It’s tough for me to sit back and watch the immigration reform discussion currently taking place in this nation.
Driving back from work last week to the house my immigrant wife and immigrant children live in, I listened to two talking heads on NPR discuss the best way to prevent illegal immigrants from contributing to the economy. One talking head believed that the current system places an undue burden on employers – switching to an electronic system to bar illegals from employment will take the burden of law-enforcement off job-creators and reduce overhead costs. The other talking head agreed that the best way to marginalize illegal immigrants is through an electronic system, but he did not seem to think it was necessary to also deploy drones to patrol the Mexican border, build a wall to keep Mexicans out, or expand the role of the Department of Homeland Security to include enforcement of immigration policy.
Shortly after this conversation took place, the US Senate passed an immigration reform bill:
If the Senate legislation were to be signed into law, it would set millions of eligible immigrants on a 13-year course toward achieving permanent residency status or U.S. citizenship, but it would also require them to pay thousands of dollars in fines and back taxes.
Before those things could happen, however, the federal government would be required to spend tens of billions of dollars fortifying the U.S. border with Mexico with thousands of new federal agents as well as radar and unmanned aerial drones to track illegal border crossings. The Department of Homeland Security also would have to establish a biometric tracking system at the nation’s 30 largest airports.
The bill will now come up for a vote in the House, where it is likely to be defeated by Tea Party Republicans for not throwing enough money or guns at the fallacy of illegal immigrants taking jobs from real, freedom-loving Americans. In fact, the House Judiciary Committee supports making it a federal crime to be in the United States illegally. This would expand the present list of known fugitives by anywhere from twelve to thirty million: between 3.8 and 9.6% of the population.
To summarize the consensus then: we all seem to agree that people who came here without following the proper procedure should not be allowed the means of securing the necessities for life. At the same time we prevent these people from obtaining a legitimate income, we will punish them for not paying taxes and demand thousands of dollars in fines and fees from them. We will also continue to pay the social and medical costs associated with having a massive, disenfranchised underclass.
At my job I watch illegal immigrant after illegal immigrant come through our emergency department. Overwhelmingly, they are afraid of what will happen to them and their families if they expose themselves by seeking medical care, and so they wait until the very last minute. Multiple outcome studies have demonstrated marked disparities because of this.
But still, it beats living somewhere with no health care system at all. Or somewhere your children could be forced into child soldiery. A law that denies you equal justice is still superior to no law. And a land where your children and grandchildren can automatically become citizens by simply being born here gives you hope for the future when there may be no future in your country of origin. So you come here anyways, and you do what you need to do to survive. Once you get here, you follow incentives just like everyone else.
If it were me faced with the incentives we continue to foist upon illegal immigrants by marginalizing them, I would do whatever it took to support my family, even if that meant becoming a “criminal”. If I could not find legitimate employment, I would find some other means of supporting myself and my family. If my children were sick and I did not have health insurance, I would take them to the emergency department.
Rich lawmakers and other members of the American public are kidding themselves if they believe they would just give up on life and “go home” like we seem to expect our illegal immigrants to eventually do if only we double-down on enforcing unenforceable laws enough times.