Does morality inform immigration discussions?

I’m having trouble carving out enough time to do a well-researched post. There are hundreds of articles to comb through and stories to tell, and sometimes I get overwhelmed by them. Okay, actually, I get constantly overwhelmed by them.

While I’m not a Unitarian Universalist per se, I have spent some time in a congregation in Norman, OK, and I loved it. I say that because this particular page, Immigration as a Moral Issue, expressed my sentiments and views, and I want very much to share it with you all so you understand where I’m coming from and why.

I understand that immigration is also a legal issue, a financial issue and a security issue, and all aspects of the topic should be discussed ad nauseam. Unfortunately, it’s also an issue involving prejudices and stereotypes for some people, and I hate that those aspects enter so many of the comments on the news stories that I read. For me, all aspects of the topic center around the fact that it is a moral issue, and that is what I want to bring to every discussion.

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Undocumented immigrants get used and abused by unregulated businessmen

The other day I was looking for a story to use as a source for the legal blog I was writing for work. I wanted to find something about construction injuries in New York City so I could write about why you might need an attorney if you’ve been injured in a construction accident. Then I came across this story in the New York Times, which I didn’t use because it didn’t quite fit. However, it did make me think about SoL immigrants.

Here’s what I read, and my thoughts on it.

Construction in NYC is booming, and some people are taking advantage of the excess of demand for buildings, the plethora of undocumented immigrants needing work, and the shortage of inspectors to completely ignore safety regulations. Hundreds of violations are occurring and it seems as if no one ever follows up on them.

As a result, men are plummeting to their deaths. Things are falling on them in trenches. They aren’t receiving OSHA-required safety training. They aren’t wearing safety equipment. No hard hats! No harnesses! This is basic stuff that costs less than the minimal fines these companies occasionally get slapped with if they’re “unlucky” enough to get noticed (usually because people have been injured or died).

There are always going to be people out there who take advantage of those who aren’t authorized to work here because, let’s face it, who’s going to penalize them? Not the injured workers who are afraid of our legal system and being deported, and probably not the undocumented families of those who are killed through the negligence of their employers.

We all know that problems such as these won’t be “fixed” by electing one person or another as POTUS. But, since it’s become such a major platform issue, I hope voters will think seriously and practically about the implications of the statements each candidate makes regarding immigration.

In my opinion – which I have researched and given a lot of thought to, so this is an (at least somewhat) educated opinion – candidates who favor developing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants seem to be touting the least expensive, the safest, and the most practical route to safety for all of us. Should it be easy to become a U.S. citizen? Maybe not. Should it be possible? I believe so.

On another note, I also believe a bit more oversight wouldn’t hurt. Why have laws if you aren’t going to enforce them? Unfortunately, it sounds as if there’s corruption and maybe a lack of funding causing some of the problems in NYC.

When so many problems contribute to a death (or multiple deaths), it can be hard to sort through them all and find any kind of solution. In this case, I think better regulation (bigger government and more oversight) is part of the answer.

If you’re against having undocumented immigrants in the country, you might want to think about how bigger government would make it more difficult for them to work here. Personally, I’m more worried about the people (human beings, just like the rest of us) who die here doing jobs that are too dangerous to be done by those lucky enough to be born here.

Central American girls need asylum in the United States

Last month alone more than 6,000 immigrants were apprehended in South Texas, according to the New York Times. Most of them were women and children brought to the border by human traffickers (a.k.a. coyotes) – who receive thousands of dollars per person.

Why the sudden increase?

Many of the unaccompanied children who are coming across now are teenage girls who are fleeing gang violence in El Salvador, which has the highest murder rate of women in the world.

NPR News reports that girls disappear or are gunned down in the street daily. This isn’t necessarily due to drive-bys. They aren’t all random. Girls are singled out and shot because they don’t respond to ultimatums from bullies, or they refuse to give sexual favors, or they aren’t able to come up with money that a gang member demands.

Sometimes, the girls are found dead in the street. Sometimes, they just disappear. Some hide in their homes, justifiably afraid to leave their bedrooms.

