Point: Kara Wild
I read your most recent blog about the Minutemen and felt compelled to respond. Since the e-mail function only allows 300 characters, I'm responding via regular e-mail.
All right, I ain't for the Minutemen and I ain't against them. However, blogs like the one you've linked to won't convince me one way or the other, given how clearly biased they are to begin with. This is a case where looking at all of the information the mainstream press has to offer is more helpful. In any event, there are crazies in every movement, including the anti-war movement. Does that mean you would prefer not to be considered anti-war?
Me: I'm against illegal immigration, though I don't know whether I would be in favor of deporting 12 million people. However, those who claim to sympathize with illegal immigrants don't seem to have *any* solutions for very real problems in this country, to which illegal immigrants contribute, though they aren't the main cause.
Open borders? A billion people want to come here. How many people do you think this country can sustain?
They take the jobs Americans won't do? Tell that to African Americans with a high school diploma, with their 10% jobless rate. Tell that to a resident of New Orleans who was denied the opportunity to rebuild his or her city because the contractors hired illegal
On a recent Saturday Night Live sketch, they mocked the fears of lower-income Americans by claiming that illegal immigrants only took really trivial jobs like handing you towels in the bathroom. God, what elitism... toward *both* groups.
Target the employers? With what, the laws already on the books? After initial sporadic enforcement, the enforcement level has been nil for the past several years, until recent attempts to utilize racketeering laws. And in spite of the fact that the feds are going
after the employers, there is still an outcry from some illegal immigrant supporters that it is unfair to them. Some employers have even claimed that cracking down on their hiring of illegal immigrants is racist, because it might make them more hesitant to hire Latinos in the future.
Then there are the employers who actually *do* mean to hire only legal employees but have never been trained properly to spot forgeries. To punish them would be unfair, yet right now, too many employers get away with claiming that they "just didn't know."
Repeal NAFTA (as one Kossak suggested)? Um, sure... and in 20 years, when that's accomplished, what will the illegal population be?
Raise the minimum wage and enforce the minimum wage laws? Great idea, except that if there is always a surplus of labor in a given market, unscrupulous employers will find a way to hire more under-the- table illegal employees. Big Business is the Republican base and they thrive on cheap labor. They won't surrender it easily, even if the Democrats win a majority in Congress.
Everyone against illegal immigration is a racist? I guess there are a lot of black, brown, and yellow racists, too, in addition to white. Whereas Latin Americans with their "day without gringos" aren't racist at all.
My points aren't aimed strictly at you; rather, they are responses to the various arguments I've heard on the Dailykos and Mydd. Respondants in the immigration threads tilt toward pro-illegal
immigration, but there is quite a sizeable group that is opposed, filled with many respectable members of the Kos community, many of whom are immigrants themselves, and many who are fighting hard to stop all exploitation of people. As for me, I feel as though in this country, we are so strained as is, with a social safety net in tatters and so many citizens who need help, that we *can't* absorb unchecked numbers of foreigners, especially low-skilled, low-income people. At least legal immigration allows for the process to take place in a somewhat orderly fashion, allowing for communities to anticipate and prepare for the growing population. With illegal
immigration, you never know how many will be coming, and therefore communities cannot adequately prepare.
I feel like I'm invisible to both liberal bloggers like Markos and to big media news sources like the Los Angeles Times. To them, those who oppose illegal immigrants are racist Confederate flag-loving baby eaters who gladly exploit illegal immigration, then claim that they need to be deported. Meanwhile, the "sympathetic" L.A. Times features exclusively Latino (mainly Mexican) illegal immigrants, doing its part to further the stereotype that all illegal immigrants
are from Latin America. I'm just so fucking sick of their self- congratulatory hypocrisy. I'm so sick of reading that people who think our country is so fucked up under Bush that the next generation is doomed, yet that we can magically absorb unlimited numbers of people and everything will be A.O.K. I'm sick of those sympathetic toward illegal immigrants screaming racism toward anyone with a different opinion, yet always being the first to trot out "Mexican
power" or Mexicans' "right" to claim part of or even all of the U.S. due to a misguided notion that having *some* tribal blood means that you are related to *all* North American tribes... something that many tribes in the U.S. would dispute.
