2007-07-23 - 10:39 p.m.
I read an article in the local paper of how the Loudoun Board of Supervisors wants to limit services to illegal immigrants.
It saddened me. I didn't expect to get so upset by this article, but as it included parts of an interview with a business owner whom I met with and consulted with years ago, it really made me sad. He was the only business owner who had any inclination at all to seek visas for his employees. He already had been doing so himself and just wanted the second set of eyes to look over his handling of it, but even moreso, I think he wanted to help ME OUT as one of the lawyers supervising my visa work was his friend. He didnt have work for me, but it was more of a kind networking move for my benefit.
The sad part is that I also met with a half dozen OTHER business owners who were not as experienced and established as this one, and who were relying on illegal labor.
When I told them the cost of visa applications, and my time to do this for them, then answered the question of what the ramifications for a violation were-- they opted to risk being caught with illeagal labor.
The fine at that time for first offense was $500
And the immigrants get deported...
So you do the cost benefit analysis: And tell me, will there EVER be much work in this market for an immigration lawyer when what motivates most decisons is the financial bottom line?
In the interview referred to in the Blue Ridge Leader last week, an owner of a construction company essential revealed that they will do anything to get a job done well, on time, and within a budget. So that means immigrant labor. This guy also indicated there is no other option for finding labor.
So what does this mean for Loudoun if our ever so brilliant board of supervistor's passes this measure?
Increased cost of all those OTHER services that we pay for- construction, landscaping, restaraunts etc... as ALL The service industrys are RUNNING ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT LABOR.
Heck the cost of the tax subsidized services in exchange for this labor force IS CHEAP. The cost of not supporting this labor force would be much higher to our economy as it would severely adversely impact so many sectors. It would make it nearly impossible for business owners to get required labor to keep their companys viable. IT would cost our society in time we would all need to preform all those services we outsource and RELY ON for us to work at our chosen professions time in child care, caring for our homes, construction and landscaping etc.. It would increase cost of eating out and clothing.
It is SO shortsighted to think that this measure will do anything but harm our local economy. The leads me to think of one aspect of immigrant labor that I think many people are not aware of :
What was the outcome of those other meetings with business owners after I explained the cost of visas and what could happen if they don't get a visa?
EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM DID OPT to get a TIN
For those of you who don't know what that is -- THAT is a TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
Every one of those employers listened as they learned an interesting fact:
Not surprising, the right hand of the govt (IRS) doesn't really give a hoot what the left hand of the govt is interested in (USCIS) on a small scale. So business owners, in making their own ethical choices in balancing their values, choose to pay taxes so their labor contributes to our society, yet chose not to secure visas
But in seeing the BIGGER picture, it is not really true that the right hand of the government doesn't care what the left is doing. The reality is that the issue of immigration fueling our society is not a new one. Durkheim said in any developed society someone needs to scrub the toilets. USCIS and the IRS apprechiates the value of a stable economy, which is precisely WHY they don't punish business owners to the point of making it cost prohibitive to run your own business when in fact your business REALLY IS RELIANT ON CHEAP (aka immigrant) labor.
YOu see, USCIS GETS IT that the stability of the economy is actually DEPENDANT ON THIS LABOR SOURCE REMAINING VIABLE Therefore, they only seek out and eek out the immigrants who are actual CRIMINALS. Unless you are a business owner who happens to be so unfortunate as to hire one with a criminal record, it is more likely pigs will fly in your yard than you will get busted for labor violations. (A tornado just MIGHT lift a pig....and catapult it by in your life...)
So back to what the busines owners did after they met me, they realized that they WANTED to be ethical. They WANTED to do the right thing. So essentially they did- to a point. They judged that just as in the case of whether it is moral and ethical to steal medicine if your wife will die should you choose not to in order to follow a law of society-- these business owners chose to ignore the law. They justified it by seeing that choice as NECESSARY for the viability of their family. They justified their choice by believing that it was in the interest of someone other than themself. They justify the choice to hire the illegal immigrant thinking that they are helping that individual as well. So, they filled out their applications for TINS and then-- Shocking but true-- they actually PAID TAXES FOR THEIR ILLEAGAL EMPLOYEES
Yes it is done all the time.
So here's the shocker.
