Monday, May 1, 2017

What Nobody Wants To Talk About Regarding Immigration

It hath been told thee, O man, what is good, And what the LORD doth require of thee: Only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. - Micah 6:8

One of the strongest arguments against massive border walls and a gestapo-like mass roundup and deportation of undocumented workers is it will have a negative effect on the industries that depend on immigrant labor.  Those industries are crucial to the daily lives of all Americans.  Immigrants provide the labor for the food, beverage (including wine) and meatpacking industries.  It is likely that any food you didn't grow yourself was handled by an immigrant worker at some point. 

Thanks to stricter immigration rules, even without 2,000-mile border walls, farmers are having a more difficult time finding laborers in recent years.  Despite the stereotypes of immigrants "stealing" jobs from native-born Americans, the jobs are certainly open to Americans.  The problem is Americans don't want them.  

Why don't Americans want these jobs?

Back in high school, when I was spending a week at Bible camp every summer, I spent one of those weeks discussing issues of justice and what can be done to alleviate suffering.  For one project, we met with a missionary to local migrant farm camps.  He was a child of migrant laborers himself and managed to escape that life in a blue collar job.   The entire camp spent a day with him and his wife distributing gently used clothing to local migrant camps.  Before the excursion he showed us a video regarding the plight of migrant farm workers in the United States.  For the first time I saw just how marginalized the people behind my daily food consumption were.  I saw so much poverty and suffering and was devastated this was flying under the radar of most Americans. 

A few years later I read The Grapes of Wrath.  The Joad family are American citizens, but they have lost everything.  The American Dream is dead to them when the book begins.  The book showed how California farms exploited their plight and the plight of so many others like them.  For example, they distributed many more flyers requesting farm help than the number of workers they needed.  This drove the cost of labor down to poverty wages for those who find work.

In college I had the privilege of hearing Danish author Jacob Holdt give a multimedia presentation supporting his book American Pictures.  He spent years among the farm labor camps and came to intimately know the lives and stories of his subjects.  I saw situations even worse than what I had seen at camp.  Holdt rightly called the labor camps, "Slave Camps."  

American workers currently have a minimum wage.  Their work environments are regulated by OSHA.  If they are injured on the job, they can sue for Worker's Compensation.  It is possible for them to unionize if they feel they are being treated unfairly (at least they are for now).

Would working for meager compensation, no job safety, and no chance of recompense if that lack of safety results in injury appeal to any American-born worker?  

It would appear they don't.  

So liberals argue that immigrants need these jobs, so they can live a better life.  Their labor is needed.  Americans don't want to do it.  This is supposed to be a win/win situation right?  After all, immigrants will have children who are citizens and these children will have a better shot at the American Dream?

But do they?

At the beginning of Holdt's presentation, he shows photos of an eager little girl working on a corporate farm (I believe it was the Coca Cola-owned orange groves in Florida).  He mentioned how she rushed home every day to have her homework finished before it grew too dark to complete it.  Her family's shack had no electricity.

That was the kind of story that warms the heart.  This was a girl who was earnest and eager to learn.  She was dedicated.  She would make something of herself.  Her effort to be educated made viewers believed there was a way out if one just tried hard enough.

At the end of the presentation, Holdt followed up with some "Where Are They Now" slides.  He mentioned this girl, who was 16 years old when his journey ended.  She was working in the fields alongside her parents making a few dollars a day.  She couldn't break the cycle.  Even though she worked hard, she didn't leave the farm.

Liberals want to welcome immigrants into this country under the belief they are going to escape poverty and repressive governments.  We smugly march to the farmers' markets to buy our local and seasonal produce and never give a thought to who picked it.  

I don't even comprehend what conservatives are thinking.  Do they see the plight of migrant workers and figure they deserve it?  Maybe they think if the government continues to stagnate or repeal minimum wages, American workers will eventually accept hard labor jobs in squalid conditions (and they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they don't like it,  just like that little girl on the Coca Cola farm - oh wait...).  They have no issues hiring people of questionable immigrant status mowing their lawns or mucking their stalls, but if those laborers aren't being paid enough to feed their legal US citizen children, conservatives will criticize and hate them mercilessly for being "takers" even though they're working harder than any corporate CEO.  

The rallying cry of conservatives is to say these people just need to immigrate legally.  Most conservatives have no idea how to immigrate legally.  At minimum it requires a work visa and work visas cost money.  Well-established companies will often refuse to sponsor visas.  I worked for a company that was willing to let go of talented, educated, employees due to work visa issues.  Do you think farmers can afford all of those visa sponsorships?  Farmers struggle enough as it is. The best they can do is hire undocumented workers because it can be off the books and out of the reach of labor laws.

If we allow immigrants to come into this country illegally, we are taking jobs away from citizens.  If we allow them in, we commit human rights abuses and perpetuate slavery,. Both sides say immigrants deserve the American dream, but neither wants to admit they are going to be denied it unless they are lucky enough to have visa sponsorship or close family members already living in the country.

So liberals, how badly do you want open borders?

No comments:

Post a Comment