Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Torn between the law and low prices
Does anyone think much about the plight, the personal plight of the undocumented workers among us today?
The debate rages between two waring parties.
On one side there are those who insist on immigrants from south of our border obeying our current, very inadequate legal provisions for allowing eager immigrants to secure legal work.
On the other side are employers--large and small--who argue that we face a growing labor shortage in the U. S. that only these workers will and can fill. We all benefit from this labor supply because it keeps costs down for a growing number of consumer goods and services.
Caught in the middle are real men, women and children. All have names. All have dreams, aspirations and hopes. Each one has an unique story worth hearing.
But, we seldom hear these stories. As a consequence, we seldom pause to understand the human dimensions behind the current debate. We choose to focus on law or labor instead of the people caught in the middle.
The solution will be found when we turn our eyes toward the people. It is usually that way in life. And, in this case, there is something to be gained and won for everyone.
Take the "law and order" folks. Monica and her family need to be provided a pathway to legal residency and, if they desire it, a process that ends in citizenship. It need not be careless or swift. It should require work, sacrifice and diligence--she and her loved ones would want it no other way. But, we need to find a way to allow the law to embrace them fully, as they step up to the process.
Or, consider those who need unskilled laborers. Any reform should make it clear to employers that unfair wages--those below minimum--will not be tolerated. There is a cost of doing business and a price for the goods and services that we all use and consume. Flushing the underground labor market out into the light of day will serve everyone better. Employers or employees that don't abide by the new process should be punished, but the major responsibility should be on business, not labor.
Good people like Monica and her family should not have to live in fear. Their ambitions and hard work should be rewarded. They should abide by the system and the process that is put in place. But, they shouldn't carry the entire burden of blame for our current situation, a situation we've all helped create.
Border security should be addressed in a comprehensive fashion. That's a separate issue that must be faced and its challenges solved.
But, Monica and her family are people, people caught in between. We need to start paying more attention to her, her family and to the millions of others who have served so many of us so well for so long.
It's always about people and all people matter.