The first thing we need to realize about immigration is that any problem which exists does not lie with the people who come to this country without documentation.
Immigrants do not “take” jobs. They are offered jobs. They are sought out for jobs. No immigrant ever came to the United States, pointed a gun at someone, and said “give me that job.”
Rather, the problem is with businesses who draw them in and take advantage of them, and because of certain economic and political realities which make it easy for them to do so.
Here are the facts.
No immigrants looking for work would come to America if no jobs were being offered.
No working immigrants would be here illegally if we offered them a legal recourse which matched the jobs being offered.
The conclusion is simple. They are not the problem. We are.
We have millions of immigrants coming to work in this country for three basic reasons. In no particular order:
The first reason is that there are many jobs which Americans generally will not do. You hear about Americans complaining about immigrants stealing their jobs, but it is a sure bet that none of those people want to be migrant farm workers. We need these people—but in most cases, we do not give them a legal avenue to come.
The second reason is that there are many jobs which Americans will not do for the amount of money that the job can pay, given consumer demand. Americans do not want to pay more for food, clothes, or labor in a variety of categories, prices which would be necessary if we did not employ immigrant labor.
The third reason is simply greed. Employers want more profit. They could hire American workers, and they could make a profit and sell at a price that American consumers would accept, but they want to keep more and more of that money for themselves—so they hire immigrants. And since it is cheaper to do so if the immigrants are illegal, they lobby against change.
Part of this is the consumer’s fault: we want cheaper goods and services. You don’t want so many immigrants? Fine. Be prepared to pay a lot more for many of the goods and services you consume. It’s a stark choice; you cannot have it both ways. Part of this is consumers of general goods, such as food and clothing, who support industries who use immigrant or overseas labor. Part of this is people who hire immigrants directly, for jobs such as child care or other labor in or around the house.
Part of this is the country’s fault, the fault of voters and politicians: we clearly call for these people to come and work, but we steadfastly refuse to create a visa system which would accommodate them. They come illegally because we give them little choice. And if you think that one choice is to simply not come, then I invite you to go to the countries where these people come from and live in the conditions from which they come. You will be clamoring to come back to America immediately.
The greatest fault in all of this is the fault of business, and our tolerance of their greed and maltreatment of the workforce. These are the people who take advantage, these are the people who spread fear and doubt, these are the people who most directly influence the laws which maintain the current system. For the jobs Americans do not want or would not pay for, Americans would otherwise be happy to allow the system of immigration to allow these people in legally—but that would cut into profits. For the other jobs, there are many Americans who would be happy to pick up the jobs in fields from construction to high tech, but the companies involved reject these workers and either hire people without documentation, or even specifically import them with valid visas, obtained by fraudulently claiming that American workers cannot be found.
There is one more reason that illegal immigration is rampant: we could stop it, but we do not.
The solution would actually be simple. Trying to arrest and deport immigrants is pointless, as they are not only mobile and have every incentive to return, but they are not the root cause—they’re just people trying to live.
The definitive and simple solution is to police and punish the real offenders: employers. They are the ones asking for immigrants to come in the first place. They are not mobile, and they would respond quite strongly to being caught and punished.
We don’t even come close to doing this. In 2004, a grand total of three—yes, three—businesses were cited for hiring undocumented workers. Nor is the reason for this a surprise. From the New York Times in 2006:
Employers have long been the main driver of immigration policy…. Not surprisingly, they tend to dislike the provision in current immigration law for penalties against employers.
That may explain why fines for hiring illegal immigrants can be as low as $275 a worker, and immigration officials acknowledge that businesses often negotiate fines downward. And why, after the I.N.S. raided onion fields in Georgia during the 1998 harvest, a senator and four members of the House of Representatives from the state sharply criticized the agency for hurting Georgia farmers.
So we make laws: first offense, a warning; second offense, a hefty fine; third offense, a major fine and prison time. And then we set the people we now have chasing immigrants and guarding the borders, and set them to police the employers.
I guarantee you: illegal immigration would halt, and immigrants here without a visa would leave soon after.
But this is what it boils down to: we don’t want to send these immigrants packing. These people do not drain our resources, they enrich us. They do not cause an increase in crime; in fact, they commit fewer crimes than the native population. These people do not sap the economy; they make it robust.
The solution is simple:
- create a guest worker visa program for jobs we really need filled by immigrants
- create strict laws against employing illegally
- crack down on businesses that violate these laws
- stop allowing companies to import workers for jobs that citizens are trying to fill
- set up tax and tariff laws which penalize companies that use cheap labor abroad
If we do this, we won’t have immigrants coming in to the country against the law. We will maintain all the benefits that we now have. It’s good for everyone. Everyone honest and fair, that is.
Why don’t we do this? Because businesses don’t want it; businesses want their workforce to be here illegally because it profits the businesses, makes the immigrant workforce easy to manipulate, and disempowers citizen workers. And we have bought into the fear and frenzy that people who profit from the current system, people like Donald Trump, have whipped up to make us believe that it is all the fault of the impoverished, powerless, and mostly law-abiding people who these people of wealth and power take advantage of.
Agree? Then do something about it.
A good start: don’t vote for Donald Trump. Do vote for politicians who espouse the right thing to do. Write and agitate for the correct solution for the issue. Write your current representatives. Make a stink.
And vote. Vote. Vote.