Illegal immigration will persist as long as jobs available

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Published: June 12,2006

“Secure our borders! Get those illegals out of here!”
That sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Maybe, but maybe not.

If you gauge importance by media coverage, then illegal immigration is currently the most important issue facing our nation. There is no shortage of this kind of sentiment out there: “Build a fence!” Or, “Keep the outsiders outside!” And of course, “Send in the Army, the National Guard and the Highway Patrol!”

Is a fence really going to accomplish much? Well, a wall worked well in Berlin, but the guards used real bullets and followed their shoot-to-kill orders. Are we willing to go that far? No. Any fence we build will be tunneled under and climbed over with just a little more effort than is now required to wade the shallow Rio Grande and hike across the desert to the Promised Land.

Hard and costly

No, putting up obstacles won’t do much good. The only way to solve the problem is to take away the jobs. No jobs, no illegals. Of course, taking away the jobs is going to be hard and costly. It’s going to require a national citizen identification card that is tamper-proof.

To solve any supply-and-demand puzzle, you must work on the demand piece. We’re losing the war on drugs because we’re futilely trying to stop the supply of drugs. Wherever there is demand, there will be supply. But we don’t really want to attack drug demand by prosecuting drug users because that means locking up our neighbor from down the street, Little Johnny next door or maybe even Uncle Fred, and we don’t want to do that. Let’s pick on those evil drug dealers instead. After all, drug users are all helpless victims of their self-indulgence and we wouldn’t want to hold them accountable.

No, our strategy is just a flawed and ineffective as alcohol prohibition and will continue to fail.

Similarly, we don’t really want to solve the illegal immigrant problem because those folks are an important piece of our economy and have been for generations. Here in Mississippi we depend on illegals to do everything from tend flowers to pluck chickens. They plant pine trees and are working tirelessly to cleanup and help re-build the Coast.

Send them back to Mexico and who’s going to do all that work? You? Me? The folks on food stamps and welfare? Don’t hold your breath.

National security concerns

Should we just forget the illegal immigration problem and let those folks alone? No, the problem has gotten too big and poses a real threat to our national security. We’ve got to act or Pedro Bin Laden may seize the opportunity to cross the river with a nuclear device in his backpack. It’s just too risky.

In my view there really isn’t an alternative to a national identification card. Everybody would get a “citizenship number,” probably their social security number. Citizenship would be verified every time a person is hired. And stiff penalties (I’m talking STIFF!) would be assessed to any employer failing to adequately document worker eligibility. The penalties would have to be stiff enough to make it hurt.

I can already hear the hue and cry about more paperwork and expense. And it will cost a bundle. However, the cost of providing services to illegal aliens runs to the hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Compliance is just an unpleasant fact of life and is required to solve the problem.

Will my proposal make us terrorist proof? Not by a long shot. Remember that the September 11th hijackers were in this country legally. It’s also of interest to me that the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and none were from Iraq or Afghanistan. Perhaps it’s oil politics that we attack two countries who didn’t attack us while we retain warm, cozy relations with the country from whence the terrorists came.

Will my suggestion of a national identification card be seriously considered? I doubt it. In truth, we don’t want to get rid of all the illegal immigrants because our economy depends on them continuing to work here. Congress will pass enough legislation to appear that they’re doing something but the problem will persist because solving it really isn’t a priority.

Thought for the Moment

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them. — publisher Malcolm S. Forbes (1919-1990)

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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