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America's Illegal Immigrants: The catch 22

May 1, 2006       Commentary Archives

Our zeal to protect our borders, has put us in a catch 22 of sorts, a double-bind is in the offing. As Colorado congressman John Salazar puts it "when we expel the illegal immigrants, who's going to build the walls" to keep others out.

And of course American business, argi-business in particular, who benefits from the illegal immigrants workers, is warning  that "the 12 trillion U.S economy could be forced to go on a big diet." Estimates are that 80percent of farm workers in this country are illegal immigrants.

My main focus here is not so much about the raging illegal immigrant debate by U.S law makers, since a final law has yet to be realized. More so a broader view of the cause and effect of immigration in America.

Beyond illegal immigration

The immigration law of 1965 sought to change a law that was generally perceived as favoring Europeans. The new law allowed families to bring in their families. This led to a proliferation of immigrants legally entering this country.

Here's the picture the average American is not aware of, but the powers that be are uncomfortable with.

According to the Census Bureau there're now 33 million foreign born in the U.S. 1 in every 9 Americans are foreign born, comparatively in excess of the total Canadian population. And of course, of the 11 million that are here illegally, 60 percent enter without proper document (a valid passport or visa).

The U.S Census Bureau projects that by 2050 the percentage of the American population that are whites will decline to 55percent while Hispanics will be 25 percent, Blacks 14 percent, Pacific Islanders (Asians) 8 percent. This projection indicates a doubling of the Hispanic population.

This fundamental shift will impact the sharing of resources in a big way most prominently between low income Blacks and Hispanics.

Government jobs which has be a Black employment niche is coming under increase pressure from Hispanic. The battles are already raging in Miami where Black leaders lament that "at least whites give them some jobs, but Hispanics are keeping it all for themselves."

 Illegal Immigrants

Who are these illegal immigrants? Listening to all the chatter you would be inclined to think that they're all Mexicans, or they all cross the border into the U.S from Mexico.

We now know for instance that some of the infamous 9/11 terrorist were here on expired visas, and were even issued extensions after their deaths.
The Government don't seem to be too swift. Don't blame illegal immigrants.

This overstaying is common. Then there're those who are neither illegal immigrants or legal citizen they aren't expelled, due to special needs, like sickness.

According to President Bush "illegal immigration...creates an underclass of workers...[current laws hinder companies from finding willing workers]." Out of touch as usual.

Are immigrants really responsible for hospitals high deficits and failures? During the national elections they accused the lawyers of that sort of thing.  Are they responsible for the growing cost off Public school system?

Before under civil rights law public services can't be denied because of national origin. Hospitals were not allowed to ask people in need of care or legal proof of citizens. Or refuse care based on the ability to pay.

Now with many hospitals running deficits, service to immigrants area being blamed. As they would have it they're also responsible for burdening the public school system.

 They claim these immigrants are exploited by businesses. They're paid less than American minimum wage laws in many cases, and as a result they are keeping wages artificially low. [1]

I suppose the implication here is if they're all thrown out, wages will go up. But so will a multitude of other things.

Ask any immigrant who see a dramatic improvement in their standard of living after arriving in America, if he or she is being exploited. Ask the native if they're willing to give up good welfare benefits, to work long hard hours in the elements for less.

As big agriculture puts it, "the 12 trillion U.S economy could be forced to go on a big diet," if some of these proposals become law.

Under the New Law

Under a new law signed by President Bush on February 8th. After June 30th, Medicaid recipients  will have to produce birth certificates, passports and other documents to prove that they are U.S citizens.

Everyone who applies for coverage, will have to show the proper documents. This new law is designed to stop illegal immigrants from "stealing" medical benefits. There are great fears that many poor American citizens will be unable to produce the necessary documentation  when applying for care.

Hospitals are concerned that this could increase their cost by reducing the number of patients with insurance, but don't have proper documents. This new law goes into effect July 1st. The congressional budget office expected an estimated 35,000 to loose coverage by 2015.

The deficit reduction acts prohibits states from receiving federal Medicaid moneys. If they give benefits to people without the proper documentation.

Political Reentrenchment

As of late a radio talk show host in Phoenix Arizonian, advocated killing immigrants who illegally cross the border. The Anti-Defamation League a leading Jewish civil rights group, reports an increase in anti-Hispanic violence, by white supremacist, Nazis, Klansman and skin heads. These hate groups are advocating killing of Illegal Immigrants and those who support them.

Prominent Hispanics in California including the Lieutenant Governor and Los Angeles Mayor have received threats. Colorado congressman Ken Salazar has gotten e-mail suggesting that he should go back to his country. Salazar is a 5th generation Mexican American.

In a post 9/11 era 11 million undocumented aliens in this country is discomforting. So much of this great debate is quite legitimate, but when was the last time you heard "9/11" in this great debate. This was one of issues touted earlier in this debate. Now just listen to some of the proposals coming out of the government. The U.S Congress especially.

What you would hear is much of the old xenophobia. Many whose parents were immigrants themselves rejects immigrants in any form. Then there're other who are looking to rally for their core constituent.

Been Here Before

Do you remember California's Proposition 187 in 1994. Political re-entrenchment at it's ugly best. You of course remember California's Governor Pete Wilson who faced a credible challenge from Kathleen Brown.

No one can accuse Pete Wilson of not knowing his history, more specifically, Germany in the 1930s. Well Prop 187 incorporated many of the proposals we're now seeing in the congress.

Prop 187 was approved by 59percent of California voters. It blame immigrants for many of California's problems. Much like Germany in the 1930s California was having more than it's share of problems. Blaming it on the immigrants was a political bonanza for Pete Wilson. Prop 187, however didn't survive a court challenge.

Every one with an anti-Hispanic or generally immigrant xenophobia are coming out of the wood work.

Are we seeing a repeat of history? The last immigration wave back in 1882 by the Chinese, led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, this act bared Chinese laborers from entering the country and denied them naturalization.

American Business and Illegal immigrants

American business want this cheap labor. Despite the immigration act of 1986 which made the hiring of illegal immigrants an offense. We have seen Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Chavez and Zoe Baird exposed for this illegal act.

Tyson Foods was accused of importing illegal immigrant help to work in its chicken packaging plants, Wal-Mart for using illegal immigrants for janitorial services, they claim were hired by subcontractors.

Do you believe that in this government strong pro-business climate and the strong Chamber of Commerce lobby that's going to happen?

If you ask me the whole debate is a necessary exercise . Most of the sanity so far is coming from the U.S senate. I'm predicting some sort of amnesty or guest worker program. The wishes of American business will prevail.

Besides, we're going to need these illegal immigrants to build the fence, that's going to keep the rest of them out.

 

Notes


[1] Part of the controversy surrounding illegal immigration is that studies have proven that "they displaced low income Blacks in employment opportunities."

There're willing to work for less. Which probably affirms the other contention that "illegal immigrants artificially keep the minimum wage low."

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