It is encouraging that both of the remaining candidates in the Democratic party’s presidential primary support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The remaining problem is the ability of Republicans to block any such legislatio and the fervor of their base against same. The undocumented are so beaten down that many are wiling to accept a guest-worker program, which, like the Bracero program of the early twentieth century, likely would be exploitive, just to step out of the shadows. This is a national shame.
These people deserve citizenship. The reason that they are “illegal” is that they had neither the money or the time to wait “in line” and then navigate the arcane immigration process. The immensity of this barrier is such that they choose the Herculean tasks of trying to cross vast stretches of land on foot ( and in some cases swim) or pay to be smuggled rather than wait to be processed into this country. This suggests how difficult, expensive and time consuming that process is.
Further, owing to brutal dictatoships and factions in some countries, many of the undocumented are refugees. The latest example is the children sent here from Honduras by their parents. Honduras, like its neighbor Guatemala, has been plagued by right wing dictatorships. Whereas Guatemala’s was worse in the eighties, Honduras’s has turned extreme and violent. Therefore, the children that some right-wingers are shamefully trying to send back are REFUGEES. They are entitled a hearing under the law and certainly merit asylum. The same goes for many other undocumented immigrants.
Many immigrants are classified “economic” even though they are obviously refugees due to despotism and violence. This should be enough, but the law requires specificity that is hard to prove. Such denial is wrong.
Denial of entry because someone is fleeing economic hardship is also wrong. Suffering is suffering. People should not be labeled undesirable because they are poor. No society is a perfect meritocracy and many countries are far from it. Intelligent people, such as my late Italian grandmother, can be forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The charge that other countries are sending their worst here is therefore inane.
Additionally, studies have shown that immigrants help the economy. Studies purporting to show the opposite only show half the story: the cost of social programs used. When their earnings are added, the result is a net gain for the economy. They do this taking jobs nobody wants. If, as some propose, they are sent to college under a sort of immigrant GI Bill, the net positive would be even larger.
Finally, it is never good to export problems. Ever since it became possible to manufacture competitive products with very low wage workers, those exploited workers have drawn jobs out of this country. The idea that people coming in take jobs is outdated. One cannot export pollution or any other problem either. What goes around comes around.