by Chuck Hassebrook, email@example.com
Rural America would be best served by a balanced approach to immigration.
Immigration should be managed to limit the work force to levels that allow working people to earn decent wages. But we should embrace the immigrants who are here and enable them to become full and contributing members of our communities.
Immigration is just one aspect of economic globalization that has depressed lower tier wages in the United States. As employers move jobs to areas with cheaper labor and the world’s poor move to American jobs, wages of American working people are pushed down toward developing world levels – for both new Americans and those who have been here for generations.
The gap between rich and poor is growing in America. The gap is even growing within the middle class between wage laborers and salaried workers. Self-employed farmers and small business people are also affected. They cannot pay themselves a middle class income for their labor and compete with corporations that can buy labor at poverty-level wages.
Tackling the problem requires effective labor standards in trade agreements to prevent companies and nations from gaining a competitive advantage by exploiting working people. It requires trade and aid policies that help poor nations develop, because desperately poor workers anywhere in the world can be used by global companies to depress wages everywhere.
Effective enforcement systems that hold employers accountable for circumventing immigration law are also part of the solution. In the electronic age, it is surely possible to track the use of phony social security numbers to enable employers to determine the legal status of job applicants and to identify employers that routinely use illegal immigrants.
But as we better enforce immigration law, we would also do well to recognize the benefits of immigration managed at reasonable levels and the importance of assimilating new Americans into our communities.
New families can help build our communities, as did our own immigrant ancestors. We can help by embracing new Americans and inviting them to contribute their time and talents to improving our communities.
We can support political efforts to open pathways for immigrants who have been here and acted responsibly to earn legal status and citizenship. And we can show some understanding with the time it takes to adopt a new language and customs. Our pioneer ancestors held on to their native tongues for nearly a century after settling here.
For their part, new immigrants should embrace the responsibilities, as well as the rights, of becoming part of America. That includes taking steps to citizenship, learning the language, joining in community life, voting, and contributing their time and talents to the betterment of America and its communities.
America was built by immigrants. Today’s immigrants, like those before them, are mostly hardworking people seeking better lives for their families. They can help build a better America if we give them the chance and they embrace the responsibility.
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Center for Rural Affairs
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