With the immigration debate now raging and making headlines across America, this issue once again proves itself to be one of the most emotional and divisive ongoing debates in America today.
The term "illegal immigrant" immediately conjures up images of Mexican laborers toiling away in grape vineyards, then retiring to dilapidated, overcrowded, barely livable bungalows at night. Whether or not that perception is indeed reality is, more often than not, unclear. It should be obvious to all that the overwhelming majority of immigrant laborers, both legal and illegal, are decent and law-abiding people. However, due to their suppressed socio-economic status, many believe they must be a tremendous strain on the social services that seem to be freely available to all who access the myriad of programs that the state and federal government mandate.
Many believe that the illegal immigrant population do the jobs that Americans simply will not do, like farm labor, entry level construction or landscaping, as well as food service and cleaning. These jobs however compare extremely favorably to those available in the native homelands of our immigrant population. Others see the immigrant population depressing wages that make these jobs just not worth doing by American standards. Some say pay a decent wage and watch Americans fill those jobs.
With most Mexicans currently wallowing in borderline Third World conditions and with institutionalized corruption a way of life in most Mexican cities, it is little wonder why many seek a better way of life in the US.
But is it America's responsibility to provide it? Most Americans I believe would say it definately is not.
Many say that American business is dependant on the cheap labor force that immigration provides. Others say that American businesses unethically use what they know is an inherently vulnerable and thusly exploitable portion of the population. Businesses that know full well that these, "guest workers" as they are called will work for next to nothing and be grateful for the opportunity to do so.
The United States Senate is currently debating legislation that would allow undocumented workers that have been in the US for a minimum of five years to attain citizenship by paying a fairly small fine, learn English, undergo a criminal background check and remain employed for 11 years. Anybody who really thinks this is too much to ask to become an American citizen is I think either: A, not thinking rationally or B, has a delusional since of entitlement.
No matter what the outcome of this current discussion, something tells me that we'll be having it again in another 10-20 years when we'll have a whole new batch of illegal immigrants to contend with.
I guess the best advice I could give to those newly arrived on our shores is first, obtain the proper paperwork. Then if you truly wish to endear yourself to the majority of U.S. citizens: First, make a concerted effort to learn to speak, read and write English as fast as possible; second, respect any and all U.S. laws and third, if you're going to march up and down the street waving a flag, make damn well sure it's an American flag you are waving.
J. Kurt Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published: Monday, April 10, 2006