One of my old California friends, a fellow Democrat, who for some time was pooh-poohing the need for immigration reform has sent me a series of emails confirming a complete change of heart.
In his last one, he said, in part,
"The growing number of illegals in my neighborhood and area coupled with the lack of enforcement has caused me to join up on this issue. My position is 'no citizenship (without verifiable proof of being in the process of getting it) no work'. I think the employers should be taken to task financially or otherwise if they won't play ball. As far as deportation issue goes: NO health & human services, food stamps, etc unless similar evidence of citizenship is verified. That we go a long ways to solving how to deal with the illegals who have been here for years without rewarding them for it with an "amnesty program" like "W" and Ted Kennedy are promoting."
Bingo! There is nothing so exciting as the sight of an intellectual sunrise.
My friend's brother, however, came back to him these hackneyed reasons to do nothing.
"That's all great, but none of these workers would have a job if they weren't offered one by employers, big and small, who hire them, illegally, don't get the proper documentation, don't put them on the payroll so that FICA , federal and state taxes are withheld, don't provide them with health insurance, don't care where they came from or where they are housed.
"The government makes virtually no effort to enforce laws against illegal hiring of illegal immigrants, to police the borders adequately, or to address the problem of how to provide migrant workers to employers in a legal fashion. Many illegal workers do go on payrolls with phony SSN's and do have FICA taxes withheld, then return home and never collect any benefits for the FICA withheld.
"There is a lot of stupid, illegal activity involved in bringing cheap labor to work in this Country, but it seems unfair to heap all of the blame on one group of people, the immigrants, and turn a blind eye to the big grape growers of Napa Valley, or the Peach farmers in Santaquin, Utah, whose profitability depends on illegally employing migrant workers.
"I have a good friend, Hiram Alba, whose family, with 9 children, immigrated from Mexico in the 1940s, probably illegally at the time, and worked in southern Idaho picking potatoes. Everyone one of those 9 children have college degrees, one is a Utah High School Principal, one is a U.S. Federal Judge, Sam Alba, one is a Civil Engineer, my friend Hiram, all have achieved and contribute significantly to their community. So you never know, do you?"
You certainly never know—but these responses show that dialogue now rampant in states like California, undergoing a transition that many, like my friend's brother, still don't (or won't) get!
My retort to my friend's brother would be as follows:
Your brother is certainly right about the failure of both parties to enforce our laws—particularly those against employers hiring illegals. Bad treatment of illegal aliens is also not right. But of course many, including me, believe in that enforcing the law with employers would dry up the job market, making the task of deportation much less onerous, as the incentive for illegal migration would be vastly reduced and many illegals already here would leave.
As for the plight/alleged unprofitability of growers, I think these rich farmers can afford automation. Robert Mondavi not too long ago sold his little winery in Napa for something north of $1 billion!
Thus we must first secure the borders, using whatever methods can work—but we will not solve the problem until errant companies are made to pay a severe price for hiring illegals.
Like Sarbanes Oxley–make the CEO risk jail time!
Now, I would go on to say to my friend, just so your brother understands the costs of failure: By 2050 we will have a population of 500 million (it's now over 300 million) and education, public transport, clean environment and the general quality of life will be on the skids. By 2100 we will have 1 billion. If our laws aren't fixed, these population projections are a certainty.
Then of course there is the matter of culture, perhaps the most important of all. If my friend's brother likes the idea of a culture that has held back reasonable development all over South America, then he should remain against immigration reform.
Meantime, the Chinese will blast our socks off with cheap labor, free stealing of intellectual property, and a low pegged currency, while we run up the deficit to a place where it can't be ever paid and our economy goes into the tank as every manufacturing operation of scale—like the automotive industry—goes off shore.
An immigration moratorium would allow us time to fix the problem—which, by the way, is not fixed just with regulating illegal migrant entries. Almost 1 million come here yearly on legal visas and half of them overstay them, never to be found again. That is how we got 20 million here illegally and if Congress passes and the President signs (which he says he will) the proposed Senate legislation (S 2611) we will have twice as many more in the next 20 years.
That's the dilemma for Democrats who believe in reform of voting Democratic; the Democrats are worse by far on this issue than Republicans.
But most Americans have long understood that they are getting screwed by their government's failure to protect them. Hence we get citizens such as the tongue-in-cheek guy who wrote Senator Sarbanes wanting to apply for illegal alien status.
The only way to get the attention of these feckless elites who govern us is to throw some of the rascals out.
This is hard because of gerrymandered entrenchment of House members and the power of well-heeled incumbents in the Senate. But it can be done. It may take one or more election cycles, but it can still be done—if voters from both parties wake up.
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.