There is vocal opposition to legislation that would grant legal status for the 12 million illegal aliens that live in the United States. At the same time, there is a large contingency of liberals and progressives who espouse a more sympathetic stance toward illegal aliens. They argue that these people are forced to resort to illegal methods due to economic compulsions. They also point to the fact that most of these illegal aliens are subject to exploitation by employers here in the United States. The employers who hire them pay well below minimum wage regulations, knowing well that nobody would raise a protest for fear of being deported. It is a reality today that the American economy has become dependent on this pool of cheap labor, in the absence of which an imbalance between supply and demand of workers would be created. Today, the illegal alien community is serving the American economy without enjoying the rights, privileges and protections that citizens enjoy. This unfair situation is the primary cause for the law and order problem created by them. Hence, making the conditions of their survival more harsh is only going to escalate the problems. (Starr, 2007, p.3)
It should be recognized at this point, that there is a limit to the number of immigrants the country can accomodate. Throwing open the doors of entry as in the nineteenth century is unsustainable and imprudent in the prevailing geo-political climate. So prevention of illegal alien inflows should be an integral part of the immigration reform agenda. Preventing desperate people from entering the country is not as inhumane as deporting the ones who are already here. In the light of this assessment, the passing of immigration bill HR 4437 in 2005 is a positive move. The bill focusses on “strict enforcement measures against illegal immigrants, such as construction of a 700-mile-long fence along the U.S. southern border and severe penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers” (Som, 2006, p.286). Hence, assimilating the existing pool of illegal alien population while at the same time preventing further entries is the right approach. Employers who hire illegal aliens should also stop this practice and the best way to achieve this would be to hold them legally accountable. In fact, if not for their patronage, there won’t be any illegal aliens living in the country. As Justin Spaid strongly puts it across in his Iowa State Daily article ,
“The first thing that we must do is start prosecuting people found employing illegal immigrants. Now, maybe we can give the employers a one-strike rule, but even that should come with a fine to let them know we are serious. After that there is no excuse — and that means jail time for the employers. The government would not have to worry about watch-dogging large corporations who have a tendency of hiring those people here illegally because once the boss’s neck is on the line, you would be surprised how much more thorough background checks will be.” (Spaid, 2009)
In the final analysis, it is clear that immigration reform should include both curbs and concessions. The challenge lies in finding the right balance between the two. The idea of ‘temporary worker program’, initially proposed by President Bush and endorsed by House Republicans, can also be incorporated into the reform plan. Such a move would have the added advantage of winning over conservatives in the House and Senate, whose support is necessary for the passing of reform legislation in the future. The government, while making efforts to tighten the borders, should also create legal channels of entry for seasonal workers, especially agricultural laborers from Mexico. The initial steps taken by the government is showing promising results. For example, the HR 4437 immigration act have “discouraged illegal immigrants in seasonal jobs from returning to Mexico, for fear they would never be able to come back” (Starr, 2007, p.3). This should encourage politicians, action groups and reform activists and make them believe that desirable results can be achieved if concerted, foresightful and humane plans are designed and implemented.
Archibold, Randal C. “Second thoughts on pulling the guard from the border.(National Desk).” The New York Times 157.54339 (June 12, 2008): A21(L).
“Democrats Offer Plan on Aliens; Proposal Gives Illegal Workers Permanent Residency.” The Washington Times 29 Jan. 2004: A01.
Leiken, Robert S. “End of an Affair? Immigration, Security and the U.S.-Mexican Relationship.” The National Interest Winter 2002: 87+.
Punishing Employers for Hiring Illegal Immigrants Best Solution, retrieved from <http://www.iowastatedaily.com/articles/2009/02/01/opinion/doc49865c045e137452811515.prt> on 20th November, 2009
Som, Sonya Olds, and Eileen Momblanco. “The Immigration Reform Debate.” Social Education 70.5 (2006): 286+.
Starr, Paul. “Why Immigration Reform?.” The American Prospect July-Aug. 2007: 3.