Editorial: Jobs can move, why not people?

Published 9:30 am Thursday, May 13, 2010

When it comes to the debate on immigration laws, the fight can get pretty ugly. We don’t have the answers, either.

But there is one thing that’s for sure. Thanks to free-trade agreements, corporations sure have little problem moving jobs and goods across borders. The more that companies can move goods, factories and jobs across a border, the more the people on any side of that border are going to want the same freedom of movement.

Good or bad, that’s up to you, but it is a fact. The increase in immigration from Latin American can be directly connected to free-trade agreements.

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That leads to the big question: Doesn’t it seem unfair that wealthy corporations — such as Cummins in Lake Mills — can uproot jobs to Mexico, yet citizens of each of the two countries are restricted in their movement over the same border? Who do these countries belong to, anyway, corporations or people?

Imagine yourself in the shoes of a Mexican. You owe a lender for your home and land. You can make the $150 monthly payment barely after a month of work in Mexico — leaving little leftover for the family for other necessities — or make the money in a few days working at a U.S. factory. You don’t want to break the law, but it is hard to get a green card (a permanent resident card).

Your family comes first. You decide to make the journey north across the desert.

You make it. You work. You pay your debts and have some leftover to start a business back in Mexico. But the laws also can make returning without capture difficult, too. You stay.

We don’t like that U.S. laws are set up to force people to take illegal actions. At the same time, we truly like the great benefit to the U.S. economy that immigrant labor provides.

Yet arguments over immigration always seem on one far side or the other. A middle-ground approach, with a guest worker program (something President George W. Bush suggested in 2006) seems to make the most sense.

Let workers work, but give them the means to be legal and to go home again.