The Moral Obligation to End Illegal Immigration

Our continued tolerance of illegal immigration is as unconscionable as America’s former acceptance of slavery. While the ethical implications of the treatment of illegal immigrants are quite complex, the solution to the problem of illegal immigration is simple.

Here are two dramatically conflicting examples of how undocumented workers are dealt with in this country. Each reflects a distinct moral dilemma that results from differing approaches to illegal immigration.

An illegal immigrant was employed for several years by a large agricultural consortium near my home. He was a dedicated and hard worker. He ended up in charge of watering and feeding hundreds of cattle. He was paid about $500 dollars a month and lived in a rundown farmhouse with other “migrant” workers.

His salary was paid in cash. He had no social security number. There were no payments to SSA, no income taxes. His employer provided no disability insurance.

This farm worker severely injured his hand and was unable perform his job. The company he worked for immediately fired him. They could not afford the possibility of his illicit employment being discovered.

Like most illegal immigrants, this man was nothing more than an indentured servant. He was of less value than a slave, since his employer had no pecuniary interest in him.

The 19th century architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who visited the south in the 1850s, wrote about the tasks of slaves and indentured servants (the blacks and the Irish) as cotton bales were loaded onto barges:

Negro hands were sent to the top of the bank, to roll the bales to the side, and Irishmen were kept below to remove them and stow them. On asking the mate (with some surmisings) the reason of this arrangement, he said —

"The niggers are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard, or get their backs broke, nobody loses anything!"

It is a callous truth that many of America’s undocumented workers are in the same position as the “Paddies” were on the receiving end of those cotton bales. If migrant laborers have their hands shredded, or “get their backs broke, nobody loses anything!” (Except the hospitals that are forced by law to pay for the emergency medical treatment and are going bankrupt as a result.)

Injuries and injustices, like those that befell this farmhand, happen every day in America. Such inhumanity should be a source of national shame.

The second example is just as disturbing -- for disparate reasons. A while ago I was called to be a character witness. The judge was running behind in his docket. I sat in the back of the courtroom and listened to two cases before it was my turn to take the stand.

The first dispute involved two illegal aliens. It was a continuation of a previous hearing. The couple (a man and a woman) may, or may not, have been married. The assertion was that they had been married in Mexico, but no marriage certificate had been produced. They had three young children. Their kids were “anchor babies” born in the United States. The mother and father were separated. The mother was demanding an increase in child support. The father was claiming that he had already paid.

The hearing was a textbook demonstration of the pervasiveness of political correctness. Both the complainant and the counter complainant (they were suing each other) had full legal representation. A “Hispanic Rights” organization, funded with federal money, provided their lawyers. Each of the parties had a court appointed interpreter. (Both of the illegal immigrants spoke passable English. I had earlier heard them conversing in English.)