Immigration issue not so easily summed up

I appreciate Michael Hicks’ attitude toward immigrants (“True immigration reform takes sensible approach,” Sept. 15 Daily Reporter, A4), and he’s right to confront the nonsense of mass deportation. Anybody who knows the history of immigration in the U.S. — and who also knows the immigrants themselves — knows that deportation on a truly massive scale does not happen here.

The possibility may excite some people, but both major political parties and plenty of businesses and individuals want the immigrants here, regardless of legal status. Hicks calculates the monetary cost of deportation in a crystal-clear way that shows how totally absurd mass deportation would be.

It ain’t gonna happen.

But I want to correct several things in Hicks’ article. First of all, Hicks says, “Poorer folks have little choice but to come here illegally.” I’ve been collecting information — in Spanish — from Latino immigrants for more than 30 years. Not a one of them has ever even hinted at being forced to come to this country illegally. They have all given me one and the same answer: You have to work.

Citizens complain, however, that these immigrants’ children who are raised here do not have the same work ethic. That’s because the children don’t have the same sense of desperation or adventure that drives their parents to chart a new path in a new land. Hispanic leaders try to help the parents understand how to instill a good work ethic in the kids. It takes a commitment.

Many a poor or middle-class immigrant comes to the U.S. only to find that making a buck or getting ahead here is as difficult or harder than it was back home. They take the risk and see what they get. They are often disappointed at the cost of living, and they are just as often surprised to find that most of our laws are actually enforced.

In order to say poor immigrants are forced to come here illegally, we have to get past the words “forced to come here.” This is not a word game. Nobody’s forcing them to cross the border. If a Syrian woman doesn’t qualify as a refugee in the U.S. but decides to enter this country by way of the U.S.-Mexico border because she says she can’t return to the violence in her homeland, she is deciding on her own to enter, legally or otherwise.

The second thing I want to correct in Hicks’ column is that “only educated and relatively wealthy folks can afford to apply” for legal entry. In truth, millions of poor immigrants have entered by paying thousands of dollars to be sneaked in and accommodated.

Sometimes, legal immigrants complain that the illegals aren’t paying. A Filipina once said to me, “I came the legal way. I had to pay $10,000!” Whoop-dee-doo. I know illegals who have paid up to $20,000. I know many who have paid thousands — and gone through all sorts of dangers and threats and loss to finally get here. They gather the money for passage with the support of sympathizers and their own savings. Many pay and then pay again — with their lives.

Crossing illegally into the United States of America is a big industry involving many players and millions of paying customers, most of whom are poor.

The third thing to correct in Hicks’ column is the way “to more easily deport folks who are actual criminals.” For many reasons, it’s very difficult to deport criminals, and our system doesn’t have the backbone to deport more easily and realistically at the same time. Immigration officials have admitted they are spread too thin.

With these corrections in mind, I urge everyone to read the last part of Hicks’ column and grasp his funny summary of what it would cost to carry out a mass deportation. I love being with immigrants, and I can assure you from my conversations with them that they believe our southern border is way too porous. They cross it because they can.

Max T. Russell writes for the international business intelligence community. You can contact him via his website,