In immigration reform, arguing against workplace raids
In Monday's Opinion pages, the editorial board weighs in on immigration reform, specifically addressing the desire among congressional Republicans to resume workplace raids as way to find, detain and deport illegal immigrants. There's no need, writes the board:
The administration has been effectively enforcing immigration laws without recourse to such raids, which have disrupted families and resulted in the detention of immigrants for minor offenses such as carrying a forged driver's license or using a fraudulent Social Security number. Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has concentrated its resources on apprehending immigrants accused of serious crimes and fining employers that encourage illegal immigration by continuing to hire undocumented workers.
As Times staff writer Brian Bennett reported, the Obama administration has quadrupled the number of employer audits and fined businesses $6.9 million in fiscal 2010, compared with $675,000 in 2008. Deportations are also up, from 369,221 in 2008 to 392,862 in fiscal 2010. More than 195,000 criminals were deported in 2010, a 70% increase over 2008. These numbers suggest that the administration is not under-enforcing immigration laws, as Republicans claim, but has set reasonable priorities and is pursuing them.
For readers who take to our discussion boards, however, the issue of illegal immigration is often a black-and-white one, leaving no room for compromise. People living in our country illegally, they say, are taking advantage of our schools and welfare programs, stealing our jobs and instigating crime. We should kick them out and make it impossible for them to come back.
What we rarely hear is the perspective from the other side -- the very real reasons why people immigrate to our country, despite knowing that they'll work for low wages and be subject to racism; how humiliating it feels when you’re put out on display during a workplace raid; and how terrifying it is to then be separated from your children until further notice.
In February 2009, Dick Gordon interviewed a woman, who wished to remain anonymous, for "The Story," about her experience during the raid at the Howard Industries Manufacturing plant in Mississippi, in which 600 workers were arrested. She concludes with this message:
What I would like to say to the American people, or the listeners, is that we don't come here to steal; we didn't come here to steal anybody’s job; or steal anything from anybody. We came here to work and we work hard for what we work. I could see if we were out there on the streets stealing somebody's money that they would say that we came to steal. But we didn’t come to take anything away. We came to support our children and support our parents. Have they not ever had to work to support their children and support their parents, wouldn’t they do it too?
Despite those readers who are unbending on illegal immigration, there really is no easy solution. The board would argue, however, for comprehensive illegal immigration reform to include "a combination of legalization for immigrants already in the country and new measures to prevent illegal immigration in the future."
-- Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: In this 2004 photo, Cecilia Rodriguez addresses the media at a Coalition Latino Movement USA protest outside downtown Los Angeles' Federal Building, seeking a halt to what the group calls mass immigration raids. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times