For ordinary citizens there are two kinds of issues in modern politics: those we can do something about and those beyond our ability. The latter kind are, unfortunately, the ones which attract most attention from both the citizens and the media. This is the realm of political leadership and its supporting structure of financiers and lobbyists. Between us and them there is an impenetrable wall of obfuscation and misinformation. Illegal Immigration is one of those issues beyond our ability to resolve.
Historically, the growing American economy has experienced spikes in its demand for workforce in a wide spectrum. Prior to slavery, there were indentured laborers. Later there were Irish, Poles, French Canadians, Chinese and countless others, seeking a better life, freedom of action and faith.
The immigration quota system for European countries was instituted in 1921, followed by “national origins” quota in 1927. Latter set drastic limitations on non – Caucasians and was openly racist. With the Polish quota being overloaded following the post WWII migration, it took me seven years of frustration to get an entry visa and another year to get a sponsor. On the positive side, this gave me time to gain professional experience, learn English and never turn into a burden to the system since setting my feet on American soil. I am proud to be a participating American citizen.
The race aspect was non – American in its concept. However, the rest of the quota system has had a sound base. It allowed the new arrivals to be gradually absorbed by American economy and social infrastructure. Besides those admitted in for permanent residence, there have also been seasonal workers who were the responsibility of their employers and would return to their countries of origin at the end of seasonal demand. Economic spikes have, historically, created demand for professionals in specific industries. In the 1960s we had, for example, a shortage of engineers and machine operators. The company I worked for here, had actually opened an agency in England with the purpose of hiring needed personnel (that was in the days before “human resources”). We were not the only American employer doing this, leading the British government to protest the resulting “brain drain” to Washington.
Shortage of skilled professionals has been perennial in the American economy, due primarily to our miserable public education system, resulting in the need to admit large numbers of physicians, scientists, computer specialists etc. They come here “legally” under special immigration quotas, temporary residence visas etc. They fill the cracks and fissures in all aspects of the American Way of Life.
Regarding the “illegal” immigrants, I find the lamentations that they take away jobs from American workers ludicrous. The honest truth is that “American workers” would not opt for the jobs being filled by this immigrant wave. Few modern day Americans have read “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck or recall the words, “…I owe my soul to the company store…” from an old song hit. Menial jobs have always existed in the cotton fields of the South, produce fields of California or abattoirs of the Mid-West.
Meanwhile, however, foreign competition and greed of politicians and big business have eviscerated the American manufacturing industry, creating a painful void on the traditional employment market. This, in turn, has resulted in a negative tilt in the balance of our way of life. While the population at large wants to maintain it, we are facing a shrinking scale of income. Thus, our choices are few. We could work for what would be starvation wages for most Americans, pay exorbitant prices for daily necessities, reorganize the concept of the American Way of Life, or proceed as if nothing happened, hoping for the best. Latter is the path of least resistance and the “easy” way we are currently taking.
Wherever there is an opportunity for profits, there is never a shortage of smart, unethical brains to exploit it. There are two distinct forms of “Illegal” immigration. One, the covert one has always been there, feeding such demands as garment sweat shop workers, prostitution and other illegal work markets. Understaffed, politically handicapped and frequently bribed local authorities have mostly turned a blind eye, save for an occasional raid to save face.
Well established European and Pacific Rim crime syndicates have kept up with the demand. Occasionally we read in the press about such “illegals” being smuggled into this country, in what is nothing less than slave trade. The Republican – American, for example, has recently carried news items about Chinese gangs smuggling in “thousands” at fees of $12,000 to $40,000 a head or South Korean women for West Coast brothels. Such “immigrants” would, obviously, never be able to pay back the fees and interest and would, therefore, remain virtual slaves for life. They would never become citizens and, when they would cease to be of use to their exploiters, would end up as unidentified corpses in some morgue.
What we face now, on an unprecedented scale, is the “overt” form of illegal immigration. Keen on profits and unable to jack up the product cost, the agricultural, food processing and other industries relying on unskilled labor, have forced open the gates at our borders. Their powerful lobbyists have ensured that politicians from the White House on down turn a blind eye to the flow of humanity seeking nothing more than an opportunity to improve their lives and that of families they have left behind. This has created a modern-day, widely organized slave market. This huge infrastructure, with close ties to drug smuggling, facilitates the ever growing flow of “illegals” into this country.
