There is another battle brewing over immigration. This time we ought to get it right. The first volleys of this latest skirmish were fired in Arizona. Illegal immigration is a tough, complicated issue that most Americans, if they were honest, would admit they know little about, but they've heard little snippets they use for talking points.
It's easy to sit in our comfy recliners and pontificate that "illegals ought to be sent packing." They are, after all, "breaking the law."
It's easy to say that if we don't have a crop to harvest or a bakery that depends on migrant farm workers to buy our bread.
It's easy to say illegals are soaking up welfare benefits, medical services and classroom seats, without recognizing that illegals and their employers are paying taxes of which they will never see the benefit.
It's also easy to demonize the illegals without demonizing some of the employers who actively recruit them because they know they can pay cheap wages under the table.
And many of us turn a blind eye when our landscape service drops off what could be a team of illegals to mow our lawns and trim our hedges. We ask no questions. All we care about is whether the price is right — and that they swarm in like bees, work like the devil and leave.
And there is another reality we choose not to face. Yes, Martha, Americans have become fat, dumb and happy. If we think good, hardworking Americans will replace illegals in the carpet mills, dairy farms and peach orchards of Georgia, watch out.
I received an e-mail from a small business owner named Paul who describes this situation better than I ever could. Paul said he would love to work (American youth) and teach them a good trade, but, "the sorry little dumb asses are too freaking sorry to work. They don't have to. Their mom or nanny will let them lay in the house all day and watch TV and eat. When they do try (to work, and they have) they are dumb as a brick. I have 20-year-olds who don't know the difference between a pair of vise grips and channel locks. They don't have a clue what a 3/8-inch ratchet is. Totally clueless Nintendo babies. Text messaging is all they know how to do.
"I can assure you they won't show up on time for a solid week. They won't work for a solid month without quitting. They are totally useless if any thinking is required. If they do call and want a job, you'll have to pick them up and carry them back home — and they are going to need money by the second day. They are somebody's Baby Daddy, so they will need to be in court often ... and then I have to handle getting money out of their checks to give to the Baby's Momma.
"On the other hand, you can hire a Mexican. ... They will have a place to live and transportation. You can set your clock by him, and he wants to work seven days a week. He does have skills and talent, and he won't screw up everything that he does. They actually give a damn about the job they do and making sure that I get my money's worth from them."
Keep Paul's thoughts in mind when the words start flying about "those people." We can talk the talk about illegals all we want. We can pass draconian laws if we like, but understand, we are part of the problem. We want to suck every ounce of labor out of illegals and give as little as we can in return.
As we go into this intense debate, let's stop the hypocrisy and pass intellectually honest immigration reform, or be ready to pay $4 for an apple.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Charles E. Richardson is The Macon Telegraph's editorial page editor. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.