Re-framing the Immigration Debate

One of the major issues this political season has been immigration. Someone as horrible as Donald Trump was able to capture the Republican nomination largely as a result of his opposition to immigration. In the area where I live, his views are fairly typical, and he himself is fairly popular. Personally, I don’t like him. He seems to be an odious, despicable, vile human being. I wouldn’t trust him to take care of my dog, much less the country, but there’s more than enough criticism, from the humorous to the apocalyptic, of Donald. Rather, I would like to address the immigration issue and the way in which I feel the media’s coverage of this issue does a disservice to us all.

It seems fairly straightforward, at first. The arguments for and against immigration are well known. Some insist that immigrants are taking American jobs. Others contend that immigrants are needed to do jobs that American’s “won’t do”. Some dislike the influence of foreign cultures, foreign music, foreign languages. There are some fairly sound historical and sociological reasons that argue the entire concept of a multicultural society is doomed to failure. After all, evolutionary psychology suggests that we are so deeply programmed to prefer and promote our own racial and ethnic group, that forcing the groups together is an exercise in futility, and the more prudent course is to allow each group to govern itself according to its own customs. Others suggest that diversity encourages innovation, learning, and tolerance through the exchange of different ideas. These ideas have merit as well. Some of the immigration opponents are motivated by good old fashioned racism, and some of those who favor immigration are motivated mostly by good old-fashioned self-interest (political or otherwise). My purpose is not to argue for or against a particular immigration policy per se, but rather to change the focus of the issue.

I don’t think that our immigration issue necessarily has anything to do with the immigrants themselves. I daresay most immigrants are not much different than we are. They’re just people trying to make their lives better. Sure, a few of them may be terrorists or criminals. That’s statistics. If you have a large enough group, you’re bound to find one or two serial killers or extremists. Immigrants are not notably different from Americans in this way. If you choose a large enough sample, you’ll find a wide variety of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have no problem allowing people into the country as long as they are on an even playing field with the rest of us. We are a nation of laws, and law should be respected. They should pay the same taxes and have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.

Therein lies the rub. I would be more than willing to amnesty all the illegal immigrants if, and only if, a provision were included for the payment of back taxes by both the immigrants themselves, and more importantly, the businesses who hired them. The immigrants themselves are victims of exploitation. Those who employ illegals often do so for the base reason of paying lower than legal wages, or evading taxation. These people and organizations are engaging in the worst kind of exploitation on the poorest and most desperate. I have zero sympathy for people who cheat to get ahead, especially when they have the means and the power in the scenario. The immigrants are poor and desperate. Their employers are not. In any relationship where there is an unequal balance of power, the more powerful party should always be held most responsible for any negative effects arising from the relationship.

That’s what I object to, more than anything else. A lot of Americans of past generations faced a lot of difficulties. They worked longer hours than we do now. They endured much worse working conditions. They were at the mercy of their employers, who held a lot of power over them, and the people had little recourse when there was a dispute. They didn’t like it, so they did something about it. They formed unions, they went on strike, they led boycotts, they lobbied the government, they voted in elections, and those efforts resulted in a lot of changes that have made life better for us today. Things we now take for granted were hard won, by the hard work and sacrifice of previous generations. We should remember those lessons, and we should remember them for all people, everywhere, not just for ourselves.

We have a situation now, where our labor laws and work standards are better than most of the other nations on earth. That makes it more expensive for businesses to hire American workers, and manufacture things in America, unless of course, they can find a source of labor that isn’t subject to those same laws. Illegal immigrants can’t join unions, or call out an employer for violating labor laws. After all, they don’t want to be deported. The immigrants have no power. They are at the mercy of their employer due to their legal status. It’s plain that they would not come to America if there were no jobs for them. The people who are doing the hiring are exploiters, period. They are exploiting the desperate condition of fellow human beings for the sake of personal profit, period. There’s no getting around it. It’s raw greed at its most basic.

That’s where I come back to the controversial idea of amnesty. I would favor amnesty for illegals because it takes the power out of the hands of the exploiters. The immigrants won’t be victims anymore, they’ll be Americans, and the exploiters will have to find someone else. The people who are against amnesty, for the most part, are probably more like the immigrants than they are like the people who are driving illegal immigration. The interests of American workers coincide much more with their fellow workers, legal or otherwise, than they do with the unscrupulous people and organizations that drive both illegal immigration, and the also now common practice of outsourcing jobs outside the United States, then using free trade agreements to exploit people in other countries tax free.

The entire immigration debate in the media invites the worst kind of racism and prejudice. The emotional appeals of demagogues like Donald Trump distract us from the reality that corporate America is engaging in a second gilded age on the backs of foreign laborers, since they can no longer exploit their own people. The immigrants are the victims, and so are we. We should be standing with them against exploitation by multinational corporations who increasingly use their global reach to subvert the laws of sovereign nations. Instead, we have idiots talking about building walls, and more ‘sensible’ politicians pretending to oppose immigration just to uphold the exploitation status quo.

It is up to us as individuals to see past the lies of politicians who want to use the illegal immigration debate to further their own political agenda, and demand common sense solutions that put an end to the exploitation of foreign workers. We need to show solidarity with fellow human beings regardless of religion, creed, nation, or ethnicity. We need to say, with one voice, that the era of the powerful exploiting the weak is over, and profits do not excuse bad conduct. We’ve come a long way as a species. We’re no longer ruled by people who claim to be gods, or nobles who claim that their blood is somehow magically superior. The people have fought, in this nation and others, for the right to be something more than tools for the powerful and clever. However, human nature being what it is, the worst of us will always be willing to drag us all down to the level of beasts once again.

I plan to, once again, stay home on election day. I refuse to continue to participate in the farce that our political system has become. I won’t vote for one form of exploitation over another. I won’t vote on the color of the hat my mugger wears. I view both political parties as tools of the elite, and I would like nothing more than to see both defeated. They divide the people by arguing trifles so the people won’t stand as one and knock over the house of cards they are protecting. I hope for a day when people are aware enough to demand efficiency, accountability, and common sense from their political system. I hope for a day when they refuse to accept a government that serves the interests of the very rich and the political elite at the expense of everyone else. Immigrant or American, we are all just people, and we should be on the same side. Only when the people stand together as human beings can they overthrow the unworthy who use the political system to get what they want instead of using it to do what is right.


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