America is addicted to cheap labor

Although my family and I have lived in Brownsville, Texas on the US-Mexico border for more than 20 years I have read with interest the numerous recent letters in your newspaper concerning Hispanics that are in Marshalltown without legal permission.

My wife is from Marshalltown so, over the years when I have had the good fortune to visit your wonderful city, I have both heard about and seen the impact of immigrants on your lives. The US-Mexico border is one of the few places in the world where the Third World juts up against the First World. After meeting dozens of illegal immigrants over the years, I have come to the conclusion that illegal immigration is mostly about industry’s insatiable appetite for cheap labor and poor peoples’ willingness to sell their labor cheaply.

During my time in Brownsville I worked for a wonderful bishop, Enrique San Pedro, S.J. One time he told me that he was 100 percent against illegal immigration because it inevitably rips families apart. Although Bishop San Pedro was far from being an idealistic dreamer he believed that the only solution was to create a world where people are not forced to leave their families in order to provide for them. I empathize greatly with those Marshalltown Hispanic families who are being devastated because of deportations and other kinds of forced separations. I also empathize with those individuals who believe that illegal immigration is wrong because it is “illegal” and the United States works as well as it does because we are a country of laws.

The conundrum that “illegal immigrants” face is an almost incomprehensible set of immigration laws that our legislators continually tell us are broken and that need to be overhauled. In Texas, Governors Perry and Bush have traditionally spoken and acted compassionately in the face of “illegal immigration” because undocumented people contribute more to the Texas economy than they take out of it.

As long as American capital is addicted to cheap labor that lives close by in Mexico and Mexicans are desperate for employment “illegal immigration” is unstoppable, no matter how negative the ultimate human costs may be. It is interesting that when Maytag “migrated” to Mexico for the cheap Mexican labor that was legal but when Mexican labor that is willing to work cheaply migrates to the U.S. that is illegal.