By Charles Morgan III
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find any issues on which Americans can come to an agreement. Many people think that even the term “sensible gun control” is a threat to our society. There are those who think that “abortion rights” is nothing more that a license to murder.
The politicians and pundits who represent the constituencies battling over these issues like to keep things riled up.
Another issue that surrounds us daily and that seems nowhere near a solution involves immigrants. I’ve got a solution to that problem.
Most Americans come into contact with undocumented immigrants everyday.
We eat in restaurants staffed with undocumented workers. We live in houses, condominiums and apartments built by them. We shop, work and live in areas where immigrants who are not citizens of the United States do almost all of the landscaping and maintenance.
Twenty percent of the workforce in the state of Florida is comprised of undocumented workers.
There are misconceptions about many of them. It has been said that they are often hired because they represent “cheap” labor. It has been said that they are paid “under the table.” It has been argued that they don’t pay taxes. They’ve been accused of raising our crime rate.
In reality, most employers are concerned with production and pay higher wages to whoever helps them achieve their goals. In what is rapidly becoming a “cashless society,” there is no way to pay someone “under the table” when revenue is derived from credit cards or checks.
Businesses deduct social security taxes from all workers—documented or not. Since the undocumented workers will never reap the benefits of social security payments, those deposits are a boon to our social security system worth billions of dollars. They commit far less crimes than native born Americans.
Many of these immigrants work in construction, agriculture and the hospitality sector of our economy. It is argued that they are taking jobs from hard working Americans.
If Americans who want jobs are losing those jobs to people who come to this country with nothing but the clothes on their back, that’s a real problem.
If the people who arrive here with no contacts, no transportation, no housing, no money, little education, and no language skills are taking anyone’s jobs, that says more about us than about them.
It is estimated that there are 10 million unauthorized immigrant workers in the United States, down from 12 million in 2007. In our largest cities, without these workers, life would be different. It would be next to impossible to dine out in New York City. In agricultural areas that require human labor, fruit and vegetables would go unpicked. In our mid-sized cities that have experienced unprecedented growth in the last decade, the building boom would end.
I am proposing a solution to at least part of this problem. Employers of immigrant workers should be required to purchase annual work permits. If the permits cost $2,500 per year—a sum most employers would gladly pay—that would amount to $25 billion per year.
Any worker that spends 10 years in this country, commits no crimes, learns to speak English and attains the equivalent of a high school degree should be allowed a path to citizenship. It would give a group of hard working people the chance to realize the American dream that brought most of our ancestors here years ago.
The undocumented workers who have done so much in building this country and keeping it running are a major part of our capitalist society.
The 2020 presidential campaign is in full gear. One of the ideas being discussed, particularly among the Democrats, is the idea of democratic socialism. Much of our country already runs on socialistic platforms. Public schools, roads, airports, social security and Medicare all have socialistic roots. Many of the most advanced nations operate with programs we would call socialistic. I like capitalism.
I have a friend who is a remarkably successful capitalist. He’s also an immigrant. He came to this country when he was three years old. He’s 80 years old now. I’ve been fortunate to join him in endeavors that could only be possible through a hugely profitable business career.
But his most impressive accomplishments have been in the world of philanthropy. I’ve been a part of many fundraising dinners he has hosted over the years, and I’ve heard my friend give numerous toasts. He is an impressive speaker.
My favorite toast, and I’ve usually heard it at the end of a great day, often watching a sunset ( he really likes sunsets), is a simple one.
“To capitalism,” he’ll say, with a raised glass. “With a heart.”
We ought to try that sometime.