Championing the hard work of America’s illegal immigrants

As I’ve confessed on this blog before, my own transition from the UK to the USA included a number of years as an illegal immigrant. I’ve never made this a central aspect of my professional identity, rather treating it as something along the lines of Bill Clinton’s ‘I didn’t inhale’ approach to some of his youthful indiscretions. But I did what I did. Amnesty in 1987 took care of my legal status, and I’m now a naturalized citizen.

In a fascinating article in today’s Financial Times, legal counsel Patti Waldmeir writes about the “massive absurdity” that the current laws immigration reform proposals are attempting to deal with – on the one hand US companies employ millions of illegal workers (ya can’t get no stinkin’ welfare if ya ain’t legal!) and the US government pretends it does not notice.

This is about to change. The Bush administration wants to end the charade. US employers will be asked to match 8 million workers with “woefully inaccurate Social Security databases” and be held liable if the numbers don’t match. Corporate America says the rules will cost $100m to implement.

Waldmeir concludes that the proposed rules are “an absurd new hindrance to the American dream” and “the US economy will continue to stand or fall by the hard work of its illegal immigrants”.

Hear hear.

Of all the ‘elephants in the room’ in the USA, the underclass of the undocumented workers and the crucial services they provide is one of the more obvious. Together with gays in the military; social security entitlements; a nuclear arsenal which can destroy all life on Earth many times over; 40m citizens with no health insurance and the bloated size of many automobiles and the bottoms which sit therein. All issues which define an age, but sit unexamined as part of the taken-for-granted world we inhabit. Not discussed in polite society and often too politically ‘hot’ for serious debate. Yet future generations may wonder “What were they thinking?”

Well, what do you think?

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A side of you I did not know about and a valuable commentary to remind people of the vast variety of “illegals” as “they” are often labeled in a disparaging way.

I have five friends in Silicon Valley, recruited to work, yet struggling with legal status and still others, former students, who are remarkable talents for their firms – all facing such stress in the ambiguity of their status.

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