The Immigrant Issue – Time To Look At Causes Not Symptoms

Posted in General by TBartine on May 15, 2010 No Comments yet

If you’ve been watching the news, the talk shows, or even just checking into your social network of choice…then it’s likely you’ve noticed a trend.  You’re hearing a number of outbursts and debates revolving around a central theme:  “Illegal immigrants go home.

If a discussion ensues on the talk show or webpage in question, the individuals participating tend to make the following assertions:

1 – They state that illegal immigration leads to increased crime, particularly drug-related crime

2 – They state that illegal immigrants take jobs away from American citizens

3 – They state that illegal immigrants are an economic drain, by not paying taxes, and by benefiting from services such as education and health care without paying for these services

4 – They state that their complaints regarding immigrants are not at all racially motivated

One could debate these points item by item, pointing out that there is no proven statistical relationship between immigrants and increased crime (here and here),  or  that illegal workers beating out non-skilled citizens because they are willing to work harder and for less is actually a perfect example of the “free market” in action …and illegal immigrants actually represent a very necessary part of the American economy (here and here),  or that the Congressional Budget Office did a study showing that the impact of illegal immigrants on taxes and public services is negligible (here).

However, such a debate would only further a national conversation which continues to focus on the possible symptoms of an issue…while avoiding ANY dialogue on the causes of the issue.  A person calling for the immediate deportation of all illegal aliens for the reasons listed above, is much like a doctor who informs you are bleeding internally…that he’s going to stop the bleeding…that he’s not going to figure out what is causing it…and that it will definitely start bleeding again soon.  I doubt such a conversation with your doctor would bring you much comfort, and neither should such a superficial and naïve treatment of the immigration issue.

The causes I’m referring to?  Everyone knows what they are, but deliberately avoids discussing them:

1 – Companies, most owned by American citizens, hire illegal immigrants because they will work for much less, they don’t have to be given benefits, and if they complain about long hours, unsafe conditions, or unfair treatment…they can simply be turned over to immigration officials.  These businesses aren’t just lettuce-picking operations and factories; illegal workers are part of the budgets and bottom lines of many of the biggest corporations and industries in America.

2 – American citizens…lots of them…do illegal drugs.  This creates a booming, well-armed industry south of our border, which works day and night bringing the drugs that we do want, along with violence that we don’t want, across the border.

Let that sink in for a minute, and you’ll realize why these two points are rarely addressed.  If these are the causes, then illegal immigrants aren’t really the problem.  We are.  Us: American citizens with a vast need for recreational drugs and cheap products.

And when I think more about “us” and less about “them,” I am faced with a shameful realization.  At one point our families were “them”…and our immigrant ancestors would likely be ashamed of most of us.  Even more ashamed to know that most natural-born citizens in this country do not even know the names of their ancestors, or the countries they emigrated from.  I do.  In researching my family’s genealogy with my uncle, I learned many things.  Some of my family came across on the Mayflower…others were Irish farmers escaping the famine…others, French Huguenots escaping the religious persecution of the Reign of Terror…and there were German shipbuilders…and Dutch farmers.  My ancestors, like yours (exempting friends of 100% Native American ancestry), came here and were given a gift.  A big gift – the gift of opportunity.  They did nothing to earn it, other than landing on our shore…there was nothing about them that “deserved” it any more or less than anyone else.  This was clearly the intention of the constitutional framers; even a cursory reading of the Constitution will reveal that it does not bestow inalienable rights simply to “citizens.”  No.  The document specifically and intentionally guarantees that the rights and freedoms listed belong to “people.”  What you probably didn’t know is that, the Constitution only refers to “citizens” in the areas of voting and eligibility for public office; the rest of it…applies to all people, even illegal immigrants.  Read it for yourself.

Like the immigrants of today, some of my ancestors (and likely some of yours) were called “dirty,” or “criminally pre-disposed,” and “unwelcome.”  But thanks to the opportunities our country gives to all people, and through their efforts, and the efforts of generations of their offspring, my existence was made possible.  Without our immigrant ancestors,  and the gift this country gave them, I would not be here…you would not be here.  And many of you repay them by calling a new generation of immigrants, someone else’s future ancestors, “dirty,” or “criminal,” or “unwelcome,” or otherwise “less than.”

I was born a natural-born citizen, like most of you reading this, and I did absolutely nothing to “earn” or “deserve” it.  That being said, and referring back to my remarks about the Constitution, it guaranteed me the right to vote upon reaching the age of 18, and the right to run for public office…and guaranteed no other “special privileges” or “advantages.”  It does not guarantee that all the jobs in this country only go to citizens.  It does not guarantee that only citizens like me will receive an education or health care.  So it seems the very height of irresponsibility for some to assert that simply because they were born here, an event for which they can take zero credit, they are somehow entitled to more opportunity, more advantages, or better treatment.  Yes, that is the very definition of the “entitlement,” a trait that many of the “critics of immigrants” deride in others.   Our ancestors would scoff at such a ridiculous notion.  You have exactly the same “gift” that they received and no more:  same opportunity and rights as all people are provided in this great nation.

As a person who taught in a public school, I found that most of our students from immigrant families spoke better English, knew more about this country’s history, and had more of an appreciation for being here…than most of the students born to citizens.  So…allow me to ask a very hard question:

If you have forgotten the courage and labors of your immigrant ancestors…

If you have forgotten the derision your immigrant ancestors faced at the hands of bigots and xenophobes who told them to “just go home,” and now heap similar treatment on others…

If, like so many natural-born citizens, you can’t answer the questions on the Naturalization Examination about your own country’s history, government and laws (here is a small sample)…

If you think you are somehow entitled to be here, to be given a job, to be treated better…

Then, what kind of American citizen are you?

And, isn’t it possible that a Mexican man, who faced great peril to come here…

… so he could provide for his family, and perhaps obtain a better life for his family…

…so he could secure better opportunities for his children…

…isn’t it possible he understands and appreciates more about what America really is…than you do?