Immigration and the common-sense test
What about the heavy dependence of large sectors of our economy on Hispanic illegal immigrants? How would our economy change? How would the price of goods and services change if the shadow workers become visible? Don't we depend on the cheap labor? What about all of those businesses, franchises, even corporations who have no interest in thoroughly documenting workers, providing minimum wage or benefits equal to legitimate workers - where is the policy to address this in any serious way? Or consumers who have no interest in paying "American" prices and wages? Without addressing this issue, the conversation remains a bit disingenuous. Examples follow.
"Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals ... strains state and local budgets ..." -Bush
Yes, but they also take off pressure by staffing public schools and hospital at minimal expense and often bring as many workers as needed to jobs that lie languishing if depending upon American labor.
Lets imagine I just turned off Maury Povich and headed to Meijer's to buy their $1.20/lb Tyson's chicken. Except now, due to staffing changes at Meijer's and Tyson's (not to mention other parts of the supply chain), my chicken costs $2.69/lb.. And that International Buffet where I take the family on Saturday night? The price has tripled - for the same reasons (meat processing, vegetable picking, kitchen labor). Want to hear a public outcry? It is not that people won't pay more - many can't pay more. Their good jobs have dried up - the service sector doesn't support people the way manufacturing and other middle class jobs did before globalization.
The working folks in places such as downstate Illinois fail to enjoy the bi-partisan wink and nod that goes on on the immigration topic. They live in hundreds of towns gutted by the loss of the manufacturing sector. They are depending upon someone to really see and care about the deterioration in their life, the disappearing options, the crumbling hope for their children, the increasing chasm between the haves in the big cities and the have nots in rural ex-factory towns. Illegal imigration poses a grave threat to them and to their children -even the mimimum-wage jobs at Denny's, Joe's Nursery and Wal-Mart - all are competed for by immigrants. And these are not the preferred jobs - no, these are often the remaining jobs.
In my affluent neck of the woods, people fail to have the outrage, anger and anxiety of the little man. Their jobs are fine, thank you, and may depend on having that brown underlayer. Their nannies and housekeepers and certainly, lawn crews, are probably not documented workers. Neither are many of their construction workers - the painters who barely speak English, carpenters, stone workers who lay those Unilock patios. But if we employed union workers we'd have to pay twice as much! And we already pay $25 a plate for our free-range Napa-Valley chicken. No- leave those workers alone. Just secure the borders. Eh?
In terms of the idea of temporary or guest workers - another common-sense test needs to be applied. When, precisely, will the cafeteria jobs at my local high school be "finished"? The landscaping crews? The meat packers? THe hospital orderlies? What jobs exactly are "finished" so that immigrants will docilely return to Mexico or South America. Or do we not care about those jobs? Crop harvest is merely one segment of the labor debate.
Visuals help. Our dependence on cheap, illegal labor makes us like a giant magnet. All of the metal filings are on the other side of the border. We are now reassured to hear that there will be two layers of chicken wire keeping the filings from contacting the magnet. But the pull of the magnet continues.
Do we really care about the little guy? Do we really believe we can change our economy? Can we really give up the benefits of the existing system? We need to get real.