Face it: There's no way that we have the funds, the apparatus, nor even the national will to round up 11 million human beings and ship them back from whence they came. And the ludicrous declaration by Donald Trump that he would just create a “deportation force” to raid and hunt them down is simply outrageous and dangerous. What’s needed is a humane compromise that allows immigration integration even if the road to US Citizenship remains challenging.
Also, on the face of it, this effort to round up illegal immigrants would be downright cruel. Families would be split for an indeterminable amount of time, if not permanently. Much well-functioning social fabric would be shredded. Like it or not, many undocumented people have established themselves as contributing members of innumerable communities. And there's no doubt that either would weigh heavily on those businesses – construction, agriculture, and service industries among them – that must have affordable labor. These two simple paragraphs I've just written bleed with the unwritten questions they evoke. The biggest being: How do you deal with 11 million people in a humane way that will not adversely affect the social and business realities of today?
What's Really Happening Now – Secure Borders and Deportations
Trump and the majority of the Republican Party have been moaning about secure borders and deportations. If they checked concrete sources, they'd be ecstatic with our out-going president. Obama has increased our border policing to double what it used to be. Under him deportations have increased to about 400,000 a year due to an ardent emphasis on getting convicted criminals out of the country. And under him the government has ratcheted up spending to about $17 billion a year on immigration enforcement. Checking figures, they would see that this sum is more than is spent by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the F.B.I., and even the Secret Service, combined. So the whining about secure borders and increased deportations doesn't mean much.
Social and Labor Complexities
Probably one of the biggest quandaries lies with the labor unions, businesses, and internal enforcement of immigration laws. Many unskilled workers, citizens and non-citizens, aren't being paid a living wage. At its present deal of less than eight bucks an hour as a minimum, even that isn't a living wage. When a farmer can pay less than minimum wage to get tomatoes out of his fields, he's going to do it. Of course, even unskilled citizen-laborers can't compete with that and hold an entire household, along with a vehicle, together.
Can't Afford to Work
So, the contention really isn't the fact that undocumented workers are taking jobs away from American workers; it's that immigrants are the only ones who can afford – by necessity – to work those jobs. Those jobs are better than any they would find in their countries of origin. Yet, on the other hand, the majority of citizen-workers for Walmart must rely on community safety nets for health care and food budget help. Something is just not right and it's not just the immigration issue when it comes down to how all American workers are treated by business interests.
Reagan Laid the Trap, Non-Enforcement Sprang It
In 1986, President Reagan legalized about three million immigrants without papers. Due to business interests that lobbied to prevent any tough enforcement regarding employers who hired unauthorized workers, no illegal immigration laws were brought to bear. The resulting no-questions-asked job market just lured many more immigrants and that caused a lot of the taking-away-American-jobs backlash. It's ironic that many of the right-wing interests deploring a road to citizenship nowadays probably helped foment the whole situation back during the Reagan years by asking Uncle Sam to look the other way while they put the pickers in the fields.
Compromise and Conciliation
To be effective, immigration reform should allow folks to come out of hiding. They should be allowed to work, send their children to school and college, even travel abroad, and serve in the military, without fear of deportation while they await their green cards. They probably should not be eligible for any federal benefits and certainly not allowed to vote. But a door must be opened for these people. There is no workable alternative. These compromises are necessary for one of the biggest breakthroughs in immigration reform seen in years. And it is within reach, the gears greased by the last presidential election. This summer action will be hot for Congress to take some decisive steps.