The United States Immigration Debacle, Part 3: The Politicians

Now there has been a rumbling of discontent around the issue of our United States immigration debacle. Some talk has been made by a few vocal minorities about sending all the undocumented immigrants home so they can stand in line like the rest and do things right. I don’t know who or when or how some of us Americans decided that the arrangement we had going all these years wasn’t quite working out for them any more, but this is where we are today.


New State laws and political stumping are ample evidence that the government is pretending to get involved again. This kind of elevated rhetoric usually only happens at election time. What is painfully obvious is the amount of effort that government has put into avoiding this issue. Why? Don’t the politicians want to be hero’s and have the respect and admiration (and votes) of a grateful nation?


Of course they do. And I think they are getting it. Here’s what I mean:


If the politicians really wanted to fix this situation, they could have done so at any time along the last fifty years or more years. They are the ones that have been chosen to make the laws after all are they not?


And what motivates politicians to take action? Money and public opinion. Let’s take a look at each of these and explore what would happen, beginning with public opinion.


There are three possible scenarios that public opinion can be categorized in our situation: A majority anti-immigrant sentiment; a majority pro-immigrant sentiment; or an equally distributed public sentiment.


Scenario #1 If the majority of the people are anti-immigrant:

All the politicians would have to do is write up a bill condemning undocumented workers, punish the employers, expel the immigrants and let them know if they are caught in our borders again, they will go to prison for a long time. The specifics can vary, but anything along these lines would satisfy the majority of the public, and their approval rating and chances for re-election are greatly improved.


Scenario #2  The majority of the people are pro-immigrant:

All they would have to do is pass a bill and give them amnesty, open up the borders and the majority will have been satisfied. Again, the specifics can vary, but the outcome will be the same. Improved public opinion and an increased chance for re-election.


Scenario #3  The nation is equally split among the two different opinions:

No problem here either once you stand back and look at this objectively and keep your eyes on a positive outcome. Propose a bill giving those that can prove employment and residency for the past five years can stay, keeping the productive people here, and everyone else, must leave or face deportation and banishment for ten years. You can argue other possibilities as well, but no matter the specifics, if you give both sides something, then everyone is equally pacified and perturbed, but having half of something is better than nothing.


Any of these scenarios could have taken place and the outcomes would have been appreciated by the country. Scenario 3 granted is the most difficult, but give them both something to be happy about, and get on with it. If our country is heavily in one camp or the other, (just look at the data from one of the thousands of opinion polls they take each year) it is that much easier. Give the people what they want and be the hero. Done. Public opinion can be addressed, and should be, by the politicians wanting to keep their jobs another year. Do nothing and now you have a lot of work come election time trying to persuade the voters you did a great job last term and will continue to do a great job next term. So why have we just ignored this situation all these years?


If you believe government understands those two basic things, Money and opinion (They take more opinion polls than any company in the world.) then any time you want to understand the government, just follow public opinion or money. Since we just looked at the three possible public opinion scenarios and we can’t explain their inaction, we should therefore follow the money.


I think politicians know that businesses really don’t want to elevate the undocumented workers to a legal status because it would cost many businesses more. Lots more. If businesses can pay much less to undocumented workers and get away with it because they are undocumented and unlikely to stand up for their rights, they will. If immigrants become legal, they will get minimum wage, regular breaks and benefits like vacation days, personal time off and overtime, medical and dental insurance, and maybe even 401k retirement plans, as well as understand their rights as workers much more and are more liable to file employment grievances with the EEOC. Prices are going to go up to compensate for the rising costs and their ability to compete with companies from other countries will diminish considerably, threatening their very existence.


And us? Some of us think we pay way too much for social and health services for the undocumented now, but wait until they become legal and the products we buy steadily rise in price until acceptable profit margins are made to sustain the companies livelihood. This will put them at risk for being undersold by outside companies whose labor prices are much much cheaper, and I believe the demand for undocumented workers will be on the rise once again.


Politicians really are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. They may act like clowns during election years, and some of them have been known to be full-time comics the rest of the year too, but they all know that as much as we like to blow off steam and beat our chests about how much more moral we are than the criminal undocumented worker, we really don’t want anything to change. Neither does business.


But we still have one more group of people involved in this situation to be discussed: the immigrant. Having a national debate about what to do about undocumented immigrants without even bringing them into discussion would be quite impossible. Even today we discuss their needs, desires, customs and personal habits to a great extent. Next week we’ll take a look at the immigrant, and where they fit into all of this.


Do you have an opinion about this article? Your feedback is welcome, but please let’s be civil. When we lose our composure, we lose the ability to influence others as well.


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