Saturday, April 22, 2006

Saturday Soapbox

So I have been thinking lately about immigration. Illegal immigration, that is.

This is a hot button issue for some, so I know I might be taking some chances in saying what I believe, but I am just going to forge ahead.

There are so many reasons why I feel this issue is a problem that needs to be addressed.

But as I was thinking about my "points" I wondered why in the world we do not hold Mexico more responsible for taking care of its people. They have the capability to become a First World country, but for some reason, many of their citizens live in Third World conditions.

Their government is beyond corrupt. Power is in the hands of mainly a few prominent families, and they, like most people who hold power, are not about to share. The country contains some of the largest oil reserves in the world, and they still cannot provide decent medical care, jobs, or schooling for the vast majority of their citizens, especially indigenous peoples. Partly this is because they will not open up their oil market to private investors, so it just stays ineptly run by the same government.

Mexico accepts aid from our government, as well as its second largest import, American money sent back to relatives from workers here. Is that really a position of pride for the Mexican people? I am sure, absolutely positive in fact, that if they could stay within their country, earn a decent living and be with their families, they would do so in a heartbeat.

Also, not much mention is made of the fact that Mexico has been known to treat brutally and force the repatriation of Guatemalans or Salvadorans who enter their country seeking a better life of their own. It seems that this policy is in hope of appeasing the United States to the benefit of its own citizens, which is disingenious at best. I find it troubling that they seem to expect an open door policy from the United States, yet themselves keep their southern border heavily guarded and patrolled.

I think the United States should lean more heavily on Mexico to try and help its people stay within their country. Because it is their country, and as we all know, the United States has no monopoly on patriotism.

But then comes in the cynical side, does the United States truly want Mexicans to stay in Mexico, or are American businesss too addicted to cheap labor? The American government is fully aware of the false Social Security numbers used in shady "documentation" but until recently, turned a blind eye. Illegal immigrants are difficult, if not impossible, to unionize. Thus they are forced to accept whatever wages and working conditions the businesses that hire them dictate. And no matter how low we think their wages are, it is more than they would earn in their home country. Yet with all this, I do not believe that US businesses should hire them. If no one hired them, they would cease to come here.

For those that are here, I believe that a key issue is assimilation. The "us" versus "them" mentality is no good for either side. Yes, if they stay in the country long enough, they will assimilate. They will have no choice, since their children eventually will become more and more Americanized the longer the family lives here. Intermarriage between the two cultures is huge, and will likely only increase. Hubba-hubba himself is half Latino, with his mother being Latina and his father white.

But as far as the new arrivals, who are going to come here as long as their own government fails to provide for them and employers here pay them, need to become a part of our culture, not exist on the outside of it. Which in certain areas, is all too easy to do. In the city of Santa Ana, a person could easily exist without having to speak a word of English. That, I think, does everyone a disservice. I think that being bilingual is an asset, no matter what your native language. They need to feel invested in America and its future, which for all practical purposes, is their future.

Most of these people are decent and hard working. They just want a better life, and if the situation were reversed, I myself would probably migrate in order to help my children live a better life. I don't think many people have looked at it from this perspective. And for those that think that overturning a corrupt government is easy, we only have to look at our own government, rife with lobbyists and insiders, to see that it is not a piece of cake. Even more difficult when the population is poor and poorly educated.

Illegal immigration is a many-sided issue which has no easy answer. If it did, it would have been fixed a long time ago.

I've got no easy answer here, that's for sure.


Granny said...

Nor do I, Gina and we are one of the few families on my block for whom English is our first language.

Everything you said is true. What you didn't say (I don't think, I'm getting a little sleepy) is if we don't have some sort of work visa program in place, will our born in the USA non-Hispanics be willing to do the stoop labor keeping most of the huge farms in business?

Some say yes, some say no. We've always depended on the migrant workers even when they were U.S. citizens fleeing the dust bowl for life in the Golden State.

Another complicated problem with no easy solutions. I do know I'm not willing to spy on my good neighbors on behalf of INS and I don't want kids to go without because of their parents.

No great ideas from me, I'm afraid. Just sadness.

oshee said...

