Saturday, May 29, 2010

Immigrants R Us

The South Carolina Legislature is considering an anti-immigrant bill much like Arizona’s draconian law. It requires police to check a person’s residency status when stopped or detained for any reason and makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit work. Opponents of the bill say it would lead to racial profiling, marginalize the state’s Hispanic community and polarize the state. On May 28, people who oppose the bill dominated public comment before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee claiming it was un-American and racist.

Bill Bunch, a small-business owner said “It smacks of racism and it smacks of pandering. You’re using these people as pawns for your own political gain.”

I serve on the Board of the S.C. Hispanic Leadership Council. Our Board President, Lad Santiago told the Legislators that “It polarizes our community by allowing for overt distinction of physical attributes and a law that allows this is an affront to all that is fair and just in America.”

Exactly what is fair and just in this land of immigrants? Discrimination and injustices against the “shanty Irish” or the Chinese “yellow peril” because of their race and ethnicity was certainly not fair or just. Over 400 years ago people from Europe migrated to what is now the United States and since then immigrants have come here from every country and region of the world. From the dawn of human history, people have constantly migrated all over the world. But as Hegel said, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

A consensus of historians agree that indigenous people, also known as Native Americans or Indians, were in the Americas at least 10,000 years before the European Christopher Columbus “discovered” America in 1492. Many Native Americans are descendants of people who lived in the southwest and far western region of what is now the United States. Their forebears were there thousands of years before white Europeans came to this continent. They are now called “illegal immigrants” by race-baiting politicians.

When the Spanish arrived in the Americas, Europe was ravaged by war, oppression, religious fanaticism, disease and starvation. Native Americans were generally healthy, and mostly peaceable. Columbus sold his sponsors on the idea he would find a passage to China and the riches of the Orient, but “discovered” the Americas instead, so he decided to pay for his voyage in a commodity he found in ample supply—human lives. He seized 1,200 Tiano Indians from the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), crammed them onto his ships, and sent them to Spain, where they were paraded naked through the streets of Seville and sold as slaves in 1495. Because Columbus captured more Indian slaves than he could transport to Spain in his small ships, he put them to work as slaves for his family and followers throughout the Caribbean.

It was cheaper to work Indians to death and replace them than keep them alive. In California the native people were forced to work in the fields on a starvation diet. They died from overwork, starvation and disease and were continually replaced, wiping out the indigenous populations.

As a descendant of Choctaw Indians I despise the nationalistic and historically blind rhetoric we hear about immigration.

European conquest of Mexican Native Americans exemplifies such blindness. European Americans under the flag of the United States took the land from these indigenous Americans in the Mexican Wars. Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, and the new Mexican republic included present-day Mexico and the territory that today constitutes five southwestern states and more territory further north.

In 1835 United States settlers in Texas revolted against Mexico, fought at the Alamo in 1836, and formed their own republic. In the years that followed, the United States pushed farther westward. The imperial doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the belief that God had destined the United States to be bordered on the east and west by the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, was used to justify the United States’ encroachment upon Mexican territories. It finally provoked a war in 1846 that enabled the United States to take almost half of Mexico’s territory.

Hard-working Mexicans in the United States had ancestors who lived in the Southwestern part of what is now the United States for thousands of years before there was a United States. Their ancestors were forcibly removed by the United States. Should they be treated as undocumented criminals?

The best solution to the immigration question is Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation at the federal level that will:

Provide a path to permanent resident status and citizenship for all members of our communities;

Reunite families and reduce immigration backlogs;

Secure the border in a humane way;

Punish unscrupulous employers who drive down wages and make it hard for honest employers to compete in today’s economy;

And provide rights to all workers in the United States.

Such Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation must also be enforced primarily by the federal government. The Arizona and proposed South Carolina laws, in practice, will take even more resources away from state and local law enforcement who need to focus on apprehending real criminals who steal and commit violent crimes rather than on poor and peaceful working people who harvest our crops, construct our homes and do service work for our travel and hospitality industry.

