Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Immigration column

Below is my column on immigration as it appeared on this website:

Column on immigration

Below is the text of my column. I just remembered that one of my New Year's resolutions was to get published again somewhere, somehow. It looks like I actually kept a New Year's resolution! Also, the editor of that website happened to see my blog entry on immigration, and he asked me to make a column out of it. It goes to show that you never know who might be reading your blog.

The Right Way To Control The Border

Illegal immigration has been a hot topic for most of this year, however, most debate and discussion on this issue are going about it in the wrong way. They are dealing largely with the illegal immigrants themselves – which is important, but it's not the best way to take care of the problem (and yes, illegal immigration is a problem – specifically, the "illegal" part). The way to look at this issue is to see why they are coming here in the first place.

Illegal immigrants know that there are companies here that will hire them, despite the fact that they know that they are here illegally. So why would a company hire illegal immigrants? It's because illegal immigrants work for much less than American workers. And illegal immigrants have no other expenses attached to them, like health insurance, overtime pay, and other benefits that the rest of us take for granted in this country. Illegal immigrants work much cheaper, and with no union to back them up, they can't complain about the working conditions, because their illegal status hangs over their head like the proverbial sword of Damocles.

So essentially, dealing with the illegal immigration problem by dealing only with the illegal immigrants themselves is seeing this issue from too small a perspective. All that these critics accomplish is to plug the holes in a leaky dam while ignoring the one making the holes in the dam in the first place. And that hole-maker is the companies that hire illegals. During most of this year, the Democratic Party and even unions have tried to court illegal immigrants, but this is a mistake in so many ways.

Democrats get political mileage by portraying illegal immigrants as “immigrants just trying to seek a better life”. Most Americans know of our country’s tradition of growth through immigration, and they don’t object to people moving here from other parts of the world – so long as they do it through the proper channels. However, trying to blur the line between legal and illegal immigrants ultimately does not serve either group, and the Democrats will succeed only in making Americans resent all immigrants – whether they are here legally or not.

In addition, when the Democrats resort to this kind of tactic, it gives regular working Americans the impression that the Democrats are more concerned about people who are here illegally than for the constituency that they allege to be serving: the American people – especially the American blue-collar worker. So any short term benefit that the Democrats may gain by trying to blur the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants will come back to haunt them in the long run.

For the unions, there's no better way for them to shoot themselves in the foot than to support illegal immigrant workers, because they are taking jobs that union workers could have. Also, if an illegal immigrant works in the place of a union worker, then this deprives the union of the dues that could be paid by a union worker as well as the clout that being in a union brings to the negotiating table.

For the GOP, they get political mileage by portraying illegal immigrants as invaders. But the majority of the illegal immigrants do not come here as an advance invading force, they are only coming to find jobs. This is not to imply that seeking jobs is a justification for coming here illegally, but it is wrong to portray illegal immigrants under a false light only for the sake of political gain.

Plus, it would be to the GOP’s benefit to be more outspoken about the companies that hire illegal immigrants and to seek punishment policies with “teeth” against such companies. In the long run, the GOP will succeed in reducing the number of illegal immigrants through such policies rather than through their favorite practice of portraying illegal immigrants as an evil invading force.

And last, for the illegal immigrants themselves, the hiring of illegals does very little to motivate them to eventually becoming U.S. citizens. Actually, the U.S. companies that hire illegal immigrants wouldn't want them to become legal citizens, because then they'd have to pay them more, for then they'd qualify for the rights that U.S. workers get -- which defeats their whole purpose of hiring illegals in the first place!

The best way to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants is to truly punish companies that hire illegal immigrants to the point that it will make it much less palatable for these companies to hire them. As a result, it will make the risk that an illegal immigrant goes through to get here not worth the trip.

The thing is, everything stated above is just plain common sense. Anyone with a lick of sense could have figured this out – including most of our politicians. However, it is also the nature of politics and politicians to go after issues that are “sexy” so that they will get voted into office. Right now, it is “sexy” for political campaigns to concentrate on the illegal immigrants themselves rather than the companies that hire them.

As voters, we must insist that the candidates stop using “sex appeal” to get into office, and to instead pursue solutions that will have real results instead of actions that have only short-term gains. Not an easy task, mind you, but living in a democratic society places such a responsibility on its citizens, and the power of the ballot box is our best means of keeping our public servants on their toes.

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