26 April 2006

Tulip




Photos by Ritsumei, all rights reserved

My neighbor has some beautiful flowers - hopefully I will soon too! In the mean time, I can't help but admire their garden.

02 April 2006

On Immigration

Been thinking about immigration recently. More particularly, with all the ruckus about illegals I've been thinking about that. I wish they'd send them back to where they came from, and that the illegals would either stay home or come here the right way. Folks seem to forget that illegal immigration is a crime.

One of my favorite books (The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind) often says that you should think of the solution, not the problem. I've been thinking of the problem: all the illegal immigrants that we have, and the burdens that they place on the schools, on welfare, on pretty much all the social services available here in the US, financed largely by the (legal) taxpayer. Most of the illegal immigrants that I'm aware of are Mexican. Makes sense, when you consider that the Newsweek says that 70% of the illegals are Mexican. For the most part, I'm not impressed with them. A few have been hard working, wonderful people. But most of those that we've met (though not all) have been legal.

[Updated 11 Sep 2008 to add: I can no longer recommend this book. Later books in the Sword of Truth series are decidedly anti-religion.]

We've had neighbors who were illegal (at least, that's the conclusion that I came to when the one panicked because he thought there were police coming). They were not pleasant neighbors. Also, my husband speaks fluent Spanish, and some of the things that he's overheard them saying about Americans when they think that he can't understand... "Stupid gringo" "We're going to take what we want from this country and not pay for it." "We're going to get on welfare and stay there, because if I don't have to work and these people are going to support me, all the better." "It's OK to lie, just not to 'our own' people." Among the young ones, "Why work when I can sell drugs?" Some things he wouldn't even repeat to me.

Don't get me wrong - I don't have anything against immigrants! My own ancestors were once poor immigrants from England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. They came and had to deal with the same problems of discrimination, a new language, climate, customs, the whole package. In addition, most of them joined a wildly unpopular church and were driven from the USA with the rest of the Mormons, which is something that I don't believe happened to any other group of people. But there is one big difference between my ancestors and the immigrants I'm thinking about today: so far as I know (and I've done some research here), they came legally. I have no problem with folks coming to America - that's something this country has always allowed, and I think it's probably a good thing.

But I do wish that if they're going to immigrate they would come here legally, that they would learn the language: English, and that they would make this their home. That is precisely what I would expect to do if I was going to another country. In fact, even if I didn't plan to immigrate, just to stay for a while for a job (like so many of the illegals do) I'd still plan to learn as much of the language as possible as quickly as possible. And I wouldn't even think of doing it without some kind of visa or work permit. It seems only fair to be willing to do what I expect of others. Not to mention that it's more practical to expect that I will have to conform to the new "normal" in whatever place that I chose to go to, rather than expecting them to accommodate me much if any.

So, with the elections coming up, the issue of immigration seems to be coming up more and more too. This afternoon, I'm doing some reading and thinking about it.

Newsweek: To Become an American
"The income gap between the United States and Mexico is the largest between any two contiguous countries in the world," writes Stanford historian David Kennedy. ... Tighter border control is an excellent idea, but to work it will have to be coupled with some recognition of the laws of supply and demand - that is, it will have to include expansion of the legal-immigrant pool."

This article got me thinking in some different directions than what I had previously. While I had recognized the difference between life in the US and Mexico - at least as much as you can without ever visiting Mexico, much less seeing the true extent of the poverty you hear about there - I never considered it as a supply and demand problem. I like the idea of expanding the legal-immigrant pool, as the article suggests. Clearly, there is demand for the type of labor that these immigrants represent. Make it possible, even easy to be here legally as workers. After all, it seems clear that we need the workers. All over the nation you see hear Spanish. Even here in Wisconsin there are loads of Mexicans. There is demand for the workers, so we need to arrange things so that it's possible for them to come legally. And then make it unpleasant to be here illegally.

The other thing that I hadn't thought about is the connection between immigration and terrorism. That was a very interesting angle that I'd like to learn more about, and they only touch on it in the short article. But it's a fascinating concept. I suspect that the author is right: in general, America is doing something right with the immigration policies we have - the Green Card that leads to citizenship. It does seem right that if you come and make an honest, hardworking life for yourself in a country that the country should in turn open its arms and welcome you.

Newsweek: Border War
"As the House and Senate debate the nation's immigration and border-security laws, the four-term Coloradan [Tom Tancredo] has positioned himself as the loudest, angriest voice against the estimated 11 million illegal aliens now living in the United States. They are "a scourge that threatens the very future of our nation," he says. He laments "the cult of multiculturalism," and worries about America's becoming a "Tower of Babel." If Republican presidential candidates don't put the problem atop the agenda in 2008, he says he'll run himself, just to force the front runners to talk about it. ... 'You can't ignore him,' says a GOP leadership aide who wouldn't be named because he wanted to keep his job. 'The administration doesn't want to hear this, but a lot of Americans think he's right.'"

Tom Tancredo sounds like someone that I'd look into voting for if he did run for president. Immigration's not my only issue, but it is one that I look at when selecting a candidate, and I've voted for long-shot candidates before. The one thing that I don't like about this article is that they talk about a bill that's before Congress, but they don't mention what it's called, so I'll have to do more research before I can look it up and read it.

MSN: Economica of immigration could defy laws
"To the mostly immigrant workers and American employers who cross paths at El Centro Humanitario - a former car wash converted to a day labor agency on the fringes of downtown Denver - the nation's heated debate over illegal immigration is no abstract concept. It's economic reality."

This one is more immigrant-friendly than the Newsweek articles, and expanded on some of the same issues that "To Become an American" touched on. Pretty interesting. One thing that I wondered is about the actual usefulness of the minimum wage. I'm pretty convinced that minimum wage does contribute to inflation, and the immigration angle adds to my skepticism: if immigrants are able to make do on $3.50/hr then why can't regular Americans? It's a question of lifestyle (or maybe it's just that they're not paying taxes at this sort of under-the-table kind of job), but really, that's probably another article for another day.


After It All - What I Think
I must say, I do think that the more that I read about this stuff the more that I think there probably does need to be some kind of guest-worker program. One thing that a guest-worker program should do is address the issue of social services. Anyone that pays taxes has a legitimate claim on schools and other social services for themselves and their dependents. The guest-workers would need to either pay for this privilege or take care of their own. It sounds pretty heartless to put it that baldly, but if they pay taxes then it won't be a problem.

But I do still think that those who are here illegally need to acknowledge that they've broken the law - and possibly make some kind of restitution benefit from any guest-worker program that the government cooks up. The fact of the matter is that illegal immigration is illegal. It's a crime. So after they've paid their debt to society, sure they can have a second chance, but until then, illegal immigrants are criminals. While there is definitely a need to address the issue, and it's certainly complicated that building a big wall on the Rio Grande, there is also the question of legitimacy and of legality that needs to be addressed. Just because it's an uncomfortable conversation doesn't mean that it isn't a conversation that needs to be had.

Here's some more articles & blogs that I've looked at on immigration:
MSN: Proprequiresqures English business signs
Bloomberg.com: Graham Says Republicans Risk `Political Suicide' on Immigration
The tempest-tossed

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