The United States Immigration Debacle, Part 1: How did we get here and who is responsible.

The United States Immigration policies and our border with Mexico has garnered a lot of press recently, especially with the GOP primary coming up. Politicians are threatening to veto legislation aimed at helping undocumented students, the President is under attack for trying to allow United States Citizens to keep their families together while applying for legal status for their undocumented family members, and many people are expressing outrage that there are around  eleven million undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States today. Nobody however, is really talking about how we got here in the first place, whose the major players are, and who should be responsible for correcting this situation and prevent it from happening again.


I will examine these topics in depth in a five part series called, “The United States Immigration Debacle.” Hopefully by the end, we will have a clearer understanding of how this situation came to be and move on from a paralyzing national outrage, to an intelligent , humane, and workable solution to this problem.


First off we need to recognize that there are millions of undocumented people here in the United States, and this is an intolerable situation. Unless you lived in cave five, on hill six, and under a rock, you would have been aware of  our illegal immigration problem for most, if not all of your life. Undocumented immigrants are here and we’ve known about it for many decades. Eleven million people did not just show up last year.


Secondly, we need to own up to the fact that while we knew they were, none of us went out of our way and avoided them like criminals or boycotted anyone who employed them so that we actually could stand on principle and demand their eviction without looking ridiculous.  I happen to know a few Americans, and I don’t know anyone who has even tried to boycott a company that uses undocumented labor — not one. And that’s not surprising since it has been virtually impossible for quite some time to live a day without using or consuming a product or service in this country that has not passed through the calloused hands of the undocumented worker.


I find it especially humorous when I hear Presidential candidates trying to appear like they employ only 100% U.S. Grade A  American Labor. I realize we hold them to a higher standard than we do ourselves, but to go around putting on airs of piety, and even attacking the ones who are found to have accidentally hired an undocumented person, when we all know politicians eat more than a few meals in restaurants, which are known to be a large employer of undocumented workers in this country.


When you stand back and look at the whole situation, it is quite ironic that any of us can claim to be living undocumented Laborer-free, while passing the salad around the dinner table.


We all have known undocumented laborers are here, and we all have benefited from their labor. We all live a far richer, easier life because they work so hard for so little.  We are able to eat cheaper, have cheaper clothes, cheaper appliances, cheaper home services, cheaper hotel rooms. . . And that really is the heart of the matter; our strong desire to have something for the lowest possible price.


Demand is what fuels the machine we call commerce, and we demand our products and services to be affordable.  There is nothing wrong with that, especially in today’s economy, but whether we like it or not, when we purchase goods and services from an illegal source, we are condoning that illegal activity as well.


Not only are we condoning illegal immigration, we are also responsible for creating it. Our demand for affordable goods outstripped the labor supply the businesses could legally employ in order to provide us those affordable goods. If they couldn’t obtain affordable labor legally, they would have to get it illegally, or risk being forced out of business.  We knew this was happening. We didn’t like it, but we didn’t stop wanting cheaper goods and services either. Where businesses got their labor was not our concern. Just get us the discount.


So here we are. We have known about the immigrant situation all along, and have participated in it, thereby giving it our tacit approval. To be angry about this now and to try to deport all the people we used to give us what we wanted, would be like reneging on a contract. It would dishonor us as much as it would punish them, and our demand for an affordable lifestyle would only force employers to seek an alternative supplier of cheap labor, setting the stage for this to happen all over again. Getting rid of undocumented immigrants will not change our demand for affordable goods. We need to either change our priorities as to what to expect things to cost, or we need to change the supply method that the employers of these workers use to get their labor, so it is legal, humane, accountable and enforceable.


Speaking of employers, next week I’ll discuss the creators of our unspoken agreement with our friends from south of the border. They have a big hand in this, and to leave them out of this discussion would be the same as trying to end the drug trade while completely ignoring the producers.


Have a different view? Let’s hear it.

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