Sometimes I wish I could take each and everyone of those who denigrates the undocumented Immigrant through an informative journey.
I would start off by having them spend some time in the native country of the undocumented worker. Not for purposes of subjecting them to the harsh conditions found in most of these countries that produce our low skilled labor force, but because I want them to truly understand the complexity of the issue, and it starts at the source, the birth country of the undocumented worker. It’s important to understand that in each of these countries, those who have left for a better life in America act like a calling card to those back home. Some of these Immigrant workers send money, others send larger items through transport firms that specialize in bringing packages to local towns. Some of the Immigrants, previously undocumented, have now through an adjustment of status become Permanent Residents, perhaps even U.S. Citizens. Each one of these scenarios creates a virtual invitation for those that stayed behind by somehow confirming the achievement of the American Dream. This, coupled with comments from the employers who hire the undocumented worker such as: “Jose, I wish I had two of you,” “do you have a friend or a relative that’s looking for work?” “Maria, you’re a sweetheart, my sister, my neighbor, my co-worker would like to have someone like you help them clean their house” serves as an enticement to take that leap across the border.
Equally, each one of those scenarios triggers an action from the undocumented worker and ultimately a reaction from the relative at home. It’s an invitation that’s tendered daily to those in foreign countries as they chat long distance using calling cards or international plans on their cell phones. The good news from the United States of pending employment solidifies a decision for that desperate foreigner who seeks to feed his family in his native country or just simply seeks to live a life like their hermano, primo or tio.
The journey that commences once that decision is made is a dangerous one that traverses the desert region between our neighbor to the South and the land of opportunity.
I have personally interviewed hundreds of Immigrants that have crossed that unforgiving desert. Many share horror stories of abuse at the hands of the human trafficker. In one interview the now U.S. Citizen Immigrant, entrepreneur, and job creator, shared with me that out of a group of thirteen, only six of them survived the treacherous desert. It’s simply heartbreaking to listen to the stories as they sob and break down, at times sharing a story they have never shared with anyone in such vivid detail.
I’ve also personally traversed the desert floor with the Desert Angels, a desert rescue and body recovery organization. As you follow the hidden paths the undocumented Immigrants take, you find shoes that have disintegrated, jeans that have been abandoned after making a desperate effort to strip away the clothes that serves to bake their bodies at extreme temperatures with a terrain that reaches temperatures as high as 160 degrees in the summer. Water bottles abandoned because the water gets so hot that it is undrinkable and simply causes the desert crosser to vomit the near boiling water. Any food consumed is canned or non-perishable, but even that food that would traditionally help give them strength, becomes a cumbersome burden as their strength diminishes hour by hour. Children’s strollers, baby clothes and toys are left behind, telling the story of a tender life at risk as Mom attempts to carry, not just her own weight, but that of that child that may be near death.
I don’t share this with you to invoke some hidden or suppressed compassion. I’m well aware that most of those who oppose illegal Immigration, or oppose the presence of millions of undocumented workers currently serving as our labor force don’t possess an ounce of compassion. I know many of you have been desensitized by political rhetoric and a constant barrage of misinformation and denigrating words like invaders, criminals, wetbacks, and leeches to name a few. I share the Immigrants journey because it’s an important component in the dialog we engage in daily when we converse about what to do with those millions of Immigrants that have been here 10, 15 or 20 years hiding in the shadows.
Every employer that hires an undocumented worker is responsible for the wave of Immigrants who arrive in the U.S. seeking employment. Most pro-Immigrant activists don’t want to touch the employer sanction issue. It’s a double edged sword. They feel as if they would lose credibility if they somehow address the workplace of the undocumented Immigrants. That somehow they’ll be responsible for collateral damage that may result from advocating for enforcement of an aggressive employer sanction law that will penalize the employer and not just the employee utilizing a false identity.
I differ from these activists. As a pro-Immigrant activist and radio talk show host that not only advocates for Immigrants on a daily basis, but converses with them daily, I insist that the problem has always been with the employer. An employer who is willing to hire undocumented workers at an extremely low wage, work them long hours, brag about the productivity or efficiency of his company, yet donates faithfully to the reelection campaign of those same politicians that are creating omnibus anti-Immigrant legislation that of course omits any meaningful employer sanctions. It’s a hypocritical system that utilizes a double standard.
