Monday, June 28, 2010

Illegal immigration is a matter of demand

Why they come
Immigrants come to the United States because of opportunity and, in some cases, because of political oppression and persecution which creates their need to seek asylum. Millions of legal immigrants have emigrated from all over the world, carving out their place in society, living productive lives, and through it all, appreciating the personal liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.

No one I know has a problem with legal immigration.

For the most part, illegal immigrants arrive here for the same reasons. It just doesn’t make sense for them to stand in the long lines at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when the alternative is so attractive for two reasons:

1) It’s easy to get into the United States. Illegal immigrants from many countries obtain valid visas or travel here on vacation and simply don’t leave when they’re supposed to. Another option of trekking across the desert wastelands of Sonora, Chihuahua and other abutting Mexican states is a lot more challenging, but certainly exploited as well. I’m sure there’s some migration across the Canadian border, but mostly by geese.

The whole thing reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles where the posse stops for a toll booth in the middle of the desert. Why bother to stop and pay the toll when the border is wide open for thousands of miles?

(Don’t watch this video if you don’t want to hear the “a” word and the “s” word.)

2) Once here, there are jobs available. This is actually where the problem lies and is often left out of the conversation which is dominated by “seal the borders” and “build a fence.”

On the border
As a matter of background, I grew up on the border of Texas and Mexico in the City of El Paso. The Border Patrol agents were always busy, picking up illegal aliens and dropping them back at the Santa Fe Bridge.

One time, Mary and I were watching one of our kids compete in a track meet at Bowie High School when we spotted a helicopter hovering over the stadium and soon noticed a group of undocumented tracksters sprinting through the school grounds with Border Patrol agents in hot pursuit.

The reason these people crossed the Rio Grande was for work. And there was plenty of it available. Yes, some border jumpers were drug runners and coyotes (smugglers of people), but the vast majority of them were day workers who could make as much as a week’s worth of Mexican minimum wage in a day in the United States.

Enforcement in the workplace
If we are ever going to get a handle on this problem, we must enforce our immigration policies in the workplace. The flow of undocumented workers will cease when there’s no work to be had without proper paperwork.

The two amendments voted on in the Massachusetts legislature this year that dealt with eliminating public benefits for illegal immigrants (one by Jeff Perry in the House, and the other by Bob Hedlund in the Senate) each had a key component that would help us solve the larger issue of undocumented workers, namely the E-Verify System.

I took the training for E-Verify and became certified for its use three years ago when it appeared that it would be a requirement for all businesses over a certain size. In a nutshell, it gives a green or red light to hire someone. The system works well, provides answers swiftly, and allows for investigating rejections created by errors in the database.

George Bush (43) put the brakes on the mandated use of E-Verify and it has been relegated to the sidelines. That was a mistake, one that has turned everyone’s attention to replicating the Great Wall of China from Brownsville, Texas to San Ysidro, California.

We need to revive E-Verify to choke off the demand for illegal immigrants, but that’s not the ultimate solution to the problem.

The need for more workers
It is a fact that millions of undocumented workers would be forced to leave the country, not being able to satisfy the requirements of E-Verify. The problem is that certain industries, agriculture and hospitality to name two, would be crippled.

In this recessionary time, many of these jobs would be backfilled by existing unemployed workers; however, when the economy comes around, a vacuum will occur in low skill jobs.

I worked in Midland, Texas, from 1981 to 1985, a time when oil was booming and we used to kid that a secretary was someone who could identify a typewriter. Hotels and restaurants lacked for help because anyone could get a job as an oilfield roughneck or support person.

We see that same problem on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket—less so now but definitely when the economy was better. Too few people to fill the low skill jobs. A vibrant economy needs people with all levels of skills and abilities.

The solution
A sweeping amnesty is the wrong answer. People who are breaking the law should not be rewarded for it. It’s bad policy. If we used this approach raising our kids, we would have ended up with six hooligans.

