Monday, March 27, 2006

The Washington Post on Immigration Overhaul

Get the story here!

The usual presentation:
Year after year, Professional Grounds Inc. runs a help-wanted ad to find landscapers and groundskeepers. Starting wage: $7.74 per hour.

In a good year, three people call. Most years, no one does.

So the Springfield company relies on imported labor -- seasonal guest workers allowed to immigrate under the federal guest-worker program -- to keep itself running. For 10 months this year, 23 men from Mexico and Central America will spend their days mulching and mowing, seeding and sodding for Professional Grounds.

Occasionally, company President Bill Trimmer asks himself: If I doubled wages, would native-born Americans apply? He thinks he knows the answer.

"I don't think it's a wage situation. It's the type of work and the nature of the work. It's hard, backbreaking work," said Trimmer, who started the company 31 years ago. "I think we're a more affluent society now. They expect more. Everybody expects more. . . . I have contracts, and they want an affordable price, too."

Here lies the dilemma facing Congress as it attempts an immigration overhaul. Businesses say it is hard to persuade Americans to perform the unskilled jobs that immigrants easily fill. Significantly higher wages might work, but that increase would be passed on to unhappy consumers, forcing Americans to give up under-$10 manicures and $15-per-hour paint and lawn jobs.

Yet against a backdrop of heightened scrutiny of those who cross U.S. borders and the estimated 12 million migrants already here illegally, most everyone agrees that the current immigration system warrants a severe makeover.
To read the first graphs of the post article, the casual reader would think the country is up in arms about legal immigrants that take less desireable jobs. It isn't until the 8th graph that the writers mention the word "illegally."

Perish the thought that it is this form of immigration that alarms Main Street. Oh, no! After all, every Reasonable person knows there should be no differentiation between legal and illegal immigrants. Entry into the United States is a human right all people share, regardless of America's laws or the costs to her education and healthcare systems.

WP staff writers S. Mitra Kalita and Krissah Williams present a little more balanced reporting here:
In the past 15 years, the Labor Department has audited McMahon's company five times looking for illegal workers -- each time finding none, McMahon said. He added that the House bill threatens to bring his business to a "screeching halt" because there is no provision for a guest-worker program or for dealing with the undocumented immigrants already working.

But advocates of tighter borders say hiring foreigners should be difficult, not just for security but to limit competition between less-skilled immigrants and Americans.

"Employers in many of these sectors have gotten themselves into a Catch-22 situation where if they do not look the other way and hire illegal workers, they will not be competitive with other businesses," said Jack Martin, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an advocacy group governed by business leaders and activists favoring national immigration limits.

"The wages and working conditions where there are large numbers of illegal workers have been driven down to the point where those jobs are not as attractive to American workers," Martin said.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center data, undocumented workers tend to be clustered in service and construction jobs and make up more than half of the region's janitorial and landscape workers. Forty-three percent of the region's construction workers are illegally in the United States or have only temporary work authorization, the data show.

Wages for landscaping and groundskeeping workers in the Washington area have risen slightly in recent years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from an average of $9.61 per hour in 1999 to $10.51 in 2004. Professional Grounds' Trimmer said most employees, including guest workers, earn $9 to $11 per hour.
At least the reporters mention one quote from an organization that opposes illegal immigration.

Look, comprehensive immigration reform won't just help the United States. It will help future immigrants. Illegal immigrants face a world of subterfuge and fear. They may owe nefarious individuals impossible compensation for getting them inside. They face employment in sectors of the economy in which wages simply don't keep up with the rate of inflation. They may even suffer at the hands of criminal elements among their own fellow nationals that also enter illegally. Their children face constraints that their naturalized or legal peers simply don't experience.

Is it fair to subject people to such life? Yes, the income they earn here far surpasses the opportunities they face in their home countries. That doesn't justify the creation of a shadow economy that exploits them relative to the wages earned by legal immigrants.

The US has the right and responsibility to secure her borders and controll admission into the United States. She has the obligation to do so in the ways that honor justice and serve the Common Good. Congress should face this issue head-on and implement just reforms to a dysfunctional system. Demagogues on either side of this issue should clear the way for those interested in a fair and realistic solution.

That includes the MSM. If they can't comprehensively and fairly report on this vital issue, they don't belong in the business. Either they do their job or clear the way for those that will!