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Illegal Immigration

I have held off exhorting on this subject, with both barrels, for a long time. The reason is that most of my friends are on the opposite side of the issue from me. Personal feelings and loyalty are important to me. I approach with hesitation the action of telling all of them that I think they are totally off-base, and saying that it can only be caused by the fact that they have not considered the subject logically and rationally. Who would enjoy attacking one’s friends like that? However, my stomach can only stand so much. It is the time to come forth with an article, a diatribe if you will, on the subject.

What is the important part of any issue facing the United States? It seems to me, that by definition, the crux must be whether the result of any point of view benefits or harms this country. If an analysis of an issue shows that it detracts from the advancement of the basic principles of the nation, whether economically, morally, ethically, or legally, it should be opposed.

Some Background

I’ve been considering illegal immigration for decades, and my opinions on it have evolved. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, I was politically involved as a socialist. At the time, that philosophy seemed to explain things better than any other. However, from the very beginning, I had misgivings about some of the answers given to my questions. When, finally, I was expelled from the organization to which I belonged, I was so glad to get out. I was very disappointed that so many of my friends and comrades were distraught about it.

As time went by and what came to be called “political correctness” took hold, I became more and more alienated from the politics of the left and of the liberal fellow travelers of the left. The principles that had led me to the left never changed, though. I just stopped using labels. However, the alienation I felt was not a difference of how the world should be improved, but of the excuses many lefties made to adopt as their own the various cockamamie ideas propounded as legitimate solutions to the problems of the time.

One of the first to strike me was the characterization of people who entered the United States, in violation of the immigration laws, as ‘undocumented immigrants.’ The idea propounded was that those people were not law violators, but just folks whose papers were not quite in order. Baloney!!! Why were they undocumented, a reasonable person would ask? Obviously, because they are in this country illegally. This was was so transparently an excuse to engage in dishonesty that it could not be accepted by anyone of rational mind.

At that time I was not yet considering the total effect of such immigration on the country. I was only thinking of the dishonesty involved in defining things that way. How could people whom I had known and respected engage in such a sham?? Regardless, I still had sympathy for the people who were entering the country illegally, and had not yet figured out that there were negative implications to the country as a whole.

I have a close friend, a well-respected academic, who wrote a book on immigration from Mexico. I suggested a title, which he accepted, that conveyed my sympathy at that time. After all, I had studied Mexico and traveled there a number of times. I had found that the Mexican people were very warm and simpatico people. My personal music collection included a great deal of Mexican music. In addition, I had numerous Mexican friends. Why shouldn’t I suggest a sympathetic title for my friend’s book?

Evolution of Ideas

Eventually, I started thinking more on the subject. What would be the effect on this country of basing national immigration policy on a lie, a deliberate misinterpretation of reality? The people in question were not accidentally classified as folks without proper documentation, but were people who had deliberately contravened U.S. immigration laws when they crossed this country’s borders.

Didn’t I have sympathy for people who waded the river (or whatever) to get a better life? Of course I did, but I also realized that any pickpocket, car thief, burglar or drug dealer could rationalize his or her own activities that way, too. Making a better life for yourself at other people’s expense is not the way things are supposed to be done in this country, according to its ideals. That’s why workers, unions and Americans in general have been fighting for over a century against companies that have adulterated foods, pumped harmful chemicals into the air and the water, and maintained unsafe work environments, where people got maimed and killed on the job. Allowing people to continue sneaking under the fence and undermining the system here, that people have struggled to build, would be just the same as scrapping all of the health, environment and safety laws that we have managed to put in place. Wages and benefits are being cut partly because illegal aliens are willing to work for less. All sympathy for the illegal foreigner, none for the American workers who have struggled and sacrificed to improve conditions in the United States is not going to help the situation here.

Moreover, does this mean that those who followed the rules, made the proper applications and waited for legal approval for entry into this country were just a bunch of saps, because they didn’t seize the opportunity and cross the border illegally, and get a leg up on legality by doing so? The very idea disgusted me! I’ve never liked people who cut in line. The idea that liberals and leftists supported the concept that those who were already in the United States illegally should have a “path to citizenship” over those who chose to follow the legal process, seemed contrary to all concepts of fairness and legality. How awful such ideas were! They had raised an ideological barrier between us on this issue that seemed impermeable, even though we shared the same long-term goals.

