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John Bruhns Headshot

It's Time to Get Real on Immigration

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I have noticed that, ever since the Boston terror attacks, there has been a spike in anti-immigration sentiment, primarily among many people I know. I have seen numerous postings on Facebook illustrating a map of the United States with a logo stating "Closed for Business." However, this sentiment does not seem to be directed at those who attacked us at home on 9/11 or more recently in Boston as much as it appears to promote innuendo designed to infuse energy into the segment of the American populace who are passionate about deporting undocumented people from Mexico.

It is understandable why many in this country want the borders closed. Preventing terrorist attacks is of prime importance to them. After all, as a nation of laws we need to uphold our standards, and terrorism is a legitimate concern. Having said that, I cannot think of any terrorist attack carried out by undocumented Mexicans residing in the United States.

I served in Iraq with many soldiers of Mexican descent. Many of the men of my generation railed against terrorism and spouted their views regarding why America needed to go to war. However, 99 percent of those men never put on a uniform or participated in what they perceived to be wars of necessity, while many soldiers of Mexican descent stood by my side and fought for America.

I realize that America has an immigration problem. Many people, primarily Mexicans, have crossed the border into this country illegally. This fact alone qualifies as a legitimate gripe for those who want to seal off the borders and force undocumented Mexican immigrants back to Mexico. However, those people seem to ignore the reality that we have allowed those immigrants to stay here for far too long, and now they are here to stay. We have crossed a threshold of time, and now it would be pointless to initiate an impossible attempt to deport 11 million undocumented people. That is not realistic by any stretch of the imagination, especially because many of those Mexicans have had children here who are naturalized American citizens. Should we deport only their parents?

I have heard proponents of deportation say that we should remove all of the incentives that make Mexicans want to come to America. They argue that, in addition to denying employment, we should cut off all social services such as food assistance and medical coverage to all those who are here illegally. The point is to make life for them in America just as unbearable as it is in Mexico. This reckless ideology would undoubtedly cause substantial spikes in crime rates in this country. If people are denied food, they will find a way to eat. The idea of starving people out of America is not a reality. Doing so would not cause a mass migration back to Mexico. Instead, it would result in a backlash that would force people to commit crimes in order to survive. Of course, many of them would be arrested and imprisoned. The last thing the American prison system needs is more prisoners; as it stands now, many prisons cannot sustain their current populations. Should we turn four-man cells into eight-man cells? Do Latino prison gangs need more recruits? Do we want to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to pay for the incarceration of these people?

It is senseless to begrudge a Mexican man or woman the ability to come to America and work for $5 an hour under the table for 16 hours a day just to provide a better life for his or her family. These people lay brick, cut grass, mix and carry concrete, place shingles on rooftops, rakes leaves, cook in kitchens, and work their fingers to the bone, all of which provides services to America. Most of these immigrants are hard workers, not criminals taking advantage of the system.

Would it not be more beneficial to America to allow these people to work on the books for a fair wage? After all, they would be contributing tax dollars directly to the American economy.

If undocumented Mexicans are willing to fight and work for this country, they are doing more than many of my contemporaries, who were born here and automatically assume that they have free rein to enjoy all of the amenities that America has to offer while contributing the bare minimum.

Undocumented Mexican workers have been demonized for far too long, and deporting all of them is impossible. Therefore, instead of ostracizing undocumented Mexican people, maybe we should allow them to openly have a life in America without the fear of jail or deportation. Both sides of the immigration debate stand to gain something from this. Those worried about undocumented Mexicans hiding in the shadows would have the benefit of more transparency in regard to the Mexicans who are here. Undocumented Mexicans would be able to participate in America's social contract, work, pay taxes, and earn citizenship. Employers would be allowed to employ this workforce freely, although they would have to increase pay to the minimum wage. Finally, there would be one less partisan political fight on Capitol Hill. The American people have been saturated with the political bickering resulting from this issue for long enough.