Missing the point

The Obama administration needs to focus on real immigration reform

With tensions high over health reform, there is little room for other highly emotional debates. Despite these polarizing times, the debate over illegal immigration came to a front when the Obama administration revealed its enforcement policy in regards to undocumented workers. American Apparel became a template for the new policy when they were forced to fire a quarter of their Los Angeles work force, approximately 1,800 employees who possessed questionable paperwork.

American Apparel reportedly fired their workers 17 months after the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) opened investigations into hiring practices and employment files. These audits began under the Bush administration and currently effect over 654 national companies. Unlike the Bush Administration, which raided workplaces and deported illegal immigrants, the Obama administration wants to target employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. The Obama administration unveiled their new enforcement policy with American Apparel as their example in the hopes of deterring future employers from hiring undocumented workers. While stricter enforcement is necessary, it is not a supportable fix for a problem that extends beyond the workplace.

The decision to pressure employers to fire illegal workers en masse is hardly a productive policy considering there are no clear plans for future comprehensive immigration reform. It is a cursory cure for an all too insistent problem. All that really exists is a list of hefty promises from the Obama administration that reform is on its way. This, coupled with a non-existent timetable and lack of legislative pressure, presages an unsatisfactory outcome. Enforcement, while part of the solution, cannot be applied singularly without a more holistic approach. Such an approach requires extensive legislative reform, an increase in border patrol agents, a guest-worker program, stricter regulations, and more accessible citizenship. President Obama also supports legalization of the current illegal immigrant population, but has yet to lay down a foundational plan for accomplishing such a reform.

When asked about the recent firing of American Apparel employees, third-year College student and Prime Minister of the International Residential College, Danny Navarro said, "In other words, President Obama is targeting the wrong source, perhaps in attempt to show the conservatives that he is 'upholding the law.' However, such strategy is never going to solve the issue, an issue that the United States must actively involve itself in because of its historical involvement in the region."

Rather than make American Apparel a paradigm of the new crackdown policy, the Obama administration should have focused on curtailing employers who knowingly capitalize on illegal status. Rather than single out companies that provide employees with health benefits, stocks and pay above the minimum wage, the Obama administration should target unscrupulous sweatshops and employers that seek to exploit cheap labor. As for the thousands of jobs that will be open for American citizens, the prospects are equally nebulous. Illegal immigrants fill many of the day-laborer jobs such as working in the fields and in garment shops, jobs that are often unappealing to most American citizens. While arguments can be made that the Obama policy will directly help American citizens find jobs, any positive gains from the policy will be negated by the destructive impacts of the reform. By firing illegal immigrants, we leave them no alternatives but to enter sweatshops, turn to crime on the streets or join the ranks of our homeless. In an attempt to help, we will only be adding to our nation's woes.

Illegal immigration is not only a policy problem, but also a human problem. Often torn between the battle lines are innocent children, who through no decision of their own must live with the consequences of U.S. policy decisions. The U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants are deemed American citizens by the Constitution. By firing undocumented workers, we are not only affecting those who are here illegally, but we are also penalizing their children. We must not breed a nation of hate propelled by anti-immigrant sentiment and racism. We must educate and encourage these young Americans to grow to be productive American citizens. Obama's policy attempts to placate liberals and human rights activists who vigorously railed against the Bush administration deportation raids. In reality, many of the workers fired will likely still face deportation. Many of these illegal immigrants enter the U.S. not by choice, but out of a pure desperation to survive. Navarro says, "I believe that one of the biggest misconceptions is that the illegal immigrants are intentionally breaking the law in order to drain the wealth of this country." Navarro insists that, "The policy of targeting employers for hiring illegal immigrants is not solving the overriding problem of this issue: that is the continued economic, social, and political inequalities present in Latin America today."

The problem of illegal immigration is one that should have been addressed years ago. Instead it has been allowed to fester. The number of people entering the U.S. annually continues to rise. Comprehensive immigration reform cannot continue to play second fiddle to other pressing issues such as health care and energy reform. Once people cross our borders, legally or illegally, they become our problem and our responsibility. Therefore, this is not an argument against workplace enforcement, but rather a call for a more complete response to the problem at hand. The need for more exhaustive immigration reform is required before implementing policies such as firing currently employed illegal immigrants. Though it promises to be an unpleasant battle, the need for comprehensive immigration reform needs to take top priority for the Obama administration.

Ashley Chappo is a Viewpoint writer for The Cavalier Daily.

Published October 8, 2009 in Opinion

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(10/08/09 7:41am)

Ashley, I don't know if you have seen Mr. Charney's photo essay with his workers but it very much proves your point. Immigration is a human issue and opponents of reform have been too quick to forget that.

