Vaticinari

The great thing about getting older is you tend to say what is on your mind without worrying about what others think. So, here is a little of what is on my mind, or at least what is left of it.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Immigration

I wonder if we are taking the wrong approach to solving the problem of illegal immigration, and by illegal immigration I mean any immigration into this country that has not sanctioned by the legal authority of this country. To change the label from illegal-immigrant to immigrant does not change the fact or legality and is a dishonest device intended to color the debate. I would encourage you to finish the article as, hopefully, you will find it less one-sided in the end than it was in the beginning.

Illegal immigration creates problems for the citizens of a country in two distinct ways. First, it brings in an influx of workers who are willing to work for less wages and benefits, and who by their very status, are in no position to demand the legal protections that workers have fought for in this country. One of the more inane memes that plays over and over in the media is that such illegal immigrants do jobs that no Americans citizens are willing to do. In the first place, there is no factual basis for such a claim. What is true is that there are some jobs than citizens of this country won’t do for the wages offered, and this points out the crux of the problem. If you cannot get workers for a particular job, then businesses must raise the wages to a point where they can attract workers. This is as much a part of a free market economy as prices being based on supply and demand, albeit, a perspective that business interests are not particularly interested in defending. If you cannot attract workers for the wage you are offering, then you need to raise the wage, for that is an integral part of supply and demand, is it not? For businesses to say that they cannot afford to pay these increased means that they do not want to pay the increased wage because it might cut down on their profits.

There are many industries in this country where relative wages have actually sunk do the influence of illegal immigrant labor, and while this may be good for short-term business profits, it is not good for American workers, and in the long run, it is not good for this country. Most governments consider it to be part of the covenant with their citizens to prevent such unfair competition and try to prevent forign workers from entering the country and taking away or diminishing work for their citizens need and are willing to do. This government, on the other hand, has always had a tendency to side with business interests over the interest of ordinary citizens. I can think of no time when this has been more apparent than now. Illegal immigration takes jobs away directly and encourages a downward spiral in earnings with unfair competition, and quite frankly, in the current American economy, I would be interested in knowing just what jobs it is that American citizens are unwilling to do.

The second problem with out-of-control by any group is that it rapidly changes the culture and ethnicity of not only neighborhoods, but in some cases whole towns and regions., The workforce in some areas becomes so inundated with inhabitants and workers who do not speak the native tongue of the country that it can lead to a reverse prejudice as American citizens, who are fluent in their native tongue, cannot get a job because they are not bilingual, and if you think this is not happing, maybe you need to be talking to the young kids entering the job market right now.

The third problem area is the drain on services, particularly schools, hospitals, and social services. I will get to this area in a bit.

The reaction of our government at this point in time is three pronged. If the past is any criterion, the government will most likely leagalize all those who are in the country right now and promise strong measures to prevent future illegal immigration. This worked so well the last time they did it, huh? On the one hand, they are putting forth a strong message conveying the use of force to stop such illegal immigration. Specifically, they are talking of huge fences and felony judgments. Fences are not going to work unless with have guard towers every hundred yards with men and machine guns set to fire on trespassers. Do we really want to build a Berlin wall between Mexico and the United States? What an awful picture that presents. On the other hand there is the movement to make entering this country illegally a felony. Now there was great outrage over this idea, mainly on the part of those who are in this country illegally, but I am not sure that this idea is totally invalid. Most countries consider entering their border illegally to be a serious infraction, requiring more than a bus ride back to their native land. In Mexico, for instance, you need a visa to go farther into the countryside than the border towns. Is it a felony to go beyond such areas with out such permission? If you were to do so without a permit, could you end up in jail? Every country has the right to exercise control over who may and may not enter their country and in fact, every country does have such laws. When illegal immigrants and those supporting them in the United States say that everyone has a right to work, another meme we hear all the time, they may be right. You may or may have a right to work in the country where you hold citizenship, but there is no right to work in countries where you are not a citizen. This has never been the case in this country or any other country I am aware of.

Do citizens of Mexican American decent really believe that we should simply open our borders to any who wish to come in and that all those people have a right to work in this country? What about immigrants from China, Viet Nam, Korea and Russia? Would this open door policy extend to these countries as well? What will this do for your job prospects if there is no border protection at all and everyone who wants to can come here and work? I have heard the argument made that Mexican citizens have not only the right to come here, but that the State of California rightfully belongs to them, that America stole this land from Mexico. To that I would say, "Tell it to the Indians whom you took the land from.” If any have an historic claim to this land it is they, not Mexico or the United States.

