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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who
writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident
of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
Do We Really Feel about Illegal Immigration?
The Bush administration needs political courage…
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 3/29/05
many stories told about the late Fiorello La Guardia, one of
New York’s legendary mayors. One of them concerns
a reported incident during his tenure as a municipal judge. A
man, down on his luck, appeared before him charged with stealing
a loaf of bread. When asked why he did it, the man replied, “To
feed my family, sir.” La Guardia, the story goes, fined
everyone in the courtroom a dollar for living in a city where
an otherwise honest man had to steal a loaf of bread to feed
his family. He ordered that the collected sum be given to the
astonished man who was released and told to steal no more.
Cynics would say that such misguided actions diminish the respect
for laws but the story recalls a familiar ethical dilemma, to
wit: Would you break the law if necessary to feed yourself and
your family? Survival being the most basic of human instincts,
most of us probably would, at least under truly desperate circumstances.
It is difficult therefore, to blame the millions of poor Mexicans
who sneak across our border to find work in order to feed their
families, especially when jobs are provided so willingly by American
businesses and households.
A majority of Americans
profess outrage over illegal immigration and say that the federal
government should do something about
it. But they are, by and large, the same people generating the
demand for cheap Mexican labor to harvest and process their fruits
and vegetables, clean their homes, mind their children, tend
their gardens, mow their lawns, wash their restaurant dishes,
make up their hotel rooms, care for them in nursing homes, etc.
These are the difficult, unglamorous, sometimes backbreaking,
low skill jobs that Americans supposedly won’t fill. There
is, of course, a reason why they won’t. It’s the
pay. The illegals will perform these jobs without complaint,
not because they love the work, but because they have little
choice in the matter. They are woefully underpaid, given the
workload and the frequently horrible working conditions. In other
words, they are exploited. President Bush’s high-sounding
words about matching willing workers with jobs Americans don’t
want are pure rubbish. American citizens would rightly demand
a fair wage to do these jobs. But why would competitive businesses
hire them when they have easy access to cheap Mexican labor without
the bother of dealing with employee benefits and labor unions?
Take away this supply
of cheap labor and the critics of illegal immigration would,
of course, have something else to complain
about, namely drastically higher prices. Forced to pay competitive
wages to American citizens, prices would rise dramatically, especially
for food products and services. I don’t want to start a
panic, but perhaps Americans would even have to mow their own
lawns, raise their own kids and clean their own homes.
In any event, we
can’t have it both ways for much longer.
We can’t continue to demand an end to illegal immigration
and at the same time insist on a continued supply of cheap labor
to do all the work that Americans would rather not do. It’s
like railing against the illegal drug producers without acknowledging
that we are creating the demand for illegal drugs. It is the
height of hypocrisy and we must soon come to grips with it because
illegal immigration is spiraling out of control.
In the last five
years the illegal alien population rose by 23% to more than
10 million. That’s greater than the population
of Michigan and more than a tenth of the entire population of
Mexico. Contrary to popular notions, these numbers are increasing
rapidly and most of these people do not plan on returning to
their homeland. Indeed, they will endeavor to bring their families
here. Who can blame them? Whatever the conditions here, they
are usually better than what they left behind. This may be a
boon to our agriculture, hotel, restaurant and food processing
industries but it is swamping our already overextended schools,
medical facilities and social services and producing a large
and growing underclass of unskilled workers.
Presidents Bush and
Fox had a prime opportunity to discuss this huge and growing
problem at their recent summit meeting
at Bush’s ranch. The two amigos, however, avoided an honest
discussion opting instead for a joint platitude about “improving
the legitimate flow of peoples and cargo at our shared border”.
Fox grumped about the “Tortilla Wall” on the border
south of San Diego and said it must be torn down because walls
don’t work. He’s partly right. This wall is merely
deflecting the problem from the San Diego area to Arizona where
desperate property owners are now organizing vigilante groups.
The blame for the fiasco that is illegal immigration should
fall directly upon the shoulders of the Bush administration for
ignoring the problem for five years and pandering to the selfishness
and greed of American businesses and households who are addicted
to the cheap labor supply. Until the federal government can muster
the political courage to really enforce federal laws against
businesses and households that hire illegal aliens, matters will
simply get worse as Mexico continues the mass export of its citizens
and our borders and immigration laws become increasingly meaningless. tOR
2005 J. F. Kelly, Jr.