Sunday, March 26, 2006

We Ought to Call Things by Their Proper Names

Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breath

the wretched refuse of your teeming

Send these, the tempest-tossed to

I lift my lamp beside the golden

-Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus"

This week the U.S. Senate is set to begin consideration of S.2454: Securing America's Borders Act, sponsored by Sen. William Frist. This, of course, is the Senate version of H.R. 4437. I know all this because about a half million people were concerned enough about it to take to the streets this weekend in Los Angeles.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the "Securing America's Borders Act" had something to do with security, but it doesn't. I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a cross-border raid from Mexico in about ninety years, and this is entirely about the US-Mexican border. This is all about keeping Latinos out.
I'm thinking that it has to be hard to be a Republican legislator in 2006. Your financial interests are with the corporate donors who are sending jobs offshore as fast as they run out of ways to cut American wages and benefits. Your red-state voter base seems to be made up of otherwise God-fearing people whose wages and benefits are being cut. Your best chance at reelection might appear to be to blame immigrant labor for the low wages and benefits... maybe higher taxes, too. Of course, it's a lie and it's racist, but it could work.
Do you know why the "Securing America's Borders Act" doesn't call for building a wall along the US border with Canada? Can you even imagine such a thing?


Anonymous Wendy said...

Most of my friends, liberal on all issues, turn suddenly to the right on the subject of immigration. "Why don't they learn English?" "Why don't they pay taxes?" "Driver's licenses should be a privilege of citizenship." Huh? They're saying this while the Mexican busboy clears the table. I try to point out that if you can't drive a car (because you're not allowed to have a license, because you're not legal), then it's tough to get to the evening English lessons, even when they're free. And I mention that all the undocumented workers I know (a lot) pay taxes.
They just don't pay on their own social security number. They're actually adding credits to someone else's work history (unless that someone else happens to be dead). Employers take the fake ids and pretend they can't tell they're fake. Whew, that takes care of the accountant's worry.
They work 72 hour weeks to make the poverty-level wage. Their children, when they have been born here and are therefore citizens, have telephones and bank accounts (at the age of five, because they have legitimate social security numbers and id). Wonderful for the dignity of the family.
Brooks of the NY Times has claimed that "these people" come from "a culture of criminality."
I've stayed with the families of our friends in their villages in Oaxaca. A culture of constant food preparation is closer to the truth.

Thanks for discussing the issue. I can't even get anyone -- any "Americans" -- interested.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous joared said...

You certainly are correct when you say we should "...Call Things by Their Proper Names..."

I agree that to say this legislation is about security is a misnomer. Seems discussion of immigration, especially those who enter the U.S. illegally, is quite polarizing; a topic many avoid, as Wendy says.

The issue of legal vs illegal is even an issue of disagreement. Have heard any number of immigrants (including those from Mexico) who have entered the U.S. legally after a long period of waiting, following the rules, express resentment toward those who enter illegally.

Also, have heard supposed accurate reports that many legal residents of this country would, in fact, be happy to hold many of the jobs illegal immigrants are given by employers who avoid providing the wages and/or benefits they might have to provide if they hired legal workers.

I am able to see both sides of the picture. I feel great compassion for those seeking a better life. I can well imagine I could easily be one of them in similar circumstances. By the same token, this is a nation of laws which are constantly being stretched, broken, etc. Where and how do we draw the line for the good of all?

We certainly don't do it by twisting the debate from the real issues to hiding behind the guise of doing it for security, as was pointed out, from Mexico, but not Canada.

If we truly need additional non-citizen workers then why on earth can't we set up an efficient system to administer such a program, monitor those invited to this country on that basis?

I just get so disgusted with all the racist issues that get exploited in this discussion to accomplish an end of which all true Americans should be ashamed.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

Good points, Joared.
I'm over my head on this aspect of the issue but I want to touch on it anyway: the wage/benefit reason that big business wants the undocumented workers and small business is keeping its mouth shut. And that is: they can't afford to hire people for more than $7 an hour, no benefits, no real investment in their futures, etc. because ... and here's where I'll get wobbly: the "economy" is the emperor's new clothes. When the biggest company in the US is a discount store? Doesn't this sort of tell us something...the illegal immigrants are shoring up the fantasy of a functioning middle class. The middle class has to be swaddled in this fantasy. We have to believe that there is "growth" and "opportunity". But for the vast majority of working Americans, that is not true. We work harder for less than we did 40 years ago, when I entered the work force.
If we can keep the focus on, for starters, immigration (what soundbites of simplicity are offered therein!) ... we can keep the fantasy of wealth going...
at least until everyone is deported and a generation of leased-BMW-driving teenagers is told to mow the lawn.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous joared said...

Wendy, you make some good points. We're all over our head when it comes to discussing these issues, but I think we have some good practical common sense knowledge that can be applied to even the most complex of issues.

I think we all need to be talking about these issues, whatever the words we use, however we may state them. I know I struggle like many others to make the words come out in such a way to actually reflect my thoughts. I don't always find it very easy.

I was especially struck by your comment about our disappearing middle class. That is one major issue we should all be very concerned about.

Maybe, Always Question, will ponder this a bit for us, or others reading this, with some insights as to how we can prevent our country's complete surrender to becoming a two tier system with only the haves and have nots.

7:04 AM  
Blogger The Appalachianist said...

I've actually read of several instances where the Mexican Army has gotten "lost". Once showing up in a ranchers yard and displaying an attitude. As well the Cato Istitute has published a report dealing with the increasing narco State of northern Mexico. Their solution was to legalize drugs. Then it could be an obvious route for others who want a peice of our hide. 4GW is real. So, I think partly what you say is true, then not. There is nothing black and white, it's all grey.

8:00 AM  

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