No Time for Immigrants: Part 3

SIx months of the year I am what they call a “Snow Bird.”   Karen prefers we are called “Winter Residents.”   We live in Arizona City.   It is south of I-8 and just west of I-10.  It has been a major corridor for coyotes, drug runners and illegal or undocumented immigrants. There is hardly a week goes by that we do not have coffee shop stories of found pot bales, abandoned vehicles, spotters hiding in caves and illegal’s coming to homes asking for water or food. These stories are supplemented by our almost daily observations of border patrol vehicle searches and regular high speed police runs. One of our visitors commented that she had never seen so many police vehicles in her whole life as in our area. Last fall, one elderly resident who lived out in the desert was found murdered in her home. Nothing was missing but no suspects have been found. There are many folks in my area who will not venture out in the desert without being armed and there are many areas where you are warned to stay clear of. I routinely jog in the Casa Grande Mountains and while relatively safe, there have been drug busts and roundups of drugs and illegal immigrants within the past few months.  A short time ago,  I found a rifle with a telescopic site and a sawed off butt behind a cactus. I turned it into the police station where they were not too concerned about it. To date, my biggest danger has been a cactus that is known as a “jumping Cholla.” These things seem to magically find a way to get attached to you and their barbs are quite painful. I have had at least six attacks by them during the past few months.

The picture I am trying to paint for you, coupled with the fact of the ongoing drug war in Mexico, which is only about 120 miles from our front door (47,000 deaths and counting), is designed to give you some idea of the context in which many Arizonians find themselves. Gated communities, suspicion of neighbors, fear of criminal break-ins and an overall worry about the poor economy, housing foreclosures, and jobs (Arizona has led the nation in many of these problems) gives rise to a citizenry which is far from tolerant of anyone coming over illegally into this country. There is a great deal of fear in the nation as a whole ever since 9/11 and nowhere I think is it more evident than in Arizona. Fear and tolerance do not go hand in hand. However as Ben Franklin noted “Those who would give up their freedom for safety will soon find they have neither.” It is difficult to counsel this advice though when neighborhoods cannot be made safe and people are afraid they will become victims. So what does this have to do with stopping illegal immigration? Let me turn the clock back to help answer this question.

In 1963, I was sent to an Air Force station located in Osceola, Wisconsin. Coming from the east coast, I could not have told you where Wisconsin was if my life depended upon it. Furthermore, to be dropped into the middle of “Dairy Farm USA” was a major culture shock. Nevertheless, I adapted by marrying a woman from Thorp, Wisconsin and having my daughter Christina born in Osceola. Life was good for me in the service but money was short. I found local work doing migrant farm work and finally getting a part-time job (to supplement my service income) at a local nursery called Abrahamsons. It was at this place, that I had my first meetings with Mexican farm workers. Each season, Abrahamsons’s would bring in workers from Mexico to work at the nursery. The work involved digging, balling, burlapping, loading and then digging to replant trees for wealthy buyers in Edina and the Twin Cities. It was hard work. We dug and loaded from 6 AM to often after 9 PM at night. I was paid one dollar per hour. I do not know what my Mexican counterparts were paid because they could not speak English, I could not speak Spanish and my bosses warned me to never discuss salary with the other workers. Thus, I spent my days working in the fields, sharing food but no conversation with the other workers. Believe me when I say there were few local non-Hispanic people applying for these jobs. I have since been to other areas of the USA including Mackinac Michigan and Door County Wisconsin, where they rely on immigrant workers to provide services to locals and tourists. To say that illegal or legal immigrant workers are taking jobs and bread from the mouths of Americans is a shallow and false bit of rhetoric. I have heard it said that if these undesirable jobs were not taken by immigrants then the wages would go up and US workers would then apply for them. This bit of fantasy ignores two possibilities: 1.The work could go overseas to even lower wage workers or 2, The Law of Substitution says that other higher value added services could replace services that become too costly.  In any event, I have yet to see the “older” immigrants from America who are now second generation citizens clamoring for these hard dirty and low paying jobs.  

