Immigration, welfare tied togetherPublished 5:33pm Wednesday, May 23, 2012
A lot has been said over the past few weeks about illegal immigration.
Most of the comments that have appeared in the paper have supported Alabama’s efforts to crack down on the problem. In fact, I think it’s reasonable to assume that a majority of our readers want to see our government (both state and federal) act aggressively and severely limit the seemingly endless flow of illegal aliens entering our country.
Supporters of these immigrants seem to think those who oppose their presence in our land are heartless, callous and uncaring people who want to throw these people to the wolves. In fact, some have gone so far as to cast doubt on whether supporters of aggressive action are acting in a Christian manner, thereby indirectly casting a shadow on the seriousness of their religious beliefs.
Well, I consider myself a supporter of aggressive action, but I also believe that people should be treated in a humane way, no matter their legal status. Churches and other non-profit organizations should be able to help needy immigrant families without fear of violating state or federal law.
What’s more, over the years I have developed a healthy amount of respect for these folks. I know that most of them have taken incredible risks entering this country in order to obtain a better life. I can’t blame them for wanting to escape poverty and drug-related violence by finding work here in America in order to support themselves and their families.
When I think about these reasons for crossing the border, I can’t help but feel sympathy for their predicament. Wanting to work and take care of your loved ones is a noble aim, one worthy of high praise, which is more than I can say for the multitude of American citizens who apparently are refusing to work certain types of jobs.
If you’ve been keeping track of the debate, you might have heard some experts claim that many of the lowest wage jobs in Alabama, like agricultural jobs, will go unfilled during the summer if we continue to enforce aggressive immigration laws. Unemployed citizens, they argue, are simply not going to leave the house in June, July and August to go work in the hot sun.
In my opinion, the fact illegal immigrants are willing to take these hard labor jobs is a testament to their work ethic. But, it’s also an example of both laziness and bad government when unemployed citizens refuse to work because they would rather sit at home and remain on the dole, especially since government money makes it more lucrative for them to do so.
In fact, I think government welfare and the refusal to work specific jobs is the real problem underlying illegal immigration. We have a need for immigrant labor only because our federal government pays American citizens to sit at home. The real villain in this debacle is not foreign, but domestic.
I’m willing to support an amnesty law for all illegal immigrants who are gainfully employed and are willing to become US citizens, just as long as our government passes a companion law that denies aid to welfare recipients who are capable of working, but refuse to do so.
I want our government to assert control over our borders and process immigrants into our country in a manageable, humane and legal way. However, this will never happen unless our government gets serious about reforming the welfare system. The two issues are irrevocably tied together.
Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Outlook.