As deportations briskly continue, an impassioned analyst explains how so many workers essential to the economy become illegal and are turned away from our nation’s southern border by the busload.
“Where are your papers?” is not a traditional American question. As Chomsky (History and Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies/Salem State Univ.; “They Take Our Jobs!”: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration, 2007, etc.) demonstrates, the concept of illegality is tenuous and a relatively recent social construct too often based on politics and prejudice. For citizens of developed countries, it yields unequal privilege. However, those in underdeveloped countries become marginalized. In the United States, half of the undocumented Mexicans are seasonal farm workers. Illegal Guatemalans are needed for meat processing, and other Central Americans labor in construction, cleaning and food services. Demonstrably, illegals do not take jobs from citizens; they take jobs citizens won’t do. It is not legal for them to cross the border without inspection or permission to stay where they toil. Yet, subject to fraud, crime and discrimination, in danger of kidnapping for ransom, death in the desert and fraud at the hands of “coyote” smugglers, they come seeking a place where their children may thrive. Chomsky clearly documents the plight of all the criminalized nannies, maintenance workers, lawn cutters, cleaners and cooks. She challenges the common understanding of our shifting national immigration policies, which, nourished by lobbyists, political consultants and much of the media, run on low wages for immigrants. Supported by a careful survey of legal history, the author presents the case (one that usually receives scant attention) that immigration should not be characterized as illegal.
An urgent, earnest report, albeit one not likely to receive quick legislative repair, on the fraught national immigration policy.