The reality is that YES these immigrants being hired illegally perhaps does impact some job prospects for US citizens. WHO IS MOST IMPACTED? ME! I have my JD and hoped to work processing visas for immigrant labor! So it is true that the current situation makes it hard for some of us-- I for one can't get work processing visas. That's why I took a job last year working night shift at Target unloading trucks. It paid my bills at the time when no one wanted to pay me to process a visa. So I challenge all those complainers who gripe about the cost of immigrant labor to our society: If what you claim is true that they are taking jobs from Americans, you should not be able to walk into your local Wallmart or Target and get a job. I challenge you to test your premise. It in fact might be just what these fear driven immigrant haters need-- as perhaps they just have too much time on their hands and pent up anger to direct somewhere. I think they are the unhappy people of the world. Physical exercise is a great means of getting in shape and restoring health which releases that anger and frustration. So go to it: Fill out that application and soon you too can be happily unloading pallats of boxes full of merchandise for Target or Wall Mart in those physically demanding night jobs. You too will understand that you got the job as IT WAS VACANT for months and there are NEVER enough applicants for those labor intensive night shifts. You too can soon have buff biceps and drop 15 pounds and feel great, until the sleep deprivation hits... and the lack of sunlight... But by then you will feel SO GOOD not having to worry and complain anymore about immigrants taking our jobs AS YOU WILL KNOW IT IS NOT TRUE that a little sleep deprivation might just be worth that peace of mind. You might also really enjoy the stories of Jose and Pujab and Mohammad as you unload the truck together... I know I did. For you see, I couldn't find child care at the time since I will not hire illegal labor, therefore my only option for work at that time was a night shift. The only possible child care workers I could afford were not legal. ANd yet, it STILL upsets me when I read stories of how these local business owners won't pay to process VISAS... WHY? Because I assess that in fact the scenario of stealing medicine for your wife is in fact VERY DIFFERENT than the scenario of maintaining your cheap labor force. Yes to not do so will impact the business owner's family. Yes, to not maintain the cheap labor force will bottom out the economy. However it is not a LIFE OR DEATH DECISION. It is rather a QUALITY OF LIFE choice people are making. Our society has chosen to PRESERVE OUR QUALITY OF LIFE. I wonder if the business owners who make the choice to hire illegal labor are truly looking at the big picture in deciding they are helping their families and those who they hire. IN hiring the underground work force they unwittingly fuel this underclass of society that everyone then wants to pretend doesn't exist. In doing so the employers are ensuring at some level that the immigrants who are here remain in the shadows and are not fully integrated into our society. Disregard for immigration laws is essentially placing the value of maintaining our high quality of life for themselves as ABOVE the need and value of safety and security. I believe that is because most of us DO HAVE CONFIDENCE in our government, our law enforcement and our leaders to maintain safety and security and the viability of our lives. Only those who don't have fears of security would be comfortable with undocumented labor. For Immigration laws are in essence designed to preserve freedom and safety and security. In a paradoxical fashion, our disregard of immigration laws is done only when we are secure from the standpoint of not fearing safety at the visceral level. It seems that those who most want to enforce and tighten immigration limits are those living in fear who have a lack of confidence in the strength of our society remaining free and secure. Yet at the same time, from an economic standpoint, I worry that in tightening our laws and limiting services to immigrants our quality of life will be adversely affected. Perhaps in the end that is the moral choice-- as it is not our lives that are truly at stake. This is not a life or death moral choice, but merely one which impacts our quality of life. Therefore, it is not a justifiable ethical choice to ignore immigration laws in order to maintain QUALITY of life. It seems to me that disregard of immigration laws is done solely out of the fear of maintaining economic freedon. To ignore a law to SAVE a life may in fact be a moral choice if it has no other social ramifications, yet the ignoring of immigration laws is perhaps one of those choices that indeed does have a social ramification. At the very least it lends toward a sense of ethics in which we are valuing our own personal good above that greater good of society, which is not a strong foundation for a strong society. And it seems to me to be made not out of necessity for our lives and safetly, but rather for our economic viability. Ultimately, the choice to ignore immigration laws by small businesses and the push to tighten immigration laws are both fueled by the same goal: the preservation of our free society and a viable economy in which we can thrive. The answer as to which path most effectively does achieve that truly depends on what threats our society is facing. I believe that when immigrants are joining the fabric of our society in a productive manner, it is clear that they contribute toward that goal of improving life for us all. I have assisted in securing a visa for a domestic worker who served a family of prominent politicians who indeed did marvelous work they could not have otherwise done had they had to remain home to complete the work they outsourced, I have seen first hand the benefits of immigrant labor to our society as a whole. Knowing that when I do choose to work outside of my home I will rely on an au pair here on a student J1 exchange educational program, I can attest that any contributions I make to our society other than those of nurturing well raised children who may go out into the world to do great things will be dependant on immigrant labor. I know that even the hard working woraholic overachiever who runs a marvelous winery in my neighborhood couldn't make it without his H2A laborers, despite the fact his energy and drive surpasses most. Knowing this same man would not have had time to work on lobbying and ultimately the passing of legislation that enabled wine producers in VA to be most economically viable by being being allowed to ship their products out of state if he had to hand pick those grapes at harvest time himself; I have seen and tasted the fruits of his hired labor not only in a glass of wind, but in this achievement of improving the economy of our whole state. Virginia's wine industry and tourism industry surrounding this market would be hugely impacted if the small winerys could not sell direct out of state. Immigrant labor is a key element to its viability. I believe that immigrant