Friday, October 8, 2010

The Immigration Debate Continued

As an immigrant American myself, I tend to follow news about the border, and indeed about immigration generally, pretty closely. I've been paying particular attention of late because since just before the Iowa egg fiasco, USCIS has been conducting pretty frequent raids on many large scale industrial agribusinesses, and (surprise, surprise) finding hordes of illegal immigrants doing the work, often in conditions and at wages bordering on inhumane. Given the generally poor care that animals receive in such facilities, it probably should come as no surprise that the human employees who work with the animals every day aren't treated well either.

Like most else about industrial agriculture, the arguments they present AGAINST changing our current policies on illegal immigration are old and tired. Even if there is a grain of truth in their arguments, believe me when I say it's the kind of truth that's polished until it shines. Also keep in mind that these self same companies often portray themselves in terms of how "all American" they are. They also like to talk about their "down home" values !

Let's start with the biggie:

1. There are no Americans willing to do the work. In my mind, this is kind of like saying there ain't no money in farming. If there are no Americans willing to do the work, I'm guessing there is a reason why this is so. It is irrefutably true that illegals will work harder at nasty tasks for far less money than will most American workers. Personally, I think it's a shame that instead of cleaning these places up so that they are fit places for anyone to work, it's easier and cheaper to simply hire illegals and carry on. I really don't think I like what this has to say about our society today. On this farm we never ask our employees to do any task we won't do ourselves, and most usually we are right there working with them. Everyone has the right (and indeed is encouraged) to refuse any task which they don't feel comfortable (or safe) completing. We pay wages on a scale well above the local average (and have expectations to match the pay scale) and we make our pay scale (and expectations) public knowledge. Guess what....we don't ever seem to have problems getting folks (Americans...every one of 'em !) to come out here and work !

2. There is no way to keep illegals out of the workforce. It may not be politically correct, but random audits and an enforced $ 10,000 penalty to the employer for every worker with false or incorrect paperwork would go a long way to fixing the problem in my book. It might also help restore a living wage to labourers and most trades in this country and I think that would be a good thing for everyone. Punishing illegals for trying to better themselves economically is probably not going to work unless it's combined with a strong, enforceable disincentive for employers not to hire them in the first place.

3. If we lose illegal workers, your grocery bill will go up ! I'm not even going to waste time commenting on this argument. They're here illegally. If our grocery bill goes up because we are replacing illegal workers with legal ones, tough tittie I say.

4. Our immigration procedures are so difficult, they are an impediment to legal immigration. We need to make it easier for folks to come here legally. This argument is one that I hear all the time, and it's the reason I wrote my last post. It's ALREADY relatively straight forward for most people to immigrate legally. As I understand it, there are already guest worker programs that would allow those without professional degrees to come here and work. Once they are here, there are clear pathways for them to work toward legally gaining a green card and/or citizenship if they choose to do so. Because I married an American, and indeed because I was a Canadian eligible for a TN Visa, my entrance into the US was easier than most. I recognize the immigration process may take considerably longer than it did for me depending on the nuances of one's individual case. Immigrating CAN be difficult/impossible for some people. Not having good English comprehension skills would make the process more difficult. A few things (like serious criminal convictions) will stop the process outright, as it probably should. But for most folks who want to come here, there is probably a pathway by which they can do so. Sussing out the correct path is the hard part.

Illegal immigration is a huge problem in the US. While I don't pretend to have any answers necessary to eliminate it, my hope is that this post may stir some thought and debate about this contentious issue.

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