And that’s how some people want to approach the issue of illegal immigrants in the USA. Everything I know and understand about life aligns clearly to say that building a wall between the US and Mexico is a horrible idea. It’s not like Mexico is mounting an attack and we have to defend the castle. They’re sneaking into the country to find jobs. To cover the issue from my own perspective, I’ll offer three planks and then a plan.
Plank 1: The actual problem.
The most widespread problem with illegal immigrants is the notion that they are a cost burden on government funded social services. This is a legit issue, but it’s also an overly exaggerated issue. There’s also a pile of attached issues that fall out of immigrants being “out of the system.” As an example, an undocumented immigrant can’t obtain a license to drive nor insurance – leading to an increase in uninsured motorists.
Plank 2: Recent rise in illegal immigrants.
From my own memory, illegal immigrants were considered more of a “resource” in the early 90’s, rather than a burden. In any significantly large southern city you’d find a street corner were mostly Hispanic laborers would gather waiting to snag a job. Somewhere around the turn of the millenium it seemed that the attitude shifted. It also seemed that the numbers of illegal immigrants what on a rapid rise. It seemed this way because it was on the rise. After 9/11, the number of illegal immigrants coming into the US increased well over 20%.
Plank 3: We made legal immigration harder.
Something else happened right around 9/11 that just might relate to that huge increase in illegal immigrants. The US made it significantly harder to legally come work in the US. You can find out about some of this here and here and here. It does seem logical that making it harder to do something illegally might increase the number of people doing it illegally. Take, for example, our completely failed war on drugs.
Solution: An easy legal path.
Immigrants flock to the US for one main reason – opportunity. Illegal immigrants take low paying labor intensive jobs. These are jobs that Americans, no matter what they claim, generally don’t want. To the laborers, these jobs provide better income than what they’re able to find at home. If we lose all of these laborers, I strongly believe it will increase the cost of goods and services across the board. Regardless, building a wall and increasing the amount of man power at the borders has not only cost us enormous amounts of money, but it has completely failed. More ironic is the fact that, as our economy tumbles, we’re seeing far fewer illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, we need them now more than ever.
Given all of this, why not create an easy to access foreign worker program. This isn’t a new idea. In fact, it was proposed by George Bush. This was the Bush plan previous to 9/11 and was related to NAFTA. Such a program could make it easy to document and track workers. This would create a system where we can regulate access to social services and track the impact of migrant workers.
The problem is that we’ve resisted the flow instead of working with the flow. Any surfer or martial artist knows what happens when you try to fight a flow of energy much larger than your own. It’s a huge investment. However, catching the wave can take you on a ride you could never otherwise achieve. Unfortunately, I think that most of the public discourse on illegal immigration has turned into petty racial hatred and blaming. When so many lives are negatively impacted, the way our economic slump has done to so many, folks really want someone else to be angry at. Getting “tough” on illegal immigrants is like going outside and kicking the dog when you get mad at your spouse. If we use this negative energy to create our immigration reform, like what we’ve seen in Arizona, we’ll only be digging a deeper hole.