Over the Hill

U.S. is hooked on illegal workers

I read all eight parts of the recent illegal-immigrants series in the Tribune. It was produced by The Fresno Bee. Its message to me was that the United States is addicted to illegal immigrants. I call it one of America’s two major addictions. The other is narcotics.

Narcotics pour across our southern border because many Americans buy them. Illegal immigrants pour across that border because many American employers hire them.

All we have to do to stop the narcotics smuggling is to get Americans to stop using drugs. So far that’s been mission impossible. But stopping American employers from hiring illegal immigrants could be easier.

For one thing, employers who hire illegal immigrants don’t hide in the shadows like drug buyers do. Most of the employers have legitimate businesses like farming, construction and landscaping. But the Fresno Bee said politicians and other officials have been reluctant to act against employers who are known to hire illegal immigrants.

The employers are often influential in their communities and belong to influential organizations. Their businesses are important cogs in their district’s economy. And illegal immigrants often show forged documents when hired.

The forgeries are frequently crude and unmistakable but the bosses aren’t held responsible for failing to notice.

Congress has provided a free, online program for verifying documents but using it isn’t mandatory, and few employers do.

It isn’t perfect, but if word gets out that a business is using it, the illegal immigrants avoid applying there.

Illegal immigrants are known as hard workers who’ll do difficult, dirty work. They’re also paid less than most of us Americans would expect. American farmers say they have to pay low wages to compete with foreign growers. Their Congress members listen to them.

But Congress members also listen to people who say the law is the law and should be enforced. That’s when politicians start talking about building more border fences and deploying National Guard units. I can’t believe they’re serious. Sealing our border with Mexico would take a Berlin Wall almost 2,000 miles long.

And what’s to keep immigrants from making an end run by boat to come ashore on our many miles of unpatrolled beaches? And what’s to prevent tunnels like the two discovered last month linking Tijuana to the U.S.?

So what should we do? Well, jobs are the magnet for illegal immigrants. People who hire them should be sentenced to serious fines and real jail time. Also, we should allow increased legal immigration from Mexico and devise a realistic guest-worker program.

Reach Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.