Letter: Illegal, yes, but by who’s choosing?

By Gus Bode

Dear Editor:

As Anthony Johnson stated in his letter “Illegal, not undocumented” on Tuesday, our immigration laws were put “in place to serve a purpose.”

Unfortunately, the “purpose” of our current immigration laws existed long ago in the 1960s when the bulk of our immigration policy was formulated. We should focus on changing policy as Mr. Johnson’s suggests, but if we continue to believe the misconceptions about undocumented/illegal migration that Mr. Johnson communicates, no policy will address the problems we aim to fix.


Are illegal migrants really “lawbreakers of choice?” Or are they caught in a tangled web of international relations, government policies and global economic dynamics that ultimately limit their choices to two: migrate and put food on the table or stay and go hungry? A wealth of research suggests the latter is truer.

What if they migrate because, by no choice of their own, their government co-opted the land they once farmed at the behest of the Dole Company, which is driven by our demand for cheaper bananas? Or what if they migrate because Nike moved the manufacturing plant where they once worked due to our demand for less expensive Air Jordans?

Not our problem? The irony is that we demand displaced workers come to the United States when they cannot find work at home. We demand 99-cent hamburgers. We demand more houses be built. We demand clean, inexpensive hotel rooms.

The great majority of migrants come here to do work we want done on the cheap. Mr. Johnson’s suggestions that they proceed to commit other crimes more than anyone else, as if illegal entry breeds general lawlessness, or that they do not pay taxes is simply not supported by legitimate research. Let’s align our policies to the realities we create.

Mark A. Leach

assistant sociology professor