African Americans

In utter contrast to the “feeling sorry for” segment regarding immigrants is the situation of African Americans, already a part of American society. They worked astoundingly hard in the 1950s and ’60s to move the country away from the old, racist “Jim Crow” attitudes and laws, with great success. The old laws were undone and new laws protected their rights and equality as citizens. Blacks had new opportunities to advance themselves in society. All that was needed were the jobs and education to overcome poverty and ignorance imposed upon them by this society in days past.

The opportunities for many were dashed, especially those who had not been well educated by American schools up to that point. The floodgates of immigration were opened. Between 1970 and 1980, about 4.5 million legal immigrants entered the country (and a certain amount of illegals). Many of these scooped up the jobs that should, by rights, have been available for Blacks. Moreover, with more people competing for those jobs, the opportunities improve the wages and benefits for those jobs evaporated, too. The illegals worked for less and dragged everything down. Don’t forget that this period was the beginning of the deindustrialization of the country, and the availability of good, well-paying, union factory jobs available to those with less education started to disappear.

These trends increased afterwards, with more and more legal and illegal immigrants entering the country, and more and more good jobs leaving. African Americans were among the most squeezed by these trends, and a growing Black underclass was the result. The promise of advancement and a greater share in the U.S. economy was gutted by this increase in immigration. Of course, business rejoiced. Not only were they able to continue paying low wages, but they had to deal with fewer Blacks, who were traditionally a highly militant and pro-union segment of U.S. society. How about a little sympathy for them?

Unions

What really clinched my view that something had to be done about this support of illegal immigration by so many, however, was how unions had started intervening in the issue. The position of unions had changed, radically, if readers will excuse the pun. Many radicals from the ’60s and ’70s eventually found their way to the labor movement. Many in the movement in those years, including me, advocated such things, but the idea initially fell on deaf ears. This changed.

Unfortunately, many of the radicals who made the move most successfully were not those who wanted to enhance and reform traditional industrial unionism, but were those who wished to change the labor movement to suit their New Left, liberal-ish, feminist, “progressive” new-thought, which was quite different from traditional American labor radicalism. Eventually, more and more of those radicals, due to their dedication and activism, moved into positions of leadership as the old guard of labor retired or died.

I don’t mean to say that the leadership of the labor movement didn’t need changing. It did, because it had been slowly but surely strangling unions from the top by continuing the Cold War, even McCarthyite, anti-democratic style of leadership, and control of the membership of most American unions. Unfortunately, the newer generation of union leaders didn’t do much about democratizing unions. They mostly replaced the old leadership with themselves and continued the rule from the top. They assumed things would be better simply because of their own politics. They replaced one set of dictators with another that presumed that they were more progressive and benevolent than the former.

With the decline of industry, and thus industrial unions, the impact of this new generation of labor leadership was felt most strongly in white-collar and service industry unions. There was definitely more energy and organizing being done, and that was certainly good for unions. However, there was a dark side, and that showed up in the issue discussed here, among others. Traditionally, unions concentrated upon what was good for their members, that is, American workers. They paid the dues, and were the ones who had fought and sacrificed to make the social gains that most of us in the U.S. benefit from.

Illegal immigration, however, did not have the same goals. Illegal immigrants didn’t have the same ideals of the immigrants of the past. First and foremost, they did not have respect for U.S. and its laws and abide by them. Many illegals, particularly those from Mexico, kept their loyalty with the old country, not the one in which they lived. They didn’t contribute their earnings, as U.S. workers have traditionally done, to their new communities, but sent them back to Mexico to improve that country, not this one.

Worse, they were willing to work for less than American workers, and thus undermined the gains that American and their unions had made over the last century or so. The labor movement has traditionally had a word for workers who behave like this — SCABS! That is, by and large, how illegal immigrants have functioned. Unfortunately, union leaders have been too blinded by their personal ideologies to recognize this and to act accordingly. That was not always the case. For example, when César Chávez was organizing the United Farm Workers union, he had no hesitation about calling immigration when employers were using illegals to impede his organizing efforts. To do such a thing today would get a union organizer fired.

The New Leaders

The new leadership of some unions, such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), held New Left sympathies for the downtrodden of the world that overwhelmed their feelings for the problems of American workers. This showed itself in the support they gave to illegal immigrants, no matter the problems those illegals caused for the rest of the country and its workers. These goals were much the same as those espoused by most liberals. Unfortunately, they also matched the goals of many businesses who wanted to exploit the illegal immigrants to drive down wages and decrease the power of unions. The liberals and the left were playing right into the hands of the most exploitative businesses.