You can see the piece here:\nhttp://www.americanapparel.net/presscenter/dailyupdate/dailyUp.asp?d=30&t=1848

(10/08/09 3:53pm)

The way certain TV personalities (Lou Dobbs, Glen Beck, etc.) have demonized immigrants is disturbing. Shame on CNN for keeping that monster Dobbs on the air.\n What is more disturbing is the way certain Congressmen have become walking stereotypes of xenophobia, hatred, and racism. I am talking about the good 'ole boys such as Senator Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions of Alabama, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Rep. Jim Marshall of Georgia, etc.\n A comprehensive immigration reform w/ path to citiznehsip for hard-working immigrants cannot wait any longer. No more excuses. Millions are suffering since they are being treated worse than animals in XXI c. America. My only hope is that, ultimately, racism always loses in America! Thus, a path to citizenship for the undocumented is a matter of when, not if!

(10/08/09 4:39pm)

Do any of you ever and I do mean "EVER" think about the U.S. citizens and their children who suffer financially because their parent can't find a job or whose wages have been surpressed by the present of illegal immigrants. I guess little Johnnie and little Emily need to just suck it up, right. You people are clueless. In helping one, you harm the other. The employers don't give a rat's behind. Neither do the countries sending these people here. The U.S. is expected to be all merciful to these people while our own do without. I haven't heard one word from any of you about the countries these people come from changing. Like Mexico increasing the taxes on their businesses so that they can provide their poor with more schools, proper roads, etc. No, it's us who you want to solve this problem. Guess what the problem was caused by the sending countries these people come from too. You're all disgusting.

(10/08/09 11:45pm)

The House-Senate committees has completed its funding in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill as of yesterday, undermining long-term security of unemployed American workers. They omitted the language that would have implemented the E-Verify application on a permanent basis to eject illegal workers. Instead, the conference extended the agreement limits of reauthorization for just three years. Even as E-Verify is gaining in nationwide popularity in businesses, the politicians are still catering to illegal immigrants. A assessment to extend E-Verify for only three more years is further evidence that Sen. Reid and the administration's effort, to raise a façade, but all the while dismantling effectual controls against immigration invasion. So although the open border organization, headed by quasi-leadership of the Council of Foreign Relations, US Chamber of Commerce and anti American organizations such as the ACLU, La Raza didn't win in Federal Court they still determined to corrode the laws.

These special interest lobbyists are well organized in the Democratic Senate and House to undermine any enforcement of immigration laws, including the 1986 (IRCA) that is a law that was never enforced. Same day Sen.David Vitter offered an amendment to sever Federal funds to SANCTUARY CITIES AND STATES, but as always they failed to observe the "Rule of Law." The vote went along party lines except for three Republicans who voted with the Democrats to table the amendment. One Democrat voted against the motion - Landrieu (LA). Even though we can throw the conspirators out, when they come up for re-election it will have little effect? Even though they lose their seats, they will be reimbursed by their corporate friends with nice civilian desk jobs, with bloated pay checks.

NUMBERSUSA is an American people’s website that removes the propaganda placed on us by the Liberal press. At this location is raw evidence--YOU NEED TO KNOW--of the Democratic Leadership who is conspiring with industry, so that millions of illegal immigrants can still cross the border, so they can feed like leeches from American taxpayers and take the jobs. Everything you need to know about corrupted officials, mayor’s judges, governors and politicians is available at JUDICIAL WATCH. Learn where billions of dollars are going for undisclosed welfare programs for illegal aliens and families. Go to these websites and become a political advocate and keep the names of each treacherous politician in your long term memory.

Throw out Sen. Harry Reid, as he has been in the forefront of de-funding, derailing all the active laws such as 287 G. Janet Napolitano should join him on the garbage heap, along with speaker Pelosi who has an (F-) in immigration grading for enforcement. Mark your own lawmaker and drag him across the hot coals by calling 202-224-3121 Find out the buried truth at NUMBERSUSA, JUDICIAL WATCH & CAPSWEB, for overpopulation facts. They even went after Sheriff Joe Ariapo in Arizona for carrying out his duties, under the 287 G fed law. His deputies were so successful in the removal program; big business went crawling to the Democratic leaders pleading for assistance. GET THE FACTS--NOT THE LIES! REMEMBER NO TAXPAYER HEALTH CARE FOR FOREIGN NATIONALS! NO AMNESTY! NO NOTHING! THEY BROKE OUR LAWS OF SOVEREIGNTY!

Cindy Becknard
(10/09/09 12:49pm)

Anna, you point out that this is a human issue and provide a link where American Apparel has videos and pictures the fired employees crying about needing food on the table.

L.A. has an unemployment rate of 12.5%. One could easily make a video of the children of unemployed legal citizens. The children would also be crying and begging that Amer Apparel hire her mommy. They need food on THEIR table.

Nope. Too Bad. Instead we'll hire people who break into our country and disobey our laws. And we'll make a one sided video of them to try to convince you that it's OK to break laws.

(10/09/09 2:07pm)

Whoever cites NumbersUSA or FAIR as a credible source instantly loses credibility. These organizations are the modenr day equivalent of the KKK: bunch of angry old white males, blaming their failures in life on "the other"...\nBilly Bob, you have lost this battle, you just don't know it yet.

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