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Favoring a path

My post about illegal immigration is the hands down winner for generating comments. That's a good thing because intelligent discussion is the heart and soul of democracy. No one should expect total agreement regardless of position.

I would like to express some ideas about this as it affects most, if not all of us. Please try to keep in mind that this has nothing to do with political correctness or a liberal point of view. It has to do with basic fairness and honesty.

The fact is that we have many people in our country who are here illegally. Some of those have taken advantage of things that they are not entitled to, playing the system as it were. Some have committed crimes above and beyond their having entered the country without securing the correct documents. I have no issue with a crackdown on these people any more than I would have an issue with any crackdown on drug dealing, murder, rape, illegal weapons sales or any other criminal activity regardless of who perpetrates the crimes.

But consider this. Illegal immigration as we know it today began in earnest at the end of the Civil War. At that time the hideous practice of slave labor was ended. But the demand for cheap labor, especially in agriculture remained. We have always expected to be able to buy food at what we consider to be reasonable prices. Inexpensive farm labor was, and is essential to the survival of our food system. The agricultural industry began to actively seek alternate sources of low cost labor. The tolerance to people entering the country without passing through the proper channels was not only condoned, it was encouraged.

As time went on, we began to take more and more advantage of this low cost labor pool. We were perfectly happy to turn a blind eye to the illegality in exchange for the ability to hire housekeepers, dishwashers, nannies and later, carpenters, electricians and plumbers at low wages.

What I'm getting at here (in case you are missing the point) is that we are complicit in the conditions that exist at this point in time. I have said before and will repeat: I am NOT in favor of amnesty or an easy path to citizenship for anyone who has entered the country illegally. What I am in favor of is a path to legality.

If we were to simply offer valid documentation to those who are already here, working and raising families and living honest, productive lives, the advantages would be great. For one thing, we would know who is here, where they are and what they are doing. There would be no need to spend additional resources on enforcement or apprehension and confinement while people wait for their deportation hearings, something that has not even been discussed but which will incur vast expense. At the same time, we would eliminate the under-the-table payments and generate additional tax revenue. It would be much easier to check a person's status prior to hiring. And we would be dealing with a difficult situation in a humane manner that would ease our national conscience and acknowledge the role that we have played in creating this problem in the first place.


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