Immigration. Why Wail For A Wall or Agitate About Amnesty? ©

Al Podgorski, Photographer. Sun-Times

On Monday, May 01, 2006, another May Day will come and go.  However, for those in the United States this international holiday that honors laborers will be different. This one will live in the memories of Americans forever.  In this country, citizens, and non, will speak out on the issue of immigration.  For, it is the newest immigrants that makeup a large portion of our labor force.  These persons are planning not to go to work today; nor will their supporters.  They and their allies will stand up for themselves, their beliefs, and their desire for freedom.

Other will also venture out.  They will take to the streets, the blogs, the bars, and airwaves.  They will wail for walls.  Some will agitate over the issue of amnesty. Whether they themselves are residing in this country legally or not, people will demonstrate.  They will express their opinions loudly and openly.

The undocumented workers here in the USA are not loved; they are loathed by a vast majority of the populace.  Numerous liberals, those that usually support the downtrodden have turned their backs on this population.  They see them as law-breakers, union busters, and less than those born in this country.

On this day, people from any and many political parties will be heard denigrating the status of those that migrated to America recently without proper papers.  They will call them “illegals,” as though they are less legitimate human beings than the rest of us.

Americans, whose ancestors came from abroad, will chastise those that are now doing as their families had done decades earlier.  Citizens living in this country, those who can rarely produce the papers that brought their relatives here will shun those that arrived in the States in this century without authorization.

Our countrymen will claim to be compassionate and they are, when their livelihood is at stake.  George W. and his buds welcome entrance of the undocumented.  They are willing to promote the idea of  “guest workers.”  They embrace cheap labor; however, only if, how, or when, it serves them well.

Yet, other Americans find this plan or any agenda that offers opportunities to undocumented distasteful.  Many Americans are singularly focused.  For them, it is my family, my familiars, and me first.  These US citizens are clannish.  They are often heard to utter words such as these, ??We were here first and those that wish to follow are forbidden or must be filtered through [our subjective] system.’

However, some recognize their dependency. Thus, they reluctantly offer official pardons to those that have helped them survive.  They have housekeepers, landscapers, chauffeurs, and nannies.  The faces of these employees have become real.  They feel as “family.”  American homeowners that pay these people can relate to their plight. Therefore, they are willing to offer them amnesty.

However, even these immigrants must prove themselves pure in the empty eyes of the native born.  There must be fines.  People need to be punished for intentionally placing themselves in a land not their own.  These laborers too, must pay a price.  Everyone knows, there is no free lunch, no free ride, and migrants must set their pride aside.

Have they not?  Is it not true that many immigrants are bending over crops in order to collect a pittance of the pay that professionals do.  They clean toilets, wash windows, and work hard for their earnings.  They pay and contribute to society daily; they always have.  I offer these findings from the Pew Charitable Trust Research Center.  This may assist some in understanding the impact immigrants have on America’s labor force. Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S. Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey.

About 7.2 million unauthorized migrants were employed in March 2005, accounting for about 4.9% of the civilian labor force. They made up a large share of all workers in a few more detailed occupational categories, including 24% of all workers employed in farming occupations, 17% in cleaning, 14% in construction and 12% in food preparation.

Nevertheless, according to that native born and some naturalized, the nascent émigrés must fit-in better.  They must speak English only.  “They” must immerse themselves in our culture; they must forget their roots, at least when they are in front of us, US citizens.

If they do not assimilate with the authority of official papers, we will deport them.  At least that is what the House of Representatives declared.  People of the United States protest and postulate; it is those Mexicans that are the problem.  Minutemen and more express their desires; ??Let us build a wall between the States and the nation south of the border.’

Though geographically these two countries exist side by side, both being part of North America, people in this sanctioned land see themselves as separate and unequal.  They profess, America is better, and America is the best.  Are we?

Is an egocentric superpower better even when they attempt to maintain an ethnically clean country?  I think not.  For me, being the best does not merely equate to being the wealthiest or the place where people living in poverty wish to flea.  I think there must be more.

