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Here’s the real story about why we’re not going to solve the problem of illegal immigration in this country. The politicians who have the power to fix it don’t want a solution because they make points exploiting the issue.
There’s something for everyone to demagogue. Why would a class of people who make their livelihoods out of offering false claims about controversial problems want to give up an issue that’s so easy to manipulate?
Democrats can rally supporters who believe illegal immigrants are treated unfairly. That’s a sizable voting bloc that will continue to grow as the demographics of this nation shift. Republicans can appeal to those who believe illegal immigrants are sucking tax dollars out of the system and are responsible for every crime committed in America. The GOP is not about to give up those talking points.
Then there are the special interests that get rich off illegal immigrants. Cheap labor, whether for agriculture, the hotel industry or construction, would go away if there were substantive immigration reforms. Having this shadow work force sure beats paying decent wages.
And what about all the groups on both sides of this issue that have been organized to lobby for or against immigration reform? If you search “immigration reform” of Google you’ll get a taste of how many immigration groups are out there. All those “think” tanks would go away if the problem got solved.
It’s like simplifying the income tax filing system in the United States. That would put a lot of CPAs and tax preparation services out of business. Consequently, they don’t want a tax system simple enough for taxpayers to file their own returns on a three-by-five card.
It could be done, but it won’t happen because the special interests would lose billions if the tax system became easy for the average taxpayer to understand.
Same thing on illegal immigration. We have a lot of hand wringing over the problem, but no real follow through because the biggest incentive is to keep the current system.
We were on the verge of a breakthrough this year when a bipartisan group of senators put together a reasonable plan that met most objections that critics have. President Bush signed onto it. But it failed because the special interests picked it apart.
Now we are left with the status quo: weak border security, 12 million illegal immigrants in limbo and a system that takes advantage of those supplying the cheap labor.
Not surprisingly, the presidential candidates are telling Americans that they’ll get a comprehensive immigration reform bill through Congress and signed if they are elected.
That’s the beauty of this issue. The politicians get to play both sides of this issue, and the public doesn’t seem to realize it.
Meanwhile, the illegal immigration problem continues, with its collateral damage being public institutions.
Illegal immigrants, without health insurance, jam our hospital emergency rooms because they go there instead to a doctor who can treat their problem earlier and at less expense.
Their children attend public schools that aren’t equipped to handle large numbers of children who don’t speak English and come to school with other educational disadvantages.
But I don’t blame the illegal immigrants. They only do what they have to do to get by. We created this problem and we are refusing to fix it.
As Fresno Mayor Alan Autry says, we coax illegal immigrants to come here to work on farms and in other industries needing cheap labor and then we complain when they stay.
Autry says that chambers of commerce across the country and federal lawmakers in the United States and Mexico are part of a “coalition of greed” that supports bringing in illegal immigrants to exploit the cheap labor they provide. Autry tens to overstate most issues, but he’s very close to the mark on the illegal immigration problem.
So let’s stop kidding ourselves about our commitment to immigration reform. The politicians are refusing to fix the problem, and that seems just fine with the rest of us because we don’t hold them accountable at the ballot box.
We’d rather complain about illegal immigration than push our leaders to solve it. And that’s just fine with the politicians. They’d have to find another issue to exploit if they actually passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
(Contact Jim Boren at firstname.lastname@example.org.)