There are other means of racism being played out in America. The talk of illegal immigrants is an issue that has gotten a great deal of media attention and played a major role in the recent election. I will choose to use the term, undocumented workers, instead of illegal immigrants. The call to remove undocumented workers needs to be addressed for the racism that it is.
The hiring of undocumented workers is one that needs to be discussed as a form of racism. It also needs to be discussed in the context of broken government and the government/corporate partnership. People come to America to find work. The reason they do so, is because there is work available for them there. There are many jobs that are hard work and people from other countries are quite happy to have these jobs.
Many people are understandably upset that people from other countries will come in, work for less than the living wage and send money back their countries of origin. Many people get upset that when they go to a fast food eatery, that many of the people speak broken English and blame them for taking American jobs. Even though almost none of these people complaining have ever attempted to learn another language and have had theirs hopes pinned on the idea of working in fast food. This is nothing short of racist thinking.
More troubling, however, is the ease at which people will blame undocumented workers for stealing American jobs. It as though the people who employ them bear no responsibility in this. Why aren’t they hiring Americans first? Why are the people who have the best connections to government not being held accountable? Why are they allowed to continue to hire undocumented workers and play their part in making their communities better places for the people who have lived there for decades?
Undocumented workers come with many benefits to employers. First and foremost is that they are less expensive to employ. They are willing to be exploited by these employers because they are afraid of being deported. They are afraid to report their employer if they are being denied overtime, holiday pay, or medical attention. They are extremely unwilling to report health and safety issues, all for the fear of being deported. Thus, the employers end up paying much less in taxes, updating facilities for safety, or for benefits that documented workers would need to be paid.
Examples of this abound in the meat packing industry. Once people from other countries find that they can work in one of these facilities, they tend to move in in large numbers. The people of the local community find themselves out of work. The newcomers work hard, don’t complain when they are asked to do things that are illegal or dangerous, or even excessive. When they get injured, they get dismissed with no recourse and no consequence to the employer. There are many undocumented workers who are no longer able to work because receptive stress syndrome and no way of having it taken care of properly.
Periodically, the immigration service will come through and fine the employers for hiring undocumented workers. This usually an amount that isn’t overly excessive and can be paid easily. A number of undocumented workers are rounded up and sent away. In many cases, the undocumented workers who are sent away are those who have been injured on the job and can no longer work.
The government appears to be working in conjunction with these employers to make them more profitable. If they stay in business, it is believed that they will pay more in taxes, which is good for the economy. The government also looks like they are doing something about the ongoing concern of undocumented workers, which helps appease public opinion. So they can look like they are being impartial, they will deport someone who is in good standing in the community, like a pastor who has been there for a good number of years. This is a practice that is not exclusive to any particular administration in the last 30 years.
But, the undocumented workers remain a scapegoat and many politicians and business leaders will proclaim it loud and clear. My speculation as to why this is, is that it gets people to look in a different direction, so they aren’t watching what is being done in the various state houses and congress. As the government and corporations work to dismantle labour rights and employees recourse to working conditions, those things that make business “too costly”, they are getting people worked up about undocumented workers that are committing crimes. Once they have dismantled these laws, they will be happy to employ whoever lives closest, as long as they are cheap labour who can dismissed easily and with little recourse.