`Nasty' immigrant labor

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 12:06 a.m.

The Sun's Jan. 24 cartoon shows a customer holding an orange at the checkout counter and asking how much it would cost if it were not harvested with "nasty immigrant labor." "$162.00" the clerk replies.

While this is a cute point, in the real world beyond op-ed journalism there are many unacknowledged factors that contribute to the cost of our cheap produce.

There is the increase in taxes needed to pay for welfare to support unemployed Americans and their families, and the loss of tax revenue from the previously employed. There is the need for costly prison accommodations for the portion of the poor that otherwise might have been happily employed were the work better paid; and the decline in federal income tax revenues and income loss for private business that once served lower middle class Americans.

There is the weakening of the purchasing value of U.S. dollars to Americans, in part because these dollars are sent to families abroad by our non-citizen workers, and the cost of extra police and expensive courts to try and subsequently incarcerate Americans with limited job skills who may have turned to illegal drug marketing "to help put food on the table."

Unlike Mexican migrants, United States workers cannot live inexpensively at home in Mexico during the off season. The growing unemployment in the impoverished sectors of America endangers even the safety and security of middle class citizens unable to afford space in a gated community. Unemployment also serves to foster a righteous sense of outrage and even terror in once relatively quiescent communities.

Finally, immigrant labor is no more "nasty" than American labor, but it usually originates in countries where unemployment and hunger is rife. When we allow importation of foreign workers, we not only lower our poorer citizens' standard of living, but we diminish efforts abroad to relieve the pressure of overpopulation and encourage needed change.

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