It is a difficult problem for sure. It is also a hot button issue here in Phoenix right now. Just as we were driving around this afternoon my kids and I passed a group of protestors. THey were on the side of kick 'em all outta here now. I tried to explain what it was all about to my kids. I am grateful they haven't be bombarded with the confusing issue at school as some kids are. I do not know what the correct political answer is to illegal immigration. I don't see it honestly possible to kick out 11 million people without causing a lot of pain to our economic system and to a whole bunch of people really trying to just feed their families (i do relate to this idea). But it isn't right either for people who have broken the(altho rarely enforced)law. I love Mexico. I have had many positive experiences visiting and learning the language. I am not all for letting them all stay..and I'm not for kicking 'em all out. I wish I could see a clearer solution. I just hope we can figure out a solution to the mess before my kids get saddled with it.

Mega Mom said...

I love that so many blogs make me think about things. I have to confess that I don't know so much about the big arguments for and against immigration. I haven't been following it enough. I am like oshee in that I really don't know what the answer should be. It is such a heavy issue.

KMae said...

oh GOD, I don't know, I don't KNOW!! It's all so convoluted, some pro, much con... I always think "..there but the Grace of God go I.." then feel somewhat cozy in my smugness as an American. My girlfriend is totally against it all, but I can Not say that I am. I hate that I owe so much money in Taxes this year... resent so much about the system. But I do NOT know the answer to this one.

Hope said...

No easy answer, but some damn good points Gina.

wordgirl said...

My grandfather was a German immigrant. His wife was born one year after her family came here from Russia. Both became citizens. What is American but a nation of immigrants?

That said, many Mexican immigrants seem unable to distinguish between throwing away one's culture and assimilating just enough to function properly in another country.

The public schools are a fine example of this. Children come from families where parents are (at best) semi-literate in their own language and demonstrate little initiative to learn English. The children learn by attending school, but there is no one at home to be a mentor when it comes to scholarly pursuits. The kids are caught in the middle...being raised by immigrants where and 8th grade education is all that is expected and a society which demands a college education.

You're right...why in hell aren't we demanding accountablility from Mexico for its own people? Hmmm. As far as medical care, we don't really have a leg to stand on when demanding it from another country, given that we can't seem to provide it here either. Maybe with our next President.

J said...

Great post on some complex issues. I think the US should be working to ensure that Mexico takes better care of it's citizens, but you know the old saying, "Point one finger, you've got three more fingers pointing back at you", so we can tell them to improve, but to do so, we would then have to do the same for our citizens.

As for Americans doing 'stoop labor', yes, I think plenty of born in America folks would be willing to do it. But not for less than they can get on welfare, or working minimum wage at Burger King. You have to pay decent wages, understand that this is HARD physical labor, and workers comp would be high, as would insurance premiums. Until people are willing to make the job a decent one, no one with better prospects will be willing to do it. It's not that we're 'above the work', I don't think. Just 'above the conditions'. It's wrong of our country to take advantage of people by allowing them to be paid lower than minimum wage, with no safety or health concerns.

If we made the jobs pay well enough for Americans to be able to support themselves, then a lot of the problem would go away. Of course, then the prices of the industries they are in go WAY up, or the government has to subsidise these industries.

No easy answers, but you made very good points.

Granny said...

Second bit of the apple, Gina.

In our elementary schools, the homework assignment are copied to the Spanish speaking parents in Spanish. They are able to help their kids with the homework while hopefully picking up some English by osmosis. I Presume, but I don't know for sure, that they do the same thing for our sizable Hmong, Laotian, and Cambodian communities.

What an inteligent group you have here. We all are aware it's a huge problem but not one person has jumped in claiming to know all the answers.

Be very proud.

Granny said...

bite of apple. (I need to clip my fingernails soon. I never could type with long nails, even when I was younger.)

Awesome Mom said...

I totally agree that Mexico should be taking better care of it's citizens. They could do so much if the government was not so corrupt. One of the problems I have with our border is that more than just good people looking for work are getting through, drugs and women used as sex slaves are also going through. What also bothers me is that if the illegals were able to come here legally then they would get better wages and have a better life instead of skulking along the fringes of our society.

Gina said...

My readers rock!


dinodoc said...

Very interesting point on the Mexican govt, Gina...I hadn't really thought about that. I think the Kennedy-McCain bill would have been a decent compromise; unfortunately, too many people are all about the sound bites rather than making tough decisions. It's nice to see your readers making good use of their thinking caps!

Piece of Work said...

Ooh, I read this post this weekend and was way too skeered to post a comment. (Also, I didn't want to strain my brain too much, I have to conserve its energy)
But I love what your readers have to say, and I love what you have to say. I personally fall into the "there but for the grace of god go I" camp, but I know there is much more to it than that.