Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

American employers deserve as much blame as illegal immigrants

The latest polls show a large majority of Arizonans and Americans support Arizona’s effort to enforce federal immigration law absent a coherent effort from the federal government.

What’s behind that support is a building animus toward illegal immigrants, not just the act of illegally crossing the border or the class of people, but the people themselves.

The most outspoken proponents of Arizona’s immigration enforcement efforts, in the government and out of it, are using increasingly virulent language to describe illegal immigrants – they’re dirty, they’re disease ridden, they’re criminals, they’re lazy social service free loaders and so on. None of that is true, or at best, gross exaggerations of the truth (the act of crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor civil offense the first time, akin to getting a speeding ticket. It allows for quick deportations without normal due process associated with criminal arrests).

As a result, many Americans who normally would care less about illegal immigration now despise illegal immigrants and want them out and are willing to shrug their shoulders at the prospect of fellow citizens who happen to “look” like an illegal immigrant being forced to prove their citizenship in the effort.

But they’re mad at the wrong people.

Why are illegal immigrants here? Jobs. They come to work.

Who’s employing them? Americans. If they couldn’t get work, they wouldn’t come.

But the overwhelming majority of the $40 billion we spend annually on immigration enforcement is to catch and deport illegal immigrants.

If we spent the same amount cracking down on American employers who either knowingly hire illegal labor or who are willfully ignorant about whether their workforce is illegal, we’d solve the problem faster.

So why are we fighting the wrong fight? Money. Illegal immigrants are a disenfranchised population, they don’t vote and they don’t have any political power.

But the industries that rely on illegal labor do, and they spend millions to lobby the government to consider a temporary worker program or to keep the enforcement effort at the border, not at the employee entrances to their businesses.

According to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis, more than 400 entities lobbied the government about immigration in 2007, the peak of the illegal immigration tide. So far this year, more than 240 entities have spent money lobbying on immigration.

The largest contributions come from the industries with the most to gain from immigration reform and the most to protect from a crackdown on illegal hiring, namely the farm and meatpacking industries, the hotel, hospitality and travel industry and manufacturers.

We’re all to blame for this mess. If we were really serious about hating illegal immigration, rather than hating the immigrant, we’d demand all businesses prove they have a 100 percent legal workforce before we agree to purchase their good or service.

President Obama in his speech July 1 about immigration reform talked about holding illegal immigrants “accountable” for their actions.

What about us? This is as much our fault as it theirs.

Who bears the most blame for illegal immigration?
Illegal immigrants: 11%
American employers of illegal immigrants: 29%
Employers and illegal immigrants equally: 26%
Congress and the President: 22%
Mexico's president and legislature: 10%
218 users voted
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