Sympathy for the cheated

The argument of some is that illegal aliensenrich our society by taking jobs that no one else will take, and that when you crack down on them as the government recently did at six Swift meat-packing plants, you are being inhumane and doing the economy a disservice as well.

Facts just might help on the issue. Using them, you can point out that these undocumented immigrants contribute significantly to increases in U.S. poverty rates and that they hold wages down and steal jobs from the least educated, poorest native-born Americans. The illegals can even do themselves horrendous, sometimes mortal damage by coming to this country.

It is true that they make more money than if they stayed home, which, for most, is Mexico, and some reap public benefits that couldn’t be matched south of the border. Those who turn to crime most likely find the pickings sweeter here than there. But many are exploited with little recourse to authorities, at least if they want to avoid getting caught. They must go about stealthily, and again and again they are subjected to miserable, pathetic deaths that make the misfortune of being caught in a raid seem minor stuff.

Just a couple of weeks ago some 20 miles up Interstate 70 from where I live in the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, a van carrying 15 people — apparently illegal immigrants being smuggled to jobs — crashed. Four were killed, others injured. Here is the inhumanity — stupid laws and weak enforcement that as much as encourage long lists of such tragedies annually — and here is what won’t bring us to utopia: amnesty for the 11 million illegal aliens now in the United States or guest worker programs.

Amnesty can help the illegal aliens now here escape most of their fears, but it would only increase the flow of new illegal aliens pouring in. Since the last time we tried amnesty in the 1980s, the number of illegals has doubled: About 500,000 arrive annually, the equivalent a major new city every year. Guest workers would continue theharm done to low-income groups, and I concur with the idea many would become illegal again if there was any legal time limit to their stay.

The answer is to reform self-contradicting laws on hiring these aliens and then strictly enforce them. Some reports on the Swift raids noted that the federal government is increasing arrests of those hiring illegal immigrants, but restricts how much documentation employers are allowed to seek from suspect job applicants. Simultaneously, the government subjects the employers to anti-discrimination lawsuits if they quiz the applicants thoroughly.

Companies such as Swift are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. The company went out of its way to inform the government that its employees likely included a number of illegal aliens using forged or stolen Social Security numbers, and guess what happened when the raids came? Its competitors got a leg up while newspaper editorials, hot-to-trot union organizers and others depicted the company and the government as hatefully, callously disrupting the decent lives of decent people.

The illegals are indeed by and large decent, certainly something less than hardened criminals. But the fate of those who don’t face serious charges is deportation to their home countries, not lengthy stays in prison, and the disruption to their lives is something they brought on themselves by coming here illegally in the first place and cheating others in the process. We can have sympathy for the illegals, especially given governmental laxity that eases their way to later misery, but we should also have sympathy for those who have been cheated, including millions of legitimate American citizens.

Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com

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