Many immigrants won't be going home for the holidays
December 7, 2006
For many Mexican immigrants living in the United States, the holidays have come to represent a time of sadness.
Separated by a border that has become harder and harder to cross, many immigrants must make the agonizing choice between staying away from family south of the border or risk not being able to return to their jobs here.
Last October, Congress enacted the Secure Fence Act, which marked the first steps toward building a 700-mile-long fence across part of the U.S.-Mexico border. As a result, undocumented workers -- many of whom just want to work and send money back home -- are finding it more difficult to cross back.
In Texas, Operation Linebacker has already paid out $6 million since last December to border sheriffs to search for undocumented immigrants farther away from the border.
Because of the fence and increased security measures, those who are already in the United States have little choice but to remain.
Some Americans think the fence will lead toward a more secure homeland. But many don't realize that 40 percent of the 12 million undocumented immigrants now in this country came here legally and then overstayed their visas.
Besides, as long as the underlying economic reasons for crossing the border exist, undocumented immigrants will continue to do so. And fewer will be able to return.
Our economy benefits from the low-wage labor of undocumented workers who are already here. These workers put more into our economy than they take out. They pay taxes and add to the Social Security system (even though they are unable to claim any of the benefits).
The United States has had undocumented immigrants throughout its history. Employers have recruited them. And corporations continue to profit off the backs of undocumented immigrants who are working for low wages and no benefits. Many of these immigrants often work under unfair labor conditions.
This holiday, as we sit down to eat our feast with family, it would behoove us as a nation to remember that some of the food on our table was put there by immigrant workers who cannot go home.
José Miguel Leyva is a freelance writer and novelist living in San Antonio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.