So far, it would seem, I am presenting the same old rhetoric, that I am just another white man spouting off about his rights. But like many in this country, what I would really like to do is contribute a few ideas that might help lead to an equitable solution for all of us. I have never considered myself a person that has all if any ofthe answers, but I am brim full of ideas. So, here are some of my suggestions.

First, making it a felony to enter or be in this country, a crime punishable by imprisonment, is not by itself going to solve anything If we were pass a law tomorrow making it a felony for anyone to be in this country without citizenship or the proper documentation I think the most immediate result would be creating a criminal class out of millions of basically honest working people. What would we do next, send goon squads out to haul mom and dad off to jail leaving crying children in their wake? There are some things we cannot do and still remain America.

Second, the idea of building a Berlin wall should be abhorrent to all of us—Mexican and American. Did the division of Germany with a huge barrier jutting through the landscape occur so long ago that we have forgotten what it stood for? Granted, though the Berlin wall was built to keep people in, and the American wall would be built to keep people out, it would be no less horrible. And, if we were to built such a wall, it might behoove Canada to build an equivalent wall to keep us out.



Every country not only has the right to control the influx of both visitors and workers into its lands but it has the duty to do so. Yet throughout the world there occurs the juxtaposition of relative wealthy and relatively poor nations, and with the means of transportation available in the 21st century, proximity is not a controlling factor. The poor and even middle class from these poorer nations want to support their families and better their situation, which is a desire we all share. If America were the poor nation and Mexico the rich nation, would we not be crossing the border looking for work to support our families? And in growing areas of the world, people are not seeking to enrich their families but are seeking a better standard of living. It may be a crime to enter another country illegally, but it is not a crime to care for your family. Yet, no matter the sympathy of any nation, it cannot accept everyone who wants to enter, and as the world becomes more and more crowded, and to my mind, more and more desperate, this problem is going to become worse not better. This is a very real problem and it requires very real answers. To my mind, three ideas might help, or at least contribute to a realistic discussion.

First, there must be a means of controlling the number of people allowed to enter a country. No matter how we feel, this is simply a necessity.

Second, those who enter cannot displace or diminish the lives of the citizens of the new country.

Third, there must be fairness, both to those who would wish to immigrate, and to the citizens and legal workers in the country in question.

If walls and prisons won't work, what will?

  • The government should find what areas of employment exist where there is a valid need for foreign workers. Work permits should be specific to the type of work being done.
  • Foreign workers, working legally in the United States should be governed by the same wage, benefit, and legal protections as any citizen worker. In other words, it should be illegal to pay guest workers less than minimum wage and benefits.
  • All other worker protections enjoyed by citizen workers should be applied equally to guest workers.
  • Foreign workers should have an equivalent retirement benefit to social security where both they and the employer contribute on a par with social security.
  • The answer to unfair competition is to equal the playing field and to limit foreign workers to areas where there is a genuine need and where citizen workers are not displaced.
  • Foreign workers should be welcomed into Unions and given equal representation with other workers and, if anything, we need stronger unions for all workers.

These are the easier points of my proposal, albeit I think few of them would be popular with business interests. The rest of the choices get harder.

  • Green cards cannot be permanent. There must be time limits on how long guest workers are allow to work under such permits. Perhaps they could be set up in a manner similar to many campgrounds where there is a limit on how long you can stay and how long you must be out of the area before you can come back.
  • There must be provisions for the possibility of citizenship, but they should not be automatic and such people who truly desire citizenship must meet the requirements of a citizenship.
  • There has to be limits on the number of people allowed to work under such a guest worker program as well as limits on the numbers of people who are allowed to seek citizenship.
  • Those working in this country need to be able to provide for themselves to the same degree as citizens. No country welcomes guests who are going to immediately enter the welfare roles, and in a country where medical car is not provided for its citizens, guest workers should be provided such services for free, either. It is not unfair to ask that potential citizens provide verification of employment and proof of their ability to support themselves and their families,

If guest workers are paid the same wages and benefits as citizen workers, then they are paying into the same programs via payroll taxes.

  • To the extent that they pay the same taxes they should receive the same benefits as citizens.
  • The minimum wage needs to be raised, not lowered and apply in every state, even the right to starve states.
  • If workers are in this country legally, they should have the legal right to drive once they have passed the appropriate tests
  • If you are in this country illegally, you have no "right" to the privileges of either citizenship or guest status. We need to put the word "illegal" back into the phrase "illegal immigrant."

