Hispanic immigrants are handy scapegoats for the problems in local communities, from crime to overcrowded schools. Even legal immigrants are victims of this mindset, in spite of immigration not being the root cause or even a major factor in any of the issues.
Immigration has always been an issue. Those making up the majority of the population are all immigrants from other nations, having descended from those who immigrated here over the course of the last 400 years. Some of the areas in which Hispanic immigrants are most numerous were at one point the property of the Hispanic nation of Mexico. Immigrants built this country, and certain segments of the immigrants have always been accused of ruining this country.
Recently, Arizona passed a law, SB 1070, which requires the police to question the legal status of those they suspect are undocumented immigrants. Additionally, it sets the official immigration police as ‘attrition through enforcement’, stating that they intend to be so harsh that immigrants flee in fear. (Martinez, 2011).
Currently, the law is on hold due to challenges by the US Department of Justice for usurping federal jurisdiction on immigration. However, the law has set a horrid precedent, one that has resulted in boycotts that are costing Arizona more than $330 million dollars over the next two to three years. (Martinez, 2011).
Similar anti-immigration campaigns are proving to be costly due to the such laws being unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendment states “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (Cornell University Law School).
Since the ‘suspicion’ used to determine if someone may be an illegal immigrant amounts to racial profiling, it does not meet the criteria for probable cause. The Judge who blocked the law wrote, “Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked.” (Archibold, 2010)
The article by Gebe Martinez points out that several of the laws and policies against immigration are far more costly than any perceived benefits and based on mistaken, prejudiced notions. Additionally, the laws are proving to violate the civil rights of those here legally, including actual citizens. While the article leans towards the pro-immigration side, the information is presented factually without attempts made to sensationalize or misrepresent the information.
The intent of the article seems to be to get the public to actually stop and consider the costs and ramifications of the issue, especially if it continues to be taken in the direction of places like Arizona. Since there is no evidence that immigration is the cause or factor in the problems that are blamed on immigration, what is the actual root cause and purpose of the anti-immigration laws? Is it worth the economic costs and legal ramifications to push through laws that amount to nothing more than legalizing discrimination and scapegoating?
Every year, undocumented immigrants provide the US with billions of dollars in sales and taxes, including taxes that pay for programs like social security, medicare, and unemployment, all programs that bar undocumented immigrants from participating. The US Government Accountability Office points out, “Research studies indicate that many illegal aliens pay taxes, including federal and state income taxes; Social Security tax; and sales, gasoline, and property taxes.” Francine Lipman, a professor of law at Chapman University School of Law, wrote in an article “Taxing Undocumented Immigrants: Separate, Unequal and Without Representation,” “Undocumented immigrants living in the United States are subject to the same income tax laws as documented immigrants and U.S. citizens. However, because of their status most unauthorized workers pay a higher effective tax rate than similarly situated documented or U.S. citizens. Yet, these workers and their families use fewer government services than similarly situated documented immigrants or U.S. citizens…As a result, undocumented immigrants provide a fiscal windfall and may be the most fiscally beneficial of all immigrants.” (ProCon.Org, 2008)
Raul Hinojosa, PhD, Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, in a July 18, 2005 BusinessWeek interview titled “A Massive Economic Development Boom,” wrote: “First and foremost, [illegal immigration] it’s a source of value added. The total goods and services that they consume through their paycheck, plus all that they produce for their employers, is close to about $800 billion. They’re also producing at relatively lower costs because the undocumented population typically gets about 20% less in wages than if they were legalized. That leads to lower prices for us and higher profits to employers. In addition, they’re obviously a huge consumer base. We’ve seen that 90% of the wages that the undocumented population gets are spent inside the U.S. Remittances are sent abroad, but that only represents about 10% of immigrants’ income. The numbers are becoming quite huge. We estimate about $50 billion dollars in remittances this year. That means that total consumptive capacity remaining in the U.S. is $400 billion to $450 billion. If you took away the undocumented population, it would be the worst economic disaster in the history of the U.S.” (ProCon, 2008)
In the workplace, it is important not to assume that a person of Hispanic origin is an undocumented immigrant. Hispanic employees should be treated with the same respect that all employees deserve, and not forced to jump through additional hoops to prove their worth and legitimacy as employees.
Prejudice and discrimination against Hispanics in the workplace is a very real problem. In my personal experience, I have seen police officers pull over and hassle a driver for no stated reason other than they thought he might be a ‘wetback’. It is important to educate everyone on the realities regarding the civil liberties that apply to all people in the US, regardless of their nationality or ethnic origin. The truth must be let out, preventing the misinformation that leads to these bigoted attitudes from spreading unchecked.
Archibold, R. C. (2010). Judge Blocks Arizona’s Immigration Law. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/29/us/29arizona.html
Cornell University Law School. (n.d.). Bill of Rights. Retrieved from http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights
Harvey, C. P., & Allard, M. J. (2009). Understanding and managing diversity (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Martinez, G. (2011). Unconstitutional and Costly. Center for American progress. Retrieved from http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/01/unconstitutional_and_costly.html
ProCon.Org. (2008). Are illegal aliens paying their “fair share” of taxes?. Retrieved from http://immigration.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000789
Schaefer, R. T. (2011). Racial and ethnic groups (12th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
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