This week, instead of talking about an issue that has generated the most response posts, I’d like to blog about a panel I had the pleasure of attending at UGA on the consequences of House Bill 87.
Oddly enough, immigration doesn’t come up on this site very often. I don’t know it’s a case of “invisible people syndrome,” or if it’s because of the rule that doesn’t allow racial stereotyping. But I’d like your opinions now.
If you’re not familiar with it, House Bill 87 passed a lot of new laws against illegal immigration, one of which prevents undocumented students from attending a University where documented students who qualify are being denied entrance because they’re full.
The panel featured the tearful accounts of six young women and their different journeys to the U.S, their struggles through school, and the realization that their college dreams have been stripped away from them. Each student was brilliant, eloquent, and accomplished. These are the top tier students, and we’re denying them a college education because they can’t furnish papers that say they belong here.
People are going to have one of two responses to that panel. Either they’re going to say something along the lines of “those poor children. We shouldn’t punish them for their parents mistakes,” or “those entitled children. We provided them an education, and a better life than they would have had in the country they came from. How dare they complain about not being allowed to go to the top public universities.”
I’m actually not against the bill. I wouldn’t be against even harsher laws, and here’s why. I refuse to approve in a system that creates a subclass of human beings. Listen to the news. Farmers are complaining because illegal immigrants are walking off the job in protest of the new laws. They can’t hire Americans because they aren’t willing to do the hard work the farming requires. They just don’t have the same work ethic as someone who walked through miles of desert to provide a better life for their family. And lets be completely honest, the no one else is willing to work so hard for so little.
Let’s back up for a moment, shall we. The language has changed, certainly. But I’ve read a similar argument. Farming is too hard. The elite class wasn’t built for it. But the sub-class of humans, why their stronger. They were made for farming. The hard work is good for them. They should be grateful for the opportunity. Why, we’re providing a better life for them.
Wasn’t that the rationale for slavery? True, no one forces the illegal immigrants to come here, but we do encourage it. That was the theme at the panel. Each child said their parents brought them here for a better life. If we didn’t allow undocumented students in our schools, at any level, would they still come? If we deported undocumented workers who went to the hospital, would they still come? If we cracked down on farmers and other employers who hire those employees, giving them that job, would they come? Or what about police officers to the known places where you can pick up a day laborer?
We don’t do these things. We like to pretend its because we’re humane. We like to call anyone who points out this discrepancy heartless. But it doesn’t have anything to do with being compassionate. We don’t do these things because we need them. We need people working in the farms, and we’re not willing to pay the right price for one of the elite citizens to do it themselves. So we turn a blind eye, up to a point. But we always have that power. That threat of deportation. And when the children complain about not being allowed to go to school, we take that moment to pat ourselves on the back and look down on those children. “You broke the law, so you don’t deserve this. Instead, thank us for allowing you to exist this long.”
Before illegal immigration there was child labor. Before child labor there was slavery. Were the children or the slaves to blame for any of that? Of course not. It was the fault of the people who hired them, and to society for turning a blind eye so they could have cheaper goods or services.
That's what we're doing here. We try to make ourselves feel better about it by saying things like "they have a better life here," and by doing things like educating their children.
But the slave owners had the same rationale. And the corporations that allowed child labor were considered benevolent for providing food and shelter to those poor little creatures.
We need to either make immigration legal, or we need to say “enough” and actually enforce the laws that are in place. Minimum wage was established for a reason. So were safe work environments and allowing undocumented workers allows companies to break those laws that were put into place to protect employees.
Will it result in more expensive produce? Probably. But we need to ask ourselves the same fundamental question our ancestors did when they evaluated slavery and child labor. Is it worth the price we’re paying now?