ABDUL-HAKIM SHABAZZ Commentary: There are benefits to an open U.S. border

July 4, 2005

I was frequenting one of my favorite watering holes downtown and ordered a chocolate martini with a strawberry when my bartender informed me the price was likely to go up this summer. I asked him why and he told me there was some kind of shortage out West.

So, after doing some investigation, I discovered there is a problem with the strawberry crop. There aren't enough workers to pick them, therefore they stay on the vines and don't make it into my martini glass.

The reason there aren't enough strawberry pickers is because there aren't enough migrant workers from south of the border (Mexico, not Kentucky) to come pick them. It appears the minutemen and every other border-patrol-agent wannabe are so hellbent on keeping out illegal immigrants that they're also keeping out the people we need. I can appreciate a safe border, but I honestly think the best way to keep our economy strong and nation safe is to open the borders.

By opening the borders, the people who want to come here to work (and do the jobs you still won't do) can come to an open checkpoint, be verified, be given identification, then be off to work and pay taxes. An open border with immigrants coming through a monitored passageway means patrol agents can keep better tabs on someone trying to sneak in. And what terrorist is going to try to attract attention to himself by walking through a monitored checkpoint center?

Now this may sound like heresy in a post-9/11 world, but the logic makes sense if you follow it. America needs illegal immigrants; I prefer to call them "undocumented guest workers" (UGWs), as much as they need us. We need them because they provide a cheap source of labor and they do the work we won't do. I don't know about you, but I'm not cleaning toilets at Yankee Stadium, nor cutting anybody's grass nor picking lettuce. And I'm certainly not cleaning up a hotel room where someone else made a mess. Heck, I have a hard enough time picking up after myself.

There are some folks reading this column who are probably saying, "Abdul, you would do those menial jobs if you had to feed your family and had no other choice!" You're right; I would. But oddly enough, I have several other choices, so I don't have to do the menial work. And odds are you don't, either. Otherwise, you would be doing it instead of reading this newspaper.

In addition to providing the valuable service of doing the work we won't do, UGWs also help us maintain our lifestyles by keeping the prices of certain goods and services artificially low. Think how much that landscaping around your new home might cost if the company who does the work used "regular Americans."

By opening the border, we can keep the cheap labor necessary to keep our economy moving along and we can also better monitor who's coming into our country, so we can keep the bad guys out. UGWs can become DGWs (documented guest workers) and we can track and tax them.

And before I forget, there's the bonus of someone picking my strawberry for my chocolate martini, which I can continue to purchase at a reasonable price and toast the migrant worker who made it possible.

Shabazz is the morning show host on WXNT-AM 1430 and an attorney. His column appears monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at ashabazz@ibj.com.
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