States enacting tough immigration laws are putting the heat on employers. Is it good policy or desperate finger pointing?
In recent weeks, several states have begun enforcing tough new laws aimed at cracking down on people who live and work in this country illegally. South Carolina’s assembly recently approved a tough bill that requires law enforcement to check on the immigration status of individuals pulled over for traffic violations or on suspicion of other violations. This follows in the wake of Georgia’s Governor who also signed a tough immigration bill that gives police the power to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects, patterned after the Arizona law enacted last year. The draconian law also sets new requirements for employers who hire undocumented workers and sets stiff penalties for people who even transport illegal immigrants. Utah and Washington have also followed suit.
Arizona was the first to enact tough immigration laws over a year ago and support and opposition to the measure reverberated throughout the southwest in states like California, and New Mexico, where thousands took to the street both in support and opposition to the laws. Celebrities like George Lopez, Seth MacFarlane, Carlos Santana and Rage Against the Machine came out as vocal opponents against the crackdowns. Seth MacFarlane likened the immigration round-ups to Nazi-style tactics.
The issue stands out in blazing illumination at a time when the economy is sinking and people are out of work. Many people view illegal immigrants as a threat to their jobs. Conversely employers are growing increasingly desperate because their bottom lines are bleeding red and depend on cheap labor. To those businesses, illegal immigrants are a godsend. Particularly hard hit are industries like construction and agriculture that rely on cheap labor to staff their production.
At odds are two sides, one that views illegal immigrants as a threat to the countries’ core existence; of people taking away jobs, flooding emergency rooms and draining government resources and another, that views America as a principled democracy first, for all people, including those who arrived on boats without documentation a century ago, to those who’ve snuck across the foreboding, southern desserts in the dead of night.
Who’s right? Time will tell. My own gauge on the subject comes from observation in the wee hours of the morning at builder supply stores throughout the southwest region. An overwhelming majority of the men standing in the pre-dawn hours in clusters waiting for work are Hispanic men. I don’t see Anglos, young or old with tool belts on their hips. I don't see Anglos in the strawberry fields or fruit orchards in my native southern California. All I see are Hispanics. Why aren’t Anglos working in the hot sun with scarves on their necks and muddy pants and wide brimmed hats? Where's the healthy, white teenagers? I thought they were all desperate for work! Perhaps they’re waiting for an invitation to do the work. Perhaps they’re waiting for the government to grant them the jobs, or perhaps they don’t want them. Perhaps it’s easier to blame someone else for their own problems, and to point the finger at people who can’t fight back, who live in a shadow economy, doing shadow labor for minimum wage.
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