The immigration debate
Every country has the right and the responsibility to adopt immigration laws for reasons of its own self-interest and for the well-being of its citizens. These laws should regulate the number of immigrants per year who will be admitted and stipulate legitimate reasons for denying admission, such as health problems or a criminal record. The first and most critical decision is the number of immigrants which is in the best interests both of the country, and of its citizens. Those two interests may be vastly different. In the years between the Civil War and the Great Depression, the United States welcomed 75 million immigrants, because they were needed to supply the enormous labor demands of the mines and factories which were essential to sustain the phenomenal industrial growth of the country. And throughout that period, there was lots of space available to absorb them.Today, the situation is quite different; the demand is for low-wage farm workers to keep food prices down, and for low-cost convenience workers – maids, yard and building maintenance workers, restaurant help, and the like. If we did not have immigrants to fill these jobs, we would have to pay more for the services they provide. But there is another cost we will pay, and that is the decline in the quality of life from overpopulation and the resulting congestion, escalating land and housing costs, and the increasing demand on already strained water and energy supplies.But the number of illegal immigrants which have been pouring into the country during the past few decades presents an entirely new problem. Our wide-open border admits uncontrolled numbers without any screening to reject undesirables.We pride ourselves on the fact that ours is a country of laws. Our current immigration crisis is not because we lack laws controlling immigration. The problem is that for the past 25 years, our government has chosen to ignore those laws, until today the number of illegal immigrants has reached an unmanageable 10 million to 12 million.It is quite obvious that the current mess we find ourselves in is because of lack of response by government before the situation got out of hand. This has been typical of our government’s proclivity for ignoring other growing problems for much too long, such as our “addiction” to oil, and the escalating threat of global warming. Just how much longer can we ignore all these problems if we are to avoid being overwhelmed by them?An argument is being made that we should open our borders because we have always been a country of immigrants. There is a difference, however. Almost all those previous immigrants entered our country legally, as are immigrants from everywhere except Latin America. Just what is there that we fail to understand about the word “illegal?”The claim is also made that only immigrants will take the jobs that no one else will take. That is because the pay for those jobs, many of them under abominable working conditions, appeals only to those who are desperate enough to take them. Can anyone be proud of our country if our way of life is dependent on exploitation akin to serfdom, or even slavery? Many of these workers are kept in servitude by the fear of deportation.With the loss of middle-class manufacturing jobs due to the export of those jobs overseas, more and more Americans are finding themselves in competition with immigrant labor at wages that immigrants are willing to accept. Anyone doing a day’s work should be paid a living wage. Sure, it would cost us more for goods and services. But if we continue to be dependent on a massive influx of people willing to work for a substandard wage, we will be condemning additional millions of our citizens to a greatly diminished standard of living, and our country to a population which could reach half a billion by mid-century. Is that what we want for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren?Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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