I don't think militias like the Minutemen are helpful or wise, but they do attract attention to a real problem in this country, one that both parties have been trying desperately to ignore.
Counterpoint: Michelle Klein-Hass
I just can't go through this point by point. So I'm going to have to respond generally. My grandfather was an "illegal." He was supposed to emigrate to Canada from the Ukranian SSR in 1922. Instead of staying in Canada, he went across the (open) border and eventually wound up in Chicago. And I will raise the ante even further: he got the only "job" he could as a person who barely spoke Russian and for whom Yiddish was a first language: he ran rum for the mob. Remember, this was Prohibition. Hotels and restaurants all had their "speakeasy" downstairs. They needed a steady flow of the illegal hooch. Guess who supplied a lot of them.
By 1933 and Repeal, my grandfather made lots of connections with hotels and restaurants, so he went into the institutional food business. By then he also spoke fairly good English, and lost a lot of his Russian. By 1946, he and his family took the trip on the Super Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles and settled here.
The issue of illegal immigration is big and tangled and complex and cannot be solved by extremist attitudes on either side. No, we cannot absorb everyone. But we cannot just ship every single one of them back. The solution that dare not speak its name is economic development and economic justice for Mexico and Central America. The recent events in Bolivia and Venezuela suggest that there exists now a will to beat back globalization by the people who actually can and should do it: the people of these respective countries. It is they who will eventually see that NAFTA and CAFTA was a sucker's game and only enriched the elites of their countries. There is a similar movement to our attempts to be the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party down there in
Mexico. These folks are not happy with globalization and the rule of elites in Mexico...they want the pie made larger and they want more people to get a slice. They will inevitably be branded as "leftists" and "Marxists" by US interests. The US government might even find it necessary to move against them. But they are the hope of the impoverished many in Mexico.
Until there is social justice in the countries from whom the majority of so-called "illegals" are emigrating, the tide will continue. Any effort short of turning the stretch of land from San Diego to Brownsville into an armed, turreted Berlin Wall with "shoot on sight" orders will be like King Canute and his vain attempts to command the North Sea. Do we really want to descend to that level?
If we don't, we are going to have to come up with an intelligent, fair plan to reunite families and turn honest immigrants, with papers or without, into taxpaying, contributing American citizens. The status quo means that unscrupulous business people can exploit a permanent underclass perpetually in fear of La Migra, and strain the financial resources of state and local
governments because these unscrupulous business people never pay for things like health insurance. The status quo is not the answer, nor is a draconian "head 'em up and move 'em out" push, which would require the resources and the precision of a Final Solution. We are talking a projected 10 to 14 million immigrants here without papers.
Every generation has its nativist movement. It usually occurs at low points in the business cycle, but the last one came during the '50s and the height of Cold War paranoia. That was a rare time when the nativist movement did not coincide with financial ruin or a hot war. There was a big nativist push during the Civil War days in the North: watch the movie "Gangs Of New York" for a taste of it then. There was huge anti-Immigrant movements during the economic panics of the Turn of the Century. The KKK moved North, to where they were able to gain political representation in Indiana, during the time of and immediately after World War I. And during the Great Depression there were attempts to deport "Mexicans" of all statuses, some even Chicanos who
were second-generation Americans. There is a great Woody Guthrie song called "Deportees" about that period.
We are going through bad financial times and some of the worst, most disempowering political times ever. It's not the Great Depression again...not yet. But the cycle has come around, and the rough beast of nativism slouches towards California to be born anew. However, this time there is a push back. If only we had the same resolve as those who have been protesting en masse on the streets! If we had the same resolve and cohesion we could tie up the streets and close the shops until George W Bush, Dick Cheney and their whole machine were brought into the dock to answer for the High Crimes and Misdemeanors that have been woven, warp and woof, into the fabric of their administration. But we don't. What a pity.
(This is the beginning of a series.)