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Shattering Stereotypes: "Illegal Immigrants"

In this election year, immigration has become a hot button issue. But what's the truth about the men and women who risk everything to come to America?

     When one thinks of an illegal immigrant, one might think of construction and farm jobs and not paying taxes. One thinks of border control agents chasing border crosses on foot. They are called “illegals”, “freeloaders”, and many worse names. But why are these men and women risking everything they have to come to America?

     In mid-2007, Daniel Altman, a New York Times business columnist, discussed the role immigrant workers play in the U.S. economy. According to Altman, “Illegal immigrants do not just pick fruit, they do not just work off the books, they rarely earn less than the minimum wage, and they may even be raising employment without harming incomes.”

     Many conservative politicians and officials, particularly in the Southern and Midwestern states, have made immigration one of their primary concerns. Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a history of mistreating Latinos in his county, and is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. Other politicians have criticized immigrants for taking jobs from American workers. However these accusations are unfounded.

     University of Chicago Public Policy Professor Robert LaLonde has studied the trends of immigrant workers. He says that the “presence of illegal immigrants in some service jobs makes it easier for Americans to participate in the labor force. The immigrants act as complements to higher-wage workers, who can then participate in greater numbers and become more productive.”

     So where do all of the inaccurate stereotypes and rumors about illegal immigrant workers come from? Well, as with all stereotypes, they are rooted in some truth. According to Altman, from 2001-2008, the purpose of “cracking down” on illegal immigrants came as a diversion for the President while waging war in Iraq. President George W. Bush used his position on immigrants to distract the American people from the unpopular war being waged in the Middle East. While the issue of immigration has been around much longer, it came to a peak in those eight years, and is beginning to descend. However lawmakers are still facing this complex issue today.

     The work that immigrant workers have done in the past involves jobs in agriculture, construction, and cleaning businesses. However these jobs are becoming less of the majority taken by immigrants. A recent poll by the Pew Hispanic Center, in Washington D.C., revealed that only about fifty-five percent of the jobs that immigrants take are in the construction, manufacturing and trade fields. The rest are highly skilled or trained jobs such as finance, law and small business.

     The Dream Act is a bipartisan act sponsored by Senator Orin Hatch of Utah and Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois. This act has a rigorous set of standards for children who came into the country as illegal immigrants. After high school, the student must attend college or spend two years in the United States Military, among other requirements. After a period of six years, and fulfilling all the requirements, these young adults have earned citizenship.

     The role of the illegal immigrant in the United States is mixed. They provide labor that many Americans would sneer at. They work hard and strive to do the best they can. Many stereotypes still persist. But the truth is that these hard-working men and women simply want what’s best for their family and their children. And they are willing to work for it. Maybe some Americans could learn a thing or two from the work ethic of these so-called “illegals”.

Tony Ercole October 25, 2012 at 01:43 PM
#1) Mr. Joe Arpaio was totally acquitted from those charges, so please get your facts clear. #2) We HAVE become an entitlement society and that is why we "sneer" at those jobs. Take the entitlements away and people will do those jobs. Why would they work when they get everything "free"? #3) What part of "illegal" do you not understand? This country was created on the backs of "legal" immigrants, such as my family and yours.
Assaggiatore October 25, 2012 at 02:44 PM
A lady who used to work with me is a LEGAL immigrant. She waited for 5 years to get a work visa to come here in the 70's and another 6 to get a green card. It then took her 9 years to get a US citizenship. She has been extremely vocal about the whole illegal immigration controversy. She said he Dream act and any other major action giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship in this manner is unfair to her and the millions of others who come here legally. She once joked that she probably would have gotten her citizenship more quickly if she sneaked across the border, since Reagan gave amnesty to many of them. She retired a few years ago so she could spend more time with her grandchildren. Many of the proposed laws would have fast tracked illegal immigrants to citizenship while legal immigrants would be put behind them in line.
wigglwagon October 25, 2012 at 06:16 PM
"But the truth is that these hard-working men and women simply want what’s best for their family and their children. And they are willing to work for it. Maybe some Americans could learn a thing or two from the work ethic of these so-called “illegals”. But the real truth is that the exploitive employers and the so called activists and experts who are funded by those same employers will say and do anything to keep from losing their slave like labor. This entire article is just a restatement of the same old propaganda that we have been hearing for the last 30 years. Only someone who has never even been in a discussion with American blue collar workers could possibly believe the assertions made in this article. The truth is that hard-working Americans simply want what’s best for their family and their children too. And they are willing to work for it. The author deliberately ignores the fact that over half of unemployed Americans were gainfully employed until about 5 years ago. His bad mouthing of American workers is totally unfounded. No matter how the well funded experts try to spin it, it is still simple supply and demand. The more employers are able to inflate the supply of labor, the lower the wages will be that employers are forced to pay for that labor, that is the most basic of economic principles.
Mike Cappy October 25, 2012 at 06:17 PM
It always amazes me how disconnected to reality articles such as this one when the author lectures Americans of how holy the illegal alien worker is and how much they benefit our community. They go on to say how hard working they are and are only looking for a better life for their families. They never mention that they take real jobs from Americans and cost American citizens hundreds of billions in education and resources. Furthermore these foreign nationals send much of the money they make, not only out of the community, which is bad enough but out of the country and we wonder why our economy is in decline. In brief, it is a simple as a matter of supply and demand, the more workers the less the wage. Here this unfettered unchecked and illegal work force population have suppressed the working wage for years and I would argue that they are one of the main reasons our economy is in the tank as a result. While the rich got richer the working class got poorer and widening the gap between rich and poor because the wage was not allowed to go up. If you want to redistribute wealth deport this large illegal population and I assure you the grass will still be cut and the working wage would grow.
Richard Bundy October 25, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I think America knows better.
landaddy001 October 25, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Why are we providing another path to citizenship when one already exists? Is this group of people more deserving than other immigrants who follow the laws? Why does this group of illegal aliens get special treatment? If a case can be made that shows that the American people or government is responsible for putting these illegal aliens into this situation, then I will listen with an open mind. If the responsibility for putting these illegal aliens into this situation is their parents or someone else’s then let that person or persons be responsible for their welfare. I believe everyone should follow the same rules; no one is better than someone else in the eyes of the law.
Robin Kedroske October 26, 2012 at 05:44 PM
And Why Is the 'patch' Never, Ever willing to write about the Flip-Side of this Ugly Issue...???--Why does the patch & other lame-stream media outlets ONLY portray these 'poor, missunderstood' ILLEGALS.......Why does the 'media' NEVER, EVER have an ear for Americans', LawAbiding Citizens, Workers that have been DisPlaced, & have been Forced to Pay the Tab for the 12+ Million ILLEGAL Squatters......Really: Why patch Why...???!!!---You Should be ASHAMED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sam Strike (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Robin, This is an opinion article submitted by someone, not at the request of Patch. You or anyone else is free to write from another point of view and I will publish it. Email me if you want to contribute.
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