I can say from personal experience that few people know anything significant about the American immigration system, and the general attitude I face very closely resembles the attitude drilled into soldiers: dehumanize your opponent to make tough decisions easier. Undocumented immigrants are painted as villainous scums, subjected to treatment and situations we reserve for murderers and child molesters. Our current immigration system, and the treatment of those in immigration court and detention, is broken at best and inhuman at worst. And every day, Americans clamor for immigration change, the vast majority of who make baseless, board accusation with little to no proof, and sit happily in their ignorance. With the giant claims of grandeur next to “ignorance is bliss”, any real American should be outraged. Immigration is not a simple issue, and solving the problem of undocumented immigrants is not as simple as “throw them out”.
People need to understand is that most undocumented immigrants are not immoral people, and definitely not “Mexicans stealing American jobs”. They are the same as anyone else: many, if not most, are parents who want to support their families, to keep their families alive. Many are people who enter legally and due to the red tape of our immigration system, end up falling out of status. Many are enticed by the ever-present call of the “American Dream” and feel it is their last hope. So why do these people enter or stay in the country illegally? Because America is better from where they come. Americans take special pride in painting the United States as the best country in the world, but seem surprised that people will do anything necessary in order to come here. While it doesn’t justify entering or staying in the country illegally, it sounds like a five year old talking about how great their toy is, but if anyone tries to touch or play with it without their permission, they’ll tell on them. Many people who enter illegally do so because they have no other choice; they come from countries where they’ve lost their jobs or make so little they can’t support even a small family, either case in no small part thanks to multinational corporate exploitation. Those that enter illegally gather whatever they can hold, and make a dangerous trip across the border to a country they know little about, where they don’t speak the native tongue and are often if not always harassed by locals, reduced to doing arduous labor or demeaning jobs that, face it, most Americans are too pompous to do themselves. It makes us feel better to say “illegals are stealing American jobs”, but it’s been a long time since making money in America has been about hard work. These days it seems to be about suing someone for your own mistakes. But none the less, these people come over in hopes that by coming to America, they or at least their children will have a better life. They put up with little money, tiny apartments, abuse, and a myriad of other issues none of us can imagine, and each day risk that they’ll be returned to where they come from, no better if not worse off. Its the companies who exploit these workers, paying them just enough to get along, much less then an American would have to be paid (minimum wage), so they can cut corners and make a higher return. Good ol’ American capitalism: do what it takes to reduce cost and maximize profit, be it exploit workers in other countries or exploit undocumented immigrants right here at home. If the jobs weren’t available, there wouldn’t be much keeping or bringing more undocumented immigrants here. We choose to blame undocumented immigrants for taking jobs, but how often do we accost those hiring jobs?
I’m sure people are wondering, why don’t they just come over legally? First, the immigration system in the US is very convoluted. It requires a certain amount of starting capital to simply get a visa. For those who can scrounge up the money, there is the issue of time. A limited number of visas of various types are given out each year, and are granted based on where you’re coming from, your skill set, if you have a job waiting, etc. If you’re thinking that an under-skilled worker coming into the States would just be a hindrance on society, I would ask: what are we doing about all the people in the US now who are under-skilled, and more important, unwilling to work? I’d contend that an under-skilled worker who’s willing to work is better then someone capable but unwilling. Many of these immigrants also have families they need to support. Ask yourself, if you could not support your own family in your current situation, and you found you could work under the table at a factory as long as no one knew you were there, would you do it? Would you let your personal morality to stand in the way of feeding your children?
Americans can blame immigrants for our problems as much as we want, but it won’t make it any more true then saying our national debt problems are because of one political party or the other. The problem is complex and deep and won’t be solved simply by deporting people, enacting tougher punishments, or building a giant wall. Deporting immigrants will not stop new ones from coming in, and will do little more then build ill will against America. Currently, immigration holding facilities are often worse then prisons, for a crime which at best compares to a store robbery. Families are split up, people are treated terribly, and immigration court is a mockery of our system of law. We treat hardened criminals with more respect. A giant wall will not stop people from digging under, punching holes, or finding other way around it, and really, just serves as an eyesore and an environmental disaster.
With all this, mind you, I am not a supporter of open borders with the world as it is now. Countries need immigration laws to maintain populations and services, and for a balanced to exist among various countries. If borders were open, people would flock to well off countries, depriving poor countries of needed human resources, and over flooding richer countries, also bringing them down. Instead, I believe in a fair immigration system. Understanding people and connecting with them goes much further to solve a problem then an iron gauntlet. We need to control the current undocumented population, enact strict laws punishing the companies hiring them, and put smart controls on the border. If we aren’t going to grant those here amnesty, we should at least hold true to our ideals and give them an opportunity to present their case. It would help improve our image as a understanding country run by laws, not emotions. If we don’t eliminate the under-the-table jobs available here, there will always be reason for immigrants to try to enter here illegally, knowing they’ll have a better life then where they came. And as for smart controls, while I have a few ideas, I’m certain if we can spend $3 billion fighting wars we don’t need to be fighting, or at least to the level we currently are, we can find a few million to come up with something effective. At the least, we can be human.