Thursday, September 23, 2010

Comparison: Indentured Servants & Illegal Immigration

What began as a source for cheap labor, Indentured Servitude soon became a nightmare for the colonial elite. Initially, the colonial elite loved the idea of indentured servitude and as a result this form of labor became increasingly popular. As time passed, the indentured servants’ labor allowed the colonial elite to reap great profits. This “love affair” soon ended when many indentured servant's contract expired. Since their contracts expired, the indentured servants were no longer obliged to work for the colonial elite, and thus were free. With this freedom, they were given land. On this land, many former indentured servants began to buy other indentured servants. Soon, the newly freed servants began to economically compete with their former masters, the colonial elite. Scared of competition, the colonial elite successfully sought to replace indentured servitude with slavery. With slavery as their source of labor, the colonial elite did not have to worry about future competition, from their workers.

Even though the thirteenth amendment to the constitution bans indentured servitude, it still exists in the form of illegal immigration. Similar to the colonial elite, many present-day employers seek out cheap labor. The main source of cheap labor comes from illegal immigration. Realizing this, many employers seek out illegal immigrants that are currently in the United States. Once they are sought out, the employers pay the illegal immigrants below minimum-wage and they pay for their food and transportation expenses. This appears to be a win-win system. The employers are receiving cheap labor, while the illegal immigrants are being paid more than they would have been in their native country. There is a loser, however, and it is the citizens/permanent-residence of this country, whose jobs are being replaced by illegal immigrants. The employers see this as the free market at work, but Americans view this as rewarding illegal behavior.

If this was happening in the 17th and 18th century, the role of the illegal immigrant would have been played by the Africans, who were turned into slaves. The role of the Americans would be played by the Indentured Servants, whose “jobs” are being jeopardized by slavery. The role of the employer would be played by the colonial elite.

As historian say: “Names Change, But the Game Remains the Same.”