Monday, March 27, 2006

Is it all a matter of money?

As with most of the big issues that confront America today, I have mixed emotions on illegal immigration. I don't believe people should be able to violate the law but making illegals felons while doing nothing to address those who hire them doesn't seem to be realistic to me. Nor do I believe a blanket amnesty program that doesn't have some better future way of stopping future illegal immigrants is a long term solution either. In the interest of trying to provide all views on this issue, the title link is to a Washington Post article that discusses one part of this; some key points:

Year after year, Professional Grounds Inc. runs a help-wanted ad to find landscapers and groundskeepers. Starting wage: $7.74 per hour.

In a good year, three people call. Most years, no one does.

"I don't think it's a wage situation. It's the type of work and the nature of the work. It's hard, backbreaking work," said Trimmer, who started the company 31 years ago. "I think we're a more affluent society now. They expect more. Everybody expects more. . . . I have contracts, and they want an affordable price, too."

Employers in many of these sectors have gotten themselves into a Catch-22 situation where if they do not look the other way and hire illegal workers, they will not be competitive with other businesses," said Jack Martin, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an advocacy group governed by business leaders and activists favoring national immigration limits.

"The wages and working conditions where there are large numbers of illegal workers have been driven down to the point where those jobs are not as attractive to American workers," Martin said.

Forty-three percent of the region's construction workers are illegally in the United States or have only temporary work authorization, the data show. Construction wages in the Washington area have risen from an average of $15.86 in 1999 to $17.19 in 2004, according to the bureau. McMahon estimated that construction wages these days are even higher -- roughly $20 an hour, plus health care.

"People think construction is about hiring day laborers in a Lowe's parking lot and throwing them in a pickup and paying them $2 an hour," McMahon said.

The guest workers arrive in February or March and pay $40 a week for housing subsidized by the company. A van picks up and drops off those who can't drive; workers who have driver's licenses pay $3 per day for the use of a company car. Workers pay income, Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Of course there are those that take advantage of illegal immigrants, and I'm not sure what kind of housing they get for 40 dollars a week. There's more at the link for the article, I'm not sure exactly what my take on it is at this point, but I thought I'd point it out and see where the discussion on this leads.

32 comments:

Me4Prez said...

I am not sure how to handle this one either. I don't think we can have completely open borders, but we have an economy that also relies on the immigrant workers. Sure, it would be best if the jobs paid more, but then people would be mad that the price of orange juice or fruits went up.

I would like a program set up that allowed people to earn their way to citizenship after a time period and also that does not punish people for simply trying to make a living. The people we would hurt are not terrorists or criminals because they can find ways around the laws. We hurt the people who want a better life for themselves and their families.

Plus, we can't do it where Cubans are allowed in because we hate Castro, but citizens of other nations are not treated the same.

Lisa Renee said...

I'm where you are, I don't know what is the right plan, I just know merely making them felons or building a 700 mile long wall isn't going to stop this.

Nor is keeping things the way they are either.

Stephanie said...

Lisa,

I certainly agree that not addressing those business that hire them is seriously problematic. However, so is doing nothing.

Stopping future illegal immigration is the big one for me, but it's also the most difficult one to accomplish. Besides closing the borders entirely, letting only a trickle of the verifiably legal interaction through, which would take an enormous amount of man-power, I don't see any way to do it, except to end the incentive for them to come here in the first place. If it was simply too risky to hire illegal immigrants, then there would be less incentive to come here. And those who did would fall to harder crime as a means of making ends meet or mooch off others.

Stephanie said...

"The people we would hurt are not terrorists or criminals because they can find ways around the laws."

The problem, Me4, is those who come here illegally are criminals, breaking several different laws to get here. Then breaking more to work here. Consistently and intentionally breaking the law, or rather many laws, makes them criminals.

Lisa Renee said...

True, but part of the problem that the Post article talks about is the possible lapse in the current guest worker program. Those businesses that are doing it that way are at least doing it thru the system. Which is better than those that hire illegals directly and break the law.

I agree something is better than nothing but so far what has been proposed doesn't seem as if it is even affordable. Let's say the government states it is a felony, our local jails are already full and that's something many areas are facing. Do you arrest the whole family including children? Do you place the children in foster care even though they are illegals because you arrested their parents? We don't even have enough foster care facilities.

Those are the things I start wondering...

Stephanie said...

Felony -- as in sending them to prison -- is the WRONG answer. Deporting the entire family would solve our end of the problem, and would at least give the family a fighting chance. However, many families are already separated because some among them have chosen to immigrate to America illegally.

Lisa Renee said...

Many of them are here with their families, and that's why I have mixed emotions on this, because the one bill would not only make their being here a felony but anyone who assisted them in any way could also be charged with a felony.

That's what is causing the amount of protests.

Me4Prez said...

I break several laws everyday, should I be deported?

