"If we shut down illegal immigration, a program to legalize our ‘guest workers' would be a matter of necessity to save American agriculture."
"We, the citizens of the United States, are lying to ourselves about our labor force." "The lies rob legitimate workers of needed jobs, they rob industrious immigrants of fair opportunities, and they rob America of its essential morality." -Bryan Welch, March - April Utne article, "Putting a Stop to Slave Labor"
Now that there are an estimated 10 to 20 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., what do we propose to do with them? Robert Justich estimates that 3 million people enter the country illegally each year, holding somewhere between 12 million and 15 million jobs, constituting 8% of the labor market. Welch writes, "Politicians talk about building fences and sending soldiers to the border, yet they refuse to take the simplest steps to prevent the workers from being hired illegally."
These misplaced people reportedly send billions of dollars home to their families in Mexico. Entire Mexican communities flee the void of no employment opportunities and lack of human rights in their home country.
Welch points out that legal U.S. workers seek more suitable, higher paying, and less strenuous employment. But consider, if employers would be forced to hire only legalized employees, the issues of a fair wage, deplorable working conditions and crowded, unsanitary living quarters would have to be addressed and rectified. Higher wages would increase employer expenses, and would be passed on to the consumer.
Another Utne article by Hannah Lobel tells how immigrants are renewing the fight for workers' rights. Lobel writes, "Though undocumented immigrants are entitled to the same workplace health and safety protection as all workers, they often fear that they'll lose their jobs or be tipped off to immigration officials if they complain or report injuries."
I haven't given much thought to the issue of illegal immigration. I mean, it's not going on here on the Midwest. Wrong! Lobel's article mentions the 230 people that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rounded up at the Swift & Company meatpacking plant in Worthington, Minnesota.
In fact, the agency nabbed nearly 1,300 workers nationwide on Dec.12, 2006. Lobel writes of the Worthington community: "Children have been left without parents, families are scared to leave their homes for fear of arrest, family members are unsure of how to pick up the much-needed paychecks of detained loved ones."
TOTALLY UNJUST PRACTICES: "The nation's farm shacks, decrepit trailer parks, and urban tenements are packed with people who work long hours every day in illegal working conditions. In agriculture they toil in extreme weather, handling toxic chemicals and dangerous equipment." (This, and the following quotes have been taken from Bryan Welch's Utne article.)
DEMANDS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT: "Given that there are somewhere between 10 million and 20 million undocumented workers, if just 10% of them were arrested there would be no place to incarcerate them - and the sheer numbers would make deportation logistically impossible." Ineffective raids by law enforcement factions, that target high-profile employers like Wal-Mart and Swift & Co., accomplish nothing.
"What's most appalling is that we have the audacity to label entrepreneurial immigrants ‘criminals' when the vast majority of undocumented workers are sincere, skilled, industrious men and women doing what they must to support their families." The honest farmers who have hired them state that their Mexican laborers have better skills and work harder than their documented employees.
Is illegal immigration just another issue that Americans have come to accept rather than rally together for an unbiased and honorable solution? Have U.S. citizens deserted values of "justice for all", and "all men are created equal""¦or have we always presumed global superiority? Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, the father of our country, both had slaves. Go figure.
The enemy thrives on our internal unrest. Isn't it time for the United States to ride the wave of the future. After all, it's been estimated that by 2050 only a little more than half of the U.S. population will be non-Hispanic white. Next week, Theodore Roosevelt speaks from the distant past.
Janet Burns has been a lifelong resident of Lewiston. She can be
reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org