Tuesday, October 04, 2005

So many illegals, so few options

How many people are living and working in the United States without authorization, so-called illegals? I've heard somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12 million. How'd this ever happen?

Simple, explains, Bob Dolibois of the American Nursery & Landscape Association. In effect, they've become trapped here, he says. For decades there has been a huge flow of illegals crossing back and forth across the U.S./Mexican border. They sneak into the United States for work, then go back home, then sneak back again. Back and forth, back and forth. Now that the border has been buttoned up tighter than Anna Nicole Smith's sweater, they're fearful of going back to Mexico because they realize that it would be much harder to return to work here. Well, that's one explanation for what's going on, and it's sounds as likely as any others I've heard so far.

Some people argue that illegals are keeping wages artificially low and are soaking up social services that should go to our country's neediest; others argue that our economy must have them to keep expanding and that they're paying taxes and pumping money in Social Security, a benefit they'll never see.

From what I can see, without them we'd all be paying a lot more for a lot of the things we take for granted — things like the food we put on our tables.

I guess you could argue that if business owners offered higher wages they could attract more U.S. citizens to do the work that the illegals are doing. And even the work that the documented foreign workers do, for that matter. But if if employers are forced to pay higher wages (assuming they can find the U.S. workers to fill these jobs), I think it's reasonable to expect them to raise the prices of their products or services, too.

How many of us want to pay more for anything?

That's the bind that President George W. Bush finds himself in. He knows that the U.S. economy needs these workers, whether they're documented or not, to drive its consumer economy. But, the issue has become so politicized that, unlike President Ronald Reagan who pushed through what amounted to an anmesty for illegal workers in 1986, Bush is boxed into a corner.

— Ron Hall

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