Americas Schizophrenia Why Immigration is Besides the Point

It is certainly no wonder that there is sharp division and controversy in this Country on the subject of immigration. After all, the American attitude on the subject is conducive to mixed emotions which, in this writer's opinion, rise to the level of schizophrenia. This phenomenon is hardly new, although a superficial survey of current punditry would have us believe that this whole subject has risen to public consciousness only in the past few months.In the middle of the 19th Century, a huge wave of Irish immigration, fleeing the potato famine, arrived at our shores. Americans of Anglo-Saxon origins were very resentful, and frightened about the prospect of lost jobs. Sound familiar? Those of Anglo-Saxon origin had, of course, themselves been immigrants not so very long before.

The Irish immigrants, quickly found a niche for themselves, and acquired political clout. So when Eastern European Jews, Italians and Slavs arrived in the late 19th and Early 20th Centuries, the Irish were in a position to resent those new arrivals, and did so quite vociferously."Give us your tired, your poor??" Nice words, to be sure, but rarely meant by the entrenched American populace.Then, as now, it was the immigration of people seeking opportunity which, in large measure, gave our country the energy and vibrancy which built it into a mammoth industrial and economic machine. Now, we are hotly debating the issue of immigration once again, with both sides of the question asserting valid points in support of their respective positions. I would argue that, at the end of the day, a compromise somewhat in the nature of that proposed by the President is inevitable, but hardly sufficient to address the real and much more fundamental problem that we face.

It is, rather, roughly analogous to "shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic.It is certainly true, as argued by the "seal the borders" constituency, that, while we want to encourage immigration, it should be legal immigration. People have been following the rules, and waiting their turn, pursuing the right to enter into and work in this Country and to become citizens, according to the laws enacted for that purpose. Why, the argument goes, should people who snuck over the border and who have not been paying taxes, and have been receiving public benefits, schooling, etc., be permitted to "jump the line.

" A very valid point, to be sure. This Country has a strong interest in enforcement of its laws and, equally importantly, an interest in being seen to enforce its laws.It is also true, however, that as a result of the confluence of intermittent enforcement of immigration policy coupled with labor policy, our American Economy is now based on a system which not only tolerates, but requires illegal immigrants.

We have a minimum wage system, a labor union structure and laws which, while certainly desirable in many respects to American Labor, has made us, in large measure, unable to compete in a global economy. Hence, the ever-increasing export of jobs overseas. This is why, when one calls Microsoft Tech Support, he or she is connected to someone in India. The cost of employment in the U.S. mandates, in practice, though technically contrary to law, that a cheap labor pool be available for low-end, unskilled work.

Although it is often said that illegal immigrants are doing jobs that Americans won't do, I do not really thing that that is necessarily true; rather, the cost of having American citizens do those jobs would drive up prices in certain areas, such as manufactured goods and agricultural products, to a level which Americans would find intolerable.Thus, even if it were practical to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, I believe that such a move would seriously threaten the viability of the real economy (i.e., the one we don't admit to) of the United States. The proposed alternative is to find a way to bring these immigrants into the mainstream, and to give them, ultimately, the opportunity to become legal, taxpaying citizens.

The flaw in this, of course, is obvious. Once these illegal immigrants become legal, they will, among other things, have to be paid the minimum wage, and the entire benefit that we surreptitiously and hypocritically derive from our underground, illegal workforce will be lost to us.Ultimately, therefore, the problem is not immigration. It is, regrettably, a much larger and more difficult one.

How do we compete? We cannot produce goods as cheaply as India or China. We cannot impose punishing trade tariffs, because that just invites reciprocation, and black marketeering. America, I believe, is in serious danger of losing its preeminent position on the world's economic stage. As it stands today, our only remaining and potent weapon is our seemingly insatiable consumer market. We need our economic gurus to figure out ways to leverage that into rewarding our friends and penalizing those who would bury us as an international economic power. There is no time to lose.

And while sealing borders on the one hand, or creating the illusion of a country dedicated, on a renewed basis, to opportunity for the dispossessed may make us feel good for awhile, neither of these paths will solve the real problem. We are victims of our own success and prosperity, and the rest of the world wants what we have. If we don't protect it, it will surely be taken from us, and soon.Warren R.

Copyright 2006.

.Warren R. Graham is a New York attorney with the Firm of Cohen Tauber Spievack & Wagner LLP. He is a frequent writer on a variety of topics, including legal matters, political and religious affairs. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of his firm or its members.

Additional information on him may be found at either or http://warrenrgrahamlegal.blogspot.


By: Warren Graham

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