The ultimate solution is to clamp down in the workplace to eliminate illegal workers while setting immigration quotas at the proper level to satisfy businesses’ needs for skilled and unskilled labor. Then the USCIS must meet the challenge by streamlining the process for documenting enough workers to meet demand.

The road to citizenship, by the way, does not need to be fast tracked. That’s really a separate and distinct issue that can be debated on its own merits and modified if it makes sense.

Disconnecting work visa policies from naturalization policies would remove the “third rail effect” when dealing with immigration. That is, immigration reform would not then be all about adding people to the voter rolls. Rather, it would be about filling legitimate needs, getting people out of the shadows, and making our economy and country stronger.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt


  1. Good Afternoon Mr.Hunt How can we
    keep the folks honest in the world of today those that break the laws, reap the benifits. The benifits paid by all of those that do every thing legal have the priviledge of assuring that all those working here illegally, get free money to all our social benifits. Free Medical, Free Education,Free Unenployement,Free Transportation, Free Lodging and in some cases free Money. What a country we live in that can support all these illegal folks, with free money, but can not support those of us that were born here.
    It really pays to be an illegal person in this country.

    With all the social ills among our own citizens it would make more sense to place a little of this free money on the those folks who are legal and upgrade there statis in life, while doing it.

    Some among us have a need to feel good about assuring that illegal folks get to have a better opportunity at the American dream then those who are born here or came here through the legal method allowed under the law.

    Now here in Sandwich we have some folks who find the need to make a process illegal in order to remove some one they do not like.
    We do not condem them for there actions, but rather we applaud them. I had to add this as a referance, because no matter what, it shows once again that illegal activities can overide common sense.

    Those of us who play by the rules in most cases are the ones that get the shaft in the end.

    Lift the gate and let them all in, because some day in the near future all we will have are illegal folks doing illegal events and wondering why we are having an uprising and good folks bearing the burdan of those who have this feel good attitude to provide others hard earned dollars to suppliment all these illegal folks.

    Only in America can this happen

    Carl Johansen
    A concerned Citizen of Sandwich

  2. There you go again, concerned citizen of Sandwich. Did you ever know of anyone who had to eat crap to stay alive, yes, they do. Our church had a minister speak about how children had to follow garbage trucks to eat. You, good sir, the pinacle of honesty and integrity would deny them. Let me tell you there are millions out there that either eat crap or eat nothing, some of them have children. They look for jobs, but guess what. No jobs to be found. There are 11 to 30 million of them floating around here. What do we do with their children. The constitution that you know so well guarantees them rights. Do we deport them? Wake up and smell the coffee. They work harder than most people and they would pay taxes if you let them stay. Let's come to a peaceful solution. Don't put gas on this fire, go back to your civil rights case against Shari Marshall and leave good hardworking illegals alone. Don't be afraid of them.

    Happy Fourth

  3. Illegals KILL 25 Americans a day. Yup, no need to be afraid of "them"

  4. I wonder how many legals kill. Oh, silly me, they are all honest law abiding concerned citizens in the nation of America. Why didn't Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama give sealing the border a real try? Keep them out and control their coming in. Give a pass to those who are here, have jobs, and are learning to become Americans. Also, keep their American children here and give them the same rights as other American kids.

    I wonder what Native Americans could have done if they were able to deport Europeans. Oh, there I go again, blaming those pillaging rapist killers from Europe. Look at what they were able to accomplish. Silly me.

  5. Anonymous July 6,2010, 7:08 AM post. You are correct in that at least 5 of our last Presidents have failed us by not sealing the border. However, your distain for America and what it is, to me seems misguided. We have our faults and weaknesses, which you apparently thrive on with any balance for all the good we do for our own and the rest of the world. You need to get more balance, in my opinion.


I monitor all comments. As long as there are no personally defamatory statements and/or foul language, I'll post your comment. For this reason, your comment will not appear instantaneously. To comment without registering, choose Name/URL and type a screen name (or your real name if you like) into the Name field. Leave the URL field blank.