We’ve all seen it in recent years, looking to increase national security, looking to increase border security, in a supposed effort to crack down in the war on terror, there has been a national round up of illegal immigrants; immigration has become a pivotal issue even in the current midterm elections. Likewise we have seen the results of, what can only be called a betrayal of this counties foundations and an exercise in stupidity, that has included rounding up by the dozens working illegals contributing to the economy, attempting to deport those illegals that have been here 20 years, making it more difficult for illegals to find housing or medical care. While all of this may sound wonderful in the tough job market, wonderful to those who think health care should be for citizens alone; the current crack down has consequences. The repercussions of the congressional initiatives, the increased pressure placed on employers who hire illegals and the heightened anger of the American public, things like the Valley Park decision, Arizona’s controversial new law requiring documentation be presented when stopped by police, or virtually anytime, has changed and will continue to change the face of this nation and not for the better. Not only does this crack down cost this country money in increased border patrols; it takes away from the public safety and real crime prevention while the police are hauling people around who only want to work.
Then there is the fence being erected at so called strategic points along US Mexican border, a fence that already has proven a failure with people using car carriers to drive over it, ladders to climb it, people who dig tunnels under it, one industrious person who sealed himself an a van seat to get across. This too is a drain on America’s finances with the up 1.2 billion it will take to complete and the 30 to 50 billion estimated to maintain it, and now years later roughly only half of it is in place. According to a 2006 Dateline special, the increased pressure on employers to investigate the status of those they hire not only bogs them down; it decreases productivity, when the construction company owner featured had to fire his best worker, because the social security number he gave did not match any real number. It makes it impossible for smaller businesses to do the kind of investigation needed, when, in 2008, the news reported on the estimated half a million just one fast food restaurant owner spent to insure the legality of his workers. What this also highlights is the fact that further crackdowns will only increase the black market for more sophisticated papers like birth certificates and social security cards.
Further damage is done to this country, it’s economic and social fabric today, in 2010, when the lack of inexpensive labor has already driven farm production for things like lettuce down to Mexico where farmers can simply make a living, when tougher laws like those in Arizona, cause a mass exodus where apartments are suddenly left abandoned, children are disappearing from schools, along with them funding, and the new laws are scaring away legal immigrants from the local iron works, take hold. When up to 100,000 immigrants, legal and not, have left homes and jobs, leaving the American renter hurting, one losing up to 7 renters per week. Threats of boycotts from states like California stand to cause even more problems; up to 90 million dollars stands to be lost in Arizona due to 3 other major US cities choosing to boycott the state, because of the law. It is also a slap in the face to our heritage as a nation built on and by immigrants and a giant shot in the foot of America having traditionally looked the other way when we needed the cheep labor, when, in reading books like Refer Madness from the author that gave us Fast Food Nation, we find that much of this nations fruits and vegetables are picked and put on our tables by the immigrants we want to run out of the country with pitchforks.
To say nothing of the fact that this is coming from a nation with no comprehensive immigration policy, a country that turned down thousands of work visas, rejected people who legally applied to guest worker programs in 2008, a country so desperate to curb illegal immigration government officials are considering revoking citizenship to children born on US soil but born to illegal immigrants, actually tearing families apart as their children could stay but parents face being deported. What prompted Arizona’s law seems to be an increase in crime, being dubbed the kidnap capital, dealing with vehicle theft from coyotes bringing illegals across the border. However, in addition to the legal quandaries presented by the new law, the public anger against it, the protests; there are the practicality issues. Not only does it bring up serious concerns about racial profiling, targeting people who look Mexican, Hispanic or Latino, President Obama got it right; you could take your kid out for ice cream, be stopped, asked for proof of citizenship and not have it, because it’s not something people typically carry on them at all times. While a green card is something you are more likely to carry in your wallet that does nothing for the US citizen who doesn’t walk around with a copy of their birth certificate.
Opponents of the law compare it to Nazism, even apartheid and in protests swastikas have appeared painted in refried beans; Pro immigration reform Americans call this hysteria considering that, in many people’s eyes, the immigrants of today want an all access pass, guarantees of work and luxury, want to live in America yet remain loyal to their “mother country.” Yet this so called love of mother country is only a preservation of culture, ethnic identity which they have every right to keep; in fact, we live in a country built on that very freedom, along with many others. Much of our American traditions are things that survived the assimilation process of those who landed on Ellis Island. Other traits that seem to signal a this unacceptable loyalty are the ones who work here sending money to family in another country; what irate Americans don’t know are the deplorable living conditions there, that they may be sending money “home” to help care for elderly relatives, children, people incapable of entering the country legally or otherwise, people who lack the skills or health to get work here. And how is this targeting not similar to Jim Crow laws, apartheid, the beginnings of the Holocaust; except instead of being forced to wear stars on their clothing, they are forced to carry documentation everywhere they go. As one Latino person told news reporters, it is no longer about immigration it is about what we look like and how we talk; again, how is that not similar to the apartheid situations in Africa, in India, where a pass was once required a pass to move about freely?
