A person living in a poor town hears about a job opportunity in a neighboring town. The neighboring town is richer and safer, with lower crime and better schools. So, the person decided to move to the neighboring town. Capitalism! There’s only one, small problem. The neighboring town is on the other side of an international border. Because of the border, a perfectly normal, ordinary choice that millions of people make every day is transformed into an existential threat to America.
Today, the former US Ambassador to Mexico published an op ed in the New York Times blaming the migrant “crisis” on US employers, who keep hiring immigrants to fill jobs. OMG! Employers hiring workers! What’s next, electric cars! It’s a crisis! Wait, why is this a crisis?
Perhaps understanding that companies hiring workers does not sound like a crisis, the op ed was accompanied by a scary, back-lit photo of men hoeing a field, as though growing food has suddenly become a frightening activity. The Times could have selected a cheerful photo of a woman holding a basket of apples, but this might encourage the reader to wonder why they should feel afraid.
The op-ed warns us that the crisis of people moving for work will only end when employers are forced to stop hiring workers who come from elsewhere. The sad part about this op-ed is that it sounds both entirely reasonable and completely unhinged. If employers stopped hiring immigrants, fewer people would come to the US. Sounds reasonable! If Mexico were richer, safer and had better schools, fewer people would leave. Maybe! Sometimes people leave home for work, sometimes they leave for other reasons. This is also true within the US, and, in fact, pretty much everywhere in the world. People move for lots of reasons. So what? As an American, I see nothing here to change my view that companies hiring workers is a good thing, not a crisis.
But…the op-ed doesn’t mention the oft-cited reasons why employers hire undocumented workers — to get around minimum wage requirements. Aha! Now I can see the point! The US should grant these workers a visa so that they can work legally and receive the right amount of pay! I’ve solved the problem! Crisis averted!
Now that the US is in the middle of an actual crisis: the coronavirus pandemic that has killed half a million Americans and left thousands more with debilitating, long-term illnesses, and is sitting on the cusp of another: massive sea level rise and ecological collapse, the government manufactured “crisis” of undocumented immigration must share airtime and space in the news with real crises. Meanwhile, employers will keep taking advantage of laws deliberately designed by our own government to save them money, hiring workers who will keep moving to fill jobs, edging around the sides of government obstruction and hysteria, to keep making sure food gets put on the table in time for dinner.