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Illegal Immigration in the USA

On another Writerbeat (WB) thread, I have been having an interesting discussion with another WB contributor. It is time to put the summation of this discussion into its own article.

On one hand, the WB contributor is rightly concerned about the social issues surrounding USA's illegal immigrants. On the other hand, he still wants food to be fairly inexpensive. These two social directives just don't work together. 

Immigrants come to the USA because they know it is possible to (1) find work as illegals, (2) live a better life than what their home country could provide, and (3) keep under the radar of the American government for--probably--the rest of their life. The American government has clearly not enforced its own rules on immigration.

Illegal immigrants do work most Americans would not consider doing. Picking lettuce from fields is one of those jobs. The various talking heads I have heard stated that illegal immigrants are "happy" to do this work for $5 an hour, and it would take a wage of $20 an hour to entice regulars Americans into this occupation.

Of course, the farming lobby in the USA will try to portray that paying $20 an hour for lettuce pickers means the price of lettuce will increase by four-fold, totally ignoring that there are many other inputs into the production of lettuce and moving it to the dinner plate. There will be a small increase in the final price of lettuce to hire $20 lettuce pickers, but lettuce will still be affordable for most people.

Fruit and vegetable pickers are not the only occupations of illegal immigrants. Hotel chambermaids, fast food workers, janitors, child care workers, and skilled construction workers all help businesses and wealthy people get things done at a lower cost. 

Let's assume the current strategy of detaining illegal immigrants and taking their kids away from them actually works. News of ripping apart families will cause aspiring illegal immigrants to stay home. So who is going to pick the lettuce for $5 an hour?

Let's assume the massive border wall is built and illegal immigrants are not smart enough to figure out how to use small boats to cross the Gulf of Mexico. And let's assume this wall does actually reduce illegal immigration. So who is going to pick the lettuce for $5 an hour? 

Here's a novel idea. Why not impose huge fines for businesses that hire illegal immigrants? A database could easily be prepared of eligible American workers (citizens and legal immigrants). This database could compared with the payroll of any business. When some irregularities are found, then send in the inspectors to the workplace. First time caught, a small fine to send a message. Second time caught, let's make a big dent into profits. In time, businesses and wealthy people will not hire workers without proper documentation.

If illegal immigrants have no place to find work, they won't come. The  small chance of their family being ripped apart (get real, the American government cannot put 10 million people in jail) and the border wall are nowhere near the deterrent as not being able to find an illegal job.

But we know neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will get serious about fining business and wealthy people for hiring illegal immigrants. The upper classes want $5 an hour lettuce pickers and toilet bowl cleaners. Disaster areas need cheap carpenters and plumbers to rebuild. And the two political parties need the support of the upper class much more than they need the support of the middle and lower middle class. So Americans won't have worry about paying $20 an hour for lettuce pickers any time soon. The incentive will still be there to encourage illegal immigrants around, under, over, or through any wall, even at the risk of splitting their families. Plus the USA can continue to blame the immigrants rather those who benefit from them. And this puts some glee in a lot of people's bums. 

Maybe the parties are making the right decision after all. Maybe Americans really don't want to pay a regular American wage to regular American workers for the work illegal immigrants do in America. That is the root of the problem.

Published on Writerbeat 2017