States get tough with immigration

Kai Ryssdal: So let me do a little public radio foreshadowing here. One of the steps we're going to take this week to break down our economy is to look at jobs -- where they are, where they're not, and what anybody can do about it.

There's been a big push this year at the state level that's tied up with jobs and immigration. Employers in Alabama and Georgia will now have to to verify new workers are legal, which got commentator Gustavo Arellano thinking about his own experience.


Gustavo Arellano: I have a confession to make, one I'm quite proud of: I've had illegal immigrants work for me before, and I can't wait until they work for me again! I can't wait to have them hustle for me for "nada," to eat the fruit of their labor while they toil anonymously. God bless American capitalism!

Of course I kid -- kind of. See, I wanted to pay these workers, all of them interns for me over the years. They're amazing, hard-working college journalists who'd be fine additions to any investigative news team. But after they finished their internships, I couldn't hire them -- my employers don't hire illegal immigrants. And I couldn't recommend the cub reporters for jobs at other papers for the same reason.

The case of Jose Antonio Vargas resonated with me. Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who confessed he's in this country illegally. He arrived to the U.S. from the Philippines at age 12, and has lived here ever since, assimilating seamlessly. It's amusing to see former editors sanctimoniously distance themselves from Vargas now that he came out as undocumented because he had fake papers. But really, what changed? His legal status? Poppycock. Obviously that didn't stop him from winning journalism's highest award.

But it's great to see this drama play out in the front pages of the newspaper industry, because it prominently illustrates a much bigger point sometimes lost in our immigration wars. American employers know exactly whom they want to hire and sometimes, it's not about the cheapest wages, but rather the best worker. The government should concentrate more on making sure employees get a fair wage and work in safe conditions instead of whether they're legal.

The Department of Homeland Security just announced they're issuing 1,000 new I-9 audits to make sure businesses aren't hiring illegal immigrants because what our economy really needs right now is more bureaucracy.

Taking jobs away from citizens? Please. My interns were the best and the brightest of their respective applicant pools -- no affirmative action for me folks! I can't wait for the day when I can find jobs for Julio, Matias, Luis and the rest. Until then, they have to waste their talents on great tweets or pithy Facebook status updates -- and that's just a shame.


Ryssdal: Gustavo Arellano is the managing editor of the OC Weekly. Got a comment? Send 'em in.

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