So year after year, from the middle 40’s to the late 60’s, immigrants came over from Mexico and South America on a seasonal basis. Each year millions of these Bracero program workers would come and work in the USA. Most would go back home after the work was over. Some would apply for citizenship and stay in the US. The Bracero program favored Hispanic workers (there did not seem to be many Canadians or Europeans looking for farm work) and it seemed to create a rather orderly and neat influx and outflow of labor seasonally needed by US employers. Then the program was changed. Barred from working seasonally and denied access to work permits, many Mexicans and other Latinos took the easy road. Illegal yes, enforced no. That is until 9/11, when all hell broke loose. Never in the past 100 years had US citizens felt so vulnerable as after 9/11. Fearing for an influx of terrorists and watching unparalleled amounts of drugs crossing the border, we reacted to our fears by passing the Patriot Act, by beefing up Homeland Security, by building Border Walls, by making it a felony to repeatedly try to cross our borders, by greatly expanding the Border Patrol and by building large detention centers in the Southwest. My county Pinal is often referred to as “Penal County” and has numerous detention centers to house drug runners and detainees awaiting deportation. The number of anti-immigration bills started to proliferate state by state as the Federal government seemed impotent to deal with the crisis. Citizens armed themselves and formed border posses and watchdog groups to police our borders with Mexico. No one really seemed worried about those Canadians. I suppose ever since prohibition was rescinded, the Canadians have stopped smuggling whiskey across the border and are less of a threat to the US.  🙂

So let’s ask a simple question here?  Why do all of these illegals come to the USA? The answer is easy. Two reasons: Jobs and drugs. I wonder if the solution to the problem seems as evident to you now as it does to me. First, legalize drugs. Let the government tax them and let anyone sell them just like cigarettes, coffee and alcohol are sold. We have spent billions on a fruitless drug war and we have accomplished nothing. Furthermore, in light of all the drugs that Americans take, it is a hypocritical war to begin with. It is a war waged by idiots and morons who keep our prisons, courtrooms, and lawyers sucking our taxes and wages for no apparent gain. It is perhaps the most ludicrous endeavor that has ever been created.  It makes Alice in Wonderland look like a reality show.  We have become so blinded by the anti-drug rhetoric that we no longer have the ability to see reality. What did we learn from Prohibition?  “THOSE WHO FORGET THE PAST ARE CONDEMNED TO REPEAT IT!” Banning alcohol did not stop the use of liquor nor did it curtail organized crime. On the contrary, it gave organized crime the income and mandate to expand its power and territory and become even more powerful and dangerous. The same is true for the South American drugs, primarily pot and coke that we are trying to banish. The drug cartels have become so rich and powerful, they are immune to any efforts to abolish them.

The second reason illegals come over is to find work and to have a better standard of living.  To help others accomplish this, we need to create a new policy for temporary and migratory workers that represents the nature of work needed by immigrants and by employers in the USA. This policy needs to be fair and equitable but also realistic. The relationship we have with Mexico cannot be dictated by the relationships we have with Canada, Europe or any other countries. We need an equitable policy, but there is a difference between equity and equality. A fair and just policy must create a win-win both for our nation and for the immigrants we give visas or sanctuary to. There cannot be one size fits all for this policy. Part of this policy must be humanitarian. It is in our constitution and in our national charter to help others escape from tyranny, poverty and other calamities.  Part of our immigration policy must also be self-serving. We need to help our country become stronger and to better meet the needs of competing in a global economy. Realistically, we may have a cost attached to immigration.

Despite many arguments on the negative and positive costs of immigration, the best evidence to support a more liberal immigration policy is to look at our success as a nation over the last 250 years. Can anyone doubt that it was immigration that built and fueled the development of this great nation? We may need to balance short-term costs with long-term gains in a realistic immigration policy but to a good policy needs to be slanted towards tolerance for immigration and not intolerance. 

