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Illegal immigration – It is a Question of Why

April 9, 2012

Steel barrier wall near Mariposa by Mtamez

Nationally, we (the citizens of the United States) have a short attention span.  We get worked up over an issue, pick the side, beat the drum for a while, only to have our attention switch to a new subject and start all over again.  Such is the case with illegal immigration.

Every few years, the issue of what to do about unauthorized people being in the United States becomes a hot-button issue that generates all sorts of activity, on both sides.  The problem is nothing is ever resolved.  It is as if both side (for and against) set up their armor, charge each other like the devil was on them, take their best shot, then retreat until the dust settles.  It is as if they are two knights staged for a joust.  They make their run, absorb the blow, then re-stage and wait for another lance.  They fell like something has been done but rarely do they unseat the opponent, leaving it for the audience to decide who won in subtle shades of grey.

While the issue is waning, it is a good time to look at the particular issues that make up the topic and see if we can work on a solution rather than shout rhetoric.  A logical place to start is what to call it.  Do we define people is the United States without permission as illegal immigrants, illegal aliens, people here illegally, undocumented workers, or any other of the terms used.  It makes a difference, as each side of the argument wants to use terms that promote their particular view.  Basically, they are people who are here and should not be.  If you want to define it with greater precision, you have to answer the question of why they are here in the first place.

We, the citizens of the United States, tend to lump all people this topic covers in one group, having one mindset.  This is a mistake.  We need to get to the root of why people choose to come here and not follow the rules of how to come here legally.  To that end, we need to ask people not following the rules, why they are here.   Even without a formal study, the more obvious reasons are pretty well understood:

  • To earn money for their family, then return home.
  • To move to the United States permanently.
  • To escape persecution of some sort.
  • To have children is the United States, making the children citizens.

While the list is not definitive or based on a study, it covers the basic reasons we hear as the jousting opponents bandy back and forth.  In the end, it really just shows that people have many reasons for coming here.  If we wish to end the problems, of both sides of the argument, we need to understand the motivations of people coming here without following the rules and address each one.

Take for instance, the issue of coming here to send money home.   This is sort of the classic model of the “illegal immigrant.”  I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it is an issue so let’s deal with it.  What are the issues regarding this sort of person.  On the “it’s OK for them to do this” side” it is said:

  • They do work no one else will do, unskilled labor and such.
  • They add to the local economy through paying sales tax.
  • It is the humane thing to do.
  • They are not hurting anyone.

Like with any subject, there is the other side, in this case the “it’s not OK for them to do this” side.  Their points include:

  • They take jobs away from citizens.
  • They are a drain on local and federal economies but using services without paying for them.
  • It is inhumane to allow them to be abused and underpaid.
  • They bring crime with them.

Rather than add to the endless debate on each point on both sides, it better serves us to analyze solutions that solve the issues.  Of course, each side wishes to reduce the issue to its simplest terms but that tends to place people in extreme camps that have no common ground.  The truth is there is much ground that is common. For instance:

  • Neither side wants crime.
  • Neither side wants to he inhumane.
  • Neither side wants to hurt the economy.
  • Both sides want jobs to be filled.

Ok, so if there is so much both sides can agree on, why is this so hard to fix?  The answer is special interest groups.  Special interest groups have a narrow field of view so their solution to problems is all or nothing, leaving no room for compromise.   We hare statements like “We do not need new laws, we need to enforce the laws we have,” or “We need to protect the border and keep them out,” or even, “it is a human right to live and work where you want to.”   While these saying get the attention of the media, they do nothing to address the issues at hand.  More puzzling is why special interest groups seem to be trying to hold things at the status quo.

That answer depends on the special interest group; one group that wants to keep things as they are is the companies purposely hiring people not legally entitled to work in the United States.   By hiring such people, these companies increase their profits by breaking minimum wage and tax withholding laws.  Not to mention the conditions these workers endure, such as extremely long hours without overtime pay and inhumane working conditions.

What we need to solve the problem of people coming here to work and send money home is a guest worker program.  Everyone knows it but it is the last thing the companies that hire illegally want.  Such a program can easily address every point of the argument, both for and against.  For instance:

  • It will limit jobs to ones not filled by citizens and registered residents.
  • It will force employers to be fair and follow the law.
  • It will enhance the local and federal economies.
  • It will allow for screening of people entering the country.

The big surprise is such a program exists in the United States.   It just needs to be modified to address the issue of migratory workers.   In the end, such a program provides a ready workforce to fill unskilled labor jobs employers have a hard time filling.  It protects the unskilled workforce from abuse.  It allows us to protect our borders.  It takes away a primary reason people are in the country illegally.

In the interest of fairness, I am sure some people out there do not agree with this approach.  Rather than argue with me, why not gather your thoughts and present a counter proposal for consideration.  Even if you feel I am absolutely wrong, I am still betting we can find point is common and begin to address and fix some of the problems we face.   This has become an elephant of an issue, much too large to eat in one bite.  Let’s begin to nibble away at it and make some progress.  If we wait until we find the perfect solution, we will never make any progress at all.

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4 comments

  1. Special interest groups remind me of the cliques in high school, gangs or religious institutions. People seem to need a “box”, to belong to something, forgetting they belong to the human race. I understand the desire to belong, but not at the cost of excluding another.

    I think focusing on what we can agree on would be wonderful, but perhaps it is my idealism. Seems to me, from my experiences, people want the “inside” and “outside” of the group to remain intact.

    And seriously, solve the problem of illegal workers by making it legal and a lot of law enforcement officials are suddenly out of work. I suspect that is why drugs are still illegal too.


    • Good governance is by its nature, compromise. That is what is lost when we camp in polar extremes. It is my goal to move us back to the middle ground, were we can leverage what is common to help us solve problems not so common.

      You are right of course, it is all about the circles we draw. Some will be within and some will not. the problem is once the circle is drawn, the is a smaller group within plotting to draw the next, even smaller circle.

      As far as the police go, I worry that they feel their purpose is to protect the government more than the people that government belongs to. More and more the resources for policing are dedicated to paramilitary style tactics employing paramilitary equipment. This is exactly how people get killed, of course, then it will be caulked up to some sort of mistake. It all reminds me of the build up to World War I and Kaiser Wilhelm II desire for “fleet of my own some day.” I mean you have a tool, that tool gets used. Given that, it can easily become a most dangerous circle when civil authority tries to reign them in.


      • You wrote: As far as the police go, I worry that they feel their purpose is to protect the government more than the people that government belongs to.

        – It definitely seems to be the “trend”. And as far as boxes, or circles, I agree with what you said. If only people would draw dotted lines, instead of thick, impenetrable ones.

        The middle ground is becoming a very lonely place.


      • I appreciate your blogs more each day…………….don’t stop! OMG! How comprehensive your subjects……….you speak of issues I ponder each night & wonder how they can be solved!



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