I’ve been thinking a great deal about immigration, especially in light of my husband’s green card interview and his newly sanctioned status in this country. In his case, he has a path to citizenship (three years if we stay married, five in the unlikely case of a divorce). Many in this country do not. As a new administration is sworn in to the Presidency, one hopes that immigration policy will be high on the list. In doing some research, it seems the voices are as divided as my own thoughts on the matter. The following is some of what I’ve been reading, on one hand and then the other. Feel free to think of Topol from Fiddler on the Roof as you read (“On one hand…but on the other hand…”).
ON ONE HAND…
Children of illegal immigrants find themselves nowhere-– this piece from the Chicago Tribune talks about how the children of illegals find themselves socially disconnected from mainstream America (whatever that is). Not mentioned in the article, but certainly a problem, are the many children of illegals whose parents are deported. Many illegals see a child born here as a ticket to stay, while some are disconnected from family members for years at a time.
Low wages and sweatshop conditions- those who hire illegal immigrants, besides exposing themselves to the threat of discovery, are able to pay below the minimum wage and impose conditions that are similar to those in many third-world countries. Illegals accept these conditions for fear of discovery and deportation. Any job is better than no job, right?
Illegal immigrants affect healthcare costs adversely- as most hospitals are required to treat cases no matter what the legal status of the patient, hospitals lose millions in insurance payments, forcing them to raise their costs and glutting already busy ERs. Many illegals won’t use medical facilities until it’s a matter of life and death, resulting in higher mortality rates and bigger bills, which, of course, many times go unpaid.
Impact on school systems- school systems in the US are fraught with problems, not the least of which is an influx of illegal immigrants and their children, many of whom speak little to no English. School systems in Colorado seek bilingual teachers to teach part of the day in Spanish and part in English. Systems are forced, among budget cuts and additional requirements from No Child Left Behind, to find solutions while operating in the red.
ON THE OTHER HAND…
Illegals in low-wage jobs- the classic response. Who will clean our houses, take care of our kids, build our roads, and manicure our lawns? Undocumented workers comprise a large percentage of the low-wage workforce, which would be depleted by legal channels of immigration or a blanket amnesty.
Contribution to the economy- not only by paying taxes (yes, Virginia, there’s such a thing as a Tax ID), but by spending. Illegals typically spend their money on cars and entertainment, as well as sending great amounts home (main income of Mexico? Try Western Union). They participate in the American Dream, which includes that flat screen TV and a cute blackberry.
Contribution to social and cultural diversity- this is a fascinating website if you’re interested in the conversations happening on this issue. This particular argument goes that if you are against immigration, you’re forgetting your history. Immigration (legal and…not) contributes to the diversity of an already very diverse nation. Have you tried the new Peruvian place down the street? How many Hernandezes and Chuans are in your kid’s class?
Making it safe avoids death and disaster in the desert- Only one point of this piece from BalancedPolitics.org, but similar to the “abortion should be legal so it’s safe” argument. We save lives by removing or lessening the barriers to immigration, because fewer people are desperate enough to try human trafficking in dangerous situations.
Some statistics from the Department of Homeland Security. In case you’re aroused by numbers.
UPDATE: And in other news… Obama’s actually a natural born citizen!