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The U.S. Economy Desperately Needs Immigrants. Let's Reform the Process


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I voted for and donated to Joe Biden. The dozens of tell all’s already written about Trump’s conduct in office only confirmed my long-held beliefs. The scores more with pub dates from here to eternity will only fill in more sordid details.

One of the reasons for my Biden vote was a hoped-for return to reality and some tangential connection to facts, not lies. On balance, Biden is making progress on many fronts. However on our southern border with Mexico reality is worse and the truth is being obfuscated. When the New York Times puts immigration on the front page and states the situation is out of control, events there must be dire.

I know they are, firsthand. I have a friend from Central America whom I have worked with for over a decade. He is part of the immigrant workforce that basically allows civilization to come to Eastern Long Island. The Hispanic workforce here does almost everything manually. They: build; renovate; landscape; paint; run the fiber optic cables; cook and work front and back of the house in retail and restaurants. There is no other workforce at any wage rate to replace them. That is a fact every business owner out here knows.

My friend’s sister died several years ago trying to cross the border. She just disappeared. Several years later he got word that Mexican authorities found and identified her body in the sands of the desert. One can only imagine the horrors that preceded her death.

Now his brother is coming, for a second time. Seems he was here before and went back, all illegally. He asked my friend for several thousand dollars to help pay his way across. He heard it was easy to get over, and for a fee there were lots of coyotes ready to help. Honestly, I admit to being incredulous. “You mean he just decided to leave and thought he could get here?” I asked. I got a yes. According to my friend, “Every week there are new people in town, women with children, women alone and men too” he told me.

I kept asking where his brother was every few days. He had not heard from him for a week. Then he heard he was at the border waiting to cross. He hired the coyotes and within a week they had him on American soil.

But the story does not end there. My friend’s brother was being held prisoner in a house and the coyotes were demanding several thousand dollars more than he had already paid to release him. He desperately called his brother for more money. Somehow it could be wired to Central America and the coyotes could be paid off there.

So Democrats, and all other American citizens, it is time to be honest that the impoverished seeking work and hope believe that one way or another they can cross the border and disappear into the American economy. And you know what…they are correct. The labor shortage for unskilled and even skilled (carpenters, construction, cooks) will take them all. Law enforcement at the border cannot cope with the surge. Asylum laws are gamed, and the catch and release program is viewed as just another route into the underground economy.

There is tragic blowback to all this, however. The encouragement and strengthening of criminal gangs preying on the weakest of the weak. Girls and women are raped. Men are held in conditions so appalling most would get sick if they spent a minute in them. The more money that flows to these gangs the better their technology, their intelligence and the higher their rate of successful crossings. That of course draws more immigrants into their web. A super vicious circle starts, one that defeats all the noble humanitarian efforts of those who believe in lawful, dignified immigration.

For the life of me I cannot understand the failure of Congress to pass real immigration reform. Knowing what I do about immigrants’ critical role in our economy, it defies logic to leave immigration to the law of the jungle. There is a crisis at the border and pretending there is not is only going to once again fuel the most ignorant and silliest of fixes. Like sending privately funded National Guard troops south. Nativists and those who have no understanding of how America became the global powerhouse it is will once again grandstand over the undocumented flood.

Call an emergency session of Congress and fix this mess. We need orderly rational immigration. We do not need to bolster criminal gangs bent on destroying lives by their use of violence. We can do better than this.

Jonathan Russo been an executive in the New York media world for over 40 years and resides in Manhattan.