I think there is a difference between breaking laws and being a criminal. Maybe not by definition, but in practice.

By UCMJ standards, I committed a felony while in the Army when I let a guy leave to attend his father's funeral before the commander authorized it. By law, I aided him in going AWOL and should have been court-martialed. The commander simply backdated the order to avoid any problems. Maybe he should have been court-martialed for providing false documents

I know what you are saying though, Stephanie. I just disagree. I see the laws as flawed and the issue as a diversion. If politicians wanted to change the laws, they could do it. They would just lose support of their wealthy business friends who want that cheap labor source.

Stephanie said...

I'm torn. On the one hand, I do have sympathy for the families trying to improve their lives; on the other hand, having so little respect for our laws, in my mind, means they do not belong in our country. The same goes for those who help them.

Lisa Renee said...

Exactly where I think many of us are at on this. Merely deporting them doesn't end the problem, many of them will just return. The source of it all is the jobs. Then what this article points out, the inability to find Americans who want those jobs. Though Miguel is now wishing we had that problem in this area, he'd love to make close to 11 an hour and get a car for three dollars a day. I told him maybe he could pretend he was a guest worker.

The opposite end of the spectrum is those who make alot less than that an hour or those who are the ones who wait at the various places for day labor jobs.

Even if all of them magically tomorrow were made US citizens thru amnesty we would still have to do something to make sure we didn't just keep continuing to basically create a serf class of labor that would work for less than the new citizens would.

Stephanie said...

Me4,

"I break several laws everyday, should I be deported?"

Are you a legal resident of this country? It makes a difference. I'm assuming you belong here, that you're a citizen of this country (if not, then your battle for presidency is going to be a lot harder than I'd orginally estimated). When you break the laws, then fines and/or jail time (or court martialing) is the appropriate step. However, if you're not even supposed to be in this country in the first place, then giving you a cushy cell block at tax payers expense is NOT the right punishment. However, it's also a matter of getting caught and laws are not factored into equations without weighing extenuating circumstances. That's why our juries are made up of people, and haven't been replaced with computers.

"If politicians wanted to change the laws, they could do it. They would just lose support of their wealthy business friends who want that cheap labor source."

Agreed. That is part of the reason I think this bit of legislation is inadequate and inappropriate. It's also one of the reasons I support VOID. I do NOT think the businesses should get a break here. They are, in my mind, even more guilty, since they are (or should be) even more aware of the laws.

Stephanie said...

"Merely deporting them doesn't end the problem, many of them will just return."

That's why having some sort of real, tangible border security is essential to any effective method. Otherwise, no matter what else we do, they'll still come, they'll just be prone to participate in harder forms of crime.

"Then what this article points out, the inability to find Americans who want those jobs."

That's not exactly fair. It's the inability to find Americans who want those jobs for such low wages. If people would just admit (and this would take legal consequences) that the price of doing business legally is hire than they're currently letting on, and just do it legally, that would solve a lot of the problems. Too many people are too used to the illegal short-cuts and are okay with that, that everyone suffers in the long run. I, for one (and there are many others like me), am willing to pay more for those products and services I need to get them legally, and do so whenever I'm in the position to know when something's illegal.

Stephanie said...

"Even if all of them magically tomorrow were made US citizens thru amnesty ..."

And that's another thing. Giving those who are here amnesty doesn't solve the problem. If they were citizens, then they wouldn't be taking the jobs for substandard wages either, because they could get better. We'd have the same problem all over again.

Lisa Renee said...

Where are these new workers going to come from and how high would prices go before people would take these jobs?

No one seems to know that. Here it's not that large of an issue, but if you deport huge numbers in California as an example, you do have the day without a Mexican scenario, the produce keeps growing whether there is workers or not.

Which is why I think Congress and the President needs to figure out how this is all going to work before they start making new laws.

Stephanie said...

"...but if you deport huge numbers in California as an example..."

Sorry, I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for California. It was their choice to let so much of their economy revolve around illegal immigrants. And my guess is that some of these businesses are going to close down, which in my mind is appropriate. If you cannot do business legally, then you shouldn't be in business. I have absolutely NO sympathy for the business owners. End of story. I do, however, have sympathy for the illegal immigrants, and think they just made the wrong choice.

"Which is why I think Congress and the President needs to figure out how this is all going to work before they start making new laws."

Agreed. And talking about it is a start. Will this pass? I doubt it. However, something will probably pass eventually now, which is more than we had going for us a month ago.

Lisa Renee said...

Even if you remove the California brought part of this upon themselves argument, we still rely on a huge amount of produce and other products from California. So it does affect us too.

Or could affect us. While I agree with you it would be better to pay more, I also have to honestly say I don't know how much more my grocery budget could be stretched.

Me4Prez said...

I am an American, but if it keeps changing the way it is going, I am not sure if I belong here

Stephanie said...

Lisa,

"While I agree with you it would be better to pay more..."

