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It Occurs to Me

Illegal Immigration, Menial Work, and INS Enforcement
By Michelle Anderson
Jan 17, 2004 - 7:04:00 PM

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Very recently, someone suggested to me that by getting illegal aliens to do "the more menial tasks, we are freed up to do the higher-valued, more productive jobs."

Oh, jeez...I don't even know where to begin here!

I don't know about anyone else, but I assure you that I've worked my share of "menial" jobs in my life. And fairly happily, I might add. I know scores of men right here in the Katahdin region who until recently made more than $20 an hour and now work doing dishes, yard work, and laundry. And I have more relatives than I can count who are migrant workers, picking grapes, strawberries, apples, and cherries in order to survive. Legal immigrants one and all.

So it seems it's not that legal Americans think the jobs themselves are beneath them.

If employers were to pay a "living wage," I am sure that more legal Americans would gladly take those jobs. But instead, some employers, eager to keep more of their money, offer a lesser wage to illegal aliens.

If not for the large pool of illegal aliens willing to work for less money than legal Americans, those employers would have to offer a living wage.

Americans decry the exploitation of children by corporations. Look at how many Americans boycotted Nike and Walmart because of their employment practices. And those boycotts were effective. Kathie Lee et al. cleaned up their collective act and all is right with the world once again.

Yet, now that nationalism is a dirty word, no one dares insist that employers hire legal Americans at a wage they can stomach. I heard no call to boycott Walmart after they were raided -- twice -- by INS. Will Americans work as janitors for Walmart? I've seen quite a few who do. Back in 1984, it was estimated that 25% of the workforce -- more than 200,000 illegal aliens -- were employed in Silicon Valley. Do you think legal Americans are willing to work making circuit boards, doing landscaping, or even janitorial work for Intel, Google, and Yahoo? Sure they are, though not for the $2.50 an hour that employers there have been known to routinely pay illegal aliens.

Where is the righteous indignation for the exploited American taxpayer, who is often taxed doubly: once to pay government subsidies in the form of tax abatements and other incentives, and a second time to support workers who end up on welfare or other "social" services?

For some time now, many areas of this country have enacted policies which give specific instructions to police and to other civil servants to ignore illegal activity involving the INS and simply look the other way.

Rather than rewarding the criminal act of entering our country without permission, we could simply reverse such policies, start enforcing our INS laws and guarding the borders in earnest, and demand compliance with our INS policies. Then, by attrition, we can begin to turn these trends around. As illegal aliens are discovered, put them on busses and planes back to their countries. In that manner, we can start to process those would-be immigrants who have followed the rules and waited their turn in line, allowing them to take part in the American dream.


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