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Tête-à-tête: A citizen’s note on immigration

2 May 2007

 Lorena Diaz de Leon — though she still hasn’t been able to get this “wordpress thing” straightened out (she’s not the first one to have trouble with it) — sends this May Day missive along:

The view in our nation is at odds as to who should obtain the right to enjoy the liberties of our nation; these very laws are propounded by a democratic nation where the ambiguity of the path to citizenship and the non-existent immigration laws have left a bitter taste in Americans’ mouths. Who is right? Are the people, screaming of the strain immigrants place on the economy and the danger they pose as being “undocumented”, right? Or, are the people, hollering for legalization so that they could benefit from the privileges of natural citizen, right?

There is one fact amidst this burgeoning chaos. The twelve million illegal immigrants residing in our nation will not be easily hoarded on a bus, which is the current “raid” technique employed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (also known as ICE, a funny sort of acronym giving illusions to the recent, cold force if you will, of the heavily armed agents in the recent Chicago raid). Yes, I agree that citizens should be protected within our borders, but, by no means should inhumane tactics arise on the sole basis that one is “illegal”.

In the Chicago raid, for instance, was it really necessary to conduct the raid in a manner mimicking an army ready to conduct war? Those that disagree with the proposition of the raid’s purpose as an intimidation tactic could beg to differ, but, sorely lose when attempting to explain the logic behind the tactics applied. According to the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, raids do not impact migration patterns, rather they definitely violate constitutional and civil rights by utilizing physical, verbal and psychological abuse—and, evidently, have resorted to racial stereotyping. This data was compiled from the reports of 235 raids conducted in thirty one states, and these facts can be found in Jorge Ramos book, The Other Face of America

Jorge Ramos, a respected television correspondent for Univision, sees the immigration conflict in terms of “supply and demand”, in other words, as long as there are jobs in the U.S. and as long as there are willing immigrant workers, they will fill those positions. Ramos provides interesting particulars about American society: Immigrants in the United States comprise almost 11 percent of the population; this, surprisingly, has not been the highest peak in immigration for in the years 1870 and 1910, the percentage hovered around 14 percent. Let us remember: it is the eleven percent of immigrants that not only contribute to the economy but, who will as Ramos exclaims, “During a crisis, immigrants will defend the United States as if were their birth country…And, as has been the case in most wars America has participated in, a large percentage of soldiers are named Salinas and Perez and Rodriguez.”

In writing this piece, I tried to gain all perspectives of this controversial debate that has politicians boiling over with confusion. I sought the anti-immigration sentiment and came across (no surprise, of course) Lou Dobb’s commentary, Big media hide truth about immigration, posted on CNN’s website on April 25. Dobb’s is notable for his raucous attacks on immigration. His commentary left me on a desert island, without any fresh water to take refuge in, confused as if I were stuck on a bad episode of Gilligan’s island with other politicians.

The following is taken from his commentary:

Too often, the language of the national media describes illegal immigration as “migration” and illegal aliens as “undocumented immigrants,” even though many of them have lots of documents, most of which are fraudulent or stolen. Some media outlets have taken to calling illegal aliens “entrants.” Whether such language is meant to engender sympathy or to intentionally blur the distinction between legal and illegal, the mainstream media are taking sides in this debate. There’s no question this type of mass immigration would have a calamitous effect on working citizens and their families. Professor Carol Swain, professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University and author of “Debating Immigration,” would like to see more people speak up for the sectors of society most affected by illegal immigration. To address the first point, no matter how you paint a word, whether one chooses to call them “undocumented”, “illegal”, “entrants”, the fact remains the same that they are immigrants, moreover they are “humans”— a shocking revelation, I know. The media is multifaceted, there is a venue for all sides, and whether a reporter chooses word A or B, probability lets us know that another will choose just as effectively another word to convey their point.

The second point is over-used and untrue. The National Academy of Sciences reports that immigrants add about ten billion a year to the nation’s economy; immigrants contribute more than they take! The only calamitous effect that would be seen is when immigrants stop supplying their workforce.

