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Leaky Borders: From Illegal Hiring to Facilitating the Drug Trade, It's a Problem

No matter what you may think about the recent law passed in Arizona regarding illegal aliens (SB 1070), there is little disagreement over the state of our nation’s borders. In a nutshell, our borders leak like a sieve.

Because we have been either unable or unwilling to plug those leaks, America continues to be inundated with illegal aliens. While, arguably, the majority of people crossing over the border do so in order to work at the jobs Americans don’t want, others cross over with more nefarious goals in mind. Some with terrorist ties come from overseas to Mexico in order to enter the US without detection. What they will do while here is something we do not really want to think about. Others come as mules or drug traffickers -- part of the multi-billion dollar drug machine that produces illicit drugs south of our border and delivers them right to our homes, offices, and playgrounds. Clearly, these holes really need to be plugged.

What to do about the porous border has been a topic of debate in Washington, in individual states, and around the dinner table for decades. It’s a song that appears to have gotten stuck on Uncle Sam’s iPod’s repeat loop. If we listen closely, however, we may begin to pick up bits and pieces of the song that aren’t in harmony with the rest of it. There are big business interests in the US who don’t want the border sealed…where will all the below-market labor come from? Surely we don’t expect business owners to start paying US workers what it would take to get jobs done? Listen again, and you may even being to hear the voices of those invested in the billion dollar illegal drug trade. Perhaps Washington hears them too?

While the federal government fails to act, or fails to act effectively, states like Arizona do what they feel they have to (however misguided) in order to protect citizens, property and financial interests alike. To be fair, Arizona gets more than its fair share of illegal border crossers and has become a major gateway for the drug trade. And where there are drugs, there will be crime.

Whatever the eventual outcome of SB 1070 (it’s currently on hold in federal court), the actions of lawmakers in Arizona have, at the very least, prompted the US Congress to once again start wringing its hands over what to do about our leaky border.

The US Senate recently passed a bill that would add over half a billion more dollars (or ten percent) to the effort to stem the tide of illegal aliens over the border with Mexico. The money is intended to add approximately fifteen hundred new border agents and procure new aerial drones to help with border surveillance. This emergency spending bill was passed just hours before the Senate was due to recess for summer vacation. NY Democrat Charles Schumer sponsored the bill, ostensibly at the urging of President Obama. Given the ease at which this vote went through, it seems that beefing up border spending is the one thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on lately. The House of Representatives also passed legislation for border security; that bill pledged $700 million.

One issue still in contention, however, is how to pay for the agents and drones. How does one come up with $600 million on the fly? While Republicans hoped to use money from the economic stimulus act, Democrats rejected the idea and turned its focus instead on another contentious issue in the immigration debate – skilled foreign labor and outsourcing.
There is not enough room in this article to describe, in detail, all of the ways that US businesses are able to employ foreign labor legally in the US and still be able to pay them wages that are below the prevailing rate. It’s a type of immigration fraud that is wide-spread and has gone largely unchecked for over a decade. Although there are signs that USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have caught on to the schemes and are trying to crack down, I can’t help but wonder what took them so long. While the typical American worker could buy in to the argument that it’s hard to find a one of us willing to stand under the hot sun picking strawberries for eight dollars an hour, do we really buy the argument that there are no unemployed computer programmers hanging around?

One scam goes something like this. A US based company has a huge coding project it needs done, but can’t outsource it all to India because some programmers actually need to be on-site. The company contracts with a tech company in India that employs hundreds of Indian computer engineers and pays them peanuts compared to what a US worker would need to be paid. The tech company petitions for H-1B visas for some of the workers, and they come to the US. However, because they are still working for the personnel company, the US employer does not pay the workers directly. Instead, the employer pays the personnel company the wage, and the amount that gets forwarded to the worker is a fraction of what he should be getting. The rest of the money is used to pay the workers who haven’t actually traveled to the US. This scheme allows the US company to pay one US salary for multiple foreign workers. It also allows the company to have costly skilled labor on-site, without having to pay US wages.

In order to fund the new border measures, the Democrats have proposed increasing fees on foreign personnel companies that are exploiting this H-1B visa loophole, perhaps as much as $2000 per application.
 

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