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A Proposal on Immigration

 

The Country Must Stop Using Undocumented Immigrants for Labor

 

            Immigration reform is an issue that many states of the country have dealt with individually recently.  However, the responsibility appropriately rests with the federal government and the U.S. Congress.  It is proposed that the system that allows more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country must be corrected.  It is suggested that Congress should approve federal laws so that

 

1.  employers must verify the legal status of migrant employees with the use of “E-Verify”,

 

2.  employers who hire undocumented immigrants are subject to fines and the loss of business licenses,

 

3.  it is illegal to be an undocumented immigrant and the punishment is deportation.

 

These measures are exactly those which the states have been implementing.  These are the steps that people close to the problems see as necessary to resolve the issue.

 

 

The Background of the Problem

 

            The problem dates back to 1986, when Congress passed the last comprehensive immigration reform (Wikipedia, “Immigration Reform …”).  This act granted amnesty to illegal immigrants who had resided in the country since 1982.  Since then, immigrants have continued to enter the country primarily from Mexico, because businesses and individuals in this country are offering them jobs.  The lure of jobs with salaries that are higher than in Latin America has attracted not only legal immigrants, but also a great number of persons who entered the country illegally and became “undocumented”.  (The other way to become undocumented is because of an expired visa.)  Contrary to popular belief, it is not a crime to be undocumented – it is a civil matter (ACLU, “Criminalizing …”).  Although it is against the law to cross the border without proper documentation, from the point of view of the law, it is necessary to catch the immigrant “in the act” of crossing the border, in order to be able to establish the place and time at which he crossed, exactly.  Thus, if an immigrant manages to evade the border patrol and arrives inside the country, he is “undocumented” and the popular term “illegal immigrant” simply does not apply.

 

            The root cause for the existence of the great number of undocumented immigrants is because businesses and individual employers want workers who are willing to work for wages below those which citizens and legal immigrants get.  The argument of employers – that undocumented immigrants do work that legal persons will not do – is simply not true.  Citizens and legal immigrants will accept any job if the salary and working conditions are fair (Wharton.  “The Immigration …”).  Jorge Ramos, the main news anchor on the Spanish-language channel Univision, characterized the problem exactly in his book “The Other Face of America”: “And they [undocumented immigrants] can get jobs because there are U.S. companies willing to employ them, despite the punishments imposed by immigration law.  That is, for many businesses the trouble of hiring undocumented workers is better than paying the high salaries of American workers or foreigners with residency papers.” (Ramos, “La otra …”).  The rationalizations of companies are reminiscent of the arguments of plantation owners in the South many years ago, who insisted that slaves were necessary for their way of life.  No, it is not necessary to treat human beings as objects of labor – the cheaper the better – then or now.  The actions of businesses and employers to hire undocumented immigrants only serve to deny jobs to legal persons, a fact that is particularly problematic in times of recession like the present.

 

            Besides having a negative effect on the labor market, the presence of great numbers of undocumented immigrants creates all kinds of problems in our society.  Undocumented immigrants and their families impact all types of public services, including in particular the systems of education, medical treatment, and law enforcement (Congressional Research Service, “Cost Estimates …”; CBO, “The Impact …”).  Moreover, the studies – such as these mentioned – usually compare the direct costs of undocumented immigrants against their taxes at the federal, state, and local levels.  However, this comparison greatly underestimates the impact, because it implies that the two numbers should typically be approximately equal.  In fact, most citizens do not receive direct benefits back even close to their taxes, which pay for things like the Department of Defense.  Governments could not function if everyone received direct benefits back of something close to all his payments.

 

The federal government has not done much in terms of immigration reform since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.  The last time when Congress was close to passing a law was in 2006 in the administration of George W. Bush.  Both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved versions of a law, but the House of Representatives was controlled by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats and the two versions were miles apart.  It was not possible to reconcile them.  (The Washington Post, “Immigration …”).  The same situation has existed ever since with very divergent views, and it has not been possible to obtain the votes necessary for any type of law.  This is especially the case because in the Senate any bill would require a supermajority of 60 votes because of the “cloture” rule.  In frustration, the states have been passing their own laws, like SB 1070 in Arizona (Univision, “Radiografía …”).  Within these state laws can be found support in concrete terms for the proposals here.

 

 

Proposal 1: Implement E-Verify

 

As the cornerstone of reform to rectify the current situation, it is proposed to implement the mandatory use of E-Verify.  This will ensure that companies and employers hire only citizens or documented immigrants and will guarantee that in order to obtain work in this country, an immigrant must be documented.

 

            In order for E-Verify to function properly, the system must be improved.  Now, there are too many cases in which a person who is legal and documented is rejected instead of being “authorized to work”, as well as the opposite, in which an undocumented immigrant with false documents is accepted.  However, with regard to the latter case, most illegal immigrants are stopped by the system and simply do not apply for the job.  Only a few try to use false documents (Westat, “Findings …”).

 

 

Proposal 2: Impose penalties for hiring illegal immigrants

 

            It is proposed that severe penalties exist for noncompliance: serious fines or loss of business licenses for employers and deportation for employees who do not use the system or try to defraud it.  Businesses calculate the cost of compliance against noncompliance.  As Jorge Ramos said in his book, “… for many businesses the trouble of hiring undocumented workers is better than paying the high salaries of American workers or foreigners with residency papers.”  In other words, the penalties have to be so severe that companies don’t even think about it.  If the cost is about the same, many companies will try it, in hopes of not getting caught by the authorities.

