I spoke with a local beef and crop farmer the other day. From what I read, I think he’s pretty typical of many Northeastern farmers– retirement age, runs his farm mostly with a little family help. He would like to hire some help but whom? He commented that most of his neighbors– family dairy farmers use immigrant help. Local trunk farmers do also. So we like cheap and plentiful food but need workers to produce it.
It is situations like this throughout the country in various industries plus the large young unemployed population in Caribbean countries and Eastern European countries that drive the situation in Arizona and other border states. But the long and short of it is that if we like to eat, we had better like welcoming immigrants. It is hypocritical in the highest way to like the benefits of their work and then discriminate against them as we currently do.
What I really don’t understand is why conservative Christian groups are often among the anti-immigrant crowd. Yes, crossing into the country illegally is a crime and that issue should be addressed. But persecuting the workers already here and failing to address the underlying employment situation is not helpful. Plus, the Bible principle from the OT is crystal clear. And it could not be simpler: “‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Lev 19:33-34 NIV). So once the worker is here, we are to apply the golden rule and treat him well, even as we treat each other.
It’s easy to be critical of the status quo. What are some suggestions?
Certainly we need a much more workable working permit system. As soon as it is easier to get a legal permit than to risk your life coming in illegally, illegal immigration will dwindle to a trickle. If a person is caught near a border coming in illegally, deport them and make them ineligible for a legal permit for 3 years. The way northern cities are losing people, they could use some immigrants just to occupy the houses and keep the teachers employed. (Otherwise the whole Northeast will be tearing down blocks like Detroit.)
States such as Arizona are worried about crime. I suggest that they recognize that when young men go places without wives, crime goes up. Allow them work permits that allow them to bring families honorably. Crime will plummet; guaranteed.
However, we also need a way to deal with immigrants who have been here illegally for years. My own idea is a decreasing fine. Start with a high fine of say seven thousand dollars for an immigrant discovered to be here illegally who cannot prove they have been here a year. Then for each year they can prove they have been here, the fine goes down in recognition of the service they have rendered to our economy in that time frame. If they can prove they have been working here 7 years or more, the fine bottoms out at $500. If they pay the fine themselves or with the help of friends, they will be granted legal working permits. If not, they will simply be deported and must wait three years to apply to re-enter. This assumes there are not entanglements such as marriage to a citizen or children who are citizens.
Steps like these will help us reform our immigration laws in ways that truly welcome immigrants.