Themmigration Reform

A reasonable suspect

The only thing to fear is them themselves.
It is going around. There are at least ten other states, Utah, Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska among them, considering anti-immigration laws in the same spirit as the one passed by Arizona (ThinkProgress.org). Arizona’s new law requires law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.” So, what would make you reasonably suspect someone? Language? Accent? Skin color? Hair type? Height? Weight? Surname? Intelligence? Car type? Living conditions? No driver’s license? Proximity to the border with Mexico? All of the above? Yes, that would be profiling. Constitutional? No telling from this court.

Los Angeles May Day rally in support of reform and rights - Lucas Jackson / Reuters

The Arizona law requires that those without documentation prove they are in the US legally (show me your papers), and are also to be charged with criminal trespass, confined and fined, at least, $500. The federal government does reimburse states and municipalities for confinement, so this may be nothing more than a way to turn a profit to Arizona for running prisons – sorta like parts of Texas does, but that’s another story.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that this law is not just about racism, xenophobia, fear, blame, census-forced redistricting and political penis measuring. It is also about funding civic services including schools, public safety, indigent medical care, unfair job competition – and, the despised, but desperately needed, deficit-financed by our children, federal funding. What it is not about, is solving any long-term problem or cause, civil decency or human rights.

What Goes Around Comes Around.
How soon we forget. Much of the west has a pretty short and convenient memory. Issues about who belongs where and who owns what is a pretty new idea. Arizona, and all the lands from Florida to California, has a much longer history being part of colonial Mexico/New Spain, than the United States – about 300 years. When we started migrating into Florida and out west about 160 years ago, we didn’t much care that we were the immigrants without documentation. On second thought, perhaps, Arizonians do remember.

In 1803, we bought the Louisiana Territories, which stretched to the north to the Dakotas and west to much of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and half of Colorado. By 1810, the illegals from the US outnumbered the Spanish in Florida and West Florida (southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southern Alabama) was annexed by that famously, over-reaching president, constitution-writing, James Madison. During the next decade, it became clear that the indigenous people who had lived in these territories for 20,000 years, were bad for business, so we began a century of genocide. Among the early annihilations were the Seminoles by an army commanded by Andrew Jackson, which launched his political career with this campaign in 1818. A year later, Jackson formally took control of Florida from the Spanish in an agreement to renounce all claims to Texas, but he didn’t mean it.

160 years ago, we were the illegal immigrants

By 1835, Jackson was dead set on getting all the land west to California. More accurately, he wanted California and didn’t much care about the rest. By that time, the US immigrants to East Texas outnumbered the Mexicans and declared their independence. Mexico, on the other hand, considered all of Texas still part of Mexico. The Texans, fearing they didn’t have enough guns, were bailed out by a free-spending Congress who forgave their debts and made them a state so they would qualify for all kinds of federal programs,  including fort building and war making. This really pissed off Mexico, so we got out our checkbook and offered a deal too good to refuse to buy most everything we wanted. The deal was turned down, so we picked a fight (there was no UN in 1846), won, and took what is now the western half of Texas, part of Colorado and all of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, and Nevada. Which led, of course, to the civil war, but that, again, is another story.

My version of this history should indicate my bias that these Arizona children of principally European immigrants have an awfully lot in common with the Central and South American and Caribbean children of principally European immigrants.

Why is it that this issue has not been dealt with in Congress?
I dare say that immigration reform is the least popular initiative in America today. Everyone hates the problem and the remedy. There may never be 60 votes in the Senate to solve immigration issues.

Some of the issues:

    We have 108 miles of fence along our 1,969 mile southern border so far - should be finished in 2040