A fair and just America must live the promise we make to the world. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”[Emma Lazarus]


  1. This is the history we should teach our children in school - the books about US history are still filled with half truths and outright lies.

    I appreciate how you call our policies ridiculous, but you offer a logical alternative. Thanks for getting the word out there. I wish more people would read your blog.

  2. How would you feel if I and 50 of my relatives suddenly moved in with you? You would object of course, and you would call the police and have us forcibly ejected. It would not matter that you and your family 'immigrated' to your current dwelling place, if 51 people suddenly started living with you and sharing equally in your bank accounts college funds etc. you would be more crowded, poorer, and less free.

    The American people are happy to accept new members of the team from all over the world, and to use our (still) high standard of living to attract the best and brightest. We only ask that the total numbers be limited to that which does not drive down wages, increase crowding or burn up our environment.

    However, the rich DO want the pace of immigration to be too high, because the rich DO want wages driven down. Hence, the vile homage to cheap labor which currently defaces the Statue of Liberty. Nothing beats supply and demand: prosperity can ONLY come about when there are more jobs than workers, which bids up salaries. And when there are more workers than jobs, wages can only go down..

    No, Viriginia, people don't first get rich and then have fewer children. At least when there is no frontier or colonies, it is ALWAYS the case that people first have fewer children, and THEN they slowly build up prosperity.

    An immigration policy that gives the same priority to a member of the MS13 drug gang as to a Nobel-prizewinning biochemist cannot be defended on the grounds of either compassion or national interest. It is a policy designed to maximize the numbers independent of all other priorities, and the only reason to do that is to drive down wages for the many and drive up profits for the few.

    It is bad enough that support for our current abusive immigration policy is helping to turn American into just another third-world sweatshop, but even worse, it is helping to turn the entire world into hell. That's because it requires a complete suppression of the obvious, that high rates of population growth make prosperity impossible, and thus allow oligarchs the world over to maximize population growth and turn the world back to the dark ages.

    Back in the 1960's, India tried to moderate population growth rates, and there was some progress. That meant that wages went up. That meant that there was a 'shortage' of people who would work for low wages (same thing). The rich then rebelled, and decided that population control should not be pursued because "people are the ultimate resource". At least, if you consider people as cattle, to be bred purely for profit. The Indian government has classified their demographic data, but it appears that they have been operating to maximize population growth. So now India has over a billion people, more than half of them suffer from chronic malnutrition, but a handful of billionaires are making piles of money off all of that cheap labor. And they couldn't have done it without you.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Tim.

    You are correct about half truths and even lies being told in our schools' text books. Jim Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me" is great on this subject and Jim was a guest on our radio show a few times:

    Immigration R Us was also published by Common Dreams and Counterpuncn which have many, many times more readers than The State. The State will not publish my op. eds. unless I give them an exclusive(at least that is the excuse they give me.

  4. Thanks for your comment Anonymous.

    I agree with most of your comment, especially the part about rich folks wanting to drive down wages with the old capital versus labor dynamic. Many of them actually like to keep the "illegal" immigrants "illegal" and living in fear so they can work them cheaper.

    However, my team is a bit larger than your American team. My team includes the entire human species which has constantly migrated throughout human history. Narrow nationalism and jingoistic patriotism is this country and the world's most detrimental longtime problem. It is used to justify never-ending wars and conflict. I am a human being first, not an America firster.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

  5. My first time here and am I ever thrilled that I stumbled across your blog. This is a superb post on an equally superb blog. I will send a link to a SC friend and fellow blogger.

    Re jobs. Factcheck just published a piece about the myths surrounding claims that immigrants take jobs away from U.S. citizens.

    I lived in AZ for a number of years. The very people who support this bill are the same people who hire illegals - to manicure their lawns, clean their houses, watch the babes, muck out the polo barns, maintain the golf courses, plant and harvest their crops, work on road crews under the blistering hot AZ sun, clean the toilets in the parks, etc. All at slave wages.

