Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Mexican dis-Connection

According to the news reports that have been running (ad nauseum) for the past year or so, one of the biggest problems that the United States is presently facing is the “invasion” of 11 million illegal Mexicans currently working, living, and – should you believe the mainstream news – sponging off of the American people.

They are getting free healthcare, courtesy of our taxpayer dollars. They are taking jobs away from lawful American citizens. They contribute to a criminal element in this country that has already taxed the resources of law enforcement. In short, they are an unwanted, unneeded, and unnecessary burden to the American people.

Something has to be done. The border must be secured. Not only to keep this unwanted rabble out of our country, but to ensure that the threat of terrorism remains pushed back beyond our borders.

So we’re told.

For all of the talk that I hear about this “pressing problem”, there sure are a lot of questions that I don’t hear anybody asking. Maybe nobody is asking these questions because nobody really wants to hear the answers, so if that’s the case, I won’t trouble anyone by stating what I think the answers are. I will, however, at least put the questions into play.

The first question deals with the fact that these 11 million Mexican immigrants are illegally in the country. I’m fairly certain that this is true and that the number is probably correct. But the question is this: Would these 11 million immigrants bother us if they were in our country legally? In other words, if our immigration system had the capacity to allow these people to enter legally and become American citizens, would anyone be shouting about it?

I ask because, unless you are a direct blood descendant of a Native American, somewhere along the line, your ancestors – and therefore you by association – also immigrated to the United States. The only difference is that your ancestors were allowed to enter. If our system today could handle the volume of immigrants wanting to enter the U.S., and the result was that they were all here legally, would there still be a problem?

Could the real problem be, perhaps, that we don’t want to let other people into the U.S. because we simply don’t want to share?

Several years ago I watched the movie “Gangs of New York”. I didn’t care for the movie too much, but I was fascinated with the very real historical concept that the movie was based on; namely, that the descendants of immigrants who were born in the U.S. in the 1800’s absolutely hated the new immigrants who kept arriving. They didn’t want them coming into “their” country.

So I’ll ask again; would it still be an issue if they were in fact legal residents, or do we just not want someone else messing up a good thing and taking a piece of our pie and this is just a convenient excuse to use so that we don’t have to actually look our own selfishness in the face? All of us being immigrants ourselves from somewhere down the line, what would give us the right to say that other people are not also allowed to immigrate, other than the fact that “we were here first”?

Here are some other questions that no one seems to be asking:

Why do we get so upset about the "burden" illegal immigrants put on our welfare & healthcare systems but we don’t get all bent out of shape on the 80 billion dollar a year Haliburton revenue machine known as the Iraq War? Do we really think that insurance companies would suddenly make healthcare accessible & affordable for everyone if there were no illegal immigrants? Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

Why do we focus so acutely on those illegals – a very tiny portion of that 11 million whole – that are involved with gangs, or drugs, or that get busted for a DUI? Have we, as card-carrying members of the “legal” American society, ever had a problem producing our own home-grown gang members, drug dealers, or sloppy drunks (and in much higher percentages by the way)?

And one big question that really baffles me: Why do we get all upset with Mexicans for taking jobs that we don’t want anyway, and yet we don’t get upset with our own corporate American “Captains of Industry” – fully legal in every sense – when they send jobs that we do want overseas? Whose actions are crippling the average American more?

Several years ago in Casey County, KY, an American company (Oshkosh) closed down a plant here that employed 1,200 people and sent their jobs overseas. To put that into perspective, realize that 1,200 people represents a full 20% of the available workforce of the entire county! Try to comprehend for a moment the economic impact that that single action had on this rural area and the people in it. And yet I’m supposed to be upset with a bunch of poor Mexicans who are trying to feed their families?

These are all just questions, mind you. I’m not saying I know the answers; I’m just asking.

Something else that puzzles me. What is causing this sudden "influx" of illegal Mexican immigrants anyway? What I mean is this: our border with Mexico has pretty much been “open” for 200 years. This was never a big problem before; why now? What has changed in just the past few decades to drive this trend?

I don’t claim to know much about Hispanic culture, but I did learn a few things from working with many Latinos while I lived in Florida. One thing I learned is that they are a hugely family oriented culture (to a point that should shame most Americans). Another is that they are fiercely proud of their heritage and their countries.

Americans often make the mistake of generically lumping all Latin Americans into one big pot, as if everything south of the U.S. were just one big country. But that’s patently not true. Puerto Ricans are Puerto Ricans, Cubans are Cubans, Mexicans are Mexicans, Argentines are Argentines, etc., and none of them likes to be mistaken for anything else. Are we any different in the U.S.?

So knowing that family is very important to Mexicans, and knowing that they love their countries much as we do our own, isn’t it at least a little odd that they would leave both behind to come into the U.S. illegally and live a life as a second class person? Why would they do that?

Because this is the big payoff for that sacrifice: They get a chance to work at a job that most Americans won’t do ourselves under any circumstances for a wage that we would consider absolutely insulting.

So again, what is the real problem here? That Mexicans are invading our country with greedy selfish abandon, or that they come here because they can’t scratch out a decent existence living in Mexico?

If the problem is the latter, building a billion dollar wall will only be a band-aid on the symptom, while the real problem – whatever it is – will still exist. And when the wall fails to resolve the problem (and it will fail because it will only address a symptom instead of the actual problem), what then? Watchtowers, razorwire, & snipers?

Doesn’t all of this "border wall" stuff sound a little bit too much like the Berlin Wall? And wasn’t the destruction of that wall something that the world rejoiced in? Why then would we want to build one of our own?

You may say, But this is different; the Berlin Wall was used to keep people in, our wall will be used to keep people out.

That’s a valid point, I guess, but I think we would be very shortsighted if we failed to recognize the fact that a wall works just as well from either side.

One final question:

Let’s say that we get our wish. Let’s say that we deport all of these pesky illegal aliens back to their side of the border. Let’s say that we build our wall, and let’s even go as far as to say that our beautiful, horizontal monolith does exactly what it was designed to do.

Who then, I ask, would do the jobs that those 11 million people are presently doing? Who would volunteer to work bent over in the sun all day picking lettuce or tobacco for minimum wage? Who would take that place on the assembly line on the night shift at the chicken processing plant? Who would provide maid service for such a bargain basement price? Who would brave those Wisconsin winters just to have the opportunity to hose down stalls at a dairy farm?

Would you? Would any of us?

I’m just asking.

6 comments:

Jenn said...

Happy Birthday, Blaine! Enjoy your day.

Jenn (blog friend of Cat)

Ladyfromthewoods said...

Just a quick....HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Anonymous said...

I like the shift to asking the questions.

Cheers and a very happy birthday to you Blaine.

Rose

Anonymous said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLAINE! Happy 42 - I will join you at 42 in April.

Great article - I had not thought about immigrants that way- once again your writing has helped me to think about things from another point of view! Keep up the good work! Melody Joy

Blaine Staat said...

Thank you all for the birthday wishes (and thank you to Catherine for letting the cat out of the bag!). - Blaine

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday continued :) , Blaine .
I read yoour article about the mexican immigration and the same problem exists in Europe .
Your statement is well balanced and appeals to a just sharing .
It ' s true , in the past , many Algerian came in France having been called here to make jobs French didn 't want to do . And now they have family and children born in France so they are French . And Islam is become the second religion in France after the chistianism mostly catholic here .
We are becoming a multicultural nation but the transition is sometimes hard .
happy birthday again .
In friendship
Michel ( fauquet of Xanga )