Immigration talk

It’s time to talk about immigration irrespective of whether the American public is ready for it or not. You want to talk about the war? Here, let’s try a “protection of marriage” amendment, a faux attempt to ban abortion in South Dakota or … Mexican workers. Talk about smoke and mirrors.

The fact is, this conversation about immigration should have been had years ago. Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe that the solutions offered by the many interests involved will succeed.

Yes, George W. Bush’s idea for guest workers has some merit. You’ve got to hand it to the guy; increased government regulation of immigration in the future seems a good idea.

Is there any practical benefit to the idea of not granting amnesty to illegal immigrants who are already here? The language that’s coming out of conservative circles seems to suggest that the only reason for this is to punish the people who took advantage of our de facto open borders. This seems like bad logic. If someone is already here and has a track record of being an honest (except for their simple presence), hardworking, taxpaying individual, why throw out the bird in the hand for the bird in the bush? This immigration debate isn’t about the here and now, it’s about solving the problem for the next 30 years.

So, on the one hand, congrats to Bush for distracting the public’s attention from the War on Iraq, congrats to Bush for his guest-worker idea.

And now, let’s cut to the chase. Unless two things are made law, the whole immigration-control fantasy will go the way of a Beatles reunion.

First, unless laws are made that guarantee that those “guest workers” are paid prevailing wage, the river of illegal workers will never be dammed. If a decent wage is paid, then workers from other, more economically disadvantaged areas of this country, like Detroit for example, will be willing to relocate to work the jobs our government claims Americans don’t want. Then maybe the number of guest workers will be manageable.

The other thing that must be done, if Uncle Sam’s ever going to put his finger in the dike, is that it must become a felony to hire illegal workers. Those rich folks who hire illegals to care for their children, companies that hire illegals to mow your lawn, businesses that hire illegals to work their kitchens or drycleaning stores, hospitals who hire illegal doctors to massage your gizzard, and corporations that hire massive numbers of illegals to hawk their always low-priced, foreign-made wares must be prosecuted.

The first time the CEO of the second-largest Fortune 500 company finds his ass in the slammer for his company’s policies of hiring people who don’t have the right to work in this country or the first would-be senator’s wife finds herself in prison stripes for hiring an illegal nanny, our country will have taken a step toward solving its cheap-labor problem.

Even if politicians are able to kill a comprehensive immigration package, this is a debate that must be had—and not just as a political sleight-of-hand trick.

But until the illegal employers are punished the way the government wants to punish illegal workers, we might as well try to stop the wind with a toothpick.