I have one final idea. Let’s take the development of an immigration policy away from the politicians and appoint a group of immigration experts from a wide range of viewpoints. Take twelve experts on this subject and put them in a room together. Give them four weeks to hammer out a new immigration policy. When they are satisfied that such a policy is realistic and equitable, let them distribute this policy to the newspapers and Internet websites for a review by American citizens. After four weeks of review, let there be a national referendum on the policy. A plurality of sixty percent should be needed to pass. If sixty percent can not be reached, the policy will be returned to the experts for further changes and amendments. Once a plurality of American voters has accepted this policy, it would be sent to the Senate and House for review and to become law. Woe to them if they could not finalize this policy.

Time for Questions:

There are many things you can find wrong with my suggestions. I can hear all the reasons why these ideas would not work. The question I have for you is this: “Can you find any better ideas.” The definition of craziness is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Maybe it is time we tried some new ideas; as Einstein said: “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” We need to discard our prejudices and biases and see things in a new light. What do you think needs to be done? When was the last time you wrote your representative to express your ideas? When was the last time you went to a party caucus or actively worked to help elect a representative? What could you do to help create a new and fair immigration policy for this country?

Life is just beginning.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cg
    Sep 04, 2013 @ 15:33:47

    I have been reading your posts for several days and have found them enjoyable and thought provoking.

    I agree, we do need to make a stance on our immigration policies and inforce them. It does seem our elected officials are unable to accomplish this. Infact, they don’t seem to be capable of making and following through with any decisions.

    It amazes me that our elected officials can be so indecisive and accomplish so little and we continue to support them. The average citizen would never be retained as an employee if he/she had similar work ethics.

    Maybe letting a group of nonpolitician experts review issues and present solutions would be a good alternative to many of todays problems. You brought up some good points.

    Reply

    • johnpersico
      Sep 04, 2013 @ 17:37:12

      Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your taking the time to reply and let me know what you think. I agree that our present stalemate is outrageous and all citizens should be upset over this situation. Thanks for the kind remarks.

      Reply

  2. Greg Gorman
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 05:11:41

    Immigration 3

    1. There are many things you can find wrong with my suggestions. I can hear all the reasons why these ideas would not work. The question I have for you is this: “Can you find any better ideas.” The definition of craziness is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Maybe it is time we tried some new ideas; as Einstein said: “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” We need to discard our prejudices and biases and see things in a new light.

