It used to be just a border state issue, but now the whole country is mad. Neither Democrats nor Republicans are dealing with it, but suddenly it’s a major issue for the November elections. It’s been big in border states for a while now, but as illegal aliens spread all over the country, so does the anger. Both parties avoid it but for different reasons. Democrats see illegals becoming citizens eventually and voting Democrat as so many ethnic-minority-victim-groups traditionally have. Republicans have two reasons: Businesses comprising a big part of the Republican base profit by hiring illegal low-wage workers and not paying benefits and passing those costs to taxpayers. Businesses also profit when wages for blue-collar Americans are kept low because millions of illegals work cheap nearly everywhere in the country. America’s working poor suffer the most.
Legitimate small businessmen suffer too when illegitimate competition with an illegal workforce is able to continually underbid them. Illegals cost about a third of what legitimate workers cost when you add in Workers’ Compensation, Social Security taxes, and all the rest. When illegals get sick or injured and are treated at emergency rooms without health insurance, those costs are passed on as higher taxes and higher health insurance premiums. Legitimate businesses pay for this along with the rest of us, but, with competition getting stiffer all the time, the temptation to go under the table increases.
Competition from illegal aliens is the worst problem, but legal aliens are displacing low-wage Americans as well. A woman from Sweden, Maine emailed me recently because her seventeen-year-old son lost his job to a foreign student. He worked at a local summer camp the past two summers and wanted to return this year. Though he worked at the camp, his employer was a large foodservice firm called Sodexho - a multibillion dollar, multinational food service company based in France. The boy had a good work record, but Sodexho informed him they were employing international students this year and he had to look elsewhere. This would seem to be in violation of Maine State Law, which states that employers may bring in foreigners only “. . . in cases where it can be demonstrated that there are insufficient qualified U.S. workers available and willing to perform the work . . .” Clearly that was not the case here. But, after September 11th, the new federal Department of Homeland Security assumed authority for granting and policing temporary work visas for international students and states don’t police it anymore. Nearby North Conway, New Hampshire brings in hundreds of foreign students to work in retail and tourist industries there during summer. The federal government can’t possibly assess the impact of legions of foreign workers on wages scales locally. Fighting terrorism is one thing, but feds should leave it to the states to regulate local economic impact of temporary foreign labor. Students working summer jobs to avoid huge student loan payments later must be able to negotiate a decent wage. The Maine woman who contacted me about her son is complaining to Senator Olympia Snowe even though she and Senator Susan Collins recently voted to grant amnesty to illegal aliens across the United States. Somehow, I don’t think she’ll be getting any satisfaction from our congressional delegation on immigrant labor issues.
Though President Bush - along with both Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate - want amnesty for illegal aliens, there is some hope from House Republicans. When they passed a strong bill calling for deportation of illegals and strong penalties for businesses who hire them, hundreds of thousands of illegals marched in the streets of Los Angeles, Houston, and other cities carrying Mexican flags and demanding “civil rights.” They thought they were flexing their muscles, but they only made it worse for themselves in the eyes of taxpaying citizens who will be going to the polls this fall.
Like I said, ordinary Americans are fed up. They’re infuriated and most of our representatives in Washington don’t even have a clue. It’s going to be an interesting election.