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Ruben Navarrette Jr.

In a recent article on cnn.com, Ruben Navarrette, Jr. discussed one of the central conundrums in the immigration debate, and the poorly-tempered “solution” proposed by one Texas state legislator.

The problem, as Mr. Navarrette described it, is the balance between most Americans’ disdain for illegal immigration, and their addiction to the services provided by undocumented workers. One does not have to look very hard to find stories and opinions highlighting the evils of illegal immigration. Yet, one also does not have to look very hard to find a common product or service that is either produced or performed by an undocumented worker. The inherently contradictory nature of this debate is highlighted by past and present solutions to this issue.

The latest “solution,” in the form of new legislation proposed by Texas state representative Debbie Riddle, is not a solution at all. Representative Riddle’s bill makes employing an undocumented worker a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Like its federal counterpart, this potential Texas law provides protective language that negates culpability for employers who hire undocumented workers, as long as they didn’t do so knowingly. However, the Texas bill extends protections for employers in a new way that goes far beyond those provided in the Federal version, by exempting anyone who hires undocumented workers for work “to be performed exclusively or primarily at a single-family residence.” This effectively means that anyone who hires an undocumented worker to work as a maid or perform household chores, is exempt from criminal punishment.

The hypocritical and condescending nature of this proposed solution shows just how desperately this country needs real immigration reform. People see undocumented workers as political, racial and social pariahs, but also expect to reap the benefits of their presence in this country. Realizing that we as a nation cannot have it both ways is the first step to real change.

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