Where 'do' Democrats stand on illegal immigration? It's hard to tell. They kind of seem to skirt the issue. It's like they think it will go away if they avoid the subject. At least Republicans seem to realize the importance of confronting it head on. I think it is one of the most important issues of our time. I think it surpasses the budget deficit and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think it trumps the housing crisis and healthcare. I think it is at the center of a lot of our problems with unemployment, rising healthcare costs, education and entitlement programs. It's hard to wrap your head around the fact there are fifteen to twenty million illegal immigrants in this country. Isn't that about the same number of Americans who are out of work?
I live in Florida. Last year I decided to have my roof replaced so I called three different contractors to give me an estimate. I settled for a well known contractor who won me over with his winning personality and track record of satisfied customers. He wasn't the lowest bid, but he gave me the confidence that he could get the job done efficiently and on time. His crew showed up bright and early. I didn't pay a lot of attention as I was busy working in my office, but I could hear them as they climbed onto the roof and began ripping off the old shingles. It sounded like a small army. After an hour or so I decided to go out and take a look. I immediately came face to face with a man, obviously Hispanic. I said good morning and asked him how it was going. He looked at me with a big smile, nodded his head and walked right by me. I could tell he didn't understand a word I said. I walked around the corner and came upon two men sitting on my split rail fence smoking a cigarette. They were deep in a conversation, in Spanish, laughing as if one was telling the other a joke. They stopped talking and became very serious when they saw me coming. They jumped up off they fence and both nodded as if to say 'hello'. I nodded back and asked if I could get them anything. They looked at each other quizzically and then both nodded at me again with big smiles. One of them disappeared only to return with a younger boy who introduced himself in broken English and went on to assure me everything was going smoothly. I backed up and could see ten or fifteen men, all Hispanic, busting their butts on my roof and sweating in the early morning Florida sun. There was a big water jug on the roof with them. A couple of them paused and waved at me with big shit eaten grins. I'm not an idiot. I grew up with Hispanics in Southern California. My best friend's last name is Ortega. These were obviously undocumented workers, a team of them. They appeared to be doing an excellent job, very efficient, but I went back inside wondering to myself how they happened to be 'working' for one of the better known roofing companies in Sarasota. I went back to minding my own business. They did an excellent job on my roof.
A few days later I was stopping by my mother's house to check on her when I noticed a small group of Hispanic men gathered around her mailbox. One of them had a shovel and was digging a trench. There was a truck parked nearby that said 'Verizon'. I nodded at them as I approached and said "good morning". They all looked at me and nodded. I asked one of them what they were doing. He looked at me then looked at the others kind of shrugging his shoulders. You can tell when someone doesn't understand a word you just said. Not one of them spoke English. I flashed back to the roofing crew. Inside I asked my mother what what going on. "Verizon" she said, "routine maintenance". She hadn't been paying attention. I didn't say anything to her, but I was thinking to myself that it was odd that Verizon would be using undocumented workers. I'm use to seeing them in Florida, usually in the orange groves and on the farms, but I was beginning to realize that they were also working for companies in town.
That night I was having dinner with a couple I'm good friends with and we began talking about it. He runs a landscaping business. He told me he could no longer compete with other landscapers in town who were hiring undocumented workers. He was thinking about going back to school. He said his brother ran a carpet business and was suffering the same fate. They simply could not compete doing business 'legally' with other businesses doing business 'illegally'. I began to take notice...ask questions. I found out that undocumented workers in South Florida are taking jobs by the thousands. They are in every aspect of the construction industry from roofing, to floorcovering, landscaping, painting and drywall. They are framing, pouring concrete and installing siding. They are working in nursuries, on horse farms, in agriculture and for large paving companies.
