Illegal immigration is a hot-button topic among politicians and voters, so you'd think the nation would have the political will to fix its broken immigration system. But the dirty little secret is that too many of us benefit from illegal immigration to do something about it.
A weeklong series in The Bee by Chris Collins exposed the widespread hypocrisy surrounding illegal immigration and the reasons that Democrats and Republicans refuse to act -- beyond the demagoguing of the issue at public appearances. Americans say they oppose illegal immigration, but have come to expect its advantages, including low grocery prices and cheap yardwork and housecleaning services.
In the San Joaquin Valley, our major industry relies heavily on the labor of illegal workers. What would happen to our multibillion-dollar agricultural industry -- the foundation of the region's economy -- if illegal immigration were stopped in its tracks?
The Bee series also pointed out that illegal immigrants don't just work in agriculture. They are in restaurants, hotels and construction. They supply cheap labor that keep our costs down when we buy meals or rent hotel rooms.
If we are looking for villains, we should look in the mirror.
This is a key passage in The Bee series: "Some experts predict that the system will always be broken because too many people don't want change -- even if they say they do. Farmers get cheap labor, illegal immigrants get jobs, consumers pay less for services. No one wants to make difficult reforms that would disrupt this balance."
It's easy for illegal immigrants to get forged documents, and many employers don't even use E-Verify, the online government program to check an employee's legal status. To add to the hypocrisy, Congress won't even agree to make E-Verify a permanent program.
It's no wonder that there's no political will to implement meaningful immigration reform. Some don't even want to acknowledge the problem, contending that the term "undocumented worker" would be more fair than "illegal immigrant." On the other hand, the silence is deafening from businesses that benefit from the illegal immigrants. That is, until they are faced with aggressive enforcement. Then the businesses cry loudly.
Unfortunately, racism, bigotry and hatred are at the heart of some critics of immigration. But let us not forget that if all American immigrants were to "go home," we would be left with only Native Americans.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.fresnobee.com.