 

Fines should exist for all types of employers, including individuals who hire undocumented immigrants for domestic work as nannies, housemaids, gardeners, etc.  It would be totally inconsistent if business employers were to receive fines, while employers for the home received none.  The law must be the law, the same for everyone.  Moreover, many undocumented immigrants use these domestic jobs to maintain their status.  As Jorge Ramos said, “We are accomplices of undocumented immigrants when they care for our children, when they clean the house, …”  The only way to be serious about changing this situation is to include all types of employment of undocumented immigrants and require that all types are subject to validation by E-Verify.

 

 

Proposal 3: Make it illegal to be undocumented

 

            The point of view of the Latino community is that undocumented immigrants are not doing anything wrong.  It takes the government at its word: the law says that it is not a crime to be undocumented.  Then – in its thinking – it is perfectly acceptable.  There isn’t any problem.  Then, isn’t it unfair that illegal immigrants don’t have all the rights of citizens?  … and, of course, isn’t it unjust that the government deports them if they haven’t committed a felony?  Almost every day on Univision, there is a news item about a “ley antiinmigrante” (anti-immigrant law), by which Univision means any law that imposes on undocumented immigrants as less than full citizens.

 

            It is totally contradictory to be spending billions of dollars in “border security” – to stop people without proper documents – and then to act as if nothing is wrong if a person arrives within the country.  The reason for this contradictory policy is clear: to provide a supply of undocumented immigrants for businesses of the country that use them.  Reflecting a sentiment of Jorge Ramos, it’s time to stop the hypocrisy.  However, Ramos would do so by means of amnesty for 11 million undocumented immigrants now – and then by allowing anyone who wants to live in this country to enter as a legal and documented immigrant.  The point of view is that “all are immigrants” – including present U.S. citizens – and others have as much right to be in the country as current residents.  Sorry, Jorge (and Latino community).  It no longer is the time of development of the country, for centuries now.  During that time, European countries needed immigration to their new colonies in the New World to establish a presence and to prevent another country from claiming the land.  It was a different time, with different world views.  Today, the country is developed, with problems of overpopulation, pollution, resource shortages, lack of jobs, economic problems, etc., etc.  The people of the country do indeed have the right to restrict immigration to something reasonable and to something that benefits the country.  We have no obligation to accept the entire world into the country.  There are 7 billion people in the world and many of them would like to live in this country and enjoy the rights, freedoms, and way of life here.  It is simply not possible to do it.  Attempting to do so would destroy the country with a flood of overpopulation and poverty.

 

            Taking these things into consideration, it is clear that the only way that the Latino community will understand that being undocumented is not acceptable is to make it against the law.  After years of rationalization that it is not a problem, it is too deeply rooted in the community that it is legitimate to replace “illegal alien” with “undocumented immigrant”.  In contrast, most citizens do not even recognize the subterfuge and always use the term “illegal”.  It is time to stop the hypocrisy, contradictions, and rationalizations and call a spade a spade.  No, it is not acceptable to be undocumented.  It is against the law.  It is a crime and the punishment for doing it is deportation.

 

            Latin community: understand.  We mean it at the border when an immigrant crosses without appropriate documents.  We mean it in the interior of the country as well, the same.  It is not acceptable.  It is a crime.  If anyone tries to do it, he will be deported.  Clear?

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACLU.  “Criminalizing Undocumented Immigrants”.  February 2010.  Consulted July 16, 2011, in http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/FINAL_criminalizing_undocumented_
immigrants_issue_brief_PUBLIC_VERSION.pdf

 

CBO.  “The Impact of Unauthorized Immigrants on State and Local Governments”.  December 2007.  Consulted July 18, 2011, in http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/87xx/doc8711/12-6-Immigration.pdf

 

Congressional Research Service.  “Cost Estimates of Unauthorized (Illegal) Immigration”.  August 11, 2005.  Consulted July 18, 2011, in http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?bc=1019%7C6712%7C8846%7C21556%7C20326

 

Ramos, Jorge.  La otra cara de América (The Other Face of America)”.  Editorial Grijalbo S.A., Miguel Hidalgo, México, D.F.  2001.  For a review of the book (consulted July 10, 2011), see http://www.fogg.cc/reviews/books/breview070.htm

The Washington Post.  “Immigration Reform Proposals”.  May 25, 2006.  Consulted July 18, 2011, in http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/27/AR2006032701201.html

 

Univision. “Radiografía de estados con leyes similares a la SB1070 de Arizona (X-Ray of States with Laws Similar to Arizona’s SB 1070)”.  July 8, 2011.  Consulted July 10, 2011, in  http://noticias.univision.com/inmigracion/noticias/article/2011-06-30/radiografia-estados-como-arizona
For information on the topic in English, see
Colorlines.  “Statehouses Weighing Immigration Enforcement Bills Styled after Arizona’s SB 1070”.  March 2, 2011.  Consulted August 3, 2001, in http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/03/sb_1070_copycat_bills.html

 

Westat. “Findings of the E-Verify Program Evaluation”.  December 2009.  See in particular “Exhibit 2” on page xxxi.  Consulted July 18, 20111, in http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/E-Verify/E-Verify/Final%20E-Verify%20Report%2012-16-09_2.pdf

 

Wharton.  “The Immigration Debate: Its Impact on Workers, Wages and Employers”.  May 17, 2006.  Consulted July 20, 2011, in http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1482

 

Wikipedia.  “Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986”.  June 17, 2011.  Consulted July 16, 2011, in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Reform_and_Control_Act_of_1986