Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Day Without Immigrants (DWI))

What a concept. So were we to imagine that every person with whom we interact on a daily basis, who wasn't born in the US, will simply be unavailable on May 1?

My father-in-law was born in Mexico. He immigrated, legally, to the US about 50 years ago. He married a woman who was born in the US, but both of whose parents were legal immigrants from Mexico. So, everybody who lives in my house, except for me, is Mexican.

F-in-Law hates the concept of amnesty for illegal immigrants. His attitude is that he did it right, waited, got in and succeeded. Why should someone be allowed to break the law, for whatever "admirable" motive, and then just say, "Oops! My Bad!" and just be forgiven?

On May 1, I was working in the ER. One of my patients was a young man who had a work-place injury to his foot. He commented, "You know, Doc, I shouldn't have been at work today, anyway." He referred to the DWI. He is a natural born citizen of the US; his parents were both immigrants from Mexico. I asked him what he thought about amnesty for illegals. He replied that it bothered him that so many people wanted to make criminals out of the immigrants. I thought I was in for the usual liberal arguments, but before I could reply that they made criminals out of themselves when they broke the law, he laughed and said, "Well, I guess they did that themselves, didn't they?"

He then replied that he was conflicted. You see, both of his immigrant parents were illegal, but were now citizens after the amnesty under President Reagan. He didn't want to criticize current illegals because that would mean criticizing his parents.

However, he moved from El Paso because he couldn't compete with the overwhelming number of illegals for jobs. The argument that illegals are simply doing the jobs that "Americans" don't want to do is bunk. He works for a construction company, legally, pays his taxes and expects a certain income. The problem is that, because he works in a labor job, he doesn't have much job security. Every day there is a line of illegals waiting for his foreman, trying to take his and other jobs. They don't just work for less per hour, but there is none of the beuracratic overhead associated with legal employees.

As with every other employee that works "off the books" the employer doesn't have to pay worker's comp, taxes, etc. Now, I know that some do, and even help the illegal get forged documents. OTOH, if this guy had been an illegal working for end of the day cash, he would have been on the hook for a several hundred dollar ER bill. The employer could have just told the guy, "Hey, if you're hurt and can't work, just get out of here!" and taken the next guy in line.

So, my patient works for less per hour, to protect his employment, than he would have to earn if he wasn't competing against illegals. He is concerned that he can't provide for his kids adequately because of this. He feels that the increased income he could have if he wasn't competing with illegals would allow his wife to be a stay at home mom.

Mixed feelings.

BTW, I am a first generation US citizen. My mother immigrated legally and became a US citizen in the 1960's.