Solving The Undocumented

Giving undocumented immigrants citizenship doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense to those of us who came the documented way. Sure, it was costly. Sure, it took time and appointments to the embassy. Sure, it even took some embarrassment when the doctor performing the physical took a peak inside my pants (without asking) after I was told I had to be in a cubicle with my brothers in my underwear–something I never did at home–waiting for him to come and inspect us. I only wondered what would happen to my mother who was in a separate cubicle with my baby brother but I digress.

Andre-Heading West

Photo: Lilibeth Andre-“Heading West”

People come to the U.S. for opportunity. The opportunity to work hard and get ahead. Back at home you can work hard, if you’re lucky to have a job, but it seems you never get ahead. You’re lucky if you maintain your economic ground but it seems that it slips like sand between your fingers more and more. And if you had your own business you probably went under when NAFTA brought all those American chain stores into town and they out-priced you, and you could never support your family on the wages they pay and the hours they require.

The opportunity for jobs is what brings people to America. If people are willing to risk coming as an undocumented migrant, suffering the perils of illegal entry, it is only because you have a high chance of finding a job. When the economy was slow and jobs were not so prevalent, illegal immigration went down. Why risk coming when there are no jobs?

So here’s the solution: Instead of pursuing the illegal migrant, put the burden on the people that hire the undocumented person who is willing to work long hours for low wages and no benefits, illegal employment practices. And if the employer insists that they must hire these undocumented workers (not just the brown ones from the south), then it would be their duty to make their workers legal migrants through work permits.

Work permits give workers the ability to move freely between borders. If fear of deportation or the ability to return is removed then more people will come with a temporary worker mindset. Instead of having to stay in a country they do not consider their own they would be able to go back home and be with their family more easily. This burden could perhaps balance the economics of hiring legal workers and paying them a decent wage and benefits because this loss of jobs for local workers reverberates up the work chain and everyone pays the price when specialized and certified workers are displaced by illegal immigrants who cost the employer less. The consumer pays the ultimate cost disguised under the veil of lower prices.

Citizenship is the ultimate reward for legal immigration. Each country is allowed a certain number of migrants into the U.S. People can be legal, over time they can become residents (with all the rights but to vote), and then they can become citizens, if they choose to do so, with the right to vote. By then, there is a greater understanding of what this country is all about and with assimilation in culture, language, and understanding, the right to participate in the political process is a reward.

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