Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ellis Island 2010

"Justice for the oppressed and poor!" shout the "advocates" for "undocumented workers." "Restore the rule of law and deport the hardened criminals" scream the proponents of "secure borders." Meanwhile thousands who have the cash and corporate connections are hired by high-tech firms and millions who are looking for work can not find any. Prisons are overrun with illegal immigrants, while many more wait years for their paperwork to navigate the system.

The entire immigration system is broken. Only creative, compassionate and principled transformation will solve the problems created by the competing political and social agendas.

The Left wants immediate amnesty, easy transit for all people and a permanent "working" class looking to the federal government for help to ensure their hold on power.

The Right revels in cheap labor and open borders to prop up global capitalism, with little regard for labor conditions or the enslavement of millions.

Corrupt government agencies on both sides of our border with Mexico permit drug lords to control vast stretches of territory and keep the populace in fear. Meanwhile, honest border guards are subjected to kangaroo trials and landowners in California and Arizona are prosecuted for protecting their property!

The Left wants to atone for 1848 (not understanding the historical context) and "redress" the oppressions of Manifest Destiny. Guilty social engineers want to redefine what it means to be American. Some even want to carve out a new "bronze nation" in the Southwest (as they fail to see the reverse racism in their proposals).

The Right wants secure borders, a defined pathway to citizenship and better screening. But because this screening involves non-Whites, they are branded as racists.

Compassionate clergy and charity leaders have the tasks of loving and serving families in the middle - people here illegally wanting a better life.

The Mexican government cynically cackles at our struggles because money sent home by their citizens is the second highest source of revenue, after the petrodollars. They can no longer claim "colonialism" or "Yankee oppression" - their own corruption is so endemic that their resources never find their way to the barrios.

How do we end the impasse? How do we be the welcoming land of freedom symbolized by the Ellis Island Center of the late 19th and early 20th century? How do we secure our borders without lapsing back to 1920s xenophobia? Can we be compassionate, pragmatic and principled? Can we be a good neighbor with Mexico without yielding sovereignty and being corrupted by their regime?

There are four foundations to a new immigration policy. If any of these is missing, we lose the exceptional nature of our invitation to the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

One: Erect "Welcome Centers" for all who wish to be part of our nation. Screening for disease, criminal records and political affiliations is not oppression - it is protection for our millions who deserve to feel safe.

Two: Secure borders are essential to freedom and safety. People attempting to sneak in must be immediately arrested, entered into a tracking system and sent back to their home country, unless they can prove they are real political dissidents or have a compelling human rights case.

Three: Create two tracks for those who wish to live and work in the USA: A citizenship track (including classes on government, history and English) and temporary resident/worker track that allows one to legally register for work, while the file is updated annually. Temporary residents should be encouraged to become citizens - but citizenship carries with it responsibility as well as privilege.

Four: Work tirelessly for justice on both sides of our border, confronting the corrupt factories of Juarez that enslave the vulnerable and the drug lords who feed the habit of too many Americans.

Great ideals, Charlie, but what about the current overpopulation in our prisons and the overrunning of social services by those here illegally?

The answers are simple and stunning: Deportation for all "undocumented" violent felons, immediately and without apology. For the people here working without legal status, register all of them for one of the two tracks in the next twelve months. This is not a blanket amnesty nor an unconscionable "get in line" strategy. Apart from a criminal record or direct ties to terrorism, no person will be deported if they register and start the normal process of citizenship and/or residential work status.

We know that millions are here illegally. If we find few registering, the key is not selective arrests of the poor, but prosecution of the companies and agencies that use (and abuse) these hard-working folks. We do not need people paying fines or leaving the country. We need to redeem a poor policy history and establish good boundaries for the future.

By the way, recent polls reveal that there are many unemployed American citizens who would take jobs currently held by illegals. It is a myth to suggest otherwise. What is not a myth is the hypocrisy of so many who employ illegals under the table. Note to friends who hire "day labor" in front of Home Depot or Lowes: you are part of the problem if you yell for secure borders but fail to live it out in your lives. the solution is not arresting the workers - let's help them get on track to normalization and make them part of the normal labor pool.

Someone is already angry at me for using the term "illegal." Sorry, friend, but it is an accurate term, just like Islamofacist (invested by Algerian Muslims angry at the terrorists) or labeling William Ayers as a terrorist.

The millions in the middle - hard-working families here without documentation - deserve something better than resentment from citizens and oppression by employers. They deserve a clear, principled process that welcomes them to the American Dream.

Will we find the courage to change or continue our shouting?

3 comments:

Armin Joe said...

Although I agree with the four foundations to a new immigration policy, I would like to ask for the clarification of a few concepts.
First, I really liked the proposal of Welcoming Centers. These centers are very much needed and the data gathered through them could inform future discussions on immigration. However, why would you ask for “political affiliations”? How could we assess how legitimate the response of a person is concerning his or her political affiliation? Which political affiliation counts, the one in the country of origin or in the host country?
Second, I agree secure borders are essential to freedom and safety. Also, every nation is entitled to secure and protect their territory. However, how would you define “a compelling human rights case”? Whose standards are being used to assess what is a legitimate “compelling human rights case”?
Third, the proposal for two tracks for those who wish to live and work in the USA is a great idea! At the same time, allowances must be made for elderly people (either coming in or already in the USA) when it comes to speaking and writing English. Also, as long as these tracks do not involve going back to the home country before receiving a legal status (temporary/resident worker or citizen), undocumented people will most likely comply in masses.
Also, I agree “‘undocumented’ violent felons” must be deported. However, in the same paragraph you say: “Apart from a criminal record or direct ties to terrorism, no person will be deported….” I think for the sake of clarity and consistency the sentence should read: “Apart from a violent criminal record or direct ties to terrorism, no person will be deported….”
You say: “By the way, recent polls reveal that there are many unemployed American citizens who would take jobs currently held by illegals. It is a myth to suggest otherwise.” Could you provide the source of the poll? Polls are easily manipulated to say anything; thus, the importance of the source.
Companies should be made responsible for hiring undocumented people, not because they are taking the jobs of American citizens, but because they are underpaying and mistreating defenseless human beings. I say “defenseless” because undocumented immigrants can neither complain to the Department of Labor nor sue their employers. The reason American companies hire undocumented people is to maximize their gains by underpaying their undocumented employees. These companies are disregarding the laws of the United States, for the sake of a bigger profit.
I don’t mean to imply that undocumented people are not at fault, because they did not use the proper channels to enter the USA. What I want to say is that their reasons for working illegally in the USA is more understandable (support your family and seek a better future).
I agree the term “illegal” is accurate. However, the term “undocumented immigrant” may better serve the purpose of a clear voice above the noise.

“Messenger to the Thoughtful" said...

Armin - thank you for your insights - they will make me a better writer! I agree with all your points and I will quote explicit sources in forthcoming columns.

“Messenger to the Thoughtful" said...

For anyone reading - "explicit" sources is better enumerated as "specific" - referring to polls and statistics, not salacious material!