On a last note: With the spirit of American hope and diversification, thousands gathered across the nation to garner support for the reform of immigrant legalization. The rallies provide an outlet for unification and send a powerful message to our leaders: Immigrants need to be protected against racist tendencies seen in some sectors of our society. Immigrants should be granted a fair law to aide on their path to citizenship. And, the U.S. must work with the Mexican government to provide a consensus on immigration flow and safe border patrolling. The rallies also send a message to all citizens: We must embrace our commonality and what it is truly to be an American, a citizen of a multi-cultural society.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 May 2007 8:48 pm

    One word concerning the left-liberal and Mexican response to American immigration policy – hypocrisy.

    Let’s look at MEXICAN immigration policy for a moment…as this country desperately needs an infusion of foreign capital (which it will never get as it is considered ‘too threatening’ to the much vaunted ‘national sovereignty’) and migrants might do the place some good.

    The current sentence for entering the United Mexican States without the proper visas/papers/tramites is up to TEN YEARS in jail and a MN$5000 fine. The restrictions on immigration to Mexico are considered to be some of the toughest south of the Rio Grande.

    In the first two months of this year (2007), the INM intercepted an deported 16,740 illegal aliens. It is reckoned that over 80% of these were Honduran or Guatemalan making their way to the USA.

    The Mexican Army patrols the southern border to guard the national sovereignty – there is no Spanish phrase for ‘Posse Comitatus’ – and there are calls to militarise the northern border as well.

    We non-citizen resident aliens of Mexico are not allowed full freedom of speech – political comment, even in a form as mild as a letter to a newspaper editor, carries the threat of deportation. We are not allowed to own lands within 50Km of the coast or borders. We may not hold shares in certain businesses or practise certain trades that are reserved for Mexicans. Here in Tamaulipas, we may not even have a drivers license valid for more than 12 months and must pay four times what the Mexican pays for his five year license.

    So lets stop the gibbering about what a ‘raw deal’ these Aztlan hatmongers get after they have crossed in to the USA illegally and start by looking at how their own government treats foreign migrants.

  2. el_longhorn permalink
    3 May 2007 10:53 am

    You know what they say about folks who live in glass houses…they shouldn’t throw stones. The Mexican government does not have any basis whith which to criticize the US and its treatment of Mexican migrants until it comes to terms with its own treatments of its Central American immigrants. I, as a US citizen, can slam my country for it all I want (and I often do), but the criticisms from Mexico always ring hollow.

    Politically, maybe Mexico should unilaterally open its border to US immigrants, as a first step to a dialogue with the US about immigration. This is the de facto situation right now, although not the law, and the economic benefits of US immigration to Mexico are well established.

    I hope to someday see all the peoples of the Americas allowed to live and travel throughout both continents.

  3. Francois permalink
    4 May 2007 12:22 am

    In reponse to the two previous comments:
    I do not see how the post is in any way representative of either “the left liberal” or “the Mexican (government’s)” take on immigration, including illegal, to the US. Let me clarify: the poster is making her argument from actual research demonstrating the economical importance of immigrants, including illegal ones, to the US. The argument from compassion is brought on as a corollary of historical, and indeed fundational, American attitudes towards immigration. In this respect, it appears somewhat illogical to criticise this argument by demanding that Mexican policies be held to the same standards as North American ones: the USA has precisely a tradition of, and again was even built as, a land of refuge for those elsewhere persecuted as well as being the home of free speech and liberty.
    Moreover, it could be argued that it is by welcoming those immigrants on US soil, and by letting them assimilate as every previous generation of migrants has done, that change will eventually be effected in their countries of origin. In addition, it is becoming very clear that free-market economics are the pathway to democratization, and not the other way around (see the figures in this month’s issue of Foreign Policy). Letting the immigrants channel money back to their countries of origin increases globalization, and furthers thus the economic model upon which the US is dependent.
    I do not see how the two previous commenters propose to address the problem raised by Lorena: there are millions of immigrants in this country that on the one hand cannot be massively ‘sent home’ (just look at the failure of protectionnist politics in matters of immigration throughout the Western world and in Europe in particular) and that on the other hand contribute to the US economy.
    You seem to share the poster’s desire to see a more open and free American continent, but it seems that she has a more realistic view of the necessary origin of the initiative. The USA must lead again, and most certainly will (as usual) be criticized for doing so; but eventually it will become a model for immigration policies on the American continent: as the leader both of the free world and of economical globalization, it has no other -and no better- choice.

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