    McCain has said that he supports the bill (as we know), that illegal immigrants should be deported, but businesses should not be held accountable for hiring illegals! An interesting concept.

    Tim: You're absolutely right about this being the history we should teach our kids. Except in rare situations I don't think we ever will. For Memorial Day I wrote a piece called, "Will Texas School Books Mention These Vets"? It featured Latinos, the Tuskegee airmen, the Navajo code talkers in WWII and the Choctaw code talkers in WWI. I think we know the answer.

    Tom T: I very much would like to add you to my blog role. And I would like to post a few quotes with a link back to you. This really is a phenomenal article.

    I see you're relatively new at this. I began my modest blog about a year ago. For awhile I felt lucky if I had two or three comments. Sometimes I had zero! Not a very auspicious beginning. But soon you will have more than you bargained for, especially because this is such an excellent blog.

  6. Thanks for all the nice things you said about our blog and Immigrants R US.

    I clicked on the sweeping dog to check you out a bit. Nashville is one of my favorite towns because I like old country and blue grass music. I also appreciate many of the less contemporary genres like Broadway show songs with romantic words and pretty melodies. I agree with many of your tastes in movies and books. My wife and I just finished an excellent page turner which I recommend most highly: The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

    Thanks for sending the link to the factcheck piece about how "illegal immigrants" do not have a detrimental effect on the job market. I e-mailed it to my friends on the SC Hispanic Leadership Council.

    Your comments about how the very same people who condemn and pass restrictive laws against illegal immigrants employ them to do menial labor was very true. They keep them afraid to work them cheaper.

    I can't write about Memorial Day anymore because I am so opposed to war and the military mind-set. We glorify and romanticize war far too much in our imperialistic nation. War and violence makes a lot of money for the military/industrial complex, the media and big banksters but are the stupidest activities engaged in by our species. We should memorialize all the people since the dawn of history-men, women and children who have been killed or maimed by war and an intentional violence.

    Again, I sure do appreciate your thoughtful comments about our blog.

  7. Tom,
    I read your article in Counterpunch. To extend your opinion a little farther have you thought about the notion of simply eliminating the border? The border only serves to enrich employers on both sides. The Mexican oligarchs can oppress their people and pay them slave wages because of the border and the US businessmen can pay slave wages because the people are "illegal." If the border were eliminated the millionaire and billionaire oligarchs would be looking at hundreds of thousands of acres of rotting tomatoes they could not export to the US to get first world prices because the workers would have left to the US. The skinflint landlords and gardeners could not screw the workers with dirt poor wages on this side of the border because these people would not be illegal. West German annexed east Germany and survived. The West Germans took on all the pension and legacy costs of the East.

    Hopefully at some point we could have a referendum in Mexico. Other than the wealthy I would imagine every Mexican would vote for annexation to the US. In exchange for Medicare, Social Security, Welfare etc. etc. I am certain that very few Mexicans would vote against it. Can you imagine the prosperity generated with the 5 freeway extended to Cabo San Lucas? Can you imagine the prosperity the resources including oil that Mexico has could provide. The only barrier now is the corrupt leadership of Mexico. Why do the immigration rights folks not promote this sort of concept? Of course, given our behavior with Goldman Sachs, Citibank etc. it might be that we are just a corrupt as Mexico if not just more subtle.

  8. Very interesting concept and I also wish we could eliminate the border with Mexico (along with many other national borders that help to further enrich the most greedy). The border does serve the purpose of enriching employers on both sides as you explain. However, the extreme nationalism, xenophobia and imperialism that permeates the United States from the top down in our bastion of capitalism is our biggest socio-economic problem. It is difficult to solve such problems when our financial kingpins are making out like bandits with same old, same old, antiquated policies. Why change anything when you have pretty much bought off the government with with lobbying, campaign contributions and other corruption such as insider stock tips to Senators and Congressman? I reckon I've become a bit cynical about our government.