    My first issue with your suggestions is to link immigration to the legalization or decriminalization of drugs. The chaos and inutility of these laws are much larger and apply to much greater population of America than those with immigration problems. In addition, the vast majority of immigrants do not arrive here carrying drugs nor looking for drugs. By inserting a drug connection you harm the ability of Americans to see these people as honest hardworking individuals trying to improve their lives and that of their families.
    My second issue is that there is no National Charter nor does the Constitution address the rights of aliens. There are subsequent laws that have been passed by Congress which identify how the government may permit an alien to seek asylum in the US. This is not however constitutional law. Within these laws you will find that undocumented workers have no rights, albeit the UN contains ample number of documents requesting that certain rights to all men, immigrant and citizen be respected. Thus the policies that you wish to be created must be generated by the Congress of the US. The fairness, equity and justice that you desire are contradicted by the bias you wish to offer to Mexicans. There are other nationalities that enter in the same capacity as Mexicans, e.g. Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, some African nations, etc. Aren’t all men created equal? There are plenty of Irish, Canadian, Indian, Pakistani, etc. Must they too suffer the bias that you wish to institute for the Mexicans?
    Finishing your second issue, I will admit that I can’t think of a better law than one which is fair, just, equitable, and win-win. Hopefully you’ll fill in the details later.
    With respect to your final thoughts, who are these 12 men? Perhaps you were thinking of Mathew, Mark, Luke, John etc.? Who will select them? Will they be vetted? Who do you think should choose them? So these 12 men meet and agree on an immigration policy. The information is disseminated to the public and after 4 weeks of review we get an opinion. How would this information be gathered and authenticated? Never mind, we need a national referendum. How do you get that? It can only be initiated by an amendment to the Constitution, which is why there have been so few of them. As you indicated there could a cost associated with this process which is iterative, and with the ramifications of this policy in its application to the immigrant community. And this cost, who will decide how to fund it? That’s right – the House of Representatives.
    2. What do you think needs to be done?
    John, I hope that you will forgive me for picking on your ideas but I do that to create an open platform to present my own.
    First, we have to diffuse the fear, confusion, and sense of injustice that exists within a sizeable proportion of this nation. There is no easier way then to insist that the border be closed, all resident alien visas be tracked, a database indicating the legality of such a resident to be hired, and enforceable laws that permit authorities to penalize those who hire persons who have no legal right to work.
    Secondly, for those who arrived illegally, have lived here for 10 years or more, and have a clean record, they should be accorded the right to obtain a green card. Obtaining a green card is no easy trail to walk. But given the tacit approval for entry to the US by our industries for many generations, this privilege should be accorded to them. The children who arrived in the US with their parents should be offered citizenship at 18 and resident privileges immediately.
    Finally, to stem the size of people seeking entry to the US, we need to create a foreign policy which promotes economic growth in those countries where most of the demand for entry resides.
    I do feel that our ancestors left their homes with a great deal of apprehension. I find it difficult to believe that one would their native land if they could see a bright future for themselves at home.
    For this reason, I believe that everyone would be much happier if our foreign policy included money and methods to improve their existing economy and thus remove the necessity of leaving relatives, friends, and culture. This nation and its priorities have change greatly since the 19th century. Our doors are still open, but they are open in measured, fair, and prudent fashion.

    3. When was the last time you wrote your representative to express your ideas?
    As I stated previously, as a member of Organization for Action, an issue based 501 c 4 which seeks to support progressive policies through by political action, I am always sending out my thoughts to congressman of all stripes to encourage their support of our projects. I would say I’ve been doing this a couple of times a week for several months now.
    4. When was the last time you went to a party caucus or actively worked to help elect a representative?
    How about 2 weeks ago to support Cory Booker for senator of NJ?
    5. What could you do to help create a new and fair immigration policy for this country?
    I will do what I continue to do which is to create common ground, and try to break the myopia that exists between these 2 reigning parties. We must never dismiss ideas simply because they differ from our own. Everyone has their truth. You have described the citizens of Arizona with great skill, and no one could read this without having some empathy for their plight.
    I know in my own group many simply do not like republicans and their policies. With respect to immigration they want to secure the border. I try to point out that securing the border is a common sense place to start and if we would cooperate such that this could be accomplished, then the fair, equitable, and just policy that we seek would have a much better chance of being a reality.

    Reply

    • johnpersico
      Sep 08, 2013 @ 15:08:15

      Greg, immigration reform and drug reform are linked. You do not have the data but in the SW where I live about 1/3 of the illegals are carrying drugs over for money or to finance a new life in the US.

      Second, Mexico has a border with us. Obviously Pakistan,Haiti and the other countries you mention do not. Don’t confuse equity with equality. All things are not created equal. We never had and never will have equal relations with all countries. You are being more idealistic here than I am with suggesting a referendum. Mexico has a long border with us, a long history of migratory immigration patterns with us (not to mention we stole about 1/3 or our present land from them) and Rwanda, Rhodesia etc. do not. By the way, I did say we need an immigration policy that addresses the needs of oppressed people seeking asylum from other countries. However, a “uniform” all nations are equal policy is not practical or realistic or even just.

      “A fair and just policy must create a win-win both for our nation and for the immigrants we give visas or sanctuary to. There cannot be one size fits all for this policy. Part of this policy must be humanitarian. It is in our constitution and in our national charter to help others escape from tyranny, poverty and other calamities.”

