Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Human Rights and Immigration

America's economic refugee situation has been discussed entirely on the wrong terms. Rather than to try to find approaches to manage the situation in which lots of impoverished people with the initiative to risk everything in order to come here that respect human dignity, much of the policy responses offered have been to crack down on these people who take desperate life risking measures in order to get to this country rather than those who violate the fundamental human rights of others. Person traffickers for example, are amongst the scum of the earth, people who smuggle poor people past immigration officials exposing them to inhumane conditions in order to make a buck. The conditions that person traffickers expose their victems who they claim to help can be seen in todays New York Times.
A truck driver was found guilty of all charges Monday and faces possible execution in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants who suffocated in his airless trailer in South Texas in 2003.
The milk trailer, piled with bodies and 55 survivors, was found abandoned at a truck stop near Victoria, Tex., in the early hours of May 14, 2003.

We are far too used to talking about this issue in terms of "illegal immigrants" which shifts the debate onto people who are in actuality the victems of our present broken immigration policy. A serious approach must acknowledge that the influx of people is driven by a fundamental economic reality, that we hold a unique position in the world, a developed economy sharing a 2,000 mile border with a developing economy. The approaches to this issue need to recognize that, and crack down on those who abuse the human rights of those who desperately seek passage to the United States. We need to crack down on people traffickers and those who employ illegal immigrants. We need to acknowledge that immigrant labor is important to many businesses, particularly in agriculture, and reform our visa policies to grant more visas to those who seek work in the United States so that they dont need to take the treacherous routes to pass into the United States illegally and won't be abused by people traffickers and unscrupulous employers who might pay less than minimum wage and house people in unsafe tin shacks. And finally, we need to expand fair trade and foreign aid with Mexico in order to equilize our economies. This issue is about human rights, and any reforms need to be focused on that reality.

1 comment:

Chuck Butcher said...

"...immigrant labor is important to many businesses..."

The reason it is so important to so many businesses is that the cheats make it so. In labor intensive business the impact of cheating on legal businesses is huge, but, the impact on the price of the product at market is fairly small. The "cherry orchard" that pays a living wage in competition with ones that pay substandard "cheating" wages will go out of business. The solution is not a race to the bottom, the solution is to hold everyone to the same legal standard. Paying a wage that Americans "will work for" is only a problem when nobody else is. The inflationary hit is small, labor is just not that large a percentage of actual product cost, it's just the most mallable one. That is why labor gets it in the neck, every time.