If we pursued the employer aggressively with an employer sanction law that would not just criminalize the employee as it currently does here in Arizona, but focus the criminality on the employer, we would resolve the “illegal immigration” issue. With a criminal focus on the employer, that company or individual that seeks to profit from cheap labor would immediately scream bloody murder, and at the same time they would scream for Immigration Reform, and they would most certainly insist on having at their disposal a system in which they could hire the workers they needed from a foreign country, while having the ability to adjust the employees status to permanent residency based on the longevity of the employment and the value factor to the employer. The practice of talking out of both sides of their mouth in hiring undocumented workers yet funding anti-Immigrant legislators would drastically change to yelling out of both sides of their mouth, screaming out of pain from the stiff criminal penalties imposed from an aggressive employer sanction law while screaming out of the other side of their mouth for immediate relief in the form of Comprehensive Immigration Reform that would meet their needs and the needs of a modern day United States extremely dependent on Immigrant labor.
The private prison industry long ago understood that they could utilize the hypocrisy and the double standard utilized by the anti-Immigrant lobby and the employers. They saw this as as a perfect business model. Utilizing the hatred for undocumented Immigrants, politicians that represent the anti-Immigrant constituency and powerful and eager investors like ex Vice President Dick Cheney, wall street moguls, and financial institutions, the private prison industry successfully cashed in on the anti-Immigrant hype. The private prison industry successfully met behind closed doors with anti-immigrant legislators and were instrumental in creating and nurturing anti-Immigrant laws that serve as a net to capture those undocumented Immigrants so badly needed to occupy the vacant beds at the private prison facilities that ultimately generate billions of dollar.
Make no mistake, there’s a virtual sign on the border that states, “wanted, for employment, undocumented Immigrants.” Further inland, there’s another virtual sign that states, “wanted, for deportation, undocumented Immigrants, no experience preferred.”
I’m in no way advocating for an open border. That’s a common mistake made by most pro-Immigrant advocates. I understand that we’re a sovereign nation, and as such, we must have borders. I also understand that the border issue has been utilized as a tool by both sides of this issue.
Americans need a better understanding of this complex issue that contains some very basic and glaring necessities. We need an expansion of our visa program to meet our work force needs. We need to issue a much greater amount of visas to the country that we most draw upon for our low skilled labor force. That, would clearly be our neighbor to the south, Mexico. We need to address our options when it comes to those that are currently here already serving as our undocumented work force, we need to provide relief for those children that were brought here at a very young age and that have now been woven into the fabric of our country, and, we need to quit moving the fence post when it comes to border security. That decision should not be made based on the whims of a politician that either represents racist, xenophobe or white supremacist constituents, nor should it be a politician who is influenced by private prison lobbyists. We need a bipartisan commission that will submit a reasonable plan based on all the above. We can’t bank on opportunist Latino politicians like Senator Marco Rubio (R) Florida who doesn’t truly understand the complexity of the Immigration issue, nor can we heed advice from “pro-Immigrant” opportunist politicians like Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D) Illinois who seeks an omnibus reform bill that would incorporate the undocumented Immigrant that arrived yesterday.
Archaic laws that remain on the books simply serve to destroy any advances that this country has achieved or serve to maliciously prosecute those “violators” who break these laws while actually serving the basic needs of this country, e.g. current Immigration laws and those who serve as our labor force.
The time has come, we cannot put Comprehensive Immigration Reform on the back burner. We have to be realistic about this country’s needs and we have to somehow deal with those millions currently living in the shadows. After all we invited them in.
Carlos E. Galindo is a radio talk show host & political analyst conducting radio shows in both English and Spanish on four radio stations in Arizona. Mr. Galindo is a weekly contributor to KPFK 98.7 FM Los Angeles and has appeared on CNN, Univision and Telemundo as a political analyst. Mr. Galindo is also an Op-Ed columnist on Prensa Hispana Arizona. Carlos Galindo is a founding member and President of the Immigrant Advocacy Foundation, Inc.