    Those of who believe we can do better need to devote more of our time and energy to making the world a better place for everyone. What is happening now is not sustainable.

    Thanks for your comment.

  9. Tom T: Thank you for visiting my blog. I share your anti-war views entirely. I was just kind of wondering - sarcastically so - if all those good Christians and patriots on the Texas School board are going to allow mention of some of the accomplishments of vets of various ethnicity's. I think they've changed their minds, but for awhile they weren't going to allow Cesar Chavez's name!

    I appreciate the book tip. I'm always looking for something worthwhile to read.

  10. Earlier today Factcheck posted "Arizona's Papers Please Law" and thought I'd pass it on. It's very revealing.

    I put you and Judy on my blog roll but decided against giving you a well deserved plug. I get some rather interesting characters that you might not want to deal with. : )

    The similarities in taste for books and movies is a good sign. What more can you expect from a Parsley and a couple of Turnipseeds? Won't go into the age factor.

  11. My take on this hole immigration thing is shared by many. Some may think it racist, but it is not. I because the USA is one of the best countries to live in, thus the reason everyone it trying so hard to get here. But here is the thing, we Americans, meaning those who speak the language, "English", and are citizens, are the ones that truly have the rights here. Those who do not speak English and are not citizens do not and should not have any rights, other than those permitted to visitors. If you do not speak English, and are not American citizens should not be allowed to own US land, nor that work positions of any type.
    I know that seems harsh, but this is America. If outsiders want to come here and work, then they need to learn English, and at least apply for a green card. If they are not willing to do that then they can go back to were they came from. Very simple, nothing complicated about that. most all other countries have the same policy.
    So, I am not against foreigners coming here to the USA to live, as long as they can speak English and are willing and able to procure a green card or marry a US citizen.

  12. One of the things I find most interesting about people yelling and carrying signs that say, "Speak English", is that they can'e spell worth a damn or write a simple grammatical sentence.

    I also wonder from which part of the world Anon's ancestors immigrated.

  13. Anon's folks just had to come from England. She is so absolutely hung up on everybody in the US speaking English. She is also has a big thing about being a citizen. Being a good citizen implies a social contract with every other person who is a citizen. I believe in global citizenship where every human being on earth has a social contract with every other human being. Declare all people citizens and abandon the narrow nationalism and jingoism that is used to foment an eternal state of war and replace it with a never-ending state of peace.

    The Turnipseeds and Parsley might do a blog together. You, Judy and me. We might could call it the veggies blog. Or two teachers(Judy was once an English teacher)and the Seed on a blog.

  14. I read at the newspaper your post "The land of immigrants"
    Thank you!

  15. Anonymous got it right. All the insanity of a porous border are coming home to roost. employers paying slave wages under the table have gained from the cities, counties and states when the illegals are provided benefits and schooling out of taxpayers pockets, which are now broke. America is not improved by allowing a bunch of 8th grade educated people in at slave wages and no taxes with all the other outlays. Billions are also sent to Mexico, which should have stayed here to pay unemployed Americans. If you are for open borders for America, then why not open borders for all the other countries as well. Then americans can go in an buy up all the great Mexican shorelines and farming areas and make ALL mexicans our slaves. This hand holding singing cumbaya vision sounds nice but it is sorely stupid. That early history you forgot to mention included the slavery and blood letting between those tribes for thousands of years. It is pure human nature to dislike and kill other humans not of your tribe or likeness...this is fact! You are insulting our intelligence. Civilization is based on oil today. When oil crashes, you will see how uncivilized it gets very fast as everyone will immediately be looking to feed themselves and will KILL anyone standing in their way. No matter how much you wish, true human nature will always be BAD. There is a point when there are too many people in an area that cannot sustain them. how many is too many for America? does anyone have an answer to this? why should we be the ONLY country to let in millions of people? there is no reason for it at all. So you better think twice before you wish for open borders and cumbaya, because it will turn, and when it does you will be one of the first ones that they come to shoot because they know you are weak!


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