The debate on the City of Bloomington's decision to boycott businesses in Arizona due to its new immigration law is democracy in action. However, the arguments from people who say they will go out of their way and support Arizona in defiance of Bloomington's decision, like children rebelling against their parents, have missed the opportunity to logically discuss and pinpoint the real culprit -- businesses that employ undocumented workers.
In the immigration discussions, I have barely heard a word about the responsibilities of businesses and employers when they hire workers.
Until the federal government makes some movement on new immigration policy, we have to deal with what is in front of us. As long as undocumented workers can accept jobs with employers who face little scrutiny or oversight by the federal government in their hiring policies, they will continue to seek and find work.
"Are these 'illegal immigrants' or 'illegal workers' forcing employers to hire and put them to work?"
As history shows, when things get stressful, when things aren't going quite right, when people are suffering and hurting, scapegoats are identified and targeted. Find scapegoats and blame them for the problems, and the problems will go away. However, people entering this country seeking work are called workers. And when workers are cheap, plentiful and easily exploitable, businesses and employers fall all over each other to hire them. These undocumented employees are easily intimidated and easily taken advantage of at the workplace.
In the construction market alone, the Pew Hispanic Center reports that as much as 25 percent of the entire construction workforce consists of undocumented workers, and the percentage is reportedly even higher in the residential construction industry. Yet, who is doing the recruitment, who is doing the hiring and who is doing the verification of legal status?
Those who want to build walls around our borders to keep people out, at the same time, allow walls to crumble when addressing issues like fair trade agreements and manufacturing outsourcing. Are these "illegal immigrants" or "illegal workers" forcing employers to hire and put them to work? Are immigrant workers browbeating our poor employers in Arizona and forcing them to be hired? I think not.
"Are immigrant workers browbeating our poor employers in Arizona and forcing them to be hired?"
Let's look at the source of the problem and assign responsibility for why so many people without proper authorization are working here. It's because the employers want them here, they want them to stay, and they want them to keep every other worker's wages low. Employers love the cheap labor, the ability to control the workers and the ability to squeeze every last ounce of energy out of them to produce more.
When the workers finally decide enough is enough, they may decide to organize into a union, or at least call the Department of Labor or some other resource for assistance. The next thing you know, the employer makes an anonymous call and the federal agency of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is at the job site seeking out these undocumented workers. Is it a coincidence that the employer did not realize many of the employees were working in this country without authorization -- that the employer had no idea? Right! Talk about using the federal government to do their dirty work and stop an organizing drive or a worker movement right in its tracks!
"Employers love the cheap labor, the ability to control the workers and the ability to squeeze every last ounce of energy out of them."
I know I'm expecting a lot here, but it would be a nice change to hear the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce or the National Home Builders Association voice their position about making employers cough up some responsibility for the immigration issue and not just blame the government for not having a new immigration policy. When the debate does start again, what do you think will be the lobbying position of the Chamber and its members with regard to enforcing or implementing stricter hiring and employment policies? I think we can figure that one out easily.
The Chamber and business always seem to want it both ways. A "free market" to hire whomever they want without big government interference, yet, when the conditions change out of their favor, they want to call in the same government to help them with their "little" employee problem -- the problem of "illegal workers" acting up trying to fight for some rights!
Don't blame the workers. Blame the shameless employers who exploit the workers and push everyone into a race to the bottom. Undocumented workers wouldn't be employed here if companies didn't hire them. Is it that hard to figure out? No it isn't, but giving up cheap labor that is easily controlled and finding their replacements would be!
Tom Szymanski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.