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Deal with immigrants by enforcing labor laws Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, Oct. 07, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

To the editor:

Tony Magliano’s column, “Immigration reform needed” (Catholic Herald, September 16, 2010), is correct on many points, but falls short on one of them. In his article he repeats the worn-out phrase that immigrants perform the work that Americans won’t. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are thousands of jobs that are being performed by Americans on a daily basis that are not only undesirable but downright dangerous. Jobs, such as foundry work, powerhouses, shipyards, oil fields, etc. — most of which are covered by union contracts and state and federal health and safety regulations that make them attractive to an adventurous few.

Farm labor, on the other hand, is exempt from minimum wage laws as well as health and safety regulations which makes them unattractive to all but the most desperate and poor among us. The fault does not lie with the farmers themselves, but is a result of an upside-down system where the market controls the price of their product instead of the other way around. The free market does not work for them.

Slaughter houses and service industries that should be subject to labor laws and health and safety regulations have taken advantage of a lack of enforcement as well as burgeoning and compliant immigrant work force. The result is most Americans have shunned those jobs because they have come to expect and deserve better.

So what do we do with 11 million undocumented workers already in this country? Rounding them up and sending them back across the border, as some have suggested, is not only unethical, but logistically impossible. Building walls along the border and patrolling it with vigilantes won’t work either.

The solution to Mr. Magliano’s “immigration reform” is clear. Enforce labor laws and health and safety regulations where they exist, expand and strengthen those laws where necessary, and, as for those undocumented workers already in our country: legalize them and organize them.

Jerome Joyce, Madison