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To the Editor:

In his column “Wall would help manifest extant border” (1/23), Sam Heller says, “Foreigners who circumvent or violate our immigration laws are taking advantage of that hospitality and violating the rights of the honest Americans.” But what about the exploited migrant workers?

Heller readily blames it on evil businessmen: “‘Society’ does not want to take advantage of the artificially cheap illegal Mexican labor a wall might help to stem; that is the province of unscrupulous businessmen who prey on the vulnerable.” Sam — please wake up. Blame it not on scruples or lack thereof, but on economics. Businessmen do it because: 1) It is allowed (whether legal or not), 2) it is good for business, and, 3) the customers want it.

Customers want cheap prices. They don’t care how the products are made (just think of the proverbial sausage factory), as long as they are cheap. If American society really wanted to stop illegal immigration, it would have to acknowledge this and accept the consequences. I don’t see a lot of businessmen being prosecuted for relying on illegal labor. I don’t see any indication of people lobbying for food labels to announce whether illegal labor was used, in the manner that people lobby for disclosure of trans fat content and transparency regarding irradiation practices. Finally, I don’t see any indication of people willing to pay what food and services would actually cost if the workers were paid at least the minimum wage and had any rights — just look at how people cry when gas goes up ten cents per gallon, even while the United States has some of the cheapest gas prices in the world.

Now, realistically, what can this wall achieve, besides wasting tax money? There will surely be many holes in the wall even before it is finished. The wall is just a farce, a way for the government to pretend that it is doing something about illegal immigration, while it knows that it is needed for the American economy to keep working as it does now. Even if you magically got rid of all the illegal aliens, who would fill their place? I’m not sure there are enough unemployed Americans and legal residents around willing to do their jobs, and certainly not for what they get paid.

Ivan Tubert-Brohman GRD ’07

Jan. 23, 2006

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