Regardless of one’s ethnicity or legal status, it’s legitimate to puzzle about immigration policy. At the local level, undocumented immigrants cost the Harris County Hospital District $97.3 million last year - at 14 percent a small but significant fraction of total operating costs. Nationwide, illegal immigrants depleted local coffers by $949 million. Yet at the state level, the state comptroller’s research, which aligns with similar studies in other states, shows that illegal immigrants benefited Texans by bringing more than $17 billion into the economy.
I can’t tell you how tired I am of listening to Right-wing bigots who view illegal immigrants as the source of everything that plagues this country. Sure, in a perfect world, illegal immigration wouldn’t be necessary- because it wouldn’t exist. Actually, it might not exist if not for our willingness to exploit those who come to this country (whether legally or illegally) in search of economic opportunities unavailable in their homelands. Far too many Americans have proven themselves simultaneously willing to exploit the cheap, plentiful labor supplied by illegals while decrying their presence and hating them for what they represent. It’s easy to hate Brown People. It’s also horribly hypocritical and mean-spirited
We allow illegal immigrants to mow our lawns, pick our fruits and vegatables, collect our garbage, build our roads and houses- and yet there are those Americans out there who see these same sources of cheap labor as a symbol and source of all that is wrong with this country. We can’t live with them…and yet we can’t live without them. It would seem that we are, willingly and openly, a nation of hypocrites and bigots. What we want is for the Brown People to do the dirty work we will not deign to do- and then disappear until we need them again.
This is not a simple or easy policy issue. There are no simple or easy solutions. As a nation, we’re addicted to the cheap labor provided by immigrants. That cheap labor is reflected in the prices we pay for goods and services. If we simply wall off the border (and yes, I’m talking about the Canadian border as well), the first sound you’ll hear is that of Americans complaining about significantly higher prices for goods and services- every thing from fruits and vegetables to housing to landscaping services.
You may hate illegal immigrants and everything they stand for…but just try living without them.
It’s appropriate for the Legislature to take up some of the challenges posed by this complex economics, but the calculus will be tricky: Texas needs a way to strengthen and reinforce local schools and hospitals without crippling the enormous momentum illegal laborers bring to Texas.
By rights, of course, the Legislature shouldn’t have do this math at all. Securing the borders is a federal responsibility. Any costs from Washington’s failure to shoulder its burden should be federal, as well. Because Congress has not met this duty, however, Texas legislators are forced to take over some of the reins.
They need to be sure, though, they’re goading the right horse - a healthy economy that pulls the state steadily forward. Too many lawmakers, however, are starting to dig their heels into a different beast, dangerous and unpredictable - cultural division.
Illegal immigrants make easy targets for politicians. Since they cannot vote (they’re here illegally, after all), they have no voice, which makes them vulnerable to whatever political winds happen to be blowing in their direction. Too many politicians have taken the easy and safe route of coming out strongly against illegal immigration without carefully considering the unintended consequences of their pandering. If you eliminate illegal immigration and the cheap, plentiful labor it provides, then what do you replace it with? And who pays the higher costs?
Yes, illegal immigration is a problem. No, walling off our borders is NOT a solution. This is not about terrorism or Homeland Security or any of the other sham arguments put forth by Right-wingers looking to score some cheap political points. It’s about how much and for how long we’re willing to exploit the poor and disenfranchised Brown People for their cheap labor and willingness to accept second-class status because it’s STILL better than when they’d have in their native land.
Surely, we’re better than the pandering, the posturing, and the blustering about illegal immigrants as if Hispanics sneaking across the border are terrorist threats? But are our politicians and those Right-wing zealots willing to exploit a group that cannot defend themselves?