When I was a young girl in San Miguel Allende, Mexico, we had a gardener with the name of Herminio, He loved to work the soil and take care of the plants. Herminio was shy, not very educated man and had a hard time expressing himself. But every year Herminio went to work in the “pizca” or crop harvest in California.
Immigration caught him many times, and as soon as he was on Mexican soil, he would take a bus and go back to the United States. According to Bread of the World Institute website, “60% of Mexico’s extremely poor people are rural, and 44% of Mexican immigrants, like Herminio, come from rural communities.” For the people living in the rural communities in Mexico, crossing the border to work in the “pizcas,” was the only opportunity to improve their lives. And going north has been a rooted tradition in the Mexican rural families. To Herminio and to thousands of immigrants like him, crossing the border is not a crime. The U.S. laws and politics are unknown to them.
If the Americans demand labor, Mexicans will supply labor. In fact, the ones who know the U.S. laws well are the employers that hire cheap illegal labor like Herminio. But the American employers decide to ignore the U.S. laws because they know Hispanics work hard, they don’t complain and they are loyal. They get the work done. And the politicians decide to ignore the fact that American employers are breaking the law by knowingly hiring illegal workers. Because they know growers cannot supply cheap food to the supermarkets without cheap labor. Politicians also know that Hispanics are not “stealing jobs from Americans” as the columnist Chris Friend from the Philly Post put it.
The Hispanics do the hard labor jobs most Americans don’t want. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to come to the Twin Falls County and visit the dairies with me. The only ones shoveling and walking in the cow manure are the Hispanics. But today it is different for Herminio’s sons and grandsons. The risk and expense of going to work in the United States may not be worth the risk. According to an article in the New York Times, Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North “…immigration is fallen to its lowest level at least from the 1950’s…fewer than 100,000 illegal border crossers and visa-violators from Mexico settled in the United States in 2010, down from about 250,000 annually from 2000 to 2004.” The reasons for this decrease in illegal immigration are the rising border crime created by the drug cartels (see my January column: A Country in Trouble), the increasing costs of “coyote” fees (smuggling), and the U.S. immigration crackdowns. Furthermore, It seems like more Mexicans are coming to the United States legally versus illegally. “Tourist visas are being granted at higher rates of around 89 percent, up from 67 percent, while American farmers have legally hired 75 percent more temporary workers since 2006,” wrote the New York Times. The American farmers are issuing visas H-2A from their workers (under the Agriculture Guess Worker Program).
The H-2A program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs for which U.S. workers are not available (Source: U.S. Department of Labor). The bad news is that around 11 million illegal immigrants remain in this country and 4.5 million U.S. born children have undocumented parents. They live in limbo, as my Catholic aunt will say. The parents are not U.S. citizens and they are uprooted from their countries of origin. Friend also writes: “American taxpayers are educating known illegals to the tune of billions a year” I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that a U.S. born children is a U.S. citizen? Is he referring to the 4.5 million U.S. born children? My children were born in Illinois, so they are U.S. citizens, am I missing something? The illegal adults are too busy making money for the American employers, so they don’t go to school.
Some argue that these 11 million illegal immigrants (specially non-white immigrants) hurt the U.S. economy, because immigrants are more likely to use benefits like welfare, food stamps, and so on that a present bankrupt government continues to offer. But it is unfair to blame the deficit problem solely on social benefits when the government spends much more on wars and generous subsidies to financial institutions, utilities and oil companies not to mention the lavish benefits congress awards themselves.
It is our responsibility, as a developed country, to control who gets those benefits and decide which benefits we want to provide to people, illegal or not. I grew up in a country where my parents had to pay for private education, health care and food all their lives; our family took care of their elderly until they died. We saved our money for family emergencies. We did not expect anything, absolutely nothing from the Mexican Government. Likewise, most Hispanics don’t want anything free from the U.S. government, as long as the earnings match the cost of living. Most Mexicans just want the opportunity to have a decent job, be valued as contributing members of the society and have a better life for their children.