True Leadership Needed on Illegal Immigration

By John Cox
2008 Republican Presidential Candidate

The President’s prime-time address last night has provided America with a unique opportunity to discuss the topic of Illegal immigration in a rational way. While I support the idea of temporary National Guard assistance to secure the chaos at the border, we know that such action only briefly treats one symptom of a much larger problem.

The root cause of our illegal immigration dilemma stems from the overwhelming availability of illegal employment in the US. Landscapers, construction companies, manufacturers, and other businesses related to agriculture and hospitality, far too often take advantage of undocumented workers who, out of economic desperation, will work for far less pay than legal residents.

Employers have many economic incentives to brazenly thumb their collective nose at the rule of law. Perhaps chief of these incentives is the fact that they have, for far too long, been able to readily get away with it. Other incentives include avoiding health care costs, workers compensation, and additional benefits Americans have come to expect. Further, employers enjoy zero accountability, and all too often wield the threat of deportation as they demand longer hours, and require harder work for less pay. All of this combined creates a second class of citizen, which in today’s America is both shameful and unacceptable.

By hiring illegal immigrants, employers also create the incentive for otherwise law abiding foreign nationals to become law-breakers. It provides an irresistible attraction for many to withstand potentially life-threatening circumstances, such as crossing the desert, or attempting to negotiate a dangerous river to get to America.

Unfortunately, such hiring practices also have the added economic disadvantage of lowering wages and benefits for American workers. I am a huge proponent of free markets, but there has to be a level playing field. Having an economic climate wherein some employers have to comply with the rule of law, and others do not, creates neither a fair, nor a free market.

Looking for Answers

So what is the answer? First and foremost, and for starters, it’s time we crack down hard on employers who knowingly and willingly hire illegal immigrants. At the same time, it’s crucial that we reform the INS to streamline and expand legal immigration thereby providing U.S. employers with the labor pool they desire, and legal immigrants with the jobs they need.

Fear not America – our economy can take it. As an employer, I have experienced tough times filling jobs in the past. I realize there are some areas in our country with unemployment issues, and other areas with fewer workers than needed. It is very important that we view this problem through a prism of equality; however, a free market is designed to create equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. By enforcing laws against illegal immigration, and providing fair, streamlined, and expanded legal immigration, we will find that we have more workers at every level of the skills spectrum. Furthermore, our nation’s fine history of legal immigration will no longer be tainted by the misuse and shameful abuse of foreign nationals for corporate economic gain which, in a vicious cycle, only serves to foster continued illegal immigration, thus feeding the beast.

What effect will the crackdown have? Once employers get the message loud and clear, and jobs for illegal immigrants dry up, the specter of mass deportation will no longer be an issue, nor will so-called unfairness and discrimination, because we will have effectively expanded legal immigration. Those who have been in the U.S. illegally for an extended period will then have an incentive to return to their homeland, and apply for legal immigrant status. Let’s not forget, these are people who broke the law to get here, remain here illegally, and again, are treated as second class citizens through quasi-indentured-servitude. The only ethical and moral thing to do is to provide them with an opportunity to exchange their status of lawbreaker, for that of legal immigrant.

Let’s consider: If someone robbed a bank and became accustomed to living on stolen money; once caught, would we allow them to keep that money simply because they had become accustomed to it? Of course not they would have to return the money and make amends for their illegal behavior. Now, I’m not suggesting that illegal immigrants are thieves. Clearly, the vast majority of them are good, hard working, God fearing people; however, the fact remains that they have knowingly and willingly broken the law, and continue to do so by remaining here illegally. They should not, can not, and must not be rewarded for that illegal behavior no matter how their family dynamics might have changed during their illegal stay.

Guest Worker Plan

So what about a so-called "guest worker plan?" Will that work?

In a word No. Guest worker plans both ignore and reward illegal behavior, and perhaps most egregiously, codify into law the aforementioned second class of citizenry. As I recall, we fought a war over a century ago to insure that all men and women were treated equally. Why would we now turn back the clock in such a discriminatory fashion? From a practical standpoint, despite any guest worker plan, until we actually enforce the law, employers who want to hire illegal immigrants will simply ignore our second-class of "guest-workers," and fill their jobs with the newest wave of what would now be, "third-class" illegal immigrants.

I love this country, and am so very proud that we welcome immigrants from around the world with open arms. But we are a nation of laws, and we should only welcome those immigrants who are going to respect and obey those laws. If we allow people to ignore immigration laws, then where does it stop?

Like most Americans, I am a descendant of immigrants – legal immigrants. America truly is a melting pot. We want people from around the world to come here, and to feel welcome. I thank God that ours is the greatest nation on earth, and that so many people seek the opportunity America provides. But I want to keep it that way, while at the same time, encouraging other countries, like Mexico, to repair their own economies from within. Foreign governments should make every effort to ensure that their citizens will be proud to stay and contribute to their own economic growth.

Plainly stated it’s time we stop importing the disastrous economic consequences of corrupt foreign governments, by continuing to turn a blind eye to the illegal immigration disaster we find thrust upon us.

Admittedly, many will say that what I propose is very tough medicine; however, at this time in history, tough medicine is what true leadership demands a principled stand, well crafted, and well communicated that is what I was hoping for in last nights presidential address. Unfortunately, despite my support of President Bush on so many issues, on this one… I’m not so sure that’s what I got.

About the Author

John Cox is the first Republican presidential candidate to announce his bid for 2008. He is a long-time Illinois Republican leader. John currently sits on the board of the USO and Fireworks for Kids Foundation. He serves as the Co-Chairman of the Illinois Branch for the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America’s Social Security system and as Chairman of the Midwest Coalition for Tax Reform and Economic Growth. As an accountant, pension attorney and registered investment advisor, John is an acknowledged published expert on the federal tax code and the Social Security system.

John Cox, a staunch conservative, is the author of two publications, "Campaign for Prosperity and Renewal" and "A Blueprint for the Renewal and Rebirth of the Illinois Republican Party". He has just completed the draft of his new book on changing American politics by bringing back statesmanship.

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