For some there is; the problem is more than Mexico.  A few of our fellow citizens state, ??We must also wall off the borders with Canada.’  These naysayers consider themselves objective, not xenophobic for they acknowledge that Latinos, Hispanics, or those of Spanish descent are not the only trouble.  However, these more “liberal” lefties still deny what is.  We live in a world of disparate conditions, opportunities, and circumstances.

Walls will not solve the crisis; they never have fully.  Thinking that the calamity is a calling will end what now exists.

I believe the disaster is not whether those in Mexico cross or whether those in Canada pass through the poles that separate the two countries.  It is not the fact that immigrants come from throughout the world, though they do.

?¢ Please review the local statistics from the Chicago Sun Times.  It won’t just be Latinos marching.

Read of the 120,000 Filipinos in the Chicago area alone or of the 250,000 nationwide that have lengthened their once legal visits.  Cogitate on the five to seven thousand Irish immigrants dwelling in Chicago and out lying areas.  Reflect upon the seventy thousand Polish migrants milling about in America’s heartland or the one hundred and ninety thousand throughout the United States.

Consider there are Rumanians, Russians, and those from Ukraine.  European émigrés are a plenty.  There are Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, and more migrants living here as well.  People come from many nations.  Not all immigrants are Mexican or South American.  As in one my earlier exposés, I offer outdated government statistics, those collected during the 2000 census.  A reader may ask, how many were never counted, never found, and never presumed to be here legally or not.

Yet, for me, the issue is not immigration at all.

Most of the migrants in the USA have adopted this land as their own.  Registered citizens or not, those from afar think of themselves as our newly arrived family members once did; they are Americans.  A large number of settlers do as our forbearers did; they prosper.  I refer you dear reader to a recent Pew Charitable Trust report.  Please peruse . . .

According to the Pew Charitable Trust, Pew Hispanic Center and the Urban Institute  . . .

“Nearly 80 percent [of Mexican immigrants] live above the poverty line, and 68 percent of those who have lived here for 30 years or more own their own homes.”

While this revelation is not as expected, there is a stereotype that seems likely true.  The Latin culture advocates hard work.  Those born into it endeavor to do their best. Their well learned beliefs and practices have empowered them.  Therefore, many Mexican migrants have “pulled themselves up” and out of poverty; they have done well.  These emigreés are as our parents, grand, and great were; they are melting into, and becoming a meaningful part of the American middle and working classes.

Some strive to do even better.  They want to become entrepreneurs, and they too succeed.  “Census figures show Hispanic firms growing three times faster than average,” By Scott Miller, Washington File Staff Writer

Washington — Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States are growing three times faster than the national average for all firms and generating more than $200 billion in annual revenue, according to a new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau’s March 21 Survey of Business Owners: Hispanic-Owned Firms: 2002 indicated that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States grew 31 percent between 1997 and 2002 to nearly 1.6 million. Those firms generated about $222 billion in revenue in 2002 — the most recent year for which data are available.

Yes, there are other reports that might support the cynics view and a few of these are also from the Pew Charitable Trust. You might wish to assess ,“Unauthorized Migrants, Numbers and Characteristics,” By Jeffrey S. Passel.  You will notice that aspects of this study conflict with the accepted and other aspects strengthen the impression, immigration by the undocumented is awful.

Immigrants in general, but especially the unauthorized are considerably more likely than natives to have very low levels of education.  For example, less than 2% of natives have less than a 9thgrade education, but 15% of legal immigrants and 32% of unauthorized migrants have this little education.  (Note that education in Mexico is currently compulsory only through the 8thgrade, so finding this many with this little education is not surprising.  Further, the level of compulsory school attendance was recently raised from 6thgrade.)

At the upper end, legal immigrants are slightly more likely to have a college degree than natives (32% versus 30%).  This difference is particularly noteworthy given the high percentage of legal immigrants with very little education.  Even the unauthorized population has some at the upper end of the educational spectrum, with 15% having at least a college degree and another 10% having some college.  Not all of the unauthorized population fits the stereotype of a poorly educated manual laborer.

