Among the most ludicrous sound bites from the ongoing GOP presidential campaign to come out in recent times came from Mitt Romney, who recently won the Florida GOP primaries. On the stump he stated that his immigration policy would be to force some 12 million illegal immigrants out of the country by creating job verification laws that would make it impossible for employers to hire undocumented workers. His idea is that by putting together tough regulations and hostility from state governments (like those in Arizona and Oklahoma) would ultimately convince those here illegally to pack up and leave – after all, why would anyone stay if you’re hungry and persecuted?
Though the concept became popular among conservative circles, in reality it is simply ridiculous. The first reason is that there are undocumented immigrants who have been here for decades. They have children who are citizens and have laid roots here. In parts of southern California, many own homes, have bank accounts and pay taxes by using taxpayer IDs. They are savvy about immigration laws and know how to circumvent them by making a living in what could be regarded as an underground economy.
Another thing is that many immigrant communities in the US have formed microcosms of their own. In communities like Jackson Heights in Queens, The Ironbound Section in Newark, NJ and Chinatown in Manhattan they have formed tight-knit networks where newcomers to the community can find jobs in businesses owned by their peers – no papers necessary. Sure, those are low-skilled, badly paid jobs (every now and then there is news about workers at Chinese food restaurants who make less than $3 an hour and are forced to work seven days a week).
Sure, the idea might be popular among Tea Party types, but in reality it is no more than a pipe dream.
Then there is the issue of how these ‘deportations’ would affect the economy. According to a report on the Washington Post, illegal aliens make up as much as 5 % of the workforce in America. If they suddenly left, it is unlikely that upwardly mobile Americans would take their jobs. Sure, some positions might be taken by students willing to earn an extra buck, but there would always be a gap that would be very hard to fill. “Self-deportation” is not a solution that would create jobs for Americans.
Immigration is a contentious issue that is sure to come up again and again during the Presidential campaign. However, those hoping to get our votes must come up with realistic solutions. Mass deportations don’t work. We need a common-sense reform that would look at the issue from a rational point of view – not unenforceable laws that just would make us look bad as a nation.