Instead of leading the immigration reform, Arizona has taken us backwards with a draconian and down-right embarrassing bill, SB 1070. As I mentioned yesterday, this bill makes me so irritated that I can hardly type. But I am finally ready to take a closer look at why Arizona enacted SB 1070.
The most common argument against illegal immigrants (IIs), especially in our current economy, is that IIs are taking away jobs from “real Americans” (RAs).
Okay, let’s look at the argument. Let’s say that there would be RAs lined up around the country to pick apples and wash dishes and trim the bushes. But companies are still employing IIs. Why? Well, what are the benefits?
Companies can pay below minimum wage. If you are illegally in the country, you have no say in the matter. Because you will be deported. And in all likelihood, the II risked his life and life savings to get to the United States.
Companies can provide no benefits. If an II gets sick, she goes to the ER because there is no medical home for her and no insurance. Because companies don’t have to provide insurance to someone who does not technically exist.
And if these jobs are so coveted, why AREN’T the RAs showing up at the manual labor offices and parking lots? Why aren’t they willing to work for less than minimum wage in the hot sun for 12 hours a day 7 days per week?
My question is why isn’t Arizona going after these companies with tougher policies? Why the IIs? The companies are not only keeping the RAs from getting jobs, but they are creating a caste-like system. And costing the RAs money by giving jobs away and having the IIs go to the emergency room for all healthcare. But for the more business/less government people, the question may then come up: how are companies just barely making it, going to increase wages to appropriate amounts and grant benefits without help? How can these companies afford RAs? (Although if Arizona is getting rid of all the IIs, Arizona companies are going to have the same problem with SB 1070.)
The other option is that there are NOT people lining up to take over these jobs. That even on minimum wage, RAs don’t want them. If that is the case, why not grant amnesty to IIs so these jobs can be done. Because we need them done. Maybe we can even do them without FORCED LABOR! But again, we will probably have to help all those companies do the right thing and pay minimum wage and benefits if IIs become RAs. And companies cannot like that idea.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to go after the small and large businesses? The farmers? The guys with the good lobbyists? Oh wait, IIs don’t have lobbyists. Within our system, they don’t even exist. What a perfect scapegoat. Win-win. Voters have someone to blame for their economic woes. Companies get off (well until they need someone in the fields. Of course, in Arizona IIs are so much more vulnerable with SB 1070 that companies will have even MORE power to control their workforce.)
Arizona could’ve put into place a law to go after the companies. They could’ve encouraged citizens to turn in their landscaping company instead of the officer who isn’t harassing enough Hispanics walking down their street. And Arizona could’ve provided grants and loans to businesses. These would offset the cost of raising pay to minimum wage and providing benefits. But only if the companies would actually go under if they had to, you know, DO THE RIGHT THING by their workers. (Yes. It’s a bailout. But probably cheaper than teaching officers how to not do RACIAL PROFILING while doing RACIAL PROFILING. And it’s almost definitely cheaper than lawsuits.)
Although I am an advocate for amnesty because I believe that people, who have come to our country to contribute and create better lives, deserve to stay and be recognized, I understand that some people can’t let go of the word ILLEGAL. Well, what if after enacting this anti-corporations-using-illegal-immigrants bill, Arizona places advertisements around town to see how many of these jobs at the fair wage are filled? Arizona could’ve been the testing ground. And let the people in this country, who think illegal immigrants are destroying our economy, know: Look. We don’t have people to do these jobs. That was just smoke and mirrors for hate. Let’s grant amnesty to the hard working IIs. If only for the sake of our economy.
And we all win! Perhaps even corporate America could sleep at night.
Photo credit: Arizona Map