labor is essential to our economy. In order to preserve the benefits to our society, we need to balance the reality of threats surrounding immigrants by acting not on amporphous fears but in fashioning laws and enforcement on threats which are viable and real. Therefore there is sense in tightening of airport security, and of having increased enforcement on borders to ensure immigrants who come here are going to be integrated into the fabric of society in a healthy manner without posing a threat. There is also sense in ensuring safety of our society by respecting immigration laws and following employement visa requirements. Ethically making choices of following laws based on the greater good rather than selfish motives which undermine the benifit of the whole even when it impacts our own personal quality of life is indeed the moral choice. We might find that it doesn't REALLY make our businesses go bankrupt when we have LEGAL immigrant labor, it really means we cut out some of our personal profit as business owners. Following visa requirements won't cause a death of a loved one, but might mean we can't afford to send a kid to another extra curricular activity, or mean that our kids who are in good health might have to live with a crooked tooth as the orthodontist bill is too high. However in some communities where labor truly is short, such as Loudoun county where I live, the choice to legally hire immigrants may indeed be a choice of a business not being able to be viable. This is only because we are in a system that itself is already unhealthy. There is no class of laborers here as in Lououn we do not have the supports and services even available such that the working poor can afford to live here. We are in an area of the country where there is an unbalance as we have not been interested in supporting anyone other than those who can afford the high cost of living. The fact we are dependant on immigrant labor is because here in Loudoun we have not put money into infastructure-- thinking we will keep our population of lily white just that and not attract those with differences. That in fact is what happened, and thus we are all the more dependant on the immigrant underclass. We have created this dependency by our unwillingness to invest in the supports that society needs to maintain a healthy balance. The quest to further limit public services will only enhance this schism and make the necessary service sector shrink even more. It seems in Loudoun we are our own worst enemy.... as we who are young and vibrant will someday become the old and infirm and likely not able to sustain our lifestyles on our fixed incomes. Yet there will be no service sector to take care of us, and our children who can't afford homes here will likely be living elsewhere. Thus the demise of a system which has been so unbalanced...You see we NEED this immigrant work force for our own existance. It seems to me that if the Board of Supervisors want a healthy economy and healthy growth, they would be increasing funding for services to low income across the board. They would recognize that to do so might actually reduce the dependancy on immigrant labor if low wage citizens had the supports to be able to afford to live here. They would realize that a strong immigrant community is not a threat, but a support. Overall the impact will not be to our very existance, but to the quality of that existance. Ultimately however, I think the greatest harm is that slippery slope of ethically compromising our values by espousing a sense of situational ethics and compromising our integrity by putting our personal good first and not being concerned with the greater good. Once a society or any system functions on that value jugement, I think the health of the entity is percarious and can become weakened to the point of danger. The whole can not remain healthy if the parts are self serving in disregard of the health of the bigger entity. I believe that to refuse services to immigrants would be a societal decision with far greater ramifications than the real harm I see of not following immigration laws. I believe to do so would be a decision based on fear, which doesn't truly look at the big picture from any balanced economic or moral perspective. I think to do so is to deny the reality that immigrants are a viable part of the fabric of society. To deny services would be akin to ignoring a cancer in your body in the hope that it will just disappear and go away. Treatment and learning to live with cancer with a positive attitude has been proved to be effective in restoring health. When ignored, be healed. If completely ignored, if the cancer doesn't kill, the body becomes vulnerable to attack from other threats and being weakened and more susceptible can't fight them. One's body then is much more likely to not survive. It may seem a horrible analogy. However there are those who have learned to EMBRACE cancer and LIVE WITH IT, and in a sense integrate it into their bodys and facilitate a long and happy life even though they have had to live with this unusual and unexpected growth. Immigrants are indeed here as the sometimes unusual and unexpected growth of our society. The anology pf comparing their growth in society is only seen as a horrible one by those who view cancer with fear. For those like me, who have know and loved ones who live with cancer, as my mother who lives with lymphoma attests, cancer is not something to face with fear- so the analogy is not a mean spirited one in poor taste. It is a strong one attesting to the strength of love over fear, attesting to the ability of not only our individual bodies, but our larger systems to nurture and restore health even when faced with unexpected growth and unknown entities that have emerged within ourselves by embracing and accepting and in essence LOVING OUR SELVES wholly, even those parts we have no knowledge of that are so different and challenge us. In doing so we become stronger and more self actualized. If we ignore immigrants needs we will foster a climate of fear and suspicion and a lack of cohesion in our society.The result can only be a fracturing of the health of our systems- both individually and as a whole. The ramifications seem to be much greater than some realize. This fracturing of stability would indeed be a great threat to our stability and freedom. I hope that we chose not to act out of fear, but seek to enhance the stability and faith in our society by embracing all parts of it, and by having confidence that our laws and systems are indeed the best vehical for ensuring our freedom and quality of life. By hiring legal immigrants and maintaining respect for laws, and by supporting this part of our community, even if it necessitates some personal sacrifices in the short term, in the long term we all benefit from the strengthened economy and stability of a society that acts in the interest of the whole system with the necessary willingness of putting the greater good above each individual. That indeed may hamper our individual autonomy, but in the end, it is necessary for the greater good of ensuring our very freedom and stability.