      “The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR) is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines who is a refugee, and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum. The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals. The Convention also provides for some visa-free travel for holders of travel documents issued under the convention.” The USA is a signatory to the Protocols defined in this policy in 1967. Thus call it charter or Treaty, we have repeatedly said we have responsibilities towards helping people from other countries whether for humanitarian reasons or simple economic reasons. A lawyer would add that the weigh of past precedence would conclusively prove that the USA has demonstrated a responsibility to help resettle those needing asylum or relief from economic conditions.

      The United States provides refuge to persons who have been persecuted or have a well-founded
      fear of persecution through two programs: one for refugees (persons outside the U.S. and their
      immediate relatives) and one for asylees (persons in the U.S. and their immediate relatives). This
      Office of Immigration Statistics Annual Flow Report provides information on the number of persons
      admitted to the United States as refugees or granted asylum in the United States in 2011.1
      http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_rfa_fr_2011.pdf

      Refugee Resettlement in the United States
      The United States is proud of its history of welcoming immigrants and refugees. The U.S. refugee resettlement program reflects the United States’ highest values and aspirations to compassion, generosity and leadership. Since 1975, Americans have welcomed over 3 million refugees from all over the world. Refugees have built new lives, homes and communities in towns and cities in all 50 states. http://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/

      Third: How would the “task force” be put together. This is really a trivial issue since task forces and commissions are put together all the time. Have the Democrats select six and have the Republicans select six. The more difficult question is as you noted, how would a national referendum take place. However, the ability to do this with the Internet is no longer idealistic and could be managed. The way exists if only the will exists.

      Fourth: I am glad you are doing your bit to help this country. I think it can and will make a difference. I have written all my Senators and Representative and signed at least 4 petitions to support Immigration Reform and NOT to attack Syria just in the last week. Imagine if all of the people that felt like you and I do were calling, emailing and petitioning. I think there are many people who do a great deal to support change but I see too many who do nothing and think it is hopeless.

      Fifth: As far as promoting economic growth, world incomes per capita have been rising for the past twenty years. Not necessarily equitably but overall in the right direction. http://data.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/gsapril2011.pdf

      Nevertheless:

      More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening.

      The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income. http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats

      Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.Source http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats

      Finally, how can you say that “This nation and its priorities have change greatly since the 19th century. Our doors are still open, but they are open in measured, fair, and prudent fashion.”

      I see nothing fair, measured or prudent in our current immigration policy. It is a travesty. It reflects outdated norms and is currently being driven by fear and perhaps greed. Have you traveled over the border recently to Mexico? Come down to Arizona where I live and see the situation. Talk to “illegals” and talk to locals and then say we have a Measured, Fair and Prudent policy.

      Greg, No matter our differences, we are still closer on the issues and goals. I think we often disagree on how to get there, but I think we want the same ends. I don’t see greed or selfishness driving either of our motives. As I said before, if we have the intentions or will, we can work out the details. There is always a way if the will exists.

      Thanks for the comments.

      Reply

  3. Fred Broussard
    Nov 26, 2013 @ 05:09:34

    I like your method for reaching agreement on a policy. Once a policy is developed, the biggest barrier I see to developing solutions is the variation in describing the problems. There are corrective actions and preventative actions needed for solutions to prioritized problems but most people don’t seem to know the difference between theses type actions.
    Systems thinking by understanding, compassionate people can arrive at consensus on defining the problems, their priority as well as solutions. In my opinion, leadership like that of Presidents Reagan and Kennedy is needed but it’s nowhere in sight.
    Like persons trapped in dysfunctional codependent loops, we only change with great pain.
    Thanks for a good work that’s helping people gain understanding.

    Reply

    • johnpersico
      Nov 26, 2013 @ 18:25:22

      Very true Fred. We need leadership,but we also need politicians that don’t see the world in terms of black and white. There is no room for oaths and rigid positions in politics. Such positions are destroying our democratic process. I am glad they are gutting this idiotic filibuster.

      Reply

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