The six-part docuseries Immigration Nation is an unbiased examination of both sides of the immigration issue. Throughout the series, viewers meet a wide range of immigrants, border patrol agents, ICE agents, homeland security personnel, concerned citizens, and shady employers who participate and what is known as wage theft. Each episode focuses on a few specific issues: illegal border crossings, child separations, asylum seekers, sanctuary laws, deportations, DACA, wage theft, migrant deaths, veteran deportations, and the criminalization of human trafficking.
By looking at all sides of the immigration problem, viewers can make up their minds about the effectiveness of the current administration’s efforts. One thing that I didn’t see was evidence of immigrants taking jobs away from Americans. One example involves workers who move around the country seeking work in areas affected by storms and hurricanes. Someone has to repair roofs. Someone has to rebuild. Someone has to clean up streets from debris. In many cases, immigrants, including many who may have entered the country illegally, perform these jobs.
Unfortunately, there are a handful of companies that employ illegal workers and then refuse to pay them. Instead, they threaten to report workers to ICE when they demand pay. One company highlighted for wage theft was Winterfell Construction and the company’s owner Tommy Hamm. Tommy’s defense that it was his contractor’s responsibility to pay the workers is weak. Not only did he not take any steps to ensure that his contractors pay their workers, but he also threatened the workers and their representatives with lawsuits.
The singular goal among immigrants is for a better life for themselves and their families. The vast majority of them would be happy to enter the U.S. legally. But rather than make that a realistic goal, current immigration policy has shut down all legal paths. We treat immigrants as criminals. We deport people with no criminal records without regard to the impact on the family members remaining behind. What exists now is an immigrant community that lives in constant fear.
It is human nature to want to better one’s position in life. No one would willingly leave their own country if they weren’t escaping violence and poverty. Rather than spend billions of dollars on policies that are cruel and heartless, we should be granting more work visas. We should grant legal status to immigrant veterans. We should do what we can to improve living conditions in Central America. We are better than this.