September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Title:An attack on our people supported by the Supreme Court
Blurb:On March 27, the Supreme Court delivered a fierce blow to immigrants and workers rights with its decision to deny undocumented workers the right to sue employers for unpaid wages. It seems the courts decision pleased conservatives in the media, who refuse to acknowledge that undocumented immigrants contribute much more than they receive.
Body:On March 27, the Supreme Court delivered a fierce blow to immigrants and workers rights with its decision to deny undocumented workers the right to sue employers for unpaid wages. The decision issued from the case of Hoffman Plastics, a California corporation involved in a lawsuit with four former employees who claimed they were fired for attempting to organize a union in 1989. The company later refused to pay the workers wages owed to them when it learned they were undocumented.
It seems the courts decision pleased conservatives in the media, who are by no means underrepresented. For example, columnist Cal Thomas recently bemoaned President Bushs support for granting amnesty to more than 200,000 undocumented Mexican immigrants, horrified at the possibility of the legalization of some 12 million undocumented immigrants the government estimates live in the United States.
According to Thomas, the amnesty granted to 2.7 million undocumented immigrants in 1986 permanently elevated the number of poor and uneducated people living in this country. Apparently Thomas does not believe that, given the chance, illegal immigrants would take advantage of the opportunity to work and live here legally. Thomas cites a study by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) which reports that the combined direct and indirect costs of supporting immigrants granted amnesty, minus their fiscal contributions, is over $78 billion. However, Thomas neglects to mention that the CIS is a wealthy private foundation with an agenda of its own. Founded in 1985, the CIS, according to their website, is devoted to a pro-immigrant vision that supports the entry of fewer foreigners, but with an improved quality of life. One cannot help but be moved to tears by their effusive vision.
Journalist Jorge Ramos presents strong opposing evidence. In his book, The Other Face of America, Ramos cites federal government-sponsored studies from the National Academy of Sciences and the Urban Institute which report that immigration to the United States, both legal and illegal, contributes between $10 billion and $30 billion annually to the North American economy. A 1994 government study conducted in the seven states with the most immigrants (Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Illinois) concluded that the cost of services for undocumented immigrants is slightly more than $3 billion for education, almost $500 million for prison, and $422 million for medical care. Even considering the lowest estimate of annual contribution by undocumented immigrants, $10 billion, the costs still come nowhere near the prospective gains. In other words, undocumented immigrants contribute much more than they receive.
Contrary to popular belief, the current influx of foreigners entering the United States every year is not the highest it has ever been. That level (proportional to population) occurred at the turn of the 20th century, when the United States opened its doors to newcomers, mostly Europeans, needed to fill jobs to fuel the growing economy. In 1910, foreigners constituted 15 percent of the U.S. population; in 1997, less than 10 percent.
The perception that immigrants take jobs away from citizens, deplete government resources, and fail to assimilate into American society is erroneous. Various studies have shown that illegal immigrants accept jobs that Americans refuse and, in fact, contribute to the generation of more jobs. It has also been shown that Spanish-speaking immigrants learn English more quickly than immigrants from other countries.
I will not ask how Thomas came to the conclusion that the children of illegal immigrants cannot be assimilated into American society in public schools. I suspect that Thomas, a strong patron of private, religious education, knows little about public schools.
To me, it seems obvious that public schools are a bastion of patriotism, and that the children of immigrants identify themselves as American more than anything else. Public education generates solidarity and national identity, while private education only promotes elitism. Immigrants are quick to become scapegoats in times of economic hardship. While the maxim that the weakest link will break the chain may be true, we must put myths aside and face reality.