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Immigration is a Moral Barometer

URBAN PERSPECTIVE - Amnesty or deportation is the question for immigration reform. Are people right or wrong when they say illegal immigrants are imposing on our government support systems or contributing to the rise in poverty, homelessness, and unemployment?

Several of years ago, I did a workshop with a fellow colleague on undocumented homeless people. I must say it was a difficult topic for which we had to prepare and facilitate. There wasn’t much information on the issue, except for a few model programs out of Canada. Instead of doing a presentation, we facilitated a discussion on the problems associated with serving homeless illegals.
We didn’t find new information from the discussion. Most expressed their frustrations with their ability to aid them because of funding restrictions, securing identification, referring to other services, or finding under the table employment. With limited financial resources, most were considering what to do best with their unrestricted dollars when the outcomes resulted in a revolving door of homelessness and poverty.

About a third of the way into the workshop, we shifted the topic to discuss our moral obligation to help everyone. If homelessness and poverty is an economic injustice to every American citizen, then it is an economic injustice to homeless illegals immigrant. Some agreed and some disagreed. For the audience who disagreed, the premise for their opinion was that usurping resources from citizens or people legitimately in our country was wrong. If we were creating a revolving door, we shouldn’t contribute to it by wasting the monetary investment of donors to a predicted negative outcome. The workshop ended with many in a quandary about what to do or if resources should be allocated toward the illegal homeless population.

It is not surprising that sentiments about illegal immigrants continue to fester as unemployment and the economy accomplish small gains. Recent inability to fill jobs vacated by illegal immigrants in other parts of the United States have refuted studies out of Chicago and Texas that illegal immigrants have impacted employment of low-skilled workers. Unfortunately reports indicate that American workers aren’t taking those jobs citing they are difficult to fill “undesirable” , dirty, and labor intensive work.

It seems the compensation value is the trigger for the illegal immigrant debate. The reasons offered is that illegal immigrants are compensated at a lesser rate (below minimum wage) to help businesses meet their bottom line or profit objectives while pushing the American marginally skilled to unemployment. Because of this, immigration laws must be enforced to penalize companies who hire illegal immigrants and contribute to American unemployment.

It is easy to be on either sides of the coin on this issue. Illegal immigration has been a problem since 1492; and is inescapable. There are so many purported facts that are spewed and skewed that it is hard to discern the real truth about illegal immigration’s impacts on government support systems and unemployment. At the end of day, the real question is where this fits within your moral barometer.

(Janet Denise Kelly offers more than a decade of accomplishments in the housing and nonprofit sector. Janet brings valuable insight in the areas of community and economic development. Additionally, she brings knowledge regarding the leadership and management challenges faced by large and small nonprofits that are struggling or growing organizations. She blogs at –cw

Tags: Janet Denise Kelly, immigration, morals, homelessness, unemployment, workers, immigration laws

Vol 10 Issue 14
Pub: Feb 17, 2012