Friday, January 26, 2007

Immigration Isn't Easy

Not far away from me the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch has stirred up a hornets' nest by passing a local law to make English the official language. The town also has been enforcing a federal law to keep property owners from leasing their property to illegal immigrants. Although the law exists, it is rarely taken up by local communities to make the enforcement their responsibility.

The town council member who has been making this his issue, Tim O'Hare, answered questions at a forum Tuesday - and made the argument that property values were suffering because of illegal immigrant laborers who were letting their residential areas run down. He talked particularly about the visual effect of having about 40% of the Farmers Branch community in delapidated condition. At no point did he have any actual studies done to assess the relationship between the illegal immigrant residence and the perceived delapidation.

It was brought out in the forum by another man who has led a petition drive actually to put the immigration issue on the ballot in a May special election, that in studies that have been done elsewhere on the illegal immigrant relationship to property values, the numbers favor the illegals. Then a Nigerian immigrant who came to this country almost twenty years ago, legally, and now runs a business, brought up the issue of race. It seems that when the immigration issue becomes a hot one, it usually centers around a community of non-whites in a white dominated town. As we all know, the whole war on Iraq has been conducted while only 500 Iraqis have been allowed to emigrate to the U.S. legally.

It's no wonder that the GOP has a hot potato here, then, as their president has thrown support behind a program to give guest worker status to illegal immigrants, giving them the opportunity to gain permission to work legally in this country if they pay back taxes and go to the end of the line for legal status. Republican party members have many objections, one being that it rewards lawbreaking. There are others.

Since most illegals have been working for salaries from which the usual federal deductions have been taken - and which as illegal workers they were unable to reclaim because they couldn't file for income tax returns - this promises to eliminate a source of federal income that isn't much spoken about. There is as well the argument that workers who can't complain about low salaries, sometimes below even minimum wage, keep the salaries of native workers low.

From last night's forum, I learned that there are no actual studies that show this to be the case. The salary they pay is the businessmen's option, and usually what the 'traffic will bear'. To date, low salaries have been associated with low skill jobs such as meatpacking and cleaning industries, jobs that go to the desperate.

Last year , the Republican-controlled House thwarted Bush's drive to revamp immigration as members of his own party decried what they said was an amnesty program for illegal aliens. Instead, they approved a 700-mile fence last year to tighten the U.S.-Mexico border.

The president and the new Democratic-controlled Congress now find themselves uneasy allies on the issue.

``Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America with laws that are fair and borders that are secure,'' Bush said in the State of the Union speech. ``We cannot fully secure the border'' without a temporary worker program, he said.

As usual, the GOP position favors business owners and resulted in the infamous Wall proposed for our southern border, and for which funds were dedicated but not mandated. The cynicism of the legislation that popped out of the 109th congress was well recognized, and the Wall is now opposed by some of its proponents, such as Sen. Cornyn. Much of the business community on the border is adamant that its negative effects far outweigh the sheerly symbolic presence an actual Wall would have, and furious with congress for alienating a large proportion of their customers in the border area.

The Democratic controlled congress will need to show the enlightenment that the 109th so resoundingly lacked. This country is historically an immigrant nation. It behooves us to extend courtesy to immigrants and protect, not inflict harm on, the newcomers. When our soldiers come home, there will be more forces to locate on the border to regulate traffic of the refugees that stream in from south and north.



Anonymous Moe Szyslak said...

It's pretty rich that this fellow's name is O'Hare. Of course, when the Irish came over they were hated as much as Latinos are now, if not more. But there were no immigration laws preventing them from coming.

4:41 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home