  • Secure our southern border. It is an almost ridiculous ambition to erect and guard the 1,969 miles we share, and yet, if we have laws, shouldn’t we enforce them? The current estimate for 700 miles of fence is $49 billion and would be expected to last just 25 years. Five years into it, we’ve gotten 106 miles finished (in those areas, immigrants must tunnel, use ladders or go around it) – at that rate, we will finish the fence in 2040, but then it will be worn out and need to be replaced. To date, we have also spent $1.1 billion on a seven mile virtual fence (high tech radars, cameras and motion detectors) that doesn’t work and are planning to build another 53 miles of it. The Obama administration has recently frozen funding until the private contractor can make it work or lobbyists can convince our government that it shouldn’t have to.
  • Path to citizenship. Their presence here breaks our laws which makes them ineligible to apply for citizenship. Should they return to their native country and apply, the application requires they affirm that they have not broken the laws of the US, which, of course, is the catch 22. They could lie, but our background checks are thorough and they would be caught. Any path to citizenship would require the ”A“ word – amnesty. Those supporting it have long included a call for a fine and penalty which wouldn’t be amnesty, but amnesty is what it would be called on Fox.
  • Sheer numbers. Depending on who is guessing, it is generally believed there are 10-20 million people living in the US illegally. Arizona entire population is 6.5 million, but, of course, those unlawfully present, don’t have two senators.
  • Family values. US-born children have rights to citizenship. Were their parents to be deported, do we split up the families?
  • Human rights. Among other issues, they have limited rights and protections in our courts and almost none in our immigration courts; are not allowed to vote; risk confiscation of property; are not legally allowed to work and if they do, are often are forced to work below minimum wage and without workplace safety standards; cannot legally obtain health insurance or a bank account; and are often victims of crime or preyed upon by nefarious business (for instance: check cashing companies) wishing to capitalize on their plight. Millions of them have lived here for decades, own property, operate businesses, attend church, obey laws and are frightened of detainment or deportation at all times. Tens of millions of people are living in a shadow economy without human rights and at odds with the ideals of American democracy.
  • Cost to provide services. Their children attend schools and sometimes require special language consideration; they use our hospitals, often as indigents; using fraudulent identification, many take advantage of food stamps and other government programs; government must pay for indirect services such as police and fire protection, roads, water, sewer, prisons, etc.
  • Armed services. They serve legally in our armed forces, but their status does not change upon their return.
  • Taxes and Social Security. Many pay only local sales taxes. Income taxes and social security can only be paid if they are using fraudulent identification.
  • Drugs and worse. Border crossings are all mixed up with drugs, violent crime, rape, forced labor, forced prostitution and the like.
  • Language. Many are concerned that undocumented workers don’t speak “American” and are afraid they’ll be called a name and not be properly insulted.
  • Jobs. US unemployment is around 10% and it is assumed it would be lower if workers here illegally would stop competing for jobs. Business on the other hand, needs these workers for specialized jobs, such as computer programming or picking Vidalia onions.
  • Employer enforcement. The Chambers of Commerce, who spend more than the national GOP or the national Dems on campaigns, don’t want businesses to get into the business of determining who’s here illegally.
  • The Central and South American and Caribbean standard of living. Until it improves, the faucet of aliens crossing our southern border won’t stop.
  • Blame. It isn’t healthy, but it is human nature.
  • Voting. Those gaining citizenship generally vote democrat.

How to solve it:

Incrementalism. Themmigration reform is complicated. The right says that thousand+ page bills are too complicated to be read, understood, spin, parse or pass. They are right. Short of some strategic major Senate scandals requiring resignation, illness or flip-flop, no omnibus bill is going to get to the floor. The right called for incremental bills on health care, finance and energy, why not take their bluff? Introduce a series of simple and separate bills addressing each of the issues. Bring a couple of important bills for vote. Something like:

  • Fully fund the fence even though it will never work, pay for more border patrols and the National Guard (as soon as they get home from Afghanistan), but require taxes on the the top 1% to pay for it.
  • Everyone here illegally, but with no felony criminal record, can pay an application fee that would go to the states, get a green card good for six-months and it comes with a method to pay social security and taxes. At the end of the time, they must either go home or apply for citizenship to get it renewed. During the time they here as documented workers, they would be required to do part-time community service.
  • Assuming no felony criminal record, parents, grandparents and siblings of children born in the US of illegal aliens, could get in the middle of the line for citizenship without fear of being deported or separated from their families in return for a paying an application fee and a one time $10,000 fine which could be financed, the proceeds of which, would go to the states, and four years of part-time community service.
  • Those here illegally under the age of 24, after serving in the US Armed Forces, would be in the front of the line for citizenship with no penalty or other requirement.
  • Everyone else here illegally, assuming no felony criminal record, can get in line for citizenship without fear of being deported or separated from their families in return for a paying an application fee and a one time $10,000 fine which could be financed, the proceeds of which, would go to the states, and eight years of part-time community service.
  • Business would have the responsibility of examining and reporting employee applicant status and be subject to a big fine for failure to do so – states would be responsible for ensuring compliance and collecting the fines.
  • Create a favored status for investment in Central and South American and Caribbean with all kinds of incentives the world might deem unfair, to raise their standard of living and give some of these people a chance to live in their own land and survive. Include in some extra incentives for Mexico to create a safety net for their people.

