Jewish World Review July 1, 2003 / 1 Tamuz, 5763

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Border disorder | The deaths of 19 undocumented immigrants in a hot Texas trailer last month reminded us all that, despite the Bush administration's ramped-up efforts at border control, illegal aliens are still flowing across our borders.

An estimated 700,000 illegal aliens enter the United States each year. The number of people arrested trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border has risen in the past year. In California alone, arrests jumped 10 percent from October to May.

Our porous borders not only pose a threat to our national security, but also work as a burden on our welfare system, our health care systems and the overall economy. Illegal immigration cuts into the wages of American workers.

"Massive immigration of low-skilled, low-wage workers . depresses wage rates for people who are at the low economic end of the scale," says Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. "The overall effect will be the decline of the living standard of every American, or most Americans."

Some say this is a problem that the Bush administration is simply overlooking because it considers these low-wage workers to be a desirable part of our economy.

"If I, tomorrow, go to the administration and President Bush and say, 'I have a foolproof plan that will stop all illegal immigration into this country,' they would say, 'Get out of here,' " Tancredo says.

There are some groups, such as the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, that propose the legalization of Mexican migration. Daniel Griswold, associate director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, claims that the U.S. economy would be better off that way. According to Griswold, the pool of Americans who would be happy to take the low-skilled jobs often filled by illegal aliens is shrinking.

"We're getting older and better educated, and unwilling and unsuited to fill these (low-skilled) jobs," Griswold says.

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But according to George Borjas, a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, this argument is seriously flawed.

"The correct statement is, illegal immigrants do jobs natives don't want to do at the going wage," Borjas says. "If illegal immigrants weren't here, we would still want our lawns mowed and our children raised or whatever."

There is research to support Borjas' argument. A study done by the National Academy of Sciences found that more than 40 percent of the wage losses of low-skilled workers could be attributed to illegal immigration. And other research done during the early 1990s found that more than 700,000 low-skill workers in the United States were jobless because of illegal immigration.

Many feel that stricter sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants are necessary to combat the problem.

"The employers who are knowingly employing people who are here illegally . ought to be dealt with more much harshly, much more severely," Tancredo says.

Borjas agrees. "Right now the employer sanction program is basically a joke," he says.

By not coming down harder on the employers who hire illegal aliens, the administration is currently engaged in what many say is a dangerous game. Says Tancredo: "What they're trying to do is, somehow or other, allow for the movement of millions of people across the borders into the United States illegally, and therefore provide a source of cheap labor while simultaneously trying to keep out people who would do us great harm - terrorists."

They cannot, of course, have it both ways. The administration has proposed billions in new funding for border patrols, but it will never be enough until the administration effectively deals with the demand side of the equation. It's time for both business and government leaders to end the wink-and-nod approach to the hiring of illegal aliens. And it's time for this administration to form a national policy on immigration and border security that effectively reduces the threat of terrorism and stops the drain on our economy. It's time to take our borders seriously.

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