Illegal Immigrants


        Ever since 9/11, the problem of "illegal immigration" has grown in the public consciousness. The objections to the "undocumented workers," as the current politically correct terminology has it, have ranged from, "They're stealing jobs from Americans," to, "They're a threat to national security--they might be terrorists." Now, it sounds to me from the news reports I see and read, the main objection is an often self-righteous, "They didn't come here the right way." But I haven't seen or heard much discussion of why we have so many illegals today. It wasn't a problem thirty or forty years ago.
        I'll bet I know why.
        Minimum wage.
        Many defenders of the illegals say the jobs they take are jobs that Americans don't want. Well, yeah. Most of the jobs the illegals have are minimum, or even sub-, minimum wage jobs. Face it, the Federal minimum wage is so low that you can't live on it. So, yeah, Mexican and Central American laborers used to an entire family living in one or two small rooms, with little or no running water, electricity, telephones, or any of the other things Americans consider minimum basics of life, are willing to take those jobs for six months or a year or longer, live a dozen or more in a one bedroom apartment, and save their money to send home. No, I'm not making up that dozen or more in a one bedroom apartment; I've known Mexicans who did exactly that. Such over crowding to share expenses was the only way they could save money to take home, even though otherwise their living conditions were better here than in Mexican villages or slums.
        So why do I think minimum wage has brought about a flood of illegal immigrants over the past generation or so? Easy. Minimum wage used to be a living wage. It wasn't much of a living wage, but you could live on it. If, since the last time I had a minimum wage job, the rate had kept up with inflation, it would be roughly $10.00 or $12.00 an hour now.
        Look at some comparisons:
        When minimum wage was at $2.50, one hour's pay would buy a pound of an inexpensive cut of steak (more than that of chicken or pork chops), a couple cans of vegetables, a loaf of bread, and a few pounds of potatoes. Try that today and you run out of money well before you get the loaf of bread. You used to be able to buy a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon, a pound of ground coffee (yes, coffee was sold in one pound cans then), and a loaf of bread for that same hour's wage. That takes two hours' wages today--and you get less than a pound of coffee.
        When minimum wage was $2.50 an hour, you could buy three paperback books for one hour's pay. Today you can't even buy one. You could go to a movie and buy a box of popcorn and a soda for an hour's wage. Today that same cheap evening out costs close to three hours' wages. At $2.50 per hour, you could buy a $100 dollar junker--provided you could do the repairs yourself--and have a car. No way today, Jose.

        A one bedroom apartment in a marginal neighborhood cost about 20 or 25 hours' wages. Today, a one bedroom apartment in an undesirable neighborhood costs nearly two weeks of minimum wage pay. And, oh yes, when minimum wage was $2.50 an hour, utilities were usually included in the rent, not extras that you had to pay yourself. You could take five to seven bus rides for an hour's pay. Today, two or three.
        Sure, you couldn't afford to go away on vacation, buy trendy clothes, buy a house, own a car better than a junker, or do a lot of other things that most Americans take for granted. But, dammit, you could live on it.
        Now, can somebody please explain to me why employers could afford to pay minimum wage when it was enough to live on, but today, when it isn't, increasing it to a living level will drive companies out of business?
        Seems to me somebody has to getting rich in this deal.
        It also seems to me that the solution to the illegal immigrant problem isn't building a wall along the Mexican border, or jailing the employers who hire illegals. I see something simpler: Raise the minimum wage to a level where people can live on it without having to crowd a dozen into a one bedroom apartment.
        Oh, yeah. Does anybody really think that the terrorists who want to do us harm are going to pay a coyote to sneak them across the border into the Arizona desert? Get real. If they can't fly into the country using their own passports, they'll fly in using skillfully counterfeited documents.

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