Friday, July 12, 2019

The Left-Out Part of Immigration Reform

It’s very fashionable these days to speculate on immigration reform. Our current president has his own views, most of which are keep ‘em out, but current Democratic presidential candidates have jumped on the bandwagon as well.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is the latest, with I have a plan for that and she has some pretty good ideas.

But one thought I’ve had for decades now gets no  mention at all and I wonder why.

If we were to issue work return visas to our Mexican neighbors, it could move a long way toward lessening the pressure on our southern border. How would such a visa function?

A visa is issued for seasonal work on the basis of an employer willing to hire. That could be extended by additional willing employers who need seasonal workers. Think of agriculture, landscapers and job-related industries, such as contractors with a project to build. When continuous employment ends, the worker returns to his native country with the guarantee he can return to a willing employer.

Fear of return is gone and everyone benefits.

According to a National Agricultural Workers Survey, seventy-five percent of our three million seasonal crop workers were born in Mexico. Fifty-three percent of those were not authorized to work in the United States. That means 1.6 million are here illegally and they’re just the crop workers.

And they stay, because they’re scared to death to leave and not be able to get back in.

Consider the ‘off-season’ life of an undocumented worker. He’s away from his wife and family, essentially without earnings and living a squalid life until the next harvest. Unable to participate as a father, companion or loved one, he’s a lonely wage-slave.

And for what? For no discernable reason, other than our current disastrous immigration laws.

Regardless of Mr. Trump’s fear-mongering, most Americans have no fear at all, but he certainly hasn’t helped the issue.

A 2016 Pew national poll found that 76 percent believe undocumented immigrants are as honest and hard-working as U.S. citizens, while 71 percent said they mostly fill jobs that Americans aren't willing to do.

What Trump has done is shine a very bright light on Congress’s total failure to come to grips with a better solution than tying itself in knots over a useless and insulting wall between ourselves and Mexico. For that, I thank him.

Consider that Mexico is the third largest remittance receiving country in the world, with a total of over $25 billion received from both legal and undocumented immigrants in 2015. These men and women are supporting families elsewhere.

Consider that, according to their 2017 report, the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy estimates that undocumented workers paid a total of $11.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2014, the most recent year of data.

Consider that they’re not just picking grapes. Illegal immigrants are particularly concentrated in certain subsets of major industries. In 2012, they represented 24% of workers in landscaping, 23% of those in private household employment, 20% in apparel manufacturing, 20% in crop production, 19% in the dry cleaning and laundry industry and 19% working in building maintenance.

Work return visas would further provide a useful filter for those who someday hope to become American citizens. Application for permanent residency and eventual citizenship by a head-of-household who had a proven record of dependability and employment would certainly be a good bet.

One often hears that migrants are often arriving for economic benefit rather than fear of reprisals or death-threats in their home countries.

Perhaps you can tell me what’s wrong with that?

In the late 1800s, both my grandfathers immigrated from England and both my grandmothers from Germany. Why did they come?

They came for the promise of America. That’s why Donald Trump’s grandfather emigrated from Germany.

Unless you are a native American Indian, your forebears came from somewhere else as well. They may well have been fleeing religious persecution, poverty or the long arm of the law, but they came and they stayed.

For the promise of America.

They built the America in which we live, fought and died in our wars, hammered out our laws, argued with and supported their neighbors. There is no need to Make America Great Again, we are already great as a nation and our immigrant population enabled that greatness.

Can we possibly foreclose that opportunity to others and remain great? 

That’s a question worth pondering.


  1. As always, you don't just elucidate the problem; you offer a clear and well-planned solution. Jim, why the hell ain't you a politician? Or at least some kind of advisor? They need you over there.

  2. I WAS over there, Alex and no one wanted to listen. But thanks for the support. I really appreciate it.