Simple and separate bills that get introduced, debated and voted on. Get them to the floor for an up, or down vote. The toughest wouldn’t pass. Some would, and that’d be a start.

The levels of irony should not be lost.

There’s never been a fence. If you have ever been in the Southwest, one thing seems clear: there is a lot of it and most all of it looks the same. Those lines we draw on the maps, mean a lot to those who draw them and profit from them, but seem pretty meaningless if you are just staring out on the prairie. It is little wonder that a person whose family is starving, doesn’t start walking north to the land of their fore-parents and a land where the majority of people are like them: hardworking, family-oriented, and children of immigrants in a new world.

“Civil disobedience” is a term coined by Henry David Thoreau in 1848 in an essay about his decision not to pay a poll tax to fund a war with Mexico and catching fugitive slaves. Civil disobedience. Isn’t an unenforceable, inexplicable and unjust law what all of the “us-versus-them” immigration debate is really about?

“Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power, using no form of violence. It is one of the primary methods of nonviolent resistance. In its most nonviolent form … it could be said that it is compassion in the form of respectful disagreement. …Civil disobedience is one of the many ways people have rebelled against unfair laws. It has been used in many well-documented nonviolent resistance movements in India… in Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution and in East Germany to oust their communist dictatorships… in South Africa in the fight against apartheid, in the American Civil Rights Movement, in the Singing Revolution to bring independence to the Baltic countries from the Soviet Union, and recently in the 2004 Orange Revolution and 2005 Rose Revolution, among other various movements worldwide.” – Wikipedia

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15 thoughts on “Themmigration Reform

  1. Tom Poland

    In view of the US flag being taken down on US soil by immigrants who then hoist their flag up the pole, these words seem appropriate:
    “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”
    —Theodore Roosevelt 1907

    On a related note, I’m hearing more and more people criticize “anchor babies,” people coming here just to have a baby born here and “inherit” citizenship giving them a vested reason for not returning to their homeland.

    Reply
    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Tom -- thanks for the comment. I don’t have a google alert set up for what flags are flying where, so I had to search for it and failed. If you could post a link here of an incident that happened in the last year that wasn’t just another one of those right wing nut jobs reposting a rumor of a legendary report from five years ago, that would be a big help. I did see that immigration groups ran paid ads (thanks for supporting newspapers) reminding demonstrators not to bring Mexican flags and expressing sentiments of patriotism consistent with those you expressed.

      Teddy’s quote is wonderful and I appreciate you sharing it. It expresses well the need for a path to citizenship and the promise of equality and respect. The language thing is a little tricky given his success of conquering Spanish-speaking islands and claiming them for the US, just a different time, perhaps. This quote, I believe, is from a letter to the American Defense Society (a pretty right wing, anti-Bolshevik, anti-league of nations, pro-German-interventionist group) just a few days before he died in 1919 -- a time when there was a lot of fear going around. At the end of his life, he definitely advocated learning English for naturalized citizens. Perhaps I should add another initiative to those above that could help underwrite the cost of teaching English throughout Central and South America and Caribbean? Or, maybe we should increase funding here?

      As for the “anchor babies,” there are a lot strong feelings about this. I was an anchor baby and have always been thankful to my parents for living here when I was born. It is pretty hard for me to get to worked up, you see, I share their wish for a better future for themselves and their children.

      Based on the projected shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare, it seems to me that having as many young people as possible paying into the system could go along way toward making it solvent. I also like children. And their parents.

      Reply
    2. Melinda Ennis

      Tom,
      Assimilation is a time-consuming practice. I do believe if you check your history, you will see instances as recently as 100 years ago of Italian, German, Polish and Russian immigrants who came to this country in droves and lived as families without speaking the “King’s English” for at least two generations.

      I too am unaware of any flag-hoisting episodes, but even if true, there is always a fanatical faction involved with any movement involving human rights—-and I do believe that’s what we’re talking about. I have really tried to understand what all this fuss is about, and it continually boils down to what’s good for the goose, not being good for the gander.
      We who live here now are undoubtably here because of the same issues of poverty (I came from Irish potato-famine stock) and the hope for a better life. I have no idea how my ancestors got here, but I have an idea it wasn’t pretty or legal—-probably stowaways on a slow boat across the pond.

