As long as blue-collar American workers and blue-collar immigrants are pitted against each other and each think the other is the cause of their troubles, they are both losing. They are missing the point.
With illegal immigration, almost everyone loses. Undocumented immigrants are exploited. Working-class Americans face job competition. Respect for the law and our whole government system is undermined.
Almost. Actually, there is one group that gains: Employers of illegal immigrants. Many employers take advantage of a stationary illegal workforce who will work for low pay, won’t complain and won’t leave their jobs for fear of not getting another or being reported to authorities. These employers and their customers profit while everyone else loses.
If you are concerned about illegal immigration, consider directing your attention toward employers who benefit from this situation and the federal government that has failed to implement effective employer sanctions for the past 30 years. If these people had upheld the law, the issues we are complaining about so loudly would not exist now. Persons without work authorization, knowing they couldn’t get a job in the U.S., would have left long ago on their own or not come in the first place.
If we as a society fail for decades to uphold our own immigration laws, it is not fair or honest for us to place all the blame on undocumented immigrants for not having obeyed them. They are responsible for their choices, but we also are responsible for ours.
In a different time and place, it was once said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
We wanted the labor in the 1990s when the economy was booming. Most of our illegal immigrant population has been here since then. Rates of illegal entry into the U.S. are lower now than they’ve been since the 1970s, and that trend predates the current administration by several years. The calls to “build a wall and deport ’em all” are literally a day late and a dollar short: If we really had wanted to do that, 20 years ago would have been the time, before these folks began to settle down, start families and integrate ever more into our communities.
Fortunately, this embarrassing outcome is turning out well for us. We’ve got a new crop of Latino youth growing up who are U.S. citizens and in my experience embody the best values of family, respect and hard work. We desperately need these values now.
So let’s pull those planks out of our eyes, accept our situation for what it is, and clean up the mess we’ve made. May millions of former undocumented immigrants and millions of longtime U.S. citizens one day be able to mutually forgive our perceived wrongs, look each other in the eye, and say “what you intended for harm, God intended for good.”