In the local paper, the most popular user comments tend to be those that insist on strict enforcement of immigration laws against those who are undocumented. After all, these users proclaim, “They BROKE the LAW,” they are “ILLEGAL no mater WHAT country they came from.”
What most of these users are actually calling for (or at least hoping for) is a wide ranging, cattle-car style deportation, which incidentally is not what “enforcing the law” would actually look like. Enforcing the law would mean issuing each undocumented immigrant a Notice to Appear before an Immigration Judge for a series of hearings to determine legal status and available relief, if any. As it turns out it’s up to a judge, and not an online commenter, to determine someone’s legal status and future prospects in the US.
These procedures are already taking several years, sometimes more. Adding 11 million undocumented immigrants to the Immigration Court docket would be, well, a boondoggle.
Most importantly, there is a screaming inconsistency behind these calls for “upholding the law.” As the saying goes, it takes two to tango, and that certainly goes for illegal immigration. Employers who hire undocumented immigrants are also breaking the law, but calls for strict enforcement against apple growers and dairy farmers are simply hard to come by. This outrage imbalance should give us pause.
But even if someone should call for strict enforcement against all parties, both employers and employees, they are quite frankly ignoring the real world in which we live. We happen to live in the real world, where deporting 11 million people is physically, economically, and legally impossible. The real world, where in our local economies actually depend on the labor provided by undocumented folks. The real world, where families are woven together with no regard for each individual’s “legal status.”
If past legislation had appropriately dealt with labor needs, we likely wouldn’t be having this debate. But here we are, with an immigration system that makes legalization nearly impossible, and an economy that demands immigrants. We cannot curb the need for immigrants over night, so that leaves us with no choice but to dive head first into reforming the broken immigration system.