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Friday, May 20, 2005

 

Nativists and Tammany Hall

So the spectrum's general consensus is that American immigration policy is looser than a sorority girl at a party with an open bar.

That is true, and it has been true since America first became appealing to the huddled masses in the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Then, there were the nativists, who argued that immigrants didn't have “American values” and that they would slowly erode the country from within. They argued that a flood of uneducated immigrants would never become a useful part of the American society and economy. What the nativist leaders were really worried about was losing their next election to hostile immigrant voters.

Then, there were the immigrant leaders, who argued for the dignity and humanity of the immigrants, and for every effort to be made to accept these immigrants into our rich national heritage. These leaders, such as Boss Tweed, were just as corrupt as the nativists, and were mostly opportunistic Americans interested in riding the tide of immigration to power.

Two hundred years later, not much has changed. Those who benefit from the immigrant vote want guest worker programs; those who do not want more Border Patrol agents. It's still really about politics.

Since 9/11, today's nativists talk about national security. Caohaoim claims, “there is an urgent need to control our borders...driven by our need for increased security.” This is a red herring. First, many of the hijackers were in the country legally. Second, of those who were not, not one slipped across the Rio Grande with the gentleman cleaning the toilets at your local multiplex. Third, the key to preventing another hijacking was simply to lock the cockpit door and beef up security at the airports. Finally, the most important national security concern today is to begin X-rays on the cargo containers arriving daily at our ports.

But what of our economy? Ryan fears “the negative effects immigration is starting to have on the economy. When cheaper labor comes in from Mexico, U.S. citizens loose their jobs.” Another red herring, and not only because the illegal immigrants usually take service jobs Americans refuse to do. If we did not saddle our children with a fourth-rate educational system, they wouldn't have to compete with Mexican immigrants for jobs at McDonalds while we run desperately short of nurses and computer technicians. As for Ryan's claim that the illegal immigrants “*usually* take the money back home and the U.S. ends up loosing the money that would have been spent in its borders,” that statement is completely without meaning in today's economy. The U.S. “looses” most of the money you spend at the mall, because the shareholders in all those corporations are Saudi holding companies, Japanese conglomerates, Rupert Murdoch, and Wall Street tycoons with their own private islands—all of whom turn right around and pay the salary of anyone who doesn't own their own business or work for the government. Welcome to capitalism.

Look: Today's pro-immigration activists are often just as exploitative as Tammany Hall was. But they have a point when they say that immigrant labor is essential to our economy and that we will be more secure by working with these illegals to weed out the truly dangerous and assimilate the vast majority who come simply for a paycheck. And they have another point when they say that, in this century of corporate power and trchnological marvels, we cannot afford to think of ourselves as a sovereign nation separate from the globe.

But most importantly, we need to remember the promise of America. There is a children's book about my great-grandmother's arrival at Ellis Island which was read to me as a boy. I know, at least a little, what that seven-year-old girl felt when she saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time.

Some of us don't have such a book, and cannot remember who crossed the ocean or why. They have the luxury of thinking of themselves as “real Americans” and of seen the Latino aliens as, well, alien. For me, it's not that easy.


Comments:
This is a very interesting consideration of the immigration issue.

I would NOT say that it is a simple issue, because people aren't honest about the issue.

It is clear that there are laws on the books, but they are conveniently overlooked by enforcement because of the havoc enforcement would cause. Food and clothing prices would go up. Many immigrants would go underground, lose work and become crime problems.

Clearly not guarding the border has it's own set of issues. Open borders allow easy access for those who would do harm to us.

But, the truth is that US farms, sweat-shops and aristocrats want cheap labor. They want maids, nannies, cooks, seamstresses, and farm workers. They don’t want to pay a rate that would attract American workers. Therefore they want a control over these people to keep the wages low. The threat of deportation provides that pressure. Keeping a law that is only enforced occasionally allows abuse.

The solution is to enforce the law and allow the social pressures to show us where we need to fix the system. If we need low wage laborers, then we should make laws that provide for them. This type of law would protect wages and still cause prices to rise, but it may be a controlled rise. The borders could be better protected, and having lawful programs would ease the pressure on immigrants to cross the border illegally. Using legal entry would dissuade situations where hundreds of people die for lack of ventilation, or exposure to the elements.
 
J'myle provides a powerful argument here and captures the complexity of the "immigration" issue in a succinct nutshell. His points are just a few of the many that we attach to the back of immigration, as if by barring others from coming into this country will magically heal the damage sub par education and various other “cancers” currently metastasizing through our cultural and societal foundations are causing.
It is refreshing to see someone else speak sensibly about our pathetic educational system in this country that has contributed to the rise of ignorance, gullibility and susceptibility to more “red herrings” than you’d find in an Alaskan cannery. Kudos as well to his dialogue regarding the true impact of capitalism and our national security inanity. It’s obvious that J’myle has done his homework and understands both the enormity and the complexity of the problems we currently face in this country—and the world. These “troubles” initiate and exacerbate retaliation against immigrants as the frustrated and ignorant lash out at what they perceive to be the “reason” their lives may not be living up to the expectations they had for them; the Angry White Male syndrome is certainly alive and well, but now we can redefine it as the Angry ignorant American syndrome.
And again, we return full circle to the real question; what is the problem definition?
I do not impress easily but with this post, J’ymle has been elevated above the masses.
 
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