In Astoria, along the waterfront, are placards that reveal the history of arguably the oldest city on the West Coast. One of the posts talks about Chinese migrants brought in to work in the canneries with promises of riches. Reality, according to the placard, was cleaning salmon long hours and extremely low wages. While making some cannery owners extremely rich, it bordered on slave labor.
This stain on Astoria's otherwise hardworking industrious record is exactly what the Oregon Restaurant Association/Oregon Association of Nurseries want to emulate. They argue in their recent column, "Immigration reform: Oregon businesses need an adequate labor force" (The Oregonian, March 29) supporting immigration reform, which includes amnesty for illegals, that illegal immigrant labor increases overall economic productivity while raising wages and the standard of living for domestic workers. I couldn't disagree more.
These employer groups have been using illegal hires that have no legal standing. Wages can be withheld, hours can be pushed and who is going to complain? Why, they could be deported. Twelve hour days, underage workers - not a problem.
The employer using illegals knows that Oregon welfare doesn't differentiate between legal and nonlegal residents. They unapologetically let us pick up the additional cost with food stamps, extra cash to Oregon schools averaging $2,500/child needing bilingual assistance, subsidized housing, extra bed space in our jails (complete with free dental/ health care). The list goes on and on. Perhaps we should bill illegal Oregon employers $10/hour for every hour they claim as a business expense for a noncompliant Social Security number to cover public costs.
And how's this for audacity? The ORA/OAN calls for immigration reform that includes sanctions against unscrupulous employers that do not follow the law. I ask, what about the unscrupulous employers in their groups who don't use E-Verify to insure their employees are legal right now?
As for the higher wages argument? Even Cesar Chavez fought illegal immigration, as it lowered the wages of the legitimate green card holder working in the field. The only higher wages being realized is by the greedy business owners using illegal hires.
Milton Friedman once said, "You can't have free immigration and a welfare state." Make no mistake. Oregon is subsidizing the ORA/OAN members who are refusing to use the E-verify system to check for legitimacy in their hiring practices. They need to get in line like generations before have, and the enabling employers need to be reined in.