Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The New Irish

Bloggers and writers that I like and respect have been writing on the issue of illegal immigration quite a bit lately, and I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. There is plenty of news fodder to mine, and, being a Massachusetts resident, I live (when I'm on shore) in the safest haven for illegal immigrants in the US.

   My own opinions are colored by experience and a certain bitterness towards those who blindly believe that the issue of illegal immigration can be solved by one or two Simple Things, and mysteriously, no one with power can see that or is willing to do those Simple Things.

 I've been guilty of that, myself, but people grow and change.

    My wife was an illegal when we met- her visa required that she periodically return to her home country during its' 10-year duration, and she didn't. I met a whole community of illegals. Hardworking people who religiously avoided drawing the attention of citizens and public officials in their community.

     So my position on illegal immigration softened. The ground had already been prepared- I come from an Irish family, and Boston has a proud history of funding public efforts to feed stray animals but letting the Irish starve to death.  So, yeah, I heard stories about discrimination before the weight of numbers changed anything.
 As it happens, many of my friends and associates are descendents of Irish and Italian immigrants, and these folks are among the loudest and angriest in opposition to lax immigration rules.

     My own opinion? Every dollar... every PENNY that an illegal earns is money handed off, ultimately, by a US citizen who knowingly and with premeditation decided to screw their fellow-countrymen and save some money by hiring an illegal to do a job that a citizen could do. The problem isn't the illegals there, it's us.

      My wife has a fascinating mix of opinions on the subject. She's regularly assaulted by reality now as she's studying for US citizenship- living in MA is a lesson in civics, for certain. My illegal relatives get the same health care that I spend $8,000 a year on for insurance... for free. But guess who created, funded and managed that system? We did. Citizens.

       There's a moral dilemma to dealing with immigration, as well, and I suppose that's where we get hung up. Morally, if one claims membership in a Christian faith, one is obligated to see to the welfare of the weak and oppressed. Most people who come to the US illegally come from shitholes that make Roxbury, Lawrence and Brockton (ghetto cities within MA) look like Valhalla, Heaven and Tir Nan Og combined. Sending them home forcibly amounts to a death sentence to some- the aged and non able-bodied, especially. So we have that ugly quandry to consider.
        Reality may favor a balanced approach to the issue before a crisis develops, at which point drastic measures will be employed, with no certainty of a morally-palatable option. I worry about our paralysis on the issue. Why aren't citizens who hire illegals punished or prosecuted? Sure, a month before Appropriations season, when budgets get submitted, a token company will get raided in an effort to appear proactive, but this is so much window dressing. Where does the easy but morally-unjustified jingoism/racism come into play, and why is that more palatable than having a good long look in the mirror and seeing the real culprits?
 As my wife says when she ends this discussion firmly "Dis is your fault. De Oo Ess Ay won't feex the problem beeecause dere ees gooood monee in hiring someone too afraid to ask you for a raise, ever, paying dem next to noffink, and you don' pay de IRS nuttink eider."

 She's right.


Anonymous said...

In many sectors of the economy (agriculture for one) illegals do work that many in this country do not want to do. Hiring illegals makes it possible for you (and I) to eat.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Christians are obligated to care for the weak and the poor, but saying 'There's a government program for that and my taxes pay for it so I'm good.' is wrong. Christ told us as individuals to care for the less fortunate, not to delegate that charge to the government.

Good point about the real problem being us, the citizens. Never saw it that way before. - Trooper Lefty

Paul, Dammit! said...

I think it's important to distinguish that illegals do the work for cheap. Citizens don't want to pick crops because of the substandard pay and potential exposure to hazardous substances. Relying on illegal labor represents a subsidy, then for farmers. They enjoy tax-exempt status already for their business, and so this, in my eyes, is double-dipping. The solution includes higher food costs for all Americans, but no one can expect that expelling our brown-skinned slave labor force would equate to free ponies and hugs for all.
Also, another thought- hiring illegals for farm labor isn't a universal practice. Not enforcing the laws as they exist puts farmers who do hire citizens at a massive competitive disadvantage. We're punishing people for not breaking the law, and claiming that everyone does it isn't a good enough reason to continue. Though it will, I'm sure.