Bringing up our next point in practical enforcement of the new law, what does suspicion of being in the country illegally look like; is it your presumed nationality, ethnicity, is it where you live, how you choose to live, what job you hold, is it that you primarily speak Spanish? Listening to people who support the law, crime is commonly mentioned, drugs, gangs, and a law demanding persons show proof of citizenship or legal right to be in the country was Arizona’s answer. Rather than crack down on the crime, arrest the thieves, kidnappers and drug dealers, they would rather crack down on people who want to work. Because Arizona doesn’t have an immigration problem it has a crime problem, crime generated not only by coyotes smuggling immigrants across the border, but by drug dealers. Much is said about illegal immigrants and crime, but far more Americans commit crimes than immigrants documented or not, with far less reason. America has gangs that are all a homegrown creation that have nothing to do with growing immigrant populations.
Lawmakers there are under the mistaken impression that either element will be affected by the law, considering they are living outside the law in general. Solution, crack down on the kidnapping, theft, drugs and gangs; arrest the people who are breaking the law not just by being here but also by causing mayhem. Police and other law enforcement are also mistaken if they think deportation is a solution, as they will just find a way sneak back in. One of the fears held by those who oppose the law is that its creation and implementation will damage relations with Mexico, something that cannot happen if we are ever to get a handle on the escalating drug war making the US/Mexican border unsafe in many areas. We cannot alienate Mexico if we want to counter act the continuing drug war spilling onto US soil and increasing peril for border states; our only hope is cooperation. Part of that cooperation has to be helping Mexico create a stable economy for itself and not appearing to attack them in the mean time.
Proposed steps to citizenship for illegals includes, admit breaking the law, doing community service, paying back taxes, paying a fine and learning English, but it doesn’t take into account those who use a loophole in the tax code, allowing individuals not to reveal their immigration status, to not only pay their taxes but pay into things like social security and welfare. Likewise it disregards that A- we print important documents related to the United States in a host of languages, not the least being Spanish, and B- what happens in these homes where English is not the primary language spoken is the children grow up bilingual while ironically, American parents place their preschool kids in foreign language classes. At the same time, not all people who come here and do not learn English are doing it to snub the US; many don’t know of classes they can take, others cannot afford them. Plus, according to non-native speakers and linguistic experts, English is undoubtedly one of the hardest languages to learn, and it is not something that will happen overnight. Further, until we have the resources in place for those legal or not to attempt to learn our language, we have no right to make their getting a green card or visa contingent upon it. Not to mention that until these proposals become law, regulation or common practice in dealing with illigals, any illegal coming forward or found will no doubt just be deported.
Along those same lines, we would have far less people trying to cross the border illegally if there was a simpler way to apply for a visa, green card or guest worker program. Desperate people who need help now, who need work now, who are raising families in abject poverty now, cannot afford to wait through months and months, years and years of legal red tape. Similarly the last thing we want to do is cause immigrants from this particular area to spread their communicable diseases, such as TB, because they are too afraid of being deported to seek medical care; we don’t want their unvaccinated children going to school infecting kids because their parents were too afraid to take them to a doctor, something the immigration crackdowns have already caused in remote areas, makeshift work shantytowns.
Disease knows no immigration status and hospitals need to be safe havens of sorts to prevent outbreaks of communicable disease among everyone. Besides it is the humane thing to do when medicine is so readily available, when dealing with people who come from the polar opposite, people who only want a better life. It is also extraordinarily hypocritical not to considering the number of American doctors who participate in originations like Doctors Without Borders, Operation Smile, when soldiers, even civilians have brought children and individuals here for the crucial medical care they need. Conjoined twins from all over the world have been brought to America for the vital separation surgery. Why is making sure those living, breathing and working within our borders any different, with the added benefit of protecting ourselves?
And lets look at the good the Mexican, Hispanic, Latino immigrants bring to the country; they come here willing to do the jobs most Americans won’t, picking vegetables for below minimum wage, scrubbing toilets, moping floors, cleaning up garbage, working in laundry facilities, clothing factories, waiting tables, working construction doing it all for less money. In turn, they raise families and live in peace; their children learn English and grow up to lead productive lives. They buy or rent homes and apartments, they purchase goods and services adding to our economic growth, their large families help boost the numbers of kids in schools increasing funding.
In contrast, immigrants who will not be affected by this law because they either look white or look like someone of a nationality that probably immigrated legally, have the track record of instability and criminal behavior. One recent young shopping mall shooter was an immigrant; the Virginia Tech shooter was from an immigrant family. The man who shot up a New York civic center was doing what we all say he should, learning English, trying to assimilate into this culture and he cracked under the pressure, the frustration. And who could forget the now infamous Times Square bomber who was a naturalized US citizen, yet look at what he did with said citizenship. America needs to get its priorities straight; terrorists are not coming to the US via Mexico, national security is not threatened via Mexico; there are better ways to deal with the crime and violence than a law creating chaos of its own, dragging down the economy, angering people who only want a livable life. Despite people’s criticism, the protest signs are true no human being is illegal and all human beings have rights; nowhere on the planet should that change least of all in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.