The current political squabble in the US about immigration is a bit of an embarrassment. Whatever happened to the welcome for the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free? For some politicians, immigrants look like the wretched refuse of teeming shores. One politician says that the statue in NY harbor is the statue of liberty, not the statue of immigration.
Aside from racism and nativism, there are reasons to object to the arrival of immigrants.
Claims that there are not actually enough willing American workers to fill US jobs are rebutted by pointing out that some businesses want more immigration because immigrants are thought to be willing to work for lower wages than those demanded by American citizens. These businesses include farms, restaurants, hotels, and janitorial services.
One big advantage of employing immigrants is that, if thereís another recession, we can send them back where they came from.
A recent article in the SF Chronicle describes the need for workers to pick strawberries.
Lurking in the background of the political squabble is racism and xenophobia: some of us are uncomfortable with an influx of people who arenít like us. This attitude is a little foolish, because our country was created by bringing together many different kinds of people. There is the possibility that wide ethnic, racial and cultural variety is the major reason why Americans are so inventive and productive.
So, do we open the doors and let immigrants pour in to take our jobs, fill up our housing, overload our educational and medical facilities? And what do we do about the ďillegalĒ immigrants who come in the back door? Do we deport them or keep them? Thereís current controversy among politicians about whether to provide illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
And what about the Mexicans? Many Americans have Mexican descent, relatives in Mexico. Many people in Mexico canít find decent jobs in their country, so they come to the US where the jobs are and where they can live among other Mexicans.
There sure are a lot of Mexicans here, legal and illegal. We could simply merge the two countries, or maybe just increase US investment in the Mexican economy, to provide the needed jobs.
At one point, back in the 1840s, the US did annex large parts of Mexico.
Today, we have the Maquiladora factories near the US border, assembling goods for export, but the jobs for Mexicans in those factories tend to be low-wage.
It may be that Mexican business people are just too accustomed to paying low wages.
Low wages, limited economic opportunity and a domineering oppressive government are major motivations that cause people to leave home and immigrate to the US, where there may be some racism and xenophobia, but in general economic opportunities are good and life is pleasant. A large proportion of todayís Americans probably have one or more ancestors who came here for such reasons.
We know we canít just stop immigration or tell the immigrants who are here to pack up and go home. The fact is we want and need some immigrants.
So what is a rational immigration policy?
I suggest something like the following:
Go back to Steve Geller's Home Page.