      Now we as a nation are aghast that there are still some people out there seeking the same. Don’t we have bigger fish to fry (such as the Wall Street sharks)? Shouldn’t we seek ways to welcome those who want to live here, raise their children and contribute to our society instead of doing all we can to track them down and keep them out? Every “illegal immigrant” I’ve ever known wants to be part of America, but as Lee described so well, we have created a horrible “catch 22” that prevents them from “doing the right thing.”

      By the way, this country could certainly use some language diversity. I am always shamed when I travel abroad that everyone from cab drivers to hotel clerks seem to speak three or four languages. I would be glad to have Spanish as a second language requirement in all of our schools. Perhaps it would give our children a better understanding of other cultures, not to mention better accessibility to engage with other parts of the world. I don’t believe America is about a language, it’s about an idea, and without being too corny, I thought that idea was brotherhood for all.

      Reply
  2. Terri Evans

    I really love the community service idea in this piece. Just imagine if these people could prove their true desire and intent by helping to make their “new” home a better place for all. Sure, it sounds Pollyanna of me, but community service is already used in our justice system as a way to pay a debt to society. Granted, it’s typically a “sentence” for rich, white kids who have been well lawyered up, but the model does exist.

    Reply
  3. Melinda Ennis

    My family is planning a trip out west to see some of the wonderful American treasures that were once owned by various peoples until we drove them from their homes, or simply slaughtered to fulfill our Manifest Destiny. Our family has decided that if during our trip we have to pass through Arizona (we’re going to see the Grand Canyon from the Utah side) we will make sure our car and stomachs are filled until we get out of the state. I don’t like to visit places where they ask “vere are your papers?” having seen way too many movies about the Nazis to feel very welcome. So now, we have such a place right here in the good ole USA, in the very lands that we stole from someone else. If I were a Native American, I would be asking for papers from the Arizona state legislature.

    Lee has posed many good solutions for the “immigration problem,” but I have a modest proposal that I think might work. Let’s simply give Texas back to Mexico. Since we “annexed” it in the first place (speaking of Nazis, isn’t that what Hitler did to Austria?), we don’t really own it anyway. It would solve many problems. It would support the Texans who want to secede from the Union, it would rid us of a lot of nutjobs who want to censor our books and use the electric chair as their favorite form of entertainment (now that lynching is considered bad form), and best of all, it would give all the Mexican immigrants who are going to be leaving Arizona in droves (if they’re smart) somewhere to go. Of course, it will leave Arizona with a terrible lawn maintenance and maid service issue. And, it will be impossible to get a decent chile relleno in Phoenix, but no solution is perfect.

    Reply
    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Melinda -- Thanks for your comment, but this never going to happen. Were Texas given back, they would take 2 senators from the 41 and we would go back to the time before Scott Brown when the Dems had a filibuster-proof majority and still couldn’t get anything done.
      As to indigenous Americans, that’s a gray area and Arizona will likely just look the other way as they have since they stopped shooting them on sight (the casinos are also an important source of jobs for legals and illegals, alike). The tribes make up 25% of Arizona lands, but they have their own issues -- the Hopi have to pass through Navajo lands and leased mining areas just to get to Arizona. This is all pretty complicated.

      Reply
  4. Cliff Green

    Melinda’s solution is the cleanest I’ve read. Not only would we rid ourselves of Texas nutjobs and righ-wing crazies like Gov. Rick Perry, but the Dallas Cowboys would be forced to go with them.

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  5. George Costanza

    Only a lib could say something so blatantly racist and not be called on it: “it would give all the Mexican immigrants who are going to be leaving Arizona in droves (if they’re smart) somewhere to go. Of course, it will leave Arizona with a terrible lawn maintenance and maid service issue.”

    Your self-righteous political correctness is such a sham. Race is only a convenient excuse to plunder others’ wealth and rights. No one loves invidious stereotypes more than the typical ignoramous pink-o lib. Give back Texas, indeed. What useless, ignorant swine.

