The present New York City transit strike confirms that minorities can shut down the city's transportation systems, and bring untold suffering and hardship to many.  What if immigrants call a strike in other service sectors? Or undocumented immigrants strike as cooks, janitors, door men, cab drivers, babysitters, nurse aides, porters, security guards, delivery men and in the many other occupations they are engaged in? Oh, you thought they were all legal? Think again. Over 1 million undocumented immigrants play vital roles in the every day life of our city, and if they were to be removed or denied jobs, albeit illegal jobs, New York City will come to a grinding halt. The same grim reality stalks every big metropolis in America.

Some time ago, former NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik was forced to withdraw his nomination as the new Homeland Security Secretary primarily because it was discovered that he employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and nanny. To the country and the world, she is nothing more than a nameless and faceless "illegal alien," in yet another derailed nomination due to an immigration fiasco. US Attorney General nominees, Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, Bernard Kerik, and others-the casualties continue. Many of our immigrant brothers and sisters are treated like the "wretched of the earth," pawns in the game of politics-nay, whipping boys. Many would have us believe that every conceivable problem in America today is wrought by immigrants.

The press jumped all over these incidents. However, no one saw it fit to spend even a couple of column inches or a footnote on the underlying problem. The lack of humanity, the deafening silence to Emma Lazarus' immortal assurance upon which America was built, resonate hauntingly:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, New York City, 1883

Is the issue one of simple economics? That unforgiving Law of Supply and Demand, again? The market demands cheap labor and there is an ample supply of it outside and inside this national borders. US employers and undocumented workers find themselves caught in this reality driven by a draconian and illogical immigration policy, and some deliberately exploit it. Slavery, legalized. Why fix it?

When the issue of immigration is addressed, those in positions of power and influence neglect to address the issue in a reasonable manner. Rarely faulted is the US citizen employer who for the motivation of cheap labor will engage an undocumented worker since that worker would enjoy none of the protections afforded by this national labor laws. Undocumented workers can be forced to work for wages that are below the federal minimum wage, they have no such thing as a forty-hour work week, no overtime, no coverage in case of unemployment, and generally no medical insurance coverage. A good deal for an employer. A raw deal and a nightmare for the worker and the immigrant.

It's easy to beat up on undocumented workers, the scourge of American politics. Every time a politician needs some group to blame for the failures of government, immigrants often provide an easy target. For the American-born unemployed, the immigrants have your job. For the American-born senior citizen, it is the immigrants who are burdening our healthcare system so grandma may die waiting in the Emergency Room. For the American-born driver, it's the immigrants whose driving habits drive up the cost of insurance, and terrorizing America. And for the American-born homeowner, it's the immigrants who are ruining your good neighborhoods. It's hard at times to find one problem that is not the fault of "those aliens."

This untenable situation cries out for far-reaching reforms or we run the risk of creating a permanent neo-slavery class of workers. Real solutions to bring these untold millions of hard working people out from the shadows and an underground economy into the mainstream economy and civil society are possible if there is the political will. 

As an immigrant myself, I call upon President Bush and the US Congress to keep their campaign promises to alleviate the sufferings of undocumented workers by enacting legislation to bring some common sense to the reality of America's insatiable demand for labor and the ability of the world to fill it legally or otherwise. Otherwise is unacceptable for both immigrant and employer.

How long will we keep paying this price for Congress' hypocritical approach with respect to undocumented immigrants? The long list of valuable Americans who have been denied the opportunity to serve their country and pay their taxes for having violated immigration's illogical and archaic laws will continue to grow. This is where the law must be changed to serve mankind.

We must accept that we are "a nation of immigrants," and we would not be the Great USA, had it not been for the hard work of millions of "illegal aliens."

And, get the reality. A national strike of undocumented workers will paralyze our country, from top to bottom, make no mistake. The time is now. If not now, when? Congress must bring our millions of worthy, fellow human beings into the fold of legality.  Let us each write to them expressing that view. There is strength in numbers...

EDITOR'S NOTE: Attorney Albert Baldeo does extensive work in Accidents, Real Estate and Business Closings, Incorporations and Immigration. He can be consulted FOR FREE at 106-11 Liberty Avenue, Ozone Park, NY. Tel: (718) 529-2300.


  AlbertBaldeo.Com 2005