The immigration problem in this country is really a cheap labor problem, brought on by the lazy American problem.
When the Tysons and the Smithfields suffer a raid and lose 100 illegal workers, there are 100 more waiting in the wings. If the feds started raiding and prosecuting these corporate criminals like they should, you’d see 300 slots open up on the killing floor of every slaughterhouse and packing facility in the nation.
President Obama’s first salvo in the reform debate hit all the right notes with his followers, but all the wrong ones with his detractors.
He focused his vision and verbosity on the easy targets, like pulling on the heart strings of the children of immigrants in the El Paso sun while quipping on the Republicans, moats with alligators, et al.
It’s as if he set himself up to fail in the GOP-controlled House on any piece of immigration legislation, so he could run to the White House Press Corps and say, “See, I told you so!”
What I really would have liked to have heard was tough talk on American corporations who exploit illegal immigrants. Obama talked about legal teeth in that regard, but those are teeth with blunt, brittle edges, with pressure applied by weak and passive enforcement.
That immovable wall might never be knocked down, but there are ways to whack at it through enforcement and dealing with some touchy domestic issues. Concurrent reform of state and federal social service systems needs to occur to give people a reason to work or the jobs won’t get filled.
If a company like Armour loses 300 packers in a small Midwestern community, will there be enough able-bodied replacements to pick up the slack? The question is, will they have a reason to? Probably not, if free, government money wins out.
So, the cycle of illegal labor continues because the result, not a related root, is addressed.
Instead, we get to hear another immigration speech about the enforcement already in play and the perennial legislative loser, the DREAM Act.
It’s true, those who beat their chests into a bloody pulp over increased border security got what they wanted. There are more Border Patrol agents on the ground then ever — the numbers have doubled since 2004 — and (woohoo!) we have drones.
It’s also true that the policy side of the system, the path to citizenship, remains unchanged. But if the DREAM Act is going to keep being resurrected, it needs to be leaner, meaner and smarter.
The DREAM Act is the right and humane thing to do, but it keeps losing for a reason — there isn’t bipartisan support. Two major tenets of the act deal with citizenship through higher education and military service, the latter of which is a no-brainer. Anyone who wouldn’t grant citizenship to a man or woman risking their life for this country is crazy.
The higher education part, though, needs work if it’s going to pass Republican muster. Plus, this could be the U.S.’s opportunity to work out a realistic trade. I’d be a big fan of awarding a federal grant for a college education and guarantee citizenship if we get a return on investment.
This path could help restore our place as the leading manufacturer of intellectual innovation, where our new citizens are contributing to science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, for the betterment of society and ultimately, the economy.
A good speech with plenty of anti-Republican one-liners will get all sorts of play, but it’s not the way to start what the White House says is its serious foray into immigration reform.
Those sons and daughters who came out to listen to their president deserve a home run on the first swing, not a bunt.