I recently took a trip to see my sister in Northern Califonia. I stopped in Austin, Texas to see my nephew for a couple of days. I was shocked when I visited Austin. It was worst than Florida. There are entire strip malls with Hispanic businesses and when you walk into one of them, no one speaks English. Clearly a large number of people in Austin Texas do not speak English. I asked my nephew about it. He confirmed that there is a huge illegal immigrant population working, actually 'thriving', in Austin. I knew it was bad but I was beginning to see the scope of it. Nothing like a trip through the border states to slap you silly and make you realize this country is being invaded.
The first thing I did when I arrived in Trinidad, California was stop for gas. Trinidad is on the north coast, in the redwoods. It is a beautiful sleepy little fishing village. My sister has had a place there for years. It's gorgeous. I walked into the market and there was a little Mexican grill so I decided to order something. There were five or so women busy making tortillas and speaking to each in what else...Spanish. They quit speaking when I walked up to the counter and sent the youngest one over to take my order. She spoke a few words of English. As I waited I noticed a couple of different groups of obviously undocumented workers sitting at the tables, in their work clothes, boots muddy from the morning rain, laughing and speaking to each other in Spanish. I paid my bill and as I was walking out I noticed a headline on the morning paper. It was a story about a big marijuana bust in Humboldt County where two people had been shot and killed. Apparently Mexican gangs were growing their pot on Federal land...in the redwoods. It sounded like they had a very sophisticated operation. On further reading the article it became apparent that the gangs were infiltrating the area and there had actually been several 'busts' in the previous year. It was becoming a real environmental disaster and costing taxpayers millions of dollars to go in and clean up after these 'gangs' of pot farmers. Not to mention they were heavily armed and killing people who accidently stumbled upon their illegal activity. What a shame I thought. It doesn't exactly promote tourism.
I guess my point is this. Illegal immigration is permeating every aspect of our society. They are taking jobs from middle class America, using our education system, flooding our jails and prisons, using our hospitals and entitlement programs, setting up illegal drug rings and costing taxpayers billions of dollars. We pay more for education, more for healthcare and more for security because our borders are an open door. When are we going to get wise?
I love Hispanics. I'm a huge fan of George Lopez. I love Gloria Estefan. I'll eat Mexican food in a heartbeat. I love J-Lo...Marc...Ricky. I recognize the importance of immigration and I welcome immigrants who follow the rules. I grew up with Hispanics and have many Hispanic friends. I do, however, have a problem with people who are in this country 'illegally'. Illegal immigrants may be paying taxes...I don't know. I have a feeling many of them aren't. I do know that most of them send their money back to their families...in Mexico. That has to be a big drain on our economy.
For the security issues alone I think it is a good idea to seal our borders. What's to stop the next group of Al Queda terrorists from walking right in? We know the Mexican drug cartels are already here. I don't like the idea of drugs being smuggled into this country or the idea of them being peddled in our schools. I don't want the gang violence and the murders to spill across our borders.
I don't think we should just round them all up and deport them. I think we should give them a window of time to come forward, pass a background check and apply for a work visa. Then I think they should get in the back of the line to 'legally' request citizenship. Anyone who doesn't come forward in say, six months or a year, or who fails the background check should be sent back to their country of origin on a one way ticket and I see nothing wrong with asking someone for identification. I'm asked for identification anytime 'I' get pulled over. I'm asked for identification every time I write a check or get on an airplane.
I support 'legal' immigration and as to 'illegal' immigration...I support the Republicans. They are not afraid to take a stand on an issue because it may be politically unpopular. They agree that our borders need to be secured and that our immigration policies need to be ammended. They can see that we are being taken over by an illegal population and they realize the security and economic consequences of doing 'nothing'. Democrats are afraid of the political ramifications. They afterall have a large Hispanic following. They would rather ignore immigration and hope it goes away. For this issue alone I may be compelled to vote Republican in 2012. I think it is 'that' important. It undermines our security, our economy and every aspect of our lives. It poses an iminent threat to the future and the safety of our children. Now, if only the Republicans can come up with a candidate I could actually support. Doesn't look likely.