News last week that Vermont has long had a standing policy of “looking the other way” when it comes to migrant workers residing in this country illegally has disturbed many around the region.
The announcement was made Sept. 15 by Gov. Peter Shumlin after two Mexican laborers were pulled over by Vermont state troopers, detained and later turned over to U.S. Border Patrol Agents.
The troopers were following the law, but Shumlin made it clear that he wants his state to be able to interpret the law as it sees fit — meaning not turn over undocumented workers to the federal government for deportation.
“We have always had a policy in Vermont where we kind of look the other way as much as we can,” the governor told reporters. “I just want to make sure that’s what we’re doing.”
“We know the federal government wants to send them home. And we don’t,” he said.
Comments from readers have ranged from those sympathetic to the workers and the farmers who often have difficulty filling badly needed minimum wage positions, to utter outrage against a governor who would support jobs for illegals over jobs for his own state’s unemployed.
There is certainly merit in both arguments, but from our perspective it appears Shumlin was simply being honest.
Right or wrong, the fact is migrant workers do make up a significant number of employees in places where American citizens just don’t want to work for the paycheck offered — like dairy farms. Like meat processing plants. And, politicians have been turning their backs to it for decades.
Shumlin was just manning up and telling it like it is: It’s going on all over the country.
While Shumlin’s honesty is refreshing, his methodology is anything but.
First, he is advocating for breaking the law, not changing it.
Regardless of his personal beliefs, Shumlin can’t take an oath to uphold the laws of his state in one breath and then tell state troopers to look the other way in another.
At the same time, workers in this country who are not citizens — who do no possess a valid social security card and identification — bring their own host of problems with them.
From crushing impacts on our health care system to the inability to hold them accountable for taxes to skewing our census, the fact is problems arise when we factor migrant workers into the population.
That cannot be denied, wether you believe they belong here or not. Therefore, Shumlin should be working to change the system, not figuring out ways to circumvent it.
Finally, there is the argument that migrant workers take jobs away from citizens of this country. If that is truly not the case, then we have a much deeper problem.
With nearly one in 10 Americans without a job and workers needed in jobs being taken by those who do not reside here legally, than we have both a welfare system and work ethic that need changing.
This country was built on hard work by the unentitled; it is time we go back to that way of thinking. There is something very wrong with a society that pays its people not to work.
A solution to both our unemployment problem and our illegal immigrant problem would be to put our unemployed U.S. citizens in the jobs held by, as Shumlin put it, “guest workers” from outside the country.
Make it a condition of collecting an unemployment check each week that a citizen spend a certain number of hours working at a farm or other industry in need. Potential employers could be added to a list which could be distributed to those collecting unemployment.
Workers could then prove they’ve put their time in before the next check would be handed over.
The system would save places like dairy farms in overhead — putting people to work that the government is already paying to be unemployed — while teaching life skills to those who would otherwise be sitting home collecting from the government.
At last count, nearly 40,000 people in Vermont and 1.3 million in New York were out of work. If Gov. Shumlin’s solution to the unemployment problem is to give the jobs we do have to those illegally in our country, then his plan is seriously flawed.
This editorial is the collaborative opinion of a board comprised of Thom Randall, Fred Herbst, Lou Varricchio, Keith Lobdell, Jeremiah Papineau, Andy Flynn and John Gereau. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.