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Are illegal immigrants the problem?

The illegal immigrant is not a border problem but a business one.  And while it is fair to say the question of illegal immigration brings up all our trauma around race and xenophobia, it is also fair to say it brings out our capitalist as well.  Thus, the “problem” of illegal immigration is not merely a race one, but a business one.  Of course, it is simple to look at a basic jobs argument–that illegal immigrants are taking all the jobs from America. Of course, even when they aren’t actually on our soil, foreigners are “stealing” them through outsourcing. While it may seem racist to blame illegal immigrants for the lack of job availability in America, the very presence of any kind of worker, illegal or not who is willing to do work that is beneath most general employer standards, stifles creativity, growth, and change. Of course, it may be profitable, but only in the short-run. The presence of the illegal immigrant should be expected, when businesses aren’t regulated, when employment standards aren’t uniform, and when employers aren’t held accountable.

Thus while the United Farm Workers of America may prove a point when few individuals apply to the take the low-paying, back-breaking jobs offered by immigrant farmers, they like everyone else, continue to miss the point. The “problem” of the illegal immigrant is actually more about the continued availability of certain types of work in a nation as advanced as America. The “problem” of illegal immigrants is very deeply connected to the lack of regulation and the lack of accountability on the part of businesses, both here and abroad. Take for instance the BP oil spill which happened on our soil. We are outraged by the response and even more outraged that a business could have such sophisticated technology to reach an oil source, but little in the way of cleaning up in the event there was an actual spill. But it was only possible because there was no regulation and a very small punishment ($75 million fine) in the case of error. There was little motivation to actually work towards greater solutions, whether it be clean-up or learning to use a different fuel source. Innovation employs.

The immigrant “problem” is just a symptom of a greater disorder, where businesses can continue to thrive without being adequately challenged. Why can employers continue to employ individuals and not offer adequate health care? Why can high-risk businesses get away with not offering compensation for injuries on the job? Why can businesses still pay lower than minimum-wage? In a sense, the availability of these jobs is the problem, with the availability of illegal immigrants coming in at a close second. If companies were regulated, and were forced to be innovative, the types of jobs and the type of damage we did to our workers, our country, and our world would greatly decrease. And for a time, or perhaps forever, profit margins would shrink, but the trade-off might just be worth it.

It is sort of like me saying, “thank god for HIV, cause I wouldn’t have a job” when the truth is if there were a cure, I would still have a job, just not doing HIV-work. And those kind of changes need to take place and they need to be mandated. The illegal immigrant has just been made a scapegoat, for working some pretty shitty jobs in a more than fragile economy. If anything should come out of this little farm experiment, let it be that workers taking on the farming jobs find the conditions so deplorable they challenge to very possibility that jobs like that can exist at all.