I first had my eyes opened really wide when I, as a local union employee, took a course for union activists on how to deal with immigration issues. It was not at all what I expected. The course was taught by someone from SEIU, which was flush with the success of the Justice for Janitors campaign. It had organized low-wage custodial workers in commercial buildings, a very good thing to do. I learned that the SEIU was very aware that many of the people they represented were illegal aliens. The union had made the decision to cater to the illegals, and had negotiated into their janitor contracts clauses to protect the jobs of the illegals in case they got deported. The jobs were to be held open for a certain amount of time so that the workers had the opportunity to sneak back into this country again and reclaim the job.

It’s one thing for a union to say that the immigration agents should stay out of any union organization effort; companies were using them to spirit away union supporters and take away the chances for a union for the legal residents involved. The immigration people could sort things out after the vote has been taken, to the detriment of the union. It’s quite another thing to put into labor union contracts provisions to aid and abet violation of the immigration laws. I was flabbergasted!!

It wasn’t just the immediate aiding and abetting illegal immigration that bothered me. More important is the problem unions have always had of trying to force employers to live up to the letter of the labor laws that protect American workers. How can unions hold the high ground of enforcing the labor and safety laws if they are themselves subverting the immigration laws of this country? It was completely unethical, never mind suicide in the long-term collective bargaining realm!

I also watched a bargaining unit the union represented destroy itself. There were a significant number of illegals working in the plant. They were so fearful because of their own circumstances that many were not willing to stand up and be counted for the union, in the face of an arrogant and nasty employer. There were never enough people to conduct actions that would help the unit improve its circumstances. Eventually, the local union, since it didn’t have infinite resources to pour into a dry hole, had to disclaim the bargaining unit, and throw all of the employees to the wolves.

Other union leaders, not themselves radicals from the ’60s and ’70s, fell for the same ideas, because they were used to caving in the the policies of the Democratic Party. That party was itself caving in to the ideas of the liberals, as they had been for decades, even though liberals today are not the same as liberals of forty years ago. The result, as we can see if we look, is not only the betrayal of long-term labor allies, the African Americans of this country, but more. We can see the continued decline of real wages and the continuing change of the United States into a Third World-like country, with low wages, low working standards, and, eventually low safety and environmental standards, too.

Hurling Epithets and Dishonesty

It’s disappointing that, in a democracy in which people are supposed to discuss issues and try to come to an agreement, many choose to trade in dishonest information, lie, and degrade and insult those who disagree with them. It’s become common, and no portion of the political spectrum is innocent of it. On this issue, those who try to claim the high ground by calling themselves progressives or liberals are down in the muck. Instead of defending their point of view with rational arguments, they try to denigrate their opponents by calling them racists. It makes me wonder if there isn’t some pathological altruism going on.

In order to make some epithet like that stick, it needs to be based on fact. However, there are no facts to support it. Against whom are their opponents supposed to have such a racist animus? There are illegal immigrants from all races. Perhaps the majority are from Mexico. How are naturalized citizens from Mexico and those U.S. citizens of Mexican extraction, who oppose illegal immigration, racists? Such tactics are used by those who don’t have any good answers to support their point of view. And if a point of view irrationally favors foreigners illegally in this country over Americans, I would think that otherwise rational people would abandon such a viewpoint.

Continuing what I said above, why not tell the truth and not try to distort things? When someone from another country is in the United States in violation of the law, the person is an illegal alien. Trying to camouflage the truth by referring to him or her as someone who is “undocumented” or even an “illegal immigrant?” A true immigrant is someone who immigrates here in accordance with U.S. law. Others are just illegal aliens. Such avoidance of the truth does not say much for the character of the people making such statements.

To take this subject a little further, those who are taking a position in favor of the presence of the illegal aliens tend to characterize their adversaries as opponents if immigration. Rallies and demonstrations are called under the rubric of “immigrant rights.” This is yet another attempt to distort and cloud the issue, instead of addressing the points that those on the other side of the issue raise. That’s yet another lie. Their adversaries are only against illegal immigration. As to legal immigration, people’s views run the gamut of opinions. No one is attacking the rights of legal immigrants, but this distortion tries to make it sound that way. In fact, those people are supporting “illegal aliens’ rights,” but that doesn’t sound so good, does it?

Another common attitude is this: Why is it that a proud Mexican is someone to be lauded, but a proud American is someone to be despised? Mexicans are seen as victims of their corrupt and authoritarian government, but Americans are blamed and identified with the wrongs of theirs. Such a double standard is dishonest and hypocritical. There really is an American culture and many people are proud of it and the country’s ideals and want to protect them.

