A Simple Border Solution

As I write this, the fight in Congress with the White House Tonsil-Stone-In-Chief drags on.  Trump wants a wall along the entire Mexican border, no matter how impractical and expensive, no matter how many years and lawsuits it will take, and no matter how much impact it will have both on the environment and the human residents of the surrounding communities.

We can try to talk with some degree of reason to the issue.

We can state the fact that most illegal immigration comes from people entering the country legally and overstaying their visas.

We can point out that illegal border crossings have decreased in the past ten years and deportations were on the rise before Trump even took office (Obama was brutal in his immigration policies no matter how much Republicans want to believe otherwise.)

We can remind ourselves that most illegal drugs cross into the US via legal points of entry.

Also, immigrants are paying taxes.

None of this is going to sway Trump and his followers.  Illegal border crossings are the main issue with immigration and only a solid wall will stop them.

I want to propose a better solution.

One constant whine I hear from people on the right is that immigrants need to come here legally.  If they can afford the money it takes to pay someone to take them over the border, they can afford to come here legally.  Sure our ancestors were immigrants, but they were legal immigrants.  If you want to come to the United States, you can do it the legal way.

Most Americans don't understand how to legally immigrate to the United States.  It's not only about having money.  There are many more barriers and it's not an easy path.

One way you can legally immigrate to the United States is you are lucky enough to have a parent, child, or sibling who is a US citizen.  You can move here and apply for a green card.

It's a little more difficult if your relative is a lawful permanent resident and not a citizen.  You have to be a spouse or a minor child.  Otherwise, you have to go back.

If you are a skilled laborer you can come to the US on a work visa.  You can only do this if you have a job waiting for you and the employer is willing to do the paperwork and pay the fees.  There is a cap on the number of these visas the government will issue, and they run out the first day they are offered, so good luck trying.  The odds are better if you are a genius or a celebrity.

If you are an unskilled laborer, the best you can do is get a temporary work visa and this visa will not allow you to ever apply for permanent residence.  As with skilled labor visas, there are a limited number of them.

To me the border solution is simple.  Allow more unskilled laborers to enter the country legally and give them the same path to citizenship that skilled laborers have.

Undocumented immigrants perform much of the unskilled labor in this country whether we want to acknowledge it or not.  When we go out to dinner, there is a good chance undocumented workers had a hand in preparing our food or making sure the dishes we eat off of are clean.  Our manicured lawns were likely cut by undocumented workers.  The produce we eat was likely picked by undocumented workers, including the grapes from the wine we drink.  If we buy are meat from packaged brands in the supermarket, we can bet there were undocumented workers in the meatpacking plants.  When we travel, an undocumented worker may be keeping our rooms clean.

This country depends heavily on the labor of immigrants.  They are invisible, but they are a part of our daily lives.  They do jobs American citizens have no interest in doing because they are both grueling and low paying.  Employers don't want to pay their laborers minimum wage, or comply with OSHA standards, or provide medical benefits and family leave.  Most US citizens don't care that there are flagrant human rights abuses in the labor community.  Those that are anti-immigrant feel that undocumented laborers get what they deserve.  Those who are pro-immigrant are far too focused on relaxing immigration laws to worry about what happens when these people find work.  Too many industries depend on this labor and it's becoming harder to find workersAmerican citizens don't want to do these jobs.  Who wants to work this difficult labor under these poor conditions?

I used to think the perfect solution to stopping undocumented immigration would be to punish the industries that hire them.  Go after the Big Ag.  Go after meatpacking.  That is never going to happen.  These companies have way too much influence with the government and they don't want to stop hiring undocumented workers.  Hiring citizens means paying minimum wage, providing benefits and providing decent working conditions.  Corporate America doesn't want to do this.  It's better for the government to make token gestures at stopping immigration at the border rather than ceasing to give them reason to come here.

So the need for immigrant labor is real and necessary from an employer's standpoint.  Let's look at some of the other ways the US needs this influx of people.

First, the birth rates in the US are falling.  Americans are not replacing themselves.  The largest segment of the current population is the Baby Boomers and that is an aging group.  Millienials will eventually replace them, but they are not reproducing at nearly the same rate as the Baby Boomers were back in the mid 20th Century.  What will happen to all industries as Americans age and die off?  We need a new influx of population.  The birth rates are currently higher for immigrants.

Second, this is a big country and there is space for everyone.  If we begin to provide for an influx of new residents, it would be a massive economic stimulus.  There will be a need for housing, transportation, schools, and infrastructure.  The service industry will also boom as larger populations will need more services.  Imagine the jobs we could create building homes and roads and shopping centers.   Someone needs to run the businesses that serve these new communities.  They will needs doctors, dentists, lawyers, veterinarians, sanitation workers, librarians, teachers, and utility workers.  Legal residents and citizens will have these jobs, and then as the new workers become citizens and have children who are citizens, the positions will continue to be filled.

When one looks at the actual state of labor needs, population, and job growth in this country, it seems obvious that allowing more unskilled labor visas with a clear path to citizenship is the best way forward.  Rather than doing our best to block foreigners from entering the country, we should welcome them with open arms.

The debate isn't about labor needs, is it? For a certain segment of the population, immigration is about a fear of The Other.  Some Americans don't want people who don't look or talk like them coming into this country.   They don't want our aging population to be replaced with people from non-European ancestry.  They want to preserve what they feel is the superior western culture.  What if they don't assimilate properly and cause us all to adopt their savage ways?  (We never had any worries Europeans immigrated and never influenced our culture just as we don't see any non-Western culture influencing our current culture, right?) It's racism plain and simple.  It's nationalism.  It's Donald Trump asking why people from Norway won't immigrate to the US.

I also fear there is a segment of the population who believes that if European-Americans are desperate enough, they will do those hard labor jobs for no money and benefits.  We have the Tea Party, funded by the Koch Brothers, who want to kill public education, kill off any regulations on wages and working conditions, and make sure unions never have power again.  There are powerful men in this country who want to make sure everyone is so desperate to make any money at all that they will labor in the fields and kitchens and slaughterhouses just for a piece of bread.  We won't need immigrant labor because if you make citizen workers desperate enough, they will do the jobs eventually.

We can be afraid and hateful, or we can embrace change and move forward.  The jobs are here.  The people who want to do those jobs are there.  We need them.  Border walls are not the answer.   Expanded and legal immigration is.

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