Immigration debate continues to simmer

So, the immigration debate is heating up, or, it’s at least boiling some sub-factions to the top of the stew.

The main (and un-emotional) issue is simply the act of “immigrating to this country using illegal methods.” Period. While this seems like a fairly simple and inert statement, the fire has been fanned with emotions, frankly, from both sides of the argument. Latino communities across the country have taken umbrage with any private or governmental body who opposes their position: Mexicans, (and by extension, any Latinos, and, by further extension, any person of any other nationality who has arrived here in the country) should be made “legal” simply by virtue of their presence here now. They continue to fan the flames by playing the race card, by use of civil unrest – protesting in the streets, first with the Mexican flag, then with a national “day of boycott”, and the like.

Their opponents have fanned the flames in their own way too. With subcultures of groups like the minutemen, and others, as well as legislators who take a publicly hard stance, the emotions have become the front burner stories, as opposed to the real issues at hand. That is, what to do about border security, what to do about those who are already within the borders under illegal pretenses, and what steps to take in terms of punishment, amnesty, or rectification by some other means.

Now missing from the discussion seems to be the fact that there are people of MANY nationalities, in the country using illegal means. It’s now an emotional race-charged argument.

This past Tuesday, May 2, KUER ran RadioWest with Doug Fabrizio under the topic of immigration and assimilation. There are some illegals who argue they are assimilated or have already assimilated themselves into the American culture, and as such, should simply be handed whatever documentation is required to make it right.

The point was made that Theodore Roosevelt (having expressed very pointed opinions and thoughts all through his life) pretty much set the standard for the measuring stick against which all immigrants should be measured. His quote is below:

"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."

The assertion by immigration reformers is that the “New Immigrant” is not assimilating at all, but rather the system seems to now produce more of an “Impact and Integrate” scenario. Some call it “selective acculturation”. The “melting pot” is now more of a stew, where there are still discernable solid chunks within the concoction, people come here and now, instead of blending in a becoming American, they retain their culture, language, and customs. When our first immigrants showed up here, by way of Ellis Island, they were processed and released into society, expected to forsake prior allegiances, and become Americans, not Italian-American, not Irish-Americans, not British-Americans, just “Americans”. Can we expect that of our LEGAL immigrants today? DO we expect that of our immigrants today?

And DID those immigrants actually accomplish that task at all? Don’t we have areas in many of our major cities even today where certain cultures of people tend to congregate, in order to maintain their national heritage? That’s been the case for a long time now. So what’s different now? Do we expect all immigrants to maintain the “White European” model of citizenship?

Much of the emotional conflict in this situation now comes from the symbolism involved: you can’t disrespect a nation’s flag, its national anthem, its language, cultural idiosyncrasies, etc, and still expect to be accepted by that nation as a whole, without a certain degree of emotional response and conflict from the citizenry. If you do disrespect the symbols of a nation, you can expect to have some sort of reaction along the lines of enacting laws that state that English is the official language of our state, etc. Almost every single state has a law that states that English is the “official language” of the state. In Utah that is a fairly recent enactment. Our gut reaction is that if someone waves a Mexican flag at a rally, they don’t really want to BE an American.

Articles like the one written to the Standard Examiner by Ana Ayala last week (tip of the hat to Reach Upward here) don’t help their case either, and in fact, the Latino community should be calling for her head on a platter. I fear the opposite will be true however… She notes:

“Latinos are constantly being told: "Speak English!" Enough already! The future in this country is Spanish, like it or not. If you spout, "Speak English!" I say: "Learn to speak Spanish!" It's the wave of the future, and you're a fool if you don't!"

Anti-Latinos say immigrants take American jobs. To this tired complaint I respond: "Hell, yeah, we do!" Latinos in particular do construction labor, landscaping, janitorial, housekeeping, cooking, food service and farm-worker jobs better than most Americans. In fact, Latinos do these jobs because Americans perceive they are too good for this work or they are too lazy. Latinos appreciate a good hard day of work; we always have. As long as employers appreciate and hire hard workers, Latinos will continue to take these jobs and succeed at them.

Anti-Latinos shout: "Immigrants don't pay taxes!" Nonsense! We pay billions of dollars in taxes in the U.S. each year. The kicker: For undocumented folks not allowed to file tax returns, they don't get any taxes back that they've paid out. Who benefits from the undocumented Latino's hard paid taxes? We Americans of all races!”

And in closing, she states:

“In conclusion, to all anti-Latino-minded persons, I say: You would do well to do right by Latinos. We will one day be the boss to your sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters. You would not want your progeny to be treated the way you feel about us Latinos!”

She fails to mention crime rates, gang activity, property destruction, depression of wages for all blue-collar Americans, identity theft, forgery/fraud, etc, in her diatribe. She also disregards the fact that since cultures (of almost ANY origin) tend to congregate in certain areas, the schools in those areas have an unfair burden to support the children in those schools with school meals, substandard test scores, etc, resulting in lackluster education for all students in the school.

Her fanning of the emotional flames here doesn’t help ANY of the parties trying to make a sensible solution to the ROOT PROBLEM: People who disregard the laws by entering this country using illegal means.

Proponents of immigration reform point to several factors, borne out by numerous studies, that include rising crime rates, the tendency to send one’s income over the border to feed one’s family members or to build second or vacation homes, etc. Anecdotally, there are stories (which we have all heard) of illegals who send massive quantities of dollars into Mexico, use it build a MASSIVE home in their home town, and go “home” for a two- or three-week period in the summer to have a huge fiesta before going back to the US., becoming local heroes.

The Mexican government has a huge monetary interest in its people NOT being assimilated into American culture. The money sent back to Mexico is that country’s second biggest line item income stream behind oil sales. They are happy to encourage the unrest we see right now. That’s why the statements from Cancun a few weeks ago at a meeting between our President and Mexico’s president ring so disingenuous. The Mexican government stands to lose a huge revenue stream as a result of “assimilating” Mexicans into American culture. The new citizens might lose that motivation to send most of their money back to the homeland. (Although I seriously doubt that.) Certainly, if they are taxed and are forced to become legal residents, there won’t be as much money anyway, as a simple matter of math. Additionally, there will be many who will either be deported or will leave voluntarily out of fear of incarceration, etc., cutting that revenue stream even more. So not only do we have a clash of cultures, we also have a clash of national interests.

Bottom line: I think most people want to try to address the real problem here, rather than making emotional attacks on race, culture, etc. The citizens of the county overwhelmingly support some sort of measure that forces the borders of the country to become much more regulated and secure. (Up to 81%, depending on what survey you look at.) And that is really the issue here – what do you do with the people who shouldn’t be here (if you’re here illegally, you SHOULDN’T be here), and how do we make it so this can not continue into the future?

The Minutemen have sent a letter to congress stating that if there is no action by May 15th, they will start to build walls using private money, with the permission of property owners who control MANY miles of southern border. It’s unclear whether the appropriation approved last week by congress will go far enough to appease the Minutemen. It’s equally unclear whether any measure enacted will sufficiently address the root issue effectively. An effective law here would require sanction of American business owners who hire illegals, border security, an amnesty/punishment solution for those already here, etc. It is now a multi-faceted problem – one which I doubt lawmakers will be willing to touch in an election year.

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