Public Comment

Commentary: Enforce Labor Laws so Immigrants Aren’t Needed

By Adolfo Cabral
Tuesday May 30, 2006

Do I have a reasonable point? 

Why have the media not focused or reported on the real problem—the lack of labor law enforcement and the ineptitude of the departments of labor and of elected lawmakers in general, as well as state labor agencies to enforce existing laws that prevent illegal labor practices. There are labor laws that make it illegal and would thereby have prevented hiring illegal migrants. Also, wouldn’t enforcing fair business practices have forced businesses to provide legal and fair working wages and conditions to those Americans “who refuse to work those types of jobs.” 

Now it’s an “illegal immigrant” problem. Not a corrupt business and labor practice problem. Not an inept and corrupt government obligation unfulfilled. (And, why can’t the media name who is in charge or responsible to the voter and the citizen to enforce these laws?) Now it is an epidemic of immigrant’s human rights. But what about the rights of American citizens to fair wages and benefits for all jobs? 

It is really a problem caused by those in charge ignoring the “rules of law”—when and where they count. Thanks to our elected law makers and labor law enforcement officials and agencies, illegal aliens are determining the basic labor standard. 

If law enforcement and law makers had long ago enforced the labor laws regarding illegal hiring practices (and fined or jailed businessmen!) or enforced labor practice laws that created fair working wages and conditions, then this illegal immigrant epidemic would not exist. If law makers cared about preventing social ills and solving social problems, these government officials would not have ignored the truth that a fair minimum wage and benefits do not exist in the workforce at base-level jobs. 

Just because you can run a business and make a profit, doesn’t make that business legal or ethical or good for the marketplace or society. If labor laws demanded decent pay and basic benefits from employers, then the native work force—the students, the unemployed, the undereducated, the unskilled and the welfare-dependent would find that menial and manual and base-level jobs are attractive and beneficial toward the real cost of living—allowing them to invest in the future (to job advancement or to further education or to home ownership) instead of forcing them to live day-to-day and hand-to-mouth or to join underground economies. 

With a decent living wage and fair employment practices and enforcement of these by our government officials, then the incentive to hire and exploit illegal immigrant workers would not flourish in the business world. Illegal workers would be discouraged by honest employers or encouraged to find legal routes to join our workforce. Or they might even become desperate enough to fight for their own worker rights in their own exploitive and corrupt countries. Instead, it is easier to illegally undercut labor practices in our country, thanks to our inept government officials and greedy and corrupt employers. 

But now this “illegal migrants and workers” problem has become an epidemic, also thanks to the greed of businesses and the ineffectiveness of law makers to do their jobs—to provide legal guidelines to prevent social problems, to enforce laws that provide social solutions, and to serve the entire spectrum of our society and not just the moneyed special interest of business. 

Good and fair labor laws and labor practices would help all employers and employees to be good, productive, law-biding citizens. But now illegal immigrants will determine how to lower the value of human service and prove that it is OK and “legal “ to exploit anyone for the cause of business profiteering. 

Greed, corruption, and apathy, the American way—and welcome to the third world. 


Adolfo Cabral is a Berkeley resident.