By Bryan Gray
The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis County Clipper.
My friend Steve and I agree that our current immigration system is broken. We also agree that the U.S. Congress lacks the will to fix it. Partisan politics will derail the present “Gang of Eight” proposal even if it clears the U.S. Senate.
Steve and I don’t agree on every angle of the present immigration debate. He is very concerned about border security; I point to Border Patrol statistics showing the border is more secure today than at any time in recent history.
He estimates there are 30 million undocumented immigrants in the country; I figure it’s closer to 15 million.
He thinks conferring citizenship on millions of Latino adults will hurt his beloved Republican Party; I agree with this short-term affect, but remind him that Republican resistance to a reasonable path to citizenship will further alienate the fastest-growing segment of the population and haunt the GOP for generations.
He is frightened of the cost, especially in medical and educational expense; I believe we’re already paying these costs through added taxes and higher insurance premiums.
He doesn’t believe racism plays a role in those voting against the immigration proposals; I can see more than a hint of racism and tell him that immigration reform would have passed easily if the debate were about undocumented Swedes and Danes.
But despite our differences, Steve and I agree that we cannot continue to ignore the problem. Our economy depends on it.
“Sadly, I admit that Americans are not willing to work at all the jobs our economy demands,” he said. “We don’t have enough highly skilled workers, nor do we have people willing to work the jobs at the other end. I hate to admit that Р but even though we need these people, I feel uneasy about giving them full citizenship.”
And that’s the rub. We want people to satisfy our needs, but seem unwilling to offer them dignity through citizenship and voting rights. Yet business groups Р normal allies of the Republicans С are crying for help.
In the past we have heard stories of how farmers let crops rot in the fields because U.S. workers refuse to labor in agriculture or how meatpacking plants have been unable to keep workers. Now a Washington Post report notes that hospitality/tourism companies are facing a labor shortage.
According to the report, many operators are “scaling back, closing restaurants one day a week, and taking hotel rooms off the market.” When the AFL-CIO economist said that these “seasonal jobs” could be filled with current college students, a Maine hotel owner told a congressional hearing that student internships have changed employment patterns.
“Housekeeping is no longer a job that is valued or sought by college students,” she said. And if you talk to food service operators, you’ll hear the same about fry cooks and kitchen help.
I don’t expect far-right extremists like Sen. Mike Lee to understand immigration reform in terms of human rights. However, both Steve and I expect him and our other representatives to see it as an economic problem that, if not solved quickly, will have us teetering on the edge of yet another recession.
If you can’t empathize with human beings, at least pay attention to the bottom line!