The Border

People in this country who live away from the border with Mexico don’t really have a clue about how difficult it is for the people who live there, and in the border states flooded with illegal immigrants. The illegals hire coyotecriminals and drug transporters to get them across the border. One of those coyotes or narcos killed an Arizona rancher, and another shot a Border Patrol agent, and fired on the people trying to rescue the wounded man. The rancher killing led to Arizona’s SB 1070, a bill that gave the police more authority for identifying illegal aliens. That bill is still tied up in the courts, along along with similar bills in other states. However, important parts of an Alabama bill were approved by a court.

With the economic conditions here, the number of people crossing the southern border illegally has gone down [New York Times], but the number of “drug smugglers and other criminals” has not, so the border area has become more dangerous. Quoted in that same article, “Larry Dever, the sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, which sits north of Agua Prieta, agreed: ‘The guys smuggling people and narcotics now are more sinister.’” Further, “assaults on Border Patrol agents grew by 41 percent from 2006 to 2010.”

For years the illegals have been trashing the border area, discarding anything they don’t need on the property of the people living near where they cross. Many steal anything they might need, food, clothes off the clothes line, even, from the people who live on the U.S. side. None of this is excusable, and none of it is the sign of the so-called decent people who just want to improve their lives.

Many, thousands, of the border crashers have died in their efforts. The coyotes and the other illegals just abandon anyone who is sick or hungry or thirsty and cannot go on with the journey. Many die in the desert. Others are killed by the coyote criminals, for raising a ruckus or something. According to the NY Times, “The number of immigrants found dead in the Arizona desert, from all causes, has failed to decline as fast as illegal immigration has.”

Some illegal immigration supporters were angry with the Border Patrol for making it difficult to cross the border at places formerly easy to cross illegally. They felt that it violated the rights of the illegals to force them out into the desert, where was difficult to cross, and where more of them died. What kind of contorted and outright idiotic logic is that? Does it violate the rights of car thieves to put a theft alarm in a vehicle? Are the rights of home invaders violated when a person has a gun or two in the house to defend it? There is nothing in this kind of thinking that compliments the intelligence of those supporters of illegal immigration.

Other Consequences

Job Exclusions

I was laid off several years ago from my job working for a local industrial union. Those things happen, given the decline in American industry. Naturally, I followed the employment ads for union staff positions. What I have found is that, more and more, job openings come with a requirement: “must be bilingual in Spanish”, or “bilingual preferred,” and it is not only union staff jobs, of course. If one looks around, one finds that more and more, an American must speak a foreign language to get a job in the United States. This contains another implication: all of those jobs are most likely going to go to people who, by birth or other factors, grow up being fluent in English and Spanish. Average Americans who are not likely to have those skills will be excluded from those positions.

I’m all for people broadening their understanding of the world by learning foreign languages and studying other countries and cultures. I’ve spent a lot of time doing that myself. However, it shouldn’t be coerced, and knowing a foreign language should not be a requirement to get a job in this country, except in a few very narrow categories. Unfortunately, that is now a fact, mostly caused by the fact that there are so many illegal immigrants that have not bothered to learn English after coming to this country.

Social Costs

California and other border states are groaning under the costs of illegal immigration. Health care, education and social services have costs that are not reimbursed by the federal government, which is supposed to bear the responsibility for immigration. However, the government is neither helping the states with high illegal populations (something like 12 million, maybe higher, in California), nor is it doing anything to stop the flow. It has stopped making factory raids on employers who hire illegals, flouting many current laws. It is even threatening not to process the illegals discovered in states like Arizona that have decided to do something about it. (I’ve read that such laws were on the agenda in 17 other states.) While complaining about the Arizona law, Obama appointees like the Attorney General admitted that they have not even read it!

Living in California, I see every day costs that never get mentioned in articles about illegal immigration. People will send money back across the border, but won’t spend money on their own health insurance or auto insurance, leaving those costs to be born by others. Illegals drive cars, but not always with licenses, and when the do get licenses, they often don’t try to learn the rules of the road. I see people sitting at intersections, not moving when the light turns green, and not seizing the right of way when it is in their favor. This clogs up thoroughfares and generally slows traffic, which is itself too heavy because of the extra-high population levels caused by the illegal immigrants.

