becomes a struggle.

I remember my first job was at an English Pub over in Norway (owned by a Brit). Luckily most of his customers were also the Brits in town (so, a smooth start for that half of yr.), but also a lot of Norwegians. I really took advantage of that situation to learn the language. Two years later most would say that I was 100 percent fluent.

After that first job I didn't have any contact with a single American over there for 18 years. I think and dream now in that language, and am struggling with my English at this time. So, sorry for my long comment, but like you wrote it IS a necessity.