Nevertheless, for me, the issue is still not one of immigration into the United States of America. What for me is the topic for a truer discussion is, America as part of a whole.  We are citizens on a continent, one of many on this planet.  We must assess our attitudes and expectations, and realize that they are egocentric.

I believe we must evaluate our place in this universe.  We are not here alone; nor are our priorities and preferences the only reasonable ones worth considering.

Whether we refer to statistics that strengthen the argument for or against immigration, the true subject is the same.  We as a nation are engaged in what might be a possible evolution.  If we choose to embrace it, we will learn from our history, our errors, and our misperceptions.  If we seize the opportunity and avoid shortsighted solutions such as walls or amnesty, neither of which has ever completely resolved similar issues, then we can grow greater, together.

We could as a nation and as part of a globe recognize that we are as the wave in the story that Morrie Schwartz shared.  We are part of the ocean.  If we act as one, think as a whole, we can and will progress beyond.
“I heard a nice little story the other day,” Morrie says. He closes his eyes for a moment and I wait.
“Okay. The story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He’s enjoying the wind and the fresh air — until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore. “
“‘My God, this is terrible,’ the wave says ‘Look what’s going to happen to me!'”
“Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave, looking grim, and it says to him, ‘Why do you look so sad?’ “
“The first wave says, ‘You don’t understand! We’re all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn’t it terrible?’ “
“The second wave says, ‘No, you don’t understand. You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.’ “
I smile. Morrie closes his eyes again.
“Part of the ocean,” he says. “Part of the ocean.” I watch him breathe, in and out, in and out.

– Tuesdays with Morrie, page 179

Once we acknowledge that America is not an island and our concerns cannot be ours alone, then we can create a world in which all people, men, women, and children are genuinely created equal.

Let us unite, not as states, or as a continent.  Let us join, together, and help each other.  After all, we are all people and have similar needs, wants, and wishes.  As long as Mexico, South America, Korea, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, Japan, and other nations work separately, we will bicker, belittle, and belie what is true.  This Earth is our global village.

References for your Review . . .

  • Immigrants Stage Protests Across U.S., By Maria Newman, New York Times. May 1, 2006
  • Employers Gird for Immigrant Boycott Today, By Monica Davey. New York Times. May 1, 2006
  • Amnesty or wall? Issue splits U.S., By Eric Herman, Chicago Sun Times. April 30, 2006
  • “Unauthorized Migrants, Numbers and Characteristics,” By Jeffrey S. Passel. Pew Hispanic Center
  • It won’t just be Latinos marching, Chicago Sun Times. April 30, 2006
  • Bush pushes immigration bill; Bipartisan Senate delegation backs him. Chicago Tribune. Apr 26, 2006
  • Cheap labor? It just looks that way Illegal workers fuel a ‘gray’ market and demand rights – and we all pay the hidden costs, By Warren Strugatch
  • Homeowners say the day laborer system works USA Today April 29, 2006
  • “Census figures show Hispanic firms growing three times faster than average,” By Scott Miller, Washington File Staff Writer
  • 2002 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) U.S. Census Bureau
  • Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S. Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey. By Jeffrey S. Passel, Senior Research Associate, Pew Hispanic Center
  • What makes U.S. great? Hint: not intolerance, By Neil Steinberg. Chicago Sun Times. April 30, 2006
  • Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: 1990 to 2000 U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
  • Land of Opportunity, By Mortimer B. Zuckerman. US News and World Report. June 20, 2005
  • Global Village. Wikipedia
  • THE NATION; He’s the Stickler of the House; Rep. Sensenbrenner, holding the line as he sees it, stands in Bush’s way on immigration. By Mary Curtius. Los Angeles Times.  February 13, 2005
  • Immigrants To America, People With or Without Papers © By Betsy L. Angert. Be-Think