  • Public libraries have whole sections for the Spanish-only speaking, and thus less material for the general public.
  • Products in stores have labels with less information because the manufacturers try to cram both English and Spanish on one label, thus displaying insufficient information in either language.
  • Students from other states in the U.S. pay out-of-state tuition in state colleges and universities, while illegal immigrants from other countries frequently pay in-state tuition. How is that fair to Americans? Fortunately, this seems to be changing in some places.

The list goes on and on.

Amnesty

I have an idea for a GREAT reality show. A film company finds out when some outspoken supporter of illegal immigration is going away on a vacation. Then it moves someone into the person’s house. When the person comes back, the new ‘roommate’ claims that since he’s been there a while, he has the right to stay. The film company records the way the homeowner ‘welcomes’ the new roommate. Of course the film company also has a battery of lawyers ready to go to court to prevent the homeowner from evicting the new guy, and try to gain him the right to a room of his own, with utilities and the mortgage paid by the homeowner. In addition, the lawyers would argue that the new roommate would be owed a share of the proceeds, should the owner ever decide to sell the house. All the while, the film company would record the way the homeowner responds to the new circumstances, and will ask questions of the homeowner. Those questions would make parallels to the homeowner’s support of amnesty for illegal immigrants. I think that the ratings would be off the charts. Don’t you?

A real curiosity about this issue is the position of a great many people on the American left. They support the illegal aliens, many also favoring amnesty. The curious part is that many of those same lefties take a strong pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist position regarding Israel. Why is it that the illegal immigrants of Palestine, the Zionists, are strongly criticized, but the illegal immigrants of the United States are not? It truly makes no sense.

It is mysterious, rationally, why anyone would support a supposed “right” for people who entered the United States illegally to remain here. That is especially true when it gives the illegals some sort of seniority over people who follow the legal process for entering this country.

Nothing Right About Illegal Immigration

The simple fact is that illegal immigration has no good points for the United States, unless one considers maintaining an underclass of super-exploited workers, lowering the wages of the country in general, a good point. There is nothing “American” about things like that. It’s not fair to anyone. The fact is that it’s the constitutional duty of the United States government to further the welfare and well-being of Americans. This is not being done if it is not enforcing the immigration laws of this country as written.

Unfortunately, President Obama is flouting the existing laws by trying to bring about some kind of back-door amnesty by interfering with their enforcement. The criteria for when the border authorities can intervene and deport illegal aliens are changing. “Under the new guidelines, officials will use ‘prosecutorial discretion’ to review the current docket of 300,000 deportation cases, suspending expulsions for a range of immigrants,” says the NY Times. Instead of being able to enforce the laws on all border crossers, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement people have been instructed to concentrate just on criminals and not to conduct factory raids that previously netted large numbers of violators.

Adding insult to injury, deportation is expensive for the U.S. According to the New York Times, it costs “at least $12,500 per person, and it often does not work: between October 2008 and July 22 of this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spent $2.25 billion sending back 180,229 people who had been deported before and come back anyway.”

The Root of the Problem

Mexico

The truth behind illegal immigration, especially that from Mexico, from where the largest portion of illegals come, is that it is an indicator of serious problems within Mexico. That country has had a corrupt, authoritarian and dishonest government since the Spanish defeated the Aztecs. Despite a revolution in the early twentieth century, Mexicans never managed to get what they needed: democracy without total corruption, land reform, full individual liberty, with a constitution that protected it, and an end to the traditional aristocracy. Moreover, it is ultimately their responsibility to solve their problems. It is not right to export their problems onto the people of the United States by way of illegal immigration. Even though it’s true that the U.S. government can be considered complicit, in certain ways, to helping maintain the authoritarian government, and to increasing economic problems in Mexico, the American citizenry never supported any such thing. They were not informed that their government was doing such things in their name.

I think most Americans would agree to help Mexicans with their problems. This country has distributed billions and billions to help people in other countries; why not our neighbor Mexico? However, doing something like that would, and should, be contingent upon the illegals returning to their homelands, preferably voluntarily. Mexicans might have to make another revolution, to rid their country of its rich and greedy ruling class, of corruption, and, of course, the powerful and violent narco criminals. They need to take back the land from corporate interests that have automated Mexican farmers out of their own economy. Obviously, too, they will need their own ‘Second Amendment’ so that they can make and defend their gains from the bottom up, without having to rely upon a corrupt government and military. If Mexicans are not willing to take a stand and fight for it, with whatever help Americans are willing to provide, they don’t deserve a good government and a country free of the narcos.

October 3, 2011

This is a slightly updated version of an essay appeared in The Ethical Spectacle in June, 2010.
 

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