It takes an organization to spread the word in Central and South America, assist the journey of hundreds of thousands toward our border with Mexico, channel the people across and provide them with forged documents. All along, bribes must be paid to officials for turning a blind eye and to “coyotes” who guide people across the border. The cost, several thousand dollars per individual, represents a sum most do not have. Once they start earning here, they have to pay off (with interest) the shadowy characters who, meanwhile, control their lives. Under the constant threat of being reported to “Immigration & Naturalization Service” (INS) these people are exploited by crime and even terrorist networks.
A further proof of the existence of a huge organization is the fact that we do not see homeless “illegals” camping in our parks and begging for work. The job market absorbs and accommodates them. However, they slowly saturate our healthcare and welfare infrastructures, while their children burden our education system.
Some systems in parts of California have already been overwhelmed. Canyon County near Boise Idaho, is currently attempting to fine the employers of “illegals”. Its Commissioner has described the situation, “…it uses tax dollars to provide them with educational services, medical care, unemployment compensation for those that are injured on the job. They are a drain on the taxpayers of Canyon County, the state of Idaho and the U.S. in general .” Idaho has some 16,000 “illegals”; if allegations of Danbury alone having 15,000 are correct, the magnitude of our problem should be obvious.
One wonders why our major trade unions have not been protesting the influx of “illegals”. In my opinion they consider them an uncontrollable quantity, too poor to squeeze. Furthermore, the same lobbyists who take care of the political interests of the unions, probably are also greasing politicians’ paws on behalf of big business which employs the “illegals”. Another aspect is the fact that the top union leadership must see the “illegals” as a convenient way to maintain union wages and hence their own salaries and perks high. They also spend the member contributions generously on political influence; Linda Chavez in an article, “Tough days for AFL – CIO”, names four unions which contributed a total of $165 million to anti – President Bush campaign and/or Republicans in Congress. I’m sure the Republicans have also received their share, as a hedge.
Ironically, we consumers benefit daily from the “illegal” labor, by paying reasonable prices at the supermarket for daily essentials. Having labor working those industries at “union wages” would have boosted the cost of American produce etc. sky -high and allowed Mexico and Canada to flood the market, in effect “exporting” yet further American jobs.
So much for the immediate effect of the illegal immigration. The next one will materialize in the future when their children, armed with an American education and citizen rights will start competing against the “legal” population on the job market and politics. Without going into details, let me just say that it will change America, as we know it, entirely. In the recent Rep – Am series, “The Vanishing Yankee” presents the effect of the gradual process to-date. What will follow will be much faster. Another symptom is reflected in the Rep – Am article about shortage of long – haul truck drivers. The need to fill in 20,000 jobs will result in the absorption of many individuals without any knowledge of English, who will be unleashed on America’s highways. Spanish, at least, has become a second language here, but I recall a report on an accident involving a driver speaking only Russian! Where are we headed?
There is no doubt that among the scared, intimidated mass of illegal immigrants there are people who have entered this country with the express purpose of doing us harm. There are others who, because of their status, could be subject to blackmail by terrorists and drug dealers. The smuggling channels serve whoever pays most.
Many factors regarding the recent defeat of the European Union Constitution by France and Netherlands, glossed over by our media, concern fears of uncontrolled immigration through Turkey and such. Already both legal and illegal immigrants from Third World countries have acquired powerful clout. Their reluctance to assimilate and the burden on our infrastructure should be viewed as the “writing on the wall” in our political circles. But all they myopically see are dollar signs, never mind the consequences.
Solutions? First, tighten the borders. Then locate and check out all “illegals”, dividing them into three categories: those allowed to reside and work here permanently, those meriting only temporary work permits and those who should be deported to countries of origin. Establish a fool – proof national data base and issue new I.D.’s to all residents. Be prepared to bite the bullet and pay higher taxes and prices for produce and other commodities.
Feasibility? Zero! It’s easier to keep our head in the sand.