I guess I have the advantage that if the California market fails, then the Wisconsin market will benefit extravagantly. California has been forcing Wisconsin farms out of business because Wisconsin can't compete with the use of illegal immigrants. So... There are many factors here that aren't always considered. Yes, the California market will suffer, but California and the other southern states are NOT the end-all and be-all of the American food market. We would recover.

Stephanie said...

America has been changing in some rather dramatic ways for longer than I've been alive, Me4. We're becoming more polarized. Finding a compromise is very important, to help assuage those feelings. However, if you had it all your way, then a lot of other people wouldn't feel like they belonged either.

Lisa Renee said...

True, we would survive and I didn't realize the competition for products from Wisconsin V California. Except for cheese, not meaning to label you as the "cheese" state, I know that California did step up it's dairy farming and production of dairy items. I didn't realize it extended beyond that.

I'm being selfish because I know the only cut left I can make to our budget is the internet.

:-)

Lisa Renee said...

I have my moments when I wonder what would have happened had my part of the family gone to Canada with the rest of them several hundred years ago. I think many of us feel frustrated at times seeing such little progress, it almost feels at times we are taking too many steps backward rather than forward.

Ben said...

It is a tough issue. Neither side seems to have a great answer, and I hope they can work together to get one. That is doubtful though.

Stephanie said...

Lisa,

Wisconsin produces a lot more than cheese and dairy products. Strawberries is one of our other produce items, one that people complain about as far as migrant workers goes. And, at least in Wisconsin, there are ways to reduce your food budget without losing out on what you get to eat, variety wise. One is picking your own strawberries. It's cheaper than in the store, you know you're getting good berries, and eliminates the need for migrant workers. However, such a simple solution is often too much work for people.

Stephanie said...

I don't think Canada is much better than the US, personally, but...

A lot of the changes that the Left touts as good, the Right thinks is bad; and a lot of the changes the Right touts as good, the left thinks is bad. The ONLY thing that gives me some sort of hope that we're not headed towards civil war is having conversations like this one, where two people can disagree and discuss the matter intelligently and amicably. Otherwise... Neither the Left nor the Right will have much of a nation left.

Me4Prez said...

A large part of the Midwest economy is based on illegal immigration. Meat packing plants in Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota. Not to mention cheap farm labor for tasks like detasseling.

Me4Prez said...

I actually don't like the way the left or the right are going

Stephanie said...

We have our problems with it, yes. But we're not nearly as dependent on it as California is, and it's not as wide-spread in the farms, either.

Stephanie said...

If it's any consolation, I'm not particularly happy with the extremes of either side either.

Steve said...

Putting them all in jail is dumb. Why would we want to lock people up and make them a further burden on our system if the whole reason for passing legislation is they are a burden in the first place?

It isn’t practical to try to deport them all. Kennedy-McCain is just the Bush peonage for foreigners plan- a revival of feudalism. Sensenbrenner’s bill would be all right if you took out some of the parts like making localcops responsible for INS enforcement.

Steve said...

What is Mexico doing about this?

Lisa Renee said...

I have a great deal of respect for Father Notter, he's a priest in South Toledo. The Toledo Blade quoted him this morning:

(he) said the resolution does nothing to solve the reasons why immigrants cross the border illegally in the first place and makes them more vulnerable to those who prey on them.

"I think we're going to have a lot of trouble if this passes," Father Notter said. "This is very sad, and it's going to be disastrous."

Our area will be most affected if the guest worker program ends.

Stephanie, I looked at your area as having a limited growing season like Ohio. That's how California and some of the Southern States have done better when it comes to produce. We have the same pick your own strawberry fields here. One of the larger local fields is within walking distance of me.

:-)

Stephanie said...

Lisa,

"...the resolution does nothing to solve the reasons why immigrants cross the border illegally in the first place..."

The problem is that we can only have so much of an effect on this. We can penalize the businesses who hire them much more stringently (something I definitely advocate), but the problem of the poverty in Mexico is pretty much out of our hands. We cannot make Presidente Fox give a damn about his people. We cannot make Mexico address it's poverty. We cannot make Mexico clean up its slums. All we can do is send aid (which I, personally, do already do).

The thing I find enlightening, is as much as Fox complains about how we treat illegal immigrants, the illegal immigrants from further south that cross his border are treated worse.

"I looked at your area as having a limited growing season like Ohio."

A limited growing season is a factor, admittedly. However, California has more corporate farms and more migrant workers who work for pittance, compared to what laborers cost around here. Add it all up and the Midwest (which I'm pretty sure Ohio is a part of), which was the traditional American breadbasket, gets shafted.

"We have the same pick your own strawberry fields here."

I like visiting the berry patches. Except for the bugs. And the fact that it is NOT safe for me to take my kids, which makes such visits problematic. And, well, I'm the only one in my immediate family who eats berries. Except all that, I like berry patches!
:-)