Earlier today, I posted a thread discussing President Bush’s plans to improve Border Security and begin the long-overdue process of Immigration Reform. The thread met with little interest, except for a small troll problem.
One possibility is that the abbreviated post quickly disappeared down the page, which is why I linked it. But I also think the topic is worth debate, so I will pass along a private complaint I heard, which strikes to the heart of the problem, in my opinion.
Now, although I am not there just now, I live in Texas, and I have encountered a lot of people with direct experience in this issue. Today, I want to relate a conversation I had with a businessman who admits to hiring illegals in the past. At the time I made it clear to the man that I found any such conduct worthy of a report to the authorities. Some other time I may pass along the response I received when I did contact them. The fellow probably anticipated my response, because he freely admitted hiring illegals, and said the problem is far deeper than lawmakers can solve by simply demanding it stop.
He said that the problem does not start so much with a desire to cheat illegals. Such businessmen who cheat illegals get found out about, and most of the time their dishonesty shows up in other areas, and those white-collar criminals lose in the end. The liberal fiction of a broad conspiracy to suppress the latino minority by the white business class simply does not exist in the broad sense. What often happens instead, is that latino businessmen often hire the most illegals, as they not only are comfortable in the language and culture, but they also understand what the illegals are really after, and can offer the atmosphere the illegals find more inviting. That is, illegals are just like any other workforce, in that a reputation for hard work and consistent results keeps them in demand, and a worker known for a good job has choices and offers at his option. And businessmen as a whole in many sectors find the option unavoidable, because lower costs mean lower prices, and lower prices decide who gets the business, whether we’re talking about house construction, repairs, various service businesses, or of course, agriculture.
But the system not only allows businesses to hire illegals, it in many ways drives businesses to it. Consider the labor laws. Liberals, as we know, are always demanding the minimum wage be raised. But what’s more, in most cases an employee who works more than 40 hours a week must, by law, be paid time-and-a-half for any time beyond 40 hours. So, which works for a labor-intensive employer? If he has five legal employees and five illegal employees, and needs someone to work Overtime, obviously there is a significant difference between using the legal employee and using an illegal forthe extra work, even if they are making the same rate. This is because of mandatory taxes the businessman must pay, and the overtime rate he must pay the legal employee. If a business offers, say, $12 an hour, not uncommon for entry-level skilled labor, three months means 13 weeks. If an illegal works 45 hours a week for those 13 weeks, the businessman will pay him $7,020 for those three months. The same hours by a legal employee would cost the businessman $10,027, or 43 percent more for the very same work. Multiply this by four seasons for a year, and again by the number of employees on staff, and you can begin to see the difference. Bear in mind that we’re not talking about extra profit for a business, but a penalty on honest businesses that puts them at a permanent and serious disadvantage. The federal government has never considered this problem from the business point of view, largely because for most of the history the Democrats have been in firm control.
An obvious answer, of course, would be to strictly enforce the existing laws against hiring illegals, and create new ones which make it unprofitable to hire illegals. But that runs into problems at the local and county level. To be blunt, there are different attitudes towards illegals at the city level, and the locales most affected are the most resistant to addressing the problem, because they see it as a direct threat to their economy. It’s very easy to talk about solutions, but few people are willing to bear the cost of enforcement.
Bush’s plan is not perfect but to be blunt, it’s better and more reasonable than anything else on the table. Fairy-tale schemes of somehow finding and deporting every single illegal are simply not feasible right now, but if a strong base of legal minorities is built up, with clear rewards and penalties at all levels, a start can be made. This is that start.
But the only way any reform can work, is if there is committed effort by the people as a whole. And that commitment begins with honest debate, about the problem or about options.
Otherwise, guys like that businessman I knew who thought the only way to survive was to play the system will continue to make a mockery of our borders and our laws.
-- DJ Drummond