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Well If It Really Bothers You That Much

by Sudhama Ranganathan Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 at 9:59 AM
uconnharassment@gmail.com

In the debate over what to do over illegal immigration here in the US, as with similar debates in other nations, the issue is often presented as having two main sides – those for it and those against it. Like most things in our busy fast paced lives we get the fifteen to thirty second version of the debate we catch on the news or whatever we have time for online, be it something linked to on Facebook, twitter or our favorite news aggregator. That typically gives us two sides of the issue to look at, as more in depth discussion is for people with more time on their hands quite often. But, in truth the issue is more complicated than just the two conclusions we are typically presented with – pro or against.

Smiley face

When I hear people say they are against illegal immigration I agree. I am also against it. However, what I mean when I say that, and what they mean when they say it may be two different things. To me I don't see Mexico as some foreign influence waiting to take over our nation and take it back. I don't see Mexicans as some group of people naturally lent to crime as certain folks in the anti-reform camp seem to be.

My experience with Mexicans, Latinos, or Latin Americans in general for that matter, is that they are anything but lazy freeloading criminals. You know those fields and nurseries and other companies we hear about employing migrant workers? I have worked more than one alongside migrant workers from south of the border – mostly Mexico. I did so for different reasons at different times in my life, and in different capacities.

What was always similar and simultaneously striking, was the work ethic of those migrants I worked with. It was absolutely extraordinary. For most people that experienced it, they viewed it as mind boggling and humbling. If anyone wants to know how your average Americans used to work probably a hundred years ago, go to a farm or wholesale nursery that employs many, if not mostly, migrant workers. Bring five of your friends along and get employed. Make sure it's the summer. See how long you can last.

I was under the impression myself it was because of cheap labor, so I was surprised when I learned there are many migrant workers that, after having returned to the same location numerous times, are making the kind of money per hour many blue collar Americans would love to be making. They become so indispensable that many are even offered management positions, overtime (yes time and a half) and help becoming citizens. The people running the place and in management positions (mostly non-Mexican college educated Americans) at one wholesale nursery I worked at, told me that they actually have no issues hiring Americans, but the issue is actually getting people that can keep up.

The work is non-stop in the blazing heat. At times it's like the hardest gym workout all day under the sun with two fifteen minute breaks and one half hour to forty five minute break for lunch. It's a combination of heavy lifting with constant movement and shuttling of goods. You have to move very fast and be prepared to do many different jobs. Actually, workout addicts would love it!

Taking it one step further, I remember when I was in college for landscape architecture at the University of Connecticut, and a very large corporate firm sent recruiters in to talk to all interested. I went to see what they had to say, and after their PowerPoint presentation they had a question and answer session. They got to a point where they recommended anyone looking to work for them or get into certain aspects of landscape, construction, agriculture, horticulture, etc be fluent in Spanish or be able to speak it relatively well.

He mentioned that many workers were Latino and that they were often a highly prized segment of the workforce within those fields. He asked if there was anyone that knew why. A couple of people made silly comments about cheap labor. The recruiters said that was part of it. Then they asked if anyone there had actually ever worked in a situation where it was mostly migrant workers. I was the only one that raised my hand. They asked me what I thought. I said it was because they would work most of the rest of us under the table. The recruiters laughed and one said, “I see you have worked with them.” So, let's drop the nonproductive stereotypes, whatever they may be from the argument.

For us to really look at the issue let’s look at crime, let's look at standard of living, let's look at all the relevant aspects. But let's not be fooled. Let's also look at the money. Where does the money come from to keep the anti-reform movement going? When we see protesters from the anti-side, how many are there? Typically a small amount – five to twenty at most. When we see a pro rally there can be thousands. So we know where the numbers are in terms of people, and clearly more people are pro-reform, even in Arizona, trusted national polls say people favor sensible reform.

So where is all the might coming from? Where is all the clout coming from? Where do all the advertisements and campaign contributions come from? Well, what most people don't know is that one, if not the most, ardent backers of the anti-reform movement is the private prison industry. That's right, large corporations that stand to benefit by keeping the many undocumented workers rounded up in prison, and getting more in.

They also campaign for tougher laws and harsher enforcement of current ones. Why? They want profit. And whose profit do they get? Yours. See, what always strikes me as funny is all the people that complain about their taxes going to pay for things they shouldn't pay for, are the same ones that are looking to pay more taxes to house undocumented prisoners, albeit unwittingly often times.

The people funding their anger could care less about cutting out the taxes they pay, they are looking for just the opposite, really. They want their taxes, and more of them. For them, it's all about the bottom line. So they seek to get folks upset in order to put pressure on politicians, and fund politicians that are against reform and pro harsher jail time. The real truth about crime and undocumented workers is that where the populations are highest in the US, as the numbers rose, the crime rates actually dropped.

See the demand arose because Americans stopped wanting to do farm work. Farms advertised and advertised and offered hourly wages as high as they could, but Americans did not want to do the labor. So they hired what few migrants were around. Word got back south of the border that there was work opening up and more came. As Americans stopped wanting to do certain jobs for certain pay this continued.

The need is already there, and if you'll notice, none of the people complaining about the jobs are people that want them. None of them. Ask the places that do the hiring. Most will tell you they'd be happy to hire Americans and some are willing to pay more for American labor. This was reported in many national news outlets, but few have responded. If taxes are the issue, in terms of entitlements, if you look at the numbers and calculate all the taxes being paid currently, including all sales tax revenue and their contributions to property taxes, the undocumented population more than cover their own usage.

If we expand the amount of migrant workers allowed in to meet the demand for their work, we could eradicate the culture of living in the shadows, we could have way less spent on enforcement and drastically reduce the amount spent on imprisonment. Add to that the fact we would conversely get a boost in income to the government in the way of money paid for a legal worker id cards (that would still cost far less than an undocumented having to get themselves illegally snuck in), far more in taxes from their paychecks and whatever other taxes congress wants to add. It will all be on the books, so we won't have added criminality of people owing to smugglers and the criminal enterprise of smuggling occurring, we will not have to worry about paying for things like emergency room visits for undocumented workers that put off treatment for fear of being caught until a small cut turns into gangrene, and we can focus enforcement on true criminals, not people picking blueberries without the proper documentation to do so.

Reform is a win win for all, except those that stand to profit monetarily off of undocumented immigration. Oddly enough that falls to two entities, criminals and the private prison industry. So the next time you see a person pontificating about illegal immigrants, and it isn't obviously racially motivated, like the KKK or something, ask yourself, where are they getting their funding? Is it the cartels, or the private prison industry, because both benefit just the same, and in the struggle to deal with undocumented immigration, when they are benefitting we are losing. Not reforming is as ridiculous as sending our taxpayer dollars overseas to fund both sides of the conflict between Israel and Palestine while both continue the terrorism, Apartheid, lying, intrigue, destabilization, cheating and so on without cease, apology or shame. It's wasted money and only the average American is losing while a small few gain. It's not fair. If you don’t like it from any perspective, the only sensible thing is to change the way we deal with it, and when it comes to immigration that means to pass reform.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.

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