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human & civil rights | immigration

Paper vs. Plastic

One of the issues on the back burner in US politics now is that of undocumented immigration and sadly so. The issue was huge in 2010 due in large part to Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 which attempted to curb undocumented immigration using some controversial means. Many of the more contentious aspects of the bill ended up being cut from the bill before it went into effect and the issue is still being juggled in federal courts. Now with the nation's still troubled economy, Japan's disaster, increased turmoil in the Middle East and the budget battles, immigration is no longer front and center, which is unfortunate for many.

There are various reasons it should be considered now. One could of course discuss the plight of people that have been here for years paying taxes. One could discuss the harassment of the many immigrants and non-immigrants as a result of the battle over undocumented immigration. These can be contentious and divisive depending on the political viewpoint, but there are aspects of the issue that make sense to people on both sides of the political spectrum.

America is in tough economic times and is not expected to recover for years to come. Many say we cannot afford all the undocumented workers here because of this. But the fact is they are here, and those who like it, those that don't and those in the middle/ have no opinion can't get around it. It's a fact of life in America.

The issue needs to be addressed sooner or later. The question is what will be done about it when the time comes? How will it be approached?

There are those saying, "let's go ahead and just round folks up and deport them en masse." That is not a realistic solution especially in tough times. That requires intelligence, apprehension, detention, processing and transport back to whatever nation depending on the undocumented individual in each situation.

The Center for American Progress crunched the numbers in 2005 based on available figures at the time and discovered, "A Cost Assessment provides the first-ever estimate of the costs of a policy designed to deport all undocumented persons currently in the United States and those who successfully crossed the border (approximately 10 million people). Using publicly available data, we estimate the costs of a mass deportation effort to be at least $206 billion over five years ($41.2 billion annually), and could be as high as $230 billion or more. Spending $41.2 billion annually would exceed the entire budget of the Department of Homeland Security for FY 2006 ($34.2 billion) and more than double the annual cost of military operations in Afghanistan ($16.8 billion)." (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2005/07/b913099.html)

Most of the focus up until now has been on the border between this nation and Mexico where most people believe the vast majority of undocumented Americans originate from. The idea permeates even the halls of Congress in Washington. "In august of 2010 the US Senate [... ] voted to beef up US-Mexico border security with another 1,500 agents and more unmanned aerial vehicles that scan the frontier for undocumented immigrants or drug runners. The legislation's 600-million-dollar price tag." (http://www.ourdime.us/624/budgetinfo/another-600-million-wasted-on-border-patrol/)

Another $600 million in addition to the billions spent annually. That mainly addresses the US Mexico border. Many might say, "well of course, that's where the problem is." But, that is a misnomer common among the many myths and falsehoods regarding undocumented immigrants. Looking at govt. spending we can see how buying into untruths affect even enforcement and it's corresponding budgeting. ?"45% of immigrants who aren t here legally are from expired visas.? However, of the 1500 new enforcement agents that are being hired, 67% of them are going to patrol the border, 17% are going to other ports of entry, and only 17% will be in Immigration and Customs Enforcement - not all of which are guaranteed to be immigration enforcers." (http://www.ourdime.us/624/budgetinfo/another-600-million-wasted-on-border-patrol/)

There are other false notions thrown around about undocumented immigrants currently here. Many believe they are responsible for taking jobs citizens want. Though in some cases that's true, in most it's the opposite. A large percentage of migrant undocumented workers in America work in the agriculture industry. In 2010 USA Today reported "Since January, California farmers have posted ads for 1,160 farmworker positions open to U.S. citizens and legal residents seeking work.

"Only 233 people applied after being linked with the jobs through unemployment offices in California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona. One grower brought on 36 U.S citizens or legal permanent residents. No one else hired any.

"'It surprises me, too, but we do put the information out there for the public,' said Lucy Ruelas, who manages the California Employment Development Department's agricultural services unit." (http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2010-09-27-farm-work_N.htm)

One presidential candidate expected to be running in 2012, Mike Huckabee, backed this up when challenged on the issue while he was Governor of Arkansas. He responded to the challenge by saying, "who cannot get a job because a Mexican illegally here has taken the job they want? If that's the case, if you can get me their name and phone number by five this afternoon, I can have them making a bed, plucking a chicken, tarring a roof or picking a tomato by the morning at 8 o' clock," (http://24ahead.com/blog/archives/005609.html) No one ever took him up on the offer.

Another myth would have people believe criminality is especially high among undocumented immigrants. The facts reveal this to be untrue. "According to a 2008 report from the conservative Americas Majority Foundation, crime rates are lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates, such as Arizona. ?From 1999 to 2006, the total crime rate declined 13.6 percent in the 19 highest-immigration states (including Arizona), compared to a 7.1 percent decline in the other 32 states." (http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/arizona%E2%80%99s-punishment-doesn%E2%80%99t-fit-crime-studies-show-decrease-arizona-crime-rates)

Undocumented immigrants contribute to our economy substantial tax dollars. "Many undocumented workers have payroll taxes?Social Security and Medicare?withheld by their employers, even though undocumented workers will not receive any benefits from these programs. In 2003, the government collected an estimated $7 billion in Social Security taxes from 7.5 million workers and their employers in which the Social Security numbers did not match the taxpayer identification number. This dollar amount has more than tripled in the last decade.

"Undocumented immigrants pay sales tax when they shop, just like everyone else. Whether they rent or own homes, undocumented immigrants pay property tax. Homeowners pay the tax directly, but renters pay property taxes indirectly, since landlords set rents at rates that allow them to pay taxes on their rental units." (http://www.oregonsanctuary.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/debunking-immigration-myths.pdf) Imagine how much more they would contribute if they were here legally.

In the end to allow people to pay a fee, for those that have been living here for some time, and then take a test would benefit the nation. To allow our neighbors to the south wishing work to enter with a fee and hand them a tiny plastic card to track them and allow them to pay taxes would save us money as a nation. We would gain income by being able to cut the amount of people employed in immigration enforcement. Additionally those in enforcement could focus on serious crimes and the small percentage of undocumented immigrants that are real criminals thus making for more effective enforcement.

So in the end it is a matter of paper vs. plastic and now's a good time to do something about it. Do we spend billions annually on enforcing something that is really too late to stop, or do we take in money and save money with some very basic practical steps? When one looks at the problem rationally the answer's simple. The vast majority of people here without documentation want the jobs most of us don't want. By making it easy for them in the end we only make it easy on ourselves. Paper vs. plastic - now's a great time to think about it.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.

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