Immigration reform is back in the news, and there’s a slight chance something can be done about it before fall.
Everyone in this country will benefit if a good plan is put into place. This even includes the people who are so completely against doing anything about the issue. The people who say all illegal immigrants and undocumented workers should be “rounded up and sent back where they came from” will benefit just as much as those who say we should find a way to keep them here. Almost every aspect of our lives will be affected positively.
If the President, Senate and House are able to put a comprehensive immigration reform package together, it will almost certainly include a way for most of the people in the country illegally to stay and receive legal status. President Bush, when he was in Yuma Arizona recently, said the idea of finding and deporting all illegal immigrants might sound good, “But it won’t happen.”
Everyone agrees that people should not be in this country illegally. Everyone agrees that the people here illegally have broken our laws just by being here. Everyone agrees that we have to document the people coming into and leaving our country. Most people admit that we are all responsible: whether we hire the workers; buy what they produce; vote for the people who passed the laws that allowed it to get this far or if we didn’t vote at all. And since we are responsible for the problem, we should be responsible and try to fix it.
Even all the polls and surveys lately are showing that the public is between 59% and 78% in favor of giving undocumented immigrants legal status after they meet certain requirements.
The people who are against this should consider that legalizing these people will benefit the whole country; the military, Social Security, our economy, our future economy, education, even our national security.
The most immediate benefit would be to business. Our unemployment rate now is below 4.5%. This means that almost everyone who can and wants to work is working. This includes the fact that there are millions of undocumented workers, or about 10% of our work force. What would happen if these people were suddenly sent away and left the jobs they have now? With so few people out of work now, there would not be enough workers to replace them and many businesses would close.
Every time there is a town hall style meeting, farmers stand up and say that they can’t plant part of their crops this year because they know they can’t get workers to harvest them. They say the numbers here now are not even enough. Many farmers are struggling (and failing) to find enough workers even with the legal migrant workers (66,000 H-2B visas a year) and it would be a disaster for them if the undocumented workers were not available.
Farmers would have to sell out and we might have food shortages. We would definitely have much higher food prices. Instead of the present amount of our food coming in from other countries, most of it would. This also brings in to play the problems with contamination and unsanitary conditions that have happened recently with foods from developing countries.
Some farmers are hoping the slowdown in the construction industry will convince or force some of those laid off undocumented workers to go back to harvesting crops, but it might not happen. They have had a taste of better paying jobs that are easier than harvesting and might not go back unless they have to financially.
Hotels and motels, restaurants, landscape companies and many other companies that use low skilled workers would have to close because they would have no workers. We hear complaints all the time that these immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans, but there aren’t enough Americans to do those jobs. Our birthrate is low, our population is aging and the workforce is shrinking.
We need these workers to fill the jobs or companies will close. The companies who can, will go overseas to get the work done. I guess the workers from all the companies that close could find work with the farmers and harvest the crops, but I doubt that would happen.
Some towns are making it uncomfortable for immigrants to live in them, so the immigrants move and take their labor and buying power with them. Then when these towns want to create new businesses, to replace the ones that closed when all these workers left, they don’t have an available work force. It is definitely a vicious cycle.
People who complain about these low skilled and low wage workers insist they have brought wages down for the rest of us, but this is not the main cause of low wages. U.S. companies have to be competitive to get and keep business. Prices of products and services have to be low or customers go overseas to fill their orders. The only way U.S. companies can compete for the business is if they use low wage workers here or outsource the work to other countries.
Look at all the U.S. companies that are using customer service, technical support and data entry workers in India and the Philippines and Mexico. Those workers are higher skilled and still make much less than comparable workers here. People complain about the work going overseas but would not accept higher prices to pay for the work to be done here. They have to understand that they can’t have it both ways. (more…)