As Newt Gingrich moved into the lead in the Republican contest for the presidential nomination during the most recent GOP debate; one issue was raised to prominence in those debates. That issue was part of the overall nationwide debate about America’s immigration policy. In particular it was the issue of the approximately 12 million illegal immigrants now living in the U.S.
Whether you refer to them positively as undocumented workers or negatively as illegal aliens; the perceived problems or benefits for this country created by their presence remains the same and significant. Yes the U.S. has always accepted and benefited from allowing a large number of people to emigrate into this country. Our immigrant populations have provided this country with a diversity of culture which has produced the rich mosaic that is America. They have contributed enormously in many ways and created music, fashion, art, technology and many other things that have enriched and enhanced life in America. That being said; it must also be acknowledged that by far most of the immigration population that made such contributions were legal immigrants who came here under policies and quotas controlled by the government, most of whom came here committed to becoming American citizens. We have allowed tens of millions of immigrants into this country because we wanted and needed people to help build and grow this nation. This country’s illegal immigrant population is illegal because; they have entered this country by illegal means. They have not followed the policy and procedures this country has in place that still allows more than 3 million legal immigrants in annually.
The illegal immigrant population has entered this country illegally not because immigration can’t be done legally; but because they wanted to do it immediately and without going through the appropriate process. They have come here not because we have allowed them to as a result of a national policy decision based on a need for workers; but because some American corporations and industries have decided they would rather have illegal workers who work for sub-standard wages and often no benefits, than legal immigrant or American citizen workers who have to be paid a minimum wage by law. The sub-standard wages paid illegal workers is still substantially higher than those in their native country; so they have come here by the millions.
The presence in this country of upwards of ten million illegal workers and an unknown number of family members was the issue brought into focus at the GOP debate. Specifically discussed were different approaches of what to do about, with or for this population. Everyone appears to agree on the concept of actually sealing the U.S. – Mexico border (across which virtually all of the illegal immigration occurs) against illegal immigration. But as to how to do that varies greatly from Herman Cain’s proposal of a continuous fence (electrified or not) to Rick “The Hair” Perry’s idea of using foot soldiers and drones ala Afghanistan. None of which will work, as Willard Mitt Romney pointed out, as long as there are “giant magnets” such as in-state college tuitions, a full range of social services, free public education and most of all work available in the U.S. to attract illegals.
However despite the ideas of a sealed border and eliminating magnets have been proposed for decades; very little in the way of actually sealing the border, eliminating the public services offered or enforcing the laws against hiring illegal workers has actually been done. The Federal government claims absolute control over American immigration policy; but Washington hasn’t done very much to exercise this control. It’s put on a few dog and pony shows such as putting more U.S. Border Patrol agents on the U.S. border; but not enough to stop the flow of people or drugs. It’s done a few photo-op raids of meat packing plants by ICE personnel; but at just a few out of the tens of thousands of large businesses that regularly employ illegals. It hasn’t made the E-Verify system mandatory for all employers; despite the system quickly and efficiently determining if someone is a legal worker or not.
The simple reason nothing much has been done to effectively deal with illegal immigration is that; some powerful American business interests don’t want it stopped or even slowed. These corporate felons make more profit by hiring illegal workers, paying them sub-standard wages and no benefits. The working conditions are also often sub-standard, but workers can’t complain because they are illegal and can be deported. This also adds to the profits of the factory or plantation owners. Many industries which are seasonal lay off their illegal workers at certain times of year, secure in the knowledge that public services will help them get by until the companies need them again. These economic interests have consistently bribed Washington politicians to turn a blind eye towards the situation and not to pass or really enforce any laws that would actually interfere with their illegal business practices.
The Federal government policy of inaction has produced the situation of 10+ million illegals who are virtually permanent residents of this country. They have been for decades, and currently are; millions of semi-slave workers living invisible lives in the hospitality, food handling, and construction industries as well as on agri-business plantations. They are used, sometimes abused, often neglected, and left for society as a whole to take care of when they are no longer needed by their overlords. It has gotten to the point that it has caused a rift between primary elements in the Republican party; in the debates for the Presidential nomination and on the ground in places like Alabama.
In the debates Newt Gingrich has promoted making the illegal’s semi-slave, second-class, without possibility of citizenship status permanent. The idea is to please the business wing of the GOP while not angering the T-Party wing too much. The T’s and most other Republicans are vehemently anti any form of amnesty that allows the illegal population to stay and act as a magnet. The anti illegal sentiment is not based strictly on an anti-Latino prejudice, as some have suggested. It is primarily based on the fact that literally millions of jobs that used to be done by American citizens, of all races and religions, up until just a few years ago; are now completely dominated by illegal workers. Many of these illegals are working for less in terms of wages and benefits than American’s have a right to receive for the same job. That’s why the corporate plant and plantation owners hire the illegals; not because Americans can’t or won’t do the work. Americans can and will fill the jobs; if they are paid a legal living wage. American workers have a right to a legally prescribed level of working conditions and safety and don’t have to and won’t work; if these conditions are not met. But sometimes it costs something to meet these legal standards; so illegals, who have no legal standing to complain in court or any other official place, are hired by greedy owners.
T-Party GOP members in places like Alabama are beginning to see illegal workers as one of the key causes of the weak employment environment in this nation. This is particularly true in the blue collar, manual labor and manufacturing sectors of the U.S. economy. And the working class members of the GOP and T-Party who have been hit especially hard by the current economic slowdown are starting to recognize that the big business community, who are traditionally both the money and power in the GOP, are not on same side as are the vast majority of American workers. In fact it is becoming obvious enough that these two sectors of the GOP and society in general want very different economic decisions made in Washington. The workers and the overlords are actually enemies; something that has been obvious to the overlords for quite some time. They have been trying to re-aim the attention of the American worker towards the Democrats in general and President Obama in particular. But a majority of Americans are starting to see that Wall Street Republicans, who are pro illegal immigration because it increases profits, are the single greatest enemy of American workers.
Thus the people of Alabama have become the first, but definitely not last, state to see and react to the fact that maintaining Washington’s current approach to illegal immigration (which is to talk tough but do nothing to stem the inflow) is not all or even mostly the Democrat’s fault. They see the fault is that corporate industries and agri-business has the majority of Washington’s elected GOP members on their side. The current group of politicians in Washington had better hear the voice of the American people screaming for something to be done to prevent workers here from having to compete, in a race to bottom in wages and working conditions, with the ever growing illegal work force. It is bad enough that a twisted foreign trade policy, that has costs millions of American jobs by giving China (working temporarily with American partners) all sorts of advantages in providing a fatter bottom line to so-called American companies; to have to repeat this economic victimization, at the hands of the super-wealthy and super-greedy, in losing millions of more jobs to illegal workers in their own country, is something that American workers won’t put up with.
American workers, instead of joining the uber-rich in trying to limit the right of fellow American workers to organize to fight for their rights; should join the Occupy crowd and protest unfair, unwise and unsustainable government policies in failing to enforce immigration laws and allowing a very tilted playing field in foreign trade. If Americans from all over this nation and from all ends of the political spectrum don’t get together to stop the mega-wealthy corporate entities from destroying workers rights while cynically calling it economic freedom, the only path they will be creating for both the illegal population and themselves is; a path to servitude.