Immigrants’ Song | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

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Immigrants’ Song

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News item: U.S. border patrol officials stopped more than 50 undocumented immigrants in Temecula, Calif., before they could bust a path to southern Utah.


News item: According to Gannett News Service, more than 6 million Latinos living in the United States send more than $30 billion per year home to relatives.


No big deal. But consider the fact that the same Gannett story noted that some 19 percent of Mexican adults would like to one day migrate north.


That, too, should be no big deal. Welcome to a world essentially without borders. Illegal immigration, if we want to call it that, is a perennial bugaboo among people (themselves descended from immigrants) who secretly suspect that people with a browner shade of skin are getting a free ride.


Now U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon has signed onto a bill that he and other well-meaning Washington bigwigs believe will stem the illegal tide. The Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act they have so recently gotten excited about hopes to do this through a combination of actions that would enforce current immigration laws, give illegal workers already here the chance for legal status, and resurrect an old “guest worker” program that would allow workers entry for temporary work, then send them home once the job’s done.


There’s just one problem. That “guest worker” program dates from the mid-1950s, and officially ended in 1964. By the way, these same lawmakers believe the Act will protect us from terrorist invaders tempted to take advantage of a porous border.


But you know what year this is, and we all know just how inseparable American and Latino culture has become. Enforce immigration laws to a point, sure. But there’s a new set of ground rules in the making, few of which have to do with “protecting our borders,” a phrase that speaks more to jingoist tendencies than practical solutions.


If we all know that illegal workers perform the sort of jobs other people, even in this economy, would never fathom, then—terrorist plots aside—this is an issue most of us would be happy to put aside. What, really, is the worry? That illegal workers who once toiled on a farm might one day become an American white-collar worker? Good for them. Immigration, illegal or not, is one hell of a way to distribute wealth among those who want it most. The best way to stem the tide of Mexican workers is helping steer Mexico through the right economic policy decisions.


If we’re truly interested in protecting people, and not simply American national interest, we could also give “illegals” a measure of protection from unscrupulous American employers. The supply of a country’s jobs versus the world’s voracious demand for work is always a problem. Right now, it works to the advantage of U.S. corporations, which save money by moving certain white-collar tasks into India and China. Why can’t it work to the advantage of individuals, as well? Thirty billion per year sent home says it should.

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