I knew it was coming. The lunatics in the outrage industrial complex are out in full force trying to say that because the Boston bomber brothers are from Chechnya, it goes to show what immigrants will do, and therefore our thoroughly broken immigration system should not be reformed. Actually events like this illustrate exactly why the immigration system needs to be reformed (even though both brothers were naturalized US citizens and their immigration status had nothing to do with what they did).
First of all, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were granted political asylum as war refugees and then given permanent residency and naturalized citizenship. They never spent a minute on our soil in an illegal status. So from the standpoint of their immigration status, their involvement in terrorism is no different than if they were two white guys born and bred in Newton, Massachusetts.
And here’s the thing: if they were undocumented immigrants and somehow their isolation from the general population were a factor in the inability to prevent this crime, then that would be a reason to carry out the reform that’s needed. In the decade that I’ve been in intimate community with undocumented immigrants, I’ve learned that the problem with our immigration system is quite simple. We have a very large informal, temporary employment sector in our economy. Immigrants are willing to come to our country and hustle at very low-paying, dangerous, part-time, unstable jobs and pool their resources to sleep 16 people to an apartment. They aren’t “taking our jobs” because the 8% of our population who are currently reporting themselves officially unemployed just aren’t people who have the strength and stamina to bend over cucumber plants 12 hours a day or jump on top of roofs and fix them or risk cutting their limbs off in a slaughterhouse.
Right now, we have a completely dishonest system. Instead of issuing temporary worker visas that would allow workers to cross our border, jump around between dozens of temporary jobs, and hop back across the border when the job trail runs dry, our only blue-collar work visa, the H-2, has to be arranged with a specific employer in advance which is completely against the nature of the temporary work that immigrants do. It’s temporary, meaning you have a new employer monthly, weekly, or even daily. You don’t find your next employer until your current employer lets you know that your time is up. So the H-2 is absurdly flawed in its design. Furthermore, there are only about 100,000 H-2 visas issued while there is room in the temporary blue-collar employment sector for 12 million or more workers.
So instead of dealing with the overhead of revising the system and issuing temporary worker visas, our federal government cynically looks the other way while farmers, construction companies, meatpacking plants, and other employers send coyotes into Latin America to recruit workers and bring them here illegally. Everything is hunky-dory as long as the immigrants accept sub-minimum-wage jobs, filthy living quarters, and don’t complain. But when they do complain, their employers “discover” that they don’t have valid social security numbers and call up ICE to kick them out.
If the federal government issued an accurate number of temporary worker visas (i.e. 120+ times as many as they do currently), then they would destroy the immigrant smuggling industry which has a lot of overlap with clandestine drug and arms smuggling and thus could kill multiple birds with one stone. It’s because of the stupid sanctimonious moralism of a political base who don’t know what they’re talking about that we have been stuck for so many years: “We can’t give them amnesty because that would be rewarding bad behavior.” That bad behavior has already been rewarded to the companies who engaged in it by giving them cheap labor with a wink and a nudge. The appropriate punishment for those companies is to take away their illegal work supply by creating a legal category for temporary foreign workers.
Under a temporary worker visa system, immigrants could be required to report to an immigration office regularly which they would gladly do as legalized immigrants! What creates an underworld is when people have a reason to hide and not say anything about suspicious activities they encounter because the cops are to be avoided at all costs. John McCain and Lindsey Graham seem to get this based on what they shared in a press conference, which is encouraging. Hopefully the fact that the Republican Party cannot ever win elections in this country again without the Latino vote has made immigration reform a foregone conclusion. But my gosh, the crazies are out in full force!