Monday this week, the United States observed the Legal Holiday of Columbus day. I have very mixed feelings about this day, but I am focusing this rave on my sister-in-law's characterization of this day "Illegal Immigration Day".
There used to be a time in our country when our borders were open to people seeking a better life for themselves. For whatever reason, our country seems to think that people who live south of us should not be included in that rich tradition. Nonetheless, we have uncounted myriads of "Illegal", "Undocumented," or whatever other appellation you would choose, immigrants in our country right now.
Don't get me wrong. I feel very strongly that we need to have secure borders in our country. There are too many people out there who mean us harm to have unprotected, wide open borders. That being said, the question today is what to do about those already here?
There was a movie a few years ago, called "A Day Without a Mexican" (cf http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377744/) for information about this movie. If we did what many in this country propose and what happened in this movie - expel all the "illegal" immigrants, our country would come to a screeching halt.
Who picks all the produce in the fields? Who washes your car or mows your lawn? Who looks after your children while you are at work? Chances are that you have direct or indirect contact with just such people.
The answer is not to expel them. The answer is to give them all amnesty and citizenship. This would result in immediate, tremendous savings in terms of law enforcement, border enforcement, etc. Likewise, by documenting all these hard working people, they ultimately become part of the tax base of the country, and help the governmental budgets at every level. They also would no longer be forced to use hospital Emergency Departments as their only source of health care - at great savings to Medicaid.
There is a risk, however. Once everyone is legal, we can no longer pay them the sub-par wages we pay now. (We should not be doing that anyway). I would propose that over a ten year period, wages paid to all these people be gradually raised, in small increments, to bring them to the point of earning a living wage. By doing this, we would not shock the economy. A huge step increase in their wages would bring our economy to a complete collapse instead.
So I call on all of our countries leaders, at every level, to take the huge risk of following through with this. There are so many legal and human dignity issues that would be fixed by this, not to mention the benefits to the tax basis in our country, that we cannot afford not to.
Legalize all these immigrants now, and start paying them better wages!
All my best, Jaron