Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Immigration Reform: An Iraqi-American Perspective, Part II

For a little background on my experience with immigration, check out Part I:
Immigration Reform: An Iraqi-American Perspective, Part I

Pros of Immigration
First off, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for immigration, so I tend to like the idea. Immigration infuses “new blood” into societies that might be getting a bit stale (like Germany, no offense). It also helps with the problem of the shrinking worker-to-retiree ratio that so many developed countries are dealing with. Immigrants help societies better learn and understand what other cultures are like – increasing tolerance and decreasing inequality. Many immigrants study and work in our colleges and universities – often in positions that citizens of the country frankly do want to have. Same goes with the service industry – immigrants tolerate labor and wage conditions that we would consider unworkable.

Cons of Immigration
Unfortunately, there are many. Illegal immigrants are typically un- or under-educated and therefore to not put the kind of emphasis on education that they should. They tend to have trouble integrating - which could be caused by their unwillingness (or inability) to seek public assistance. This can lead to social isolation, lower education levels, higher crime rates, higher teen pregnancy, and a whole host of other problems.

Getting back to the labor and wages – a vast majority of immigrants (especially illegal ones) work in unbelievable conditions. Companies take advantage of them. We treat them like dirt – subhuman. They cannot complain for fear of being fired or deported. But they would rather take their chances with a horrible job here than the misery they left back in their country. Illegal immigrants depress wages and work their butts off – and companies know it. They usually can’t get a citizen to do the same amount of work for the same low pay as an illegal. They have become dependent on this workforce.

This brings in mind an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “The Measure of a Man” (you knew it was coming). The android Data is being ordered to be dissembled to be studies and is refusing to do so - so there is a hearing to determine if he (being a machine) has a right to refuse. Captain Picard is Data’s defender and is stumped, so he talks the issue over with Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg). Read the dialogue and you will see how this is relevant (and why I love ST:TNG so much):

Guinan: "Consider that in the history of many worlds there have always been disposable creatures. They do the dirty work. They do the work that no one else wants to do, because it's too difficult and too hazardous. With an army of Datas, all disposable, you don't have to think about their welfare, or you don't think about how they feel. Whole generations of disposable people."
Picard: "You're talking about slavery."
Guinan: "I think that's a little harsh."
Picard: "I don't think that's a little harsh, I think that's the truth. That's the truth that we have obscured behind...a comfortable, easy euphemism. "Property." But that's not the issue at all, is it?"

Captain Picard argues in the hearing that others will judge us by how we treat the vulnerable. And right now, US companies are not treating the illegal immigrants very well.

Immigration is a win-win situation for everybody. I support any law that will severely limit illegal immigration. This includes building barriers and cracking down on illegal immigrants that are the source of many problems.

Legal immigration must be expanded at the same time, however, so we can continue to reap the benefits of immigration and show people that we are a nation of tolerance and openness.


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