Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The cost of illegal immigrants heading home

Alfonso Chardy, writing for the Miami Herald, tells the tale of illegal immigrants, who, hurt by our ailing economy among other things, are heading back from whence they came.

Chardy says millions of undocumented immigrants are "facing new challenges brought on by slim prospects for legalization, more aggressive federal enforcement and a worsening economy." Not only are many of these returning to their homes but fewer are attempting to make the arduous trek to the United States in the first place.

No doubt many Americans would cheer such news. But this reverse migration has some less than desirable side effects.

"Communities in Latin America and the Caribbean report a reduction in remittances -- money sent home from the United States. That money is critical to the survival of families and the success of local civic projects. Border communities that once thrived as way stations for those heading north are now little more than ghost towns."

Not only so, but "While the potential ramifications of a reduced flow of immigrants may not be evident in a recession, labor shortages could emerge once the economy improves." Chardy says that last year, "at the height of the immigration reform debate, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez warned that without enough foreign workers, landscaping, farms and healthcare companies would suffer."

"'We will see rotting fruit,' Gutierrez said in June 2007. 'We will see lawns that don't get cared for. We will see patients who don't get cared for.'"

The immigration debate has often focused on the perceived harm done by illegal immigrants, with less attention paid to the services they provide, and the jobs they are willing to do which are shunned by more affluent Americans.

As our economy improves - which it will - the immigration debate may take on added dimensions as jobs go wanting for workers. Maybe then our Congress will come up with an immigration plan that works for all.

But don't count on it.

Read all of Chardy's article here. There's another article of interest (where the above cartoon came from) here.

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