The obvious question that many would ask is, "How in the world do you think this would help?" My answer is that when guest workers legally entitled to many of the same protections and benefits as citizen workers, the incentive to higher foreign workers is diminished. Business would, in the long run be better to hiring citizen workers, but in those areas where there is a true deficit of workers available, the guest workers would be available. The intent of this suggestion is to eliminate the incentive for hiring guest workers just because they will work for less, both in wages, benefits and protections. I believe that this would be advantageous to both guest workers and their citizen counterparts.

This address part of the problem, but not it all of it. Obviously there must be limits on the number and vocations of guest workers, but there also needs to be a mechanism for insuring that business will not hire those in this country illegally, and there needs to be real sanctions against those who break the laws of this country by entering and being here illegally. It must be made very clear that it is illegal to hire illegal immigrants, and that companies who do so not only face serious financial penalties, but also the prospect of felony prosecution.

  • There should be a progression of fines and punishments for businesses or individuals who hire illegal workers. Such should be implemented on a progressive basis, ending not just in monetary fines, but with criminal action at some point. If a company or an individual repeatedly hires illegal workers, the individual responsible spends time in jail.
  • The same should be true of those who enter this country illegally; with a progression of punishments dependent on the number of times the law has been broken. At some point, repeat offenders should be subject to felony, criminal complaint, and if convicted, go to jail.
    There needs to be serious sanctions for those who would help people enter this country illegally, in most cases criminal sanctions.

The idea is to take the eliminate any incentive for entering this country illegally or hiring illegals once they are here. Such a system should be clearly laid out; it should not be draconian, and it must be fair.For such a system to work certain things are required, both positive and negative.

  • There must be some means of identification other than documents that are easily forged.
  • There needs to be a means for businesses to know that identification and permits are valid, and there needs to be the ability to track offenders accurately so that prohibitions and punishments can be meted out as deserved.
  • There must be protection against American citizens being forced to be bilingual to obtain work. If you think this doesn't happen, talk to the kids that are out trying to get a job. English is the primary language in this country and it should not be to the detriment of any in this country legally to only speak our mother tongue.
  • It is high time, however, that we become multilingual in America, and the only way to do this is to teach languages at a very early age. It would be helpful to kids from other countries to have some instruction in their native language and it would be a positive thing for those children raised to speak English to learn other languages. What I am suggesting is not bilingual education but multilingual education where all of the children, regardless of their native language, be taught at least one other language starting kin kindergarten. No longer would bilingual classes be limited to say Spanish-speaking children, but all children would receive instruction in more than one language regardless of their native tongue.
  • There needs to be limits on immigration from all outside cultures if America is to retain in flavor of what it considers "American." But we should remember that we have always been a multicultural country, and that American culture does not mean white, European decent. People often talk about how long their family has been here, but that is a rather meaningless claim. We are all immigrants, even native Americans, and when you family immigrated to this country doesn't mean squat, except for the Native Americans who came here long, long time ago!

The last question is, "What do we do with the millions of people who are in this country illegally right now. I don't know the answer to that question, but I think a few things must be considered.

  • To give all of these people blanket amnesty doesn't work. It has been done before and what it really accomplishes is encouraging illegal immigration.
  • To turn all of these people into criminals doesn't work either. There are over eleven million illegal aliens in this country right now. If we were to label them all as criminals, we would get our wish and provoke a burgeoning criminal class.
  • What ever we do must be consistent, fair, and visible. It cannot be draconian, and it must not be done out of spit but with a sense of real compassion and decency.
  • Most probably, such a system would involve giving those who are already in this country the first opportunity to gain guest worker status, but then that again that encourages illegal entry into the country.
  • Whatever the answer, I think the problem needs to be discussed with more honesty, calmer voices, and a willingness towards compromise and compassion for all concerned. I would be the last to say this will be easy, and I certainly don't think it can be solved by knee-jerk, election year politics.

What I have outlined is a series of preliminary suggestions though out in little more than a couple of hours. Obviously, this problem needs great consideration, and hopeful the input of those who are a lot more knowledgeable than I. I would hope, though, that such an enormous problem, facing not only citizens of this country, but also those who wish to work here, and perhaps become citizens, would be done with great thought and fairness, and would not be the object of some political move designed to gain either contributions or votes. Obviously, there is a certain bias in my suggestions in favor of working people, and I would say that business has far more input at this point in time than is appropriate or healthful. This is not a nation of business and corporations, it is a nation of people. A corporation, while having much of the stature of the individual, is not a citizen, it is an entity. It is the citizens of this country that the government was formed to represent, and it is the citizens of this country, regardless of wealth or status, that this government is sworn to represent. So, yes, I am biased in favor of the workingman it is because we are a nation of working people a small minority of whom are owners.

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