Those who do make the trek and successfully cross the border into the United States can apply for asylum because they meet the USCIS definition of refugees, which you can read here.

Unfortunately, many of the girls never make it to the border because they’re apprehended by Mexican immigration officials and sent back.

The USCIS does allow people in the United States to sponsor refugees under certain circumstances, and some unaccompanied immigrant minors are making the trip here under this sponsorship. After reading the rules, which seem pretty strict, I thought it seemed like a great way for any of these girls to get away.

Until I read this story reported by the Los Angeles Times. According to the article, not all sponsors are screened well enough, so thousands of the girls who escape the dangers of their own country are allegedly ending up with people who have been convicted of violent crimes, including child molestation.

It seems as if the hole gets deeper and the solution gets further away with every new story I read. It’s heartbreaking, and reading the comments below the stories only makes it worse. Because “What about the strain on our resources?” follows every single suggestion that we should help.

Why do we have to choose between helping our own and helping others? As I’ve said before, I believe the government would be able to afford to help our own and others in need if they’d quit bailing out corporations and financial institutions.

However, my education is far from complete. If you have some enlightenment for me, please share.

They aren’t taking our jobs

I’ve heard the argument so many times that undocumented immigrants are stealing our jobs.  It is true that migrant workers from Mexico have been coming to the United States for decades, performing back-breaking labor in horrible conditions for a fraction of what U.S. citizens would make.

I’ve also heard the counter-argument – they’re taking the jobs no one else will do. Turns out, that’s true, too, and we’re learning it the hard way.

Now, fewer Mexican laborers are crossing the border, for one reason and another, and those jobs are available. Our jobs! Positions are available for U.S. citizens! So where are the people who wanted them? According to the Wall Street Journal, we actually don’t want those jobs, and growers are losing a significant portion of their crops to rot because we aren’t picking up the slack (pun intended).

In response, companies have stepped up the pay, the benefits and the working conditions. A crop worker now could make substantially more than minimum wage in a lot of places. Farmers are even recruiting and offering bonuses.

It’s hard work, though. Apparently many of the people who try it only last a few days. So where’s the American work ethic? Maybe that only applies to Central America.

 

In case you’ve gotten your news about the Syrian refugees from your friends’ Facebook posts…

Refugees are people who are being persecuted in their own country who would like to go somewhere else until the threat has passed and they can go back home.

Are the Syrians refugees?

According to the New York Times, Syrians are being killed en masse, although the difficulty getting information means that the numbers – more than 200,000 fatalities – are probably much higher. They’re being gunned down at close range, starving, and even dying in U.S. attacks against ISIS. Hundreds are being tortured. Hundreds of thousands are under siege. These are civilians, not political figures or members of the military.

So yes. They are refugees.

I’ve been seeing memes and statements on Facebook indicating that if we help some, the bad guys will take advantage and hitch a ride on the wave. The people who say this seem to think it’s easy for refugees to get into the United States. This isn’t true.

If people in the United States stop freaking out over whether any of these refugees might be a terrorist, some of the Syrians may be able to go through the process of being allowed refugee status. To do this, they must get a referral from the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. A person who is able to get that referral gets to go through the application, investigation, and interview process, and after that they may be allowed to come to this country. But the number allowed in has always been capped, and now it sounds as if most of the people in our country (made up of the children and grandchildren of refugees) want to deny the rest, as well.

It seems to me that this is the result of the fear-mongering mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, but there is another question I’ve seen floating around that should probably be addressed, too.

What about the strain on our resources?

Now, I’ve seen on Facebook that a lot of people are using the excuse: “But we have children and veterans and homeless who aren’t being taken care of, so why should we help someone else?”

I agree that our own people should also receive help, and I believe that our government could allot resources to feed and house all of them, as well as thousands of refugees. Where would they get that money? How about from the private corporations that have received government bailouts? Here’s a list of the companies and the billions of dollars they’ve received from the U.S. government. Why are we -all of us who pay our taxes- helping rich people instead of feeding our own poor, or those who are being persecuted?

That’s an interesting question. I’d like to know what you think the answer is.