[Excerpt] Ever since the latter half of the 19th Century when the United States began to use its lega l system as a means to regulate both the size and the composition of the flow of foreign-born persons into its population and labor force, policymakers have had to confront the issue of what to do about those who defy the ensuing limitations, restrictions, and exclusions. As a consequence, the subject of illegal immigration has made frequent appearances on the nation’s political reform agenda.
For while the United States claims to be a “a nation of immigrants,” it also boasts that it is a “nation of laws” which presumably includes the realm of immigration policy as well. As President Barack Obama eloquently stated during a “town hall meeting” in 2009 when asked about the issue of illegal immigration and immigration reform: “Laws must be binding; rules must be followed; words must mean something.”
Slogans and rhetoric, however, are not policies. They are not substitutes for courses for action. Illegal immigration disproportionately and adversely affects the economic wellbeing of the most vulnerable and needy segment of nation’s labor force: its low skilled workers (both those who are native-born and foreign-born). Indirectly, it corrodes the efficacy of the already weak system of employment standards the nation has for the prot ection of its most precious national resource: its labor force. Directly, it breeds cynicism by legally employable workers that their government does not care about the unfairness of the conditions that they must confront when they have to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs; it causes hardship by depressing wages and reducing employment opportunities for legally employable American workers; and, lastly, it fosters circumstances that tolerate worker exploitation of the illegal immigrants themselves in the labor market.