This paper is intended to be a rhetorical analysis of the article “Illegal Immigrants: They’re money” by Gregory Rodriguez. This paper looks at the issue of “illegal immigrants” to the US from the perspective of their value to businesses as cheap labor and as a market for their goods like credit cards etc. I discuss the contemporary issue of “immigration reform” and the position taken by the democratic and republican contenders in the presidential campaign of 2008.
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The US has had an uneasy relationship on the question of immigration. From the time the early immigrants started arriving on American shores in the 1990’s to the present day, the debate over how many immigrants to be allowed and from where has drawn deep divisions on both sides of the political spectrum. According to the article in question, whenever it was convenient for the government of the day to import workers, skilled or otherwise, enabling legislation were passed that guaranteed these foreign workers certain rights under US law. Thus, the 60’s saw an increased amount of immigration partly due to the fact that the US needed large numbers of people in sectors ranging from the high-tech to the mundane. Most of the legislation concerning immigrants has been passed with a view for the big businesses to procure “cheap” labor. Where it is costly to hire a native, an immigrant was available to do the same job at a lower rate. And when the question of “illegal immigrants” comes into play, it is even better for the businesses as this category of workers need not be paid even the minimum hourly wage as they are not officially recognized in the country. Thus, in a way, businesses have been prodding the government to “wink” at illegal immigration and as we see later in the context of immigration reform.
Illegal immigrants are being wooed as a market for goods and services that otherwise would not be easy to sell. In the article, the author makes a point that Bank of America may not be wrong to sell them credit cards and the like as these are the “tools” for the immigrants to gain acceptance and move up the economic ladder. What is wrong is the fact that such targeted marketing is made without a thought for the potential customers and just treating them as a “commodity”. This is clearly against established norms, and thus, the author makes the point that BOA is reluctant to discuss the issue in public. Another notable point is that there exist medical and other facilities that are solely for those without insurance, and these operators often are unscrupulous in their attitude towards the immigrants. One potential way out of the situation would be to overhaul the immigration laws, as we discuss in the next section.
Presidential campaign and Immigration
McCain has called himself an “unabashed admirer of free trade” and is all for the NAFTA and the CAFTA free trade agreements. He voted for the bills on the immigration reform though Congress twice failed to clear them through. He has gone as far as to go for a “full throated” defense of the immigration reform that nearly cost him his presidential bid. He has vowed that if elected, he would not try a “third time”. This has come in for considerable criticism from Obama, who says that McCain has been flip-flopping. Obama has not been too forthcoming on the issue of immigration overhaul and has been relatively cool towards the issue of immigration legislation overhaul. In the recent past, both candidates have tried to shift the blame on each other as far as their positions go, and this has led to much sparring between the two camps.
At stake is the Hispanic vote, and both sides do not want to be seen antagonistic towards the cause of the Hispanics, and they would rather be seen as pro-reform though they have been inconsistent in their approach towards this issue.
The shifting stance of each candidate when it comes to the tricky issue of immigration reform has not gone un-noticed by the mainstream media. Contrast this with the stand of the losing democratic contender, Hillary Clinton, who was a staunch supporter of the mostly Hispanic illegal aliens’ rights. However, McCain and Obama have pledged to take a “hard look” at this issue if they are elected that gives some comfort to the rights groups.
As long as the US dithers on the question of how to treat immigrants who do not have valid documents and instead relegates them to the bottom of the society while utilizing their services at the same time, the lot of the illegal immigrants is bound to worsen. Given the fact that there are economic as well as social and political issues at stake, a clear headed policy on immigration is the only answer. In passing, it would be worthwhile to note that the term “illegal” is as much a reflection on their status under the law as the way in which these people are being treated by the society at large.
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