When illegal immigrants disappear

http://www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pb ... 46/OPINION
Statesman Journal - Salem, OR
Friday, September 7, 2007

A couple of years ago a film titled "A Day Without a Mexican" was made about what would happen in California if all the immigrant workers suddenly disappeared. Of course, it was a fantasy; however, now it appears that real life will imitate art.

Did this political satire propose a new fence? A massive increase in Border Patrol agents? A squadron of airborne drones? "No," is the correct answer to all three questions.

The new "weapon," its reported, is nothing more than a two-page letter that will go out next month to companies with employees whose names and Social Security numbers do not match the ones in Social Security Administration files. Subsequent to the enactment of the U.S. Immigration and Control Act of 1986, this has been done but was easily satisfied by employers if they simply asked to see a worker's papers and had them fill out the required forms, including the ubiquitous I-9. That was the end of story . . . then.

Now the government is demanding that unauthorized employees be fired, threatening legal action in cases of non-compliance. What's anticipated are massive layoffs by millions of businesses. Meanwhile, the new measure is popular with the American public where polling has determined that eight in 10 Americans support it. Who knows for certain, the two of ten may be of Hispanic and Latino descent.

The amount of support for it by Americans comes as no surprise. Voters and most U.S. citizens want to realize immigration control. I must admit I'm one who's among them as I want people to enter my country legally, while nothing gets under my skin more irritatingly than seeing people from other countries marching in our streets with the flag of Mexico or any other country unfurled and defiantly suggesting they're here to ignore our laws and take over the place while they're at it.

It is reported that those in favor are ready and even enthusiastically willing to punish employers who consciously hire illegal immigrants. Also, after years of turning a blind eye to what most see as a real threat to the integrity and preservation of the nation, a majority in this country are characterized as pleasantly but enthusiastically surprised to see the authorities enforcing the law of the land. They, like I, support it.

Of course, there will be some adjustment problems; we might wish to refer to them as fairly serious ones Actually, the matter has grown in anticipated effect for several years as legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico (and Latin America) have turned to hospitality and construction jobs, having thereby deprived farmers of the workforce they need to plant, cultivate, and harvest crops in the U.S.

It is reported that not even the least skilled and educated American citizens want to work in agriculture nowadays. If a person talks to farmers around here, the typical story is that no member of the family wants to take over the farm once the parents are too old to work it. Meanwhile, more than seventy percent of U.S. farm workers are estimated to be of illegal status. So, without these folks picking the crops through actively imposed enforcement, it's said, enforcement could quite conceivably force most fruit and vegetable farming out of the U.S.

There will be a multitude of repercussions from this enforcement. Congress could change its mind regarding immigration reform when the reality of the absence of the former illegal immigrant workforce is diminished to a point where the American consumer cries "Ouch!" over the cost and availability (or lack of same) of food items taken for granted as readily available here for years and years in large and small grocery stores, weekend and week day city markets, fruit and vegetable stands in the country, and big-box businesses. It could result in the proliferation of even more shady labor contractors while the incidence of identity theft may head for the stratosphere. There may be greatly increased mistreatment of the illegal immigrants than is already the case. Predictably, there will be a reduction in the payment of taxes; after all, it's reported that most illegal immigrants with fake papers pay something between $5 and $10 billion a year in Social Security taxes. There's more to this story than the probably outcomes identified here, and Americans may want to take a long and hard look at what's coming to their neighborhoods. Changed conditions Americans can probably depend on occurring, if all that's threatened achieves implementation! In fact, the whole episode in American history could turn out to look an awful lot like the nation's experiment with prohibition!

What do you think is going to happen when the two-page form gets implemented? I have to wonder if American citizens, looking for jobs on the one hand, and the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, on the other, will return to farm work, get greatly or casually involved with the growth of crops and their distribution, or perhaps establish again, in any and every available space, what Americans called "Victory Gardens" during WW II.

If Americans want the food stuffs that come from farms but won't work at helping "down on the farm," then everything in the way of fruits and vegetables will most likely be imported. Former illegal immigrants may stay "home" to grow the items in their own countries, avoiding the stress of trying to get into the U.S. illegally and the hassle of deportation once they're discovered by the Social Security Administration and sent home under the enforcement of the Immigration Control and Enforcement Act of 2005 or ICE.

It's likely going to be a variation of one of those alleged Chinese proverbs, sometimes defined as a curse: May you will live in interesting times! Americans, it's promised, will have the satisfaction of knowing that the people here are here legally, but may also find that it's much more costly to live at the standard to which they've become accustomed by those illegal immigrants who've come here to pick the crops for low wages, no benefits, and no legal protections.

Meanwhile, the other end of the spectrum has a huge number of young Americans looking for a White-collar job or, because the cost of college has become prohibitive save for those of means or fortunate enough to have been born in families who've practiced the discipline of saving for their offspring's college costs, choosing a life of crime, single parenthood, drugs, and other self-destructive behaviors, farming being too labor intensive and insufficiently status enhancing even when life here for many, as it already has, becomes a hand-to-mouth struggle vs. premature death and a supreme challenge just to stay alive . . . and out of jail.

posted by Gene McIntyre