The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

If You Build Business, They Will Come – the Debate on Illegal Immigration

Posted by vmsalama on December 3, 2007

Hey everyone – here’s my latest in PostGlobal (washingtonpost.com) — as always, I welcome your comments!

If You Build Business, They Will Come

by Vivian Salama


December 3, 2007

In the 1989 Kevin Costner movie, “A Field of Dreams,” a voice from baseball heaven tells Costner, “if you build it, they will come.” It seems to me that the same voice should shed some light in Washington: if you build and expand business, illegal immigrants will come.

It’s bewildering to envision a land of immigration closed off to immigrants. Nonetheless, the Council on Foreign Relations recently referred to the topic of immigration as “a toxic political issue.” Regardless of whether U.S. presidential hopefuls see the benefits of illegal immigration for America’s economy, candidates are toeing the line due to the negative connotation associated with this issue.

First, let’s talk numbers: Foreign-born residents in the United States have not exceeded 16 percent since 1675. This year, immigrants to the U.S. – legal and illegal – reached a record of 37.9 million, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. (Where I sit in New York, about 38 percent of people here are immigrants). That said, it’s not the legal immigrants raising eyebrows.

Over the past ten years, illegal immigration to the United States has more than doubled from 5 to 12 million. In fact, the problem has become such a major concern in Washington that in 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, authorizing the construction of a $1.2 billion, 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Certainly compounding this are issues of “Homeland Security” and general sentiments of insecurity and xenophobia that have gripped the country (in some places more than others) since the attacks of September 11th.

So why, then, aren’t candidates taking a steadfast position on the issue? For example, Rudy Giuliani, the one-time mayor of my hometown who once said he welcomes illegal immigrants, is now doing a song-and-dance around the issue.

The fact is that illegal immigrants equal able hands and bodies willing to do some of the grunt work that natives – and some legal immigrants – generally aren’t. By coming to the U.S., these illegal immigrants maintain the natural flow of the global market which demands a shift from low-wage and low-productivity to high-wage and high-productivity. Ultimately, U.S. businesses want and need these low-skilled workers – and the workers want to come.

Were the incentives of illegal immigration greater for America’s economy, perhaps the issue would offer candidates a more clear-cut platform. However, if these Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls continue this song-and-dance without addressing the need for a plan to safely and fairly reap the benefits of illegal labor, then everybody loses. This country was built on a platform of immigration. Rather than building walls to shut the world out, it may be in America’s economic and political interest to find better, more effective – and legal – ways of letting the world in


One Response to “If You Build Business, They Will Come – the Debate on Illegal Immigration”

  1. Bigjer said

    Viv: I sure hope you are a mother, because the saying charity begins at home is quite valid….
    you are for the illegals and are forgetting about our own citizens.

    Are you aware that America has been feeding the majotity of the hungry of the world for many years…?
    Great quality in the nice American populatation, right?
    Well Viv, its time for you to wake up and start to see exactly where your country is…….
    America is so far in debt right now that we have to borrow TRILLIONS of dollars from Japan, China, and Korea just to stay afloat…..!!!
    The U.S.Govt. has borrowed $ 1.3 TRILLION dollars from OUR own Soc. SECURITY + interest, ( none 0f it has been re-payed) besides the TRILLIONS the IRAQ war has cost us.
    The real kicker here is that the all ‘illegaLs’
    together cost us a Trillion dollars a year for their living, and yet UNCLE says they are “below the poverty” line, so that we, by our own rediculous laws, MUST pay for them free medical, free school breakfasts (and) lunches, Welfare and Food stamps, and free HUD housing
    …..These are things poor Americans cant even get…..

    Read more articles on these subjects, because U.S.Air Force Wives are viciously complaining because they cant even get these things….
    They are furious, and their husbands are protecting this country so that illegals can live in the lap of luxuary.

    Illegals get free baby strollers and American military wives cant .

    Perhaps you best get up to date and maybe it will help you to understand that your pleas fall on very deaf ears….
    When you have a 77% majority who want the illegals to (go home), you are in the very little minority and it is apparent you are not well read up on many of your facts at all….
    Remember that America still has the rule that majority counts…( altho it doesnt seem so , with the help of our paid off whores in congress)but We are one small inch away from total BANKRUPTCY…..Start thinking about that ,instead of worrying about those who are here by breaking our laws……

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