    Reply
    1. Melinda Ennis

      George,
      This is the ignorant swine. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with parody (a humerous or satirical imitation), or you would have understood the nature of my comments about Texas and Mexicans. To enlighten you on the subject, I would refer you to two works. First, Jonathan Swift’s seminal parody, “A Modest Proposal.” Written in 1729 to ridicule the English for attaching the Irish because they were poor (as if they brought it on themselves) his satirical essay appears to suggest that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.
      Although no Swift, my comments were written, as were his, with my tongue firmly planted in cheek to showcase the absurdity of objecting to “illegal immigration” when we are a nation of land-grabbing immigrants.

      The second work I would recommend is the viewing of a film first introduced to me by Mexican-American friends from San Antonio. It is called “A Day Without A Mexican,” and below is a brief description of the film which was directed in 2004 by Sergio Arau, a cartoonist, musician and filmaker who was born and raised in Mexico, but now resides in California. The director instinctively took a humourous approach to this weighty topic to showcase its absurdities and racist origins. You may be enlightened by reading Swift, or viewing this film. Laughter, after all, is the best medicine.

      Plot for “A Day Without A Mexican”
      (A thick fog surrounds California’s borders, communication beyond state lines is cut off, and the Mexicans disappear: workers, spouses, and business owners are missing. Cars are abandoned in the street, food is left cooking on the stove. We meet the wife of a musician who’s gone, a state Senator whose maid doesn’t show up for work, and a farm owner whose produce is ripe and unpicked. A scientist asks any Mexicans who haven’t disappeared to volunteer for genetic experiments: a female newscaster and the daughter of the musician may be the only missing links around. Why them? And where have all the Mexicans gone? Even the border guards grieve. The state and its economy grind to a halt).

      Reply
  6. Alex Kearns

    Having just spent the past four years being mauled by the immigration system, I can only say that it must be overhauled.
    Without the large sums to pay for a lawyer, the mountain of unintelligible paperwork is almost insurmountable. I shall share the highlights of my “journey to citizenship”.
    I am a middle-aged Canadian female (not that that matters one whit but I’m just filling in details). Throughout the immigration “ordeal”, I paid, in total, close to $10,000. I was fingerprinted three times, sent to Atlanta twice, reports sent from the RCMP stating that I had no criminal record (of course they must check -- I agree with that completely), I was “re-immunized” with every shot from childhood on in a backwoods clinic by a doctor who said “I really don’t know if this will make you sick or not” and herded from office to office.
    For two years I was held in immigration limbo. During this time first my father, then my mother, died. I was refused the right to fly back to Canada to be with them…or to attend their funerals. Permission to leave the country proceeds at the usual snail’s pace -- if it’s even granted.

    The entire process took four years -- and I am told that that is “record time”.

    Costly, bloated with needless bureaucracy, confusing and often heartless, the immigration process alone is enough to strike terror in even the most stalwart heart. I am now a very proud dual citizen of the USA and Canada but the road to that goal was painful, exorbitant, sometimes humiliating, frightening and exhausting.

    Reply
    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Thanks for sharing this. I’m not sure who we modeled our system on, but much of the screening seems to goes back to practices more than a century ago and before we knew about antibiotics and the like. Doesn’t seem too complicated in theory: Applicant: qualify; apply; get interviewed; get fingerprinted; get physical; take civics test; pay money; wait; take oath. On the government side: should be an almost automatic review process that could only delayed by the amount of porn site visits being done on government time and the seamless dis-integration of departmental computers compounded by ever expanding watch lists and attorneys in the mix. That, and much more fairly, the USCIS receives almost ELEVEN MILLION applications (including Green cards and visas) per year, runs INS, verifies employee eligibility, catches, detains and adjudicates, handles humanitarian issues (asylum, refugees), adoption, and a bunch more (including 135,000 national security checks per year). Sure, worldwide they have about 16,000 federal and contract employees, but do the math. The process is flawed, but so is the staffing. BTW, I am glad you are here, sorry for the mauling, hope it will be worth it and that you will contact me if there is anything I can personally do to make you feel welcome in your new country.

      Reply
      1. Alex

        Thank you, Lee. This grand adventure has already been well worth the price paid. Where else but here could I create change (www.stmarysearthkeepers.com) and amuse myself by being considered a “rabble-rousing, Alinskyite eco-weenie”? Having majored in Southern Literature at university, I have found Georgia to be all that I imagined…and so much more.

        Reply

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