LatinaLista — Several news stories over the weekend highlighted the heart of what has gone terribly wrong with this whole immigration debate.
The focus has been on the undocumented workers themselves.
Guest Mexican workers prepare sandwiches at a Texas retreat.
(Source: The Dallas Morning News)
Yet, the real problem does not lie with people coming here illegally; it’s the businesses that need them.
Not in the sense that they take advantage of the undocumented or want to hire cheaper labor, because pretty soon those excuses/reasons won’t be valid anymore.
Rather, the real problem is that this economy, a.k.a. businesses, needs the manpower to operate or it will go bust and that’s not good news for any country.
What brings this fact into clearer focus is that today the H2B guest worker program expires. That means that only 66,000 workers from other countries will be allowed into the United States to work. The problem is that there were 72,000 workers who came last year through a cap exemption for the program, and that still wasn’t enough to fill the demand.
The demand is only going to get worse since employers are scared of violating federal or recently passed state laws that heavily fine employers if it’s found they have hired and are using undocumented workers.
But according to the news stories, Congress has no plans to extend the exemption cap and so what will happen?
The worst case scenario is that small businesses who are the backbone of our economy will go out of business. Why? Because with fewer workers or workers who demand a higher salary, these businesses’ prices will go up.
How many times do we balk at paying higher prices, especially when it’s for luxury items like going out to eat or skiing or buying seafood or a host of things that aren’t necessities in our lives but are things we like to do?
When this happens, it’s usually the small businesses that suffer from our waves of cautious consumerism.
The H2B program has been a way for some businesses, obviously not nearly enough, to take advantage of immigrant labor — legally.
The H2B guest worker program is not ideal. There’s too much paperwork and it obligates the worker to only work for the employer for whom they stipulated on the visa they would work for.
Since the workers have to pay for all their own visa and recruitment fees, experts say that the workers arrive already in debt. If the employer is abusive towards the worker, there’s nothing the worker can do since going home still in debt is not an option.
Yet, those workers who do work for fair employers like the fact that they don’t have to be afraid of ICE and can go back to their families after only being away for 10 months.
The solution to the immigration problem seems to be to combine the plight of the undocumented workers and the need of businesses to produce an equitable solution that doesn’t criminalize a people who have a need to earn money to live and an economy that has a need to make money to prosper.
Unfortunately, as much as Congress thinks this issue can wait until the next President comes on board, the signs are already materializing that that isn’t the case.
It looks like Congress will be dragged kicking and screaming to address this issue sooner rather than later — again!