Demonstrations are scheduled around the United States today as thousands of protestors are expected to take to the streets and demand a path to citizenship for the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants. Protests are scheduled for almost every city in America with the notable exception of Atlanta where immigrants are afraid of new state law that takes affect in July. The law requires that individuals who are seeking non-emergency state benefits be in the country legally. It also penalizes employers who hire illegal immigrants, and allows police officers to check the immigration status of people that they arrest.

Immigrant groups have been very critical of President Bush’s immigration reform proposal and the Democrats who support it. Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, last month said that, “Under the President’s plan the immigration system would create a second-class group of indentured servants with no promise of ever attaining citizenship. The plan also conveniently avoids any discussion about protecting the labor rights of both immigrant and native workers.”

Immigrant groups also have a problem with the extremely high cost of fines and penalties in the proposal. A three year guest worker visa would cost an illegal immigrant $3,500. In order for an illegal immigrant to become a citizen, they must return to their home country first, and pay a $10,000 fine. Lee Siu Hin, who is the national coordinator for The Immigrant Solidarity Network has called the Bush proposal unrealistic, “The proposal is unrealistic because there’s no guarantee when they leave the country, they can return, nor how long it’ll take fan applicants to apply and receive their visa at foreign U.S. embassy so they can able to return to the country.”

He pointed out that it is impossible for illegal immigrants to trust the changes in the system because, “Giving the facts that past U.S. immigration policies could change-year-to-year from better to worse, there’s no guarantee that if the bill passes, “good” element of the bill will be able to keep, but the “bad” elements of the bill will be remain. At the end, it’ll force undocumented immigrants to continue to choose “illegal” way to enter and stay in this country, because it cost too much and very difficult to do it “legal” way.” In my opinion,  it is likely that this latest immigration reform proposal will fail, just like the others have which came before it.

The dirty little secret in this whole debate is that the underpaid labor of illegal immigrants adds billions of dollars of profit to certain sectors of the economy. These employers don’t want to see the rules changed, or the immigrants shipped out. Building a big fence doesn’t make the employers happy either. If we really wanted to tackle this problem, we should start by eliminating the ability of illegal aliens to get jobs in the U.S. Jobs are the reason why illegal immigrants come to this country. If we were serious about this, we would take the billions we are spending on fences and put it into a system that would ensure undocumented workers could not get jobs, and that, employers who continued to violate the law would face not only a fine, but jail time.

Employers also don’t like this idea, because if all workers were documented, then they couldn’t get away with underpaying their employees. Contrary to what some might say America has more jobs than it can fill. It needs immigrant labor. What America doesn’t need is an immigration reform that imposes impossible fines and penalties on illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants should pay a fine, but the fine needs to be reasonable, so that these workers aren’t driven even further underground. As usual the politicians are more interested in appearances than solutions, so look for the Democrats to pass the Bush proposal this summer. Republicans are too busy trying to appear tough, while keeping the employers happy, and the Democrats just want something to campaign on next year. In the end that is the real purpose of the immigration reform debate.

May Day 2007 website

CHIRLA

Related AP story

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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