We don't have an illegal immigration problem, we have an illegal employment problem and southern neighbors that are not great places to live for millions of people
by Ann Anger
I hear people are upset about immigrants today. Without them, who'd mow my lawn, paint my house or pour hot tar onto my roof in 110 degree heat? While my family's inside, asses on the couch in the air conditioned living room watching Survivor re-runs on CBS? My roly-poly kids aren't going to do it. They'd have heart attacks, they're so fat and un-athletic from playing Top Spin 2 on their XBox. That's a sports game. There's irony there.
Most immigrants are not fat. They're too busy working their butts off doing things a lot of U.S. citizens either don't want to do or won't do for the wages these immigrants are happy to get. Jobs, wages and living conditions are better here than the place they came from. That's good. That means the U.S.A. is still a better place to live than a lot of places in the world. We have problems here, no doubt about it, but as long as more people are trying to get into the U.S.A. than get out, we're doing okay.
Today immigrants aren't coming here first class on Virgin Airlines. We 're talking about spending millions to build walls and send troops to keep people from risking their lives to come here in the back of a tractor-trailer or walking through the desert or floating on a raft made out of inner-tubes across the ocean. People die trying. When's the last time you almost died trying to do something? Anyone trying that hard is either desperate to get away from something or desperate to get to something or both. Figure out why they're leaving the place they're leaving, why they're coming here and who they are and you're on your way to solving the "problem," if there even is one.
Anyone who gets down on the U.S.A. needs to take a drive around the slums around Sao Paulo, Brazil. A lot of immigrants here that are supposed to be a "problem" are coming from there through Mexico, another lousy place to live for a lot of people. As long as there are plenty of terrible Get Away From places to live, with corrupt governments that repress their people and keep them in poverty and threaten them with jail or violence, and as long as the U.S.A. stays a relatively better place to Get Away To, we're going to have to deal with immigration. It's a good problem to have.
The U.S. isn't the only Get Away To destination for people fleeing violence, poverty and corruption. There are plenty of people trying to immigrate to Europe and some of the booming economies in Asia. Most of these countries were once terrible places to live at one time or another, too. That's how the U.S. picked up waves of immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Russia, China, Vietnam and dozens of countries over the past few centuries. Most of these countries are like the U.S. now, Get Away To destinations for immigrants escaping Get Away From sh*t-hole countries. Good thing for the U.S., these countries have more restrictive immigration policies than the U.S. or else we'd see more competition for immigrants to tar the roof for $6 an hour in the summer heat. These other Get Away To destinations are suffering for it, especially Japan, with its aging population. Who's going to pay the income taxes to fund welfare programs for old, retired Japanese in twenty years? The U.S. could have a real economic problem if all these Get Away From countries improve so much no one wants to leave to come here anymore. We should be "worrying" about that.
Second and third generation immigrants always complain that the latest wave of immigrants is inferior in some way to the previous one, aren't as well educated, criminals and so on. Well, neither were a lot of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. How does it go on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty?
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Immigrants are rarely the cream of the crop when they come here, but the U.S. has always been a place where the cream can rise to the top if they work hard and get an education, including learning the language. It's a huge disservice to not teach immigrants English in U.S. schools. How are they ever going to get good paying jobs? Stupid.
What do these immigrants want? To cook, rake leaves, build houses. The kind of things our parents or grandparents used to do. The next generation will be doctors, bio-chemists and nano-technologists. That's how it's always been.
Immigrants built this country and always will, I hope. There are times the previous generation of immigrants gets pissed off about the new wave of immigrants. That happens during bad times when competition for jobs at the lower end of the wage scale is tough. For example, look at this chart. There were a string of three nasty depressions toward the end of the 1800s.
So what happened? They didn't have TV or Lou Dobbs in those days to rally a political movement to make the immigration laws more restrictive. But voters elected politicians to change the laws.
This from the Ellis Island web site: "A more comprehensive immigration law had been passed in the spring of 1891. In addition to the previously established categories of "undesirables," inspectors now also screened for polygamists, people with prison records for crimes involving "moral turpitude," and all "persons suffering from a loathsome or contagious disease." The Contract Labor Law of 1885 was stiffened to exclude immigrants who were entering the country at the encouragement of American employers; it was even illegal for American employers to advertise."
Notice how the laws went after the employers. Jobs are the honey pot for immigrants.
At the time, a lot of Germans were trying to get out of Dodge and get into the U.S. They couldn't get in through Ellis Island so they had to go all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and come in through Texas. You have a big German community in Texas to this day.
Are times tough today for low wage earners? You bet. iTulip.com shows the wage growth trend and it's not pretty.
This is the Frog in the Frying Pan chart. Long term pain, over 20 years. The trigger for the current political backlash against immigration is two things.
One is the decline in real wages for lower and middle income families as shown in the chart above. The second factor is that the cost of living keeps going up, as this chart below shows.
That's what's causing the immigration "problem" today. Without these income and expense pressures on middle and lower income families today, Lou Dobbs' audience would vanish.
What does everyone focus their anger on? The illegal immigrants, the ones living in the U.S. without going through the process to become citizens. Previous waves of immigrants, our parents and grandparents, came on boats and entered the country legally. Just like today's, they came here under terrible circumstances. Fascism in Europe. Famines in Irland. Wars in Russia. But everyone who escaped to the U.S. then went through the legal process to become citizens.
What's it take to become a U.S. citizen? Below are a few sample questions from the U.S. Citizenship Test:
1. How many stars are there in our flag?
2. What color are the stars on our flag?
3. What do the stars on the flag mean?
4. How many stripes are there in the flag?
5. What date is the Day of Independence?
6. Independence from whom?
7. What country did we fight during the revolutionary war?
8. Who was the first president of the United States?
9. What do we call a change of the constitution?
That's just starters. How many readers who were born here can answer all the questions on the U.S. Citizenship Test? I bet my kids can't.
Mostly everyone's up in arms about the immigrants from Mexico or those who came through Mexico from other South American and Central American countries. They did not enter the country legally and are here illegally. Why not just throw them out? Because while immigrants are putting added pressure on lower and middle income families, businesses, especially in the construction industry, benefit. Workers willing to work for below minimum wage are good for the bottom line.
Want to end the so-called "immigration problem"? Enforce the immigration laws. Raid the employers. Take away the jobs. Illegal immigration will end overnight. Who's going to risk their life to come here for nothing? It'd be like hitting a light switch.
We don't have an illegal immigrant problem, we have an illegal employment problem.
So here's the whole picture. We need immigrants for the same reason we always have, to bring in fresh blood to keep the country vibrant and competitive, and to pay our Social Security with their income taxes when we're old. It'll be a sad day when the U.S. becomes like some European country that turns away the very people who are the foundations of the economy and the nation's future.
We need immigrants, but we also need to be a nation of laws.
We have middle and lower income wage earners pushing one way and business interests pushing the other on these millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. What's the right balance?
1. Enforce the law. Raid the employers who break the law. End illegal employment.
2. Change the laws so the U.S. continues to get the best (most motivated!) immigrants to build the country, as in the past.
3. Turn Mexico from a Get Away From country to a Get Away To destination. Stop sucking up to Mexico's corrupt leaders that keep their masses in poverty. Create incentives for Mexico's leaders to make Mexico a better place to live so fewer people are trying to escape from it.
4. Make every U.S. citizen take the U.S. Citizenship Test. Every citizen of the U.S. who complains about immigrants who can't pass the U.S. Citizenship Test gets sent packing. That makes room for the tired, the poor,the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, who can pass the test.
Just kidding about the last one. I'd miss my kids.
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