Nov. 13, 2007
I read two blogs recently about “illegal” immigration. One of the blogs was fraught with factual misinformation, and the other asked the legitimate question of what can be done about it.
The one filled with biased unsupported bigoted assumptions was re-posted by a number of others.
I believe that I can speak with a little authority on immigration. I was born and raised in a border state [Arizona], I am educated as an Cultural Anthropologist, I am trained as a journalist and in the law, I currently live in a border community, I am bilingual Spanish, I lived in Mexico for twelve years, Central America for six and Colombia for two.
I have studied the immigration issue for a number of years and have traveled and reported in every country in Latin America.
Additionally, three of my grand parents were first generation immigrants [two from Germany–-they never learned to speak English–- and one from Ireland].
In the blog spewing misinformation it was suggested that billions of dollars could be saved by shipping all the “illegal” immigrants back from which they came.
In a comprehensive academic study by the University of California, Davis it was conclusively demonstrated that “illegal” immigrants contribute much more to society than they receive.
It also shows that “illegal” immigrants are no more likely to end up in prison than anyone else from the general population.
The only studies that have not concluded this are those produced by conservative anti-think tanks with their inherent bias.
“Illegal” immigrants pay taxes, but they don’t receive tax refunds, and they also pay into the social security system, but are ineligible to receive benefits. They are the ones who are keeping the social security system afloat.
“Illegal” immigrants don’t receive food stamps or any other social welfare benefits in the US because they can’t prove they are here “legally.”
The biggest expensive for the government in terms of “illegal” immigrants is in terms of educating their children; however, this is small potatoes in terms of what they are paying into the system.
After completing my Masters in cultural Anthropology I stumbled into some anthropological field work while hitchhiking in West Texas.
A rancher type in a pick-up gave me a ride. He asked, “Do you speak Spanish?” I told him I did, because by that time I had managed to learn the language. I had learned it by hitchhiking in Mexico and Central America, never having studied it, and having taken Hindi as an undergraduate. Learning Spanish wasn’t easy for me, because by that time I was totally deaf in one ear and blind in the other.
The burly rancher in a cowboy hat then asked, “Would you like a job?”
I wasn’t sure and I asked him what he had in mind.
“You’ll be building herbicide applicators,” he said, “And working with Mexicans.”
“How much does it pay?” I ask.
He looks at me critically and says, “Same as the Mexicans, ten dollars a day and room and board.”
This was in the early seventies and wasn’t much money even back then. But I was intrigued by the opportunity of getting to work with Mexicans and possibly putting the degree I had just completed to use, besides, there was nothing immediately pending on my plate.
I say, “Sure. Sounds good to me.”
He takes me out to his spread. It’s getting late and he points me to the direction of a rickety old building. That was room for the Mexicans and me.
The guys were fixing dinner. I introduced myself, and pitched in preparing dinner. We had rice, beans, lard, chile and ground corn with which to make tortillas.
It was chilly and we had a wood fired old fashion stove on which to prepare our meal. I roasted and peeled chile while the rest of the guys prepared the main meal. There was plenty to eat, even if it was a little restricted in options.
I started talking with the guys and discovered they had walked three days across the desert to arrive here, and everything they made was sent back home to their families.
I discovered that there were no days off here, and I was offered a cigarette from the dwindling supply that they had brought with them from Mexico.
In the morning, shortly after dawn, I was assigned to the crew making herbicide applicators. I was suppose to be sort of a foreman and translator, though I needed to do neither. The guys had been at this awhile and didn’t need anyone telling them what to do and it was impossible to translate the dexterous work they were doing into Spanish. Besides, there was no need.
Mostly I followed their movements and learned as best I could.
There were two other Mexican crews. One did the farming–plowing, planting, harvesting and irrigating–and the other did the cowboying, working with the cattle and horses. They all received the same wage, and we all lived together in the same dilapidated structure.
The rancher had a wife and daughter who wouldn’t even look at me because I was working and living with the Mexicans.
I discovered from the guys that the rancher was always a month behind in paying wages.
After a month, I demanded my wages and left. I had sufficient information to write an anthropological paper.
A couple of months later I ran into one of the guys I had been working with in a different location. I asked him, “What’s up? How come you’re not working?”
He told me that after the work had been done, the rancher had refused to pay them their back wages, and instead had called the Border Patrol.
“El ranchero es un hijo de chingado.” I tell him–the rancher is a motherfucker.
I had just cashed a check in payment for an article I wrote. I gave him a twenty dollar bill and wished him luck. He wasn’t doing bad. He had been deported and was already back in the states, and working, and hopefully working for someone who was honest. He was still awaiting his first payday.
A few years ago I happened to encounter a small group of border crossers. In talking with them I discovered they were on their way back to Iowa where they worked in a slaughter house. They had gone home to see their families at Christmas at great expense and considerable risk.
I also discovered that they were making from twelve to eighteen dollars an hour. Not great wages, but considerably above minimum wage, and enough to live on and provide for their families back in Mexico. They were able to cut down on expenses by sharing a house and the costs of running it.
They work on the kill floor. I ask them, “Do any gringos ever show up to work?”
They smile and tell me that it happens occasionally, but they never last out a day.
I remember Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, and realize it hasn’t changed much. The first generation immigrants still work in the slaughter houses.
If it weren’t for first generation immigrants, it would be very likely that the USA would become a nation of vegetarians.
When I was a child I always loved maps, the different colors for all the different countries. It intrigued me.
You can imagine my disappointment when my family made an overland trip down through Mexico and into Central America. All the countries were the same color, and there was no real way to distinguish one from another, aside from a border checkpoint.
The blog that asked, what can be done about illegal immigration, pointed out the fact that many “illegal” immigrants don’t enter the country illegally, but rather come in on a tourist or student visa and simply never return to their country of origin.
This is very true.
I formerly owned a house and guest house in Phoenix. Friends of mine from the time I lived in Los Mochis, Sinaloa rented it from me.
One of them was a chemist and the other an accountant. They came to the USA with their wives and children broke.
In Phoenix they bought smashed up cars at insurance auctions, fixed them up and obtained restored salvage titles and sold them for a profit.
By the time I sold the property, they had moved out, having purchased houses of their own, and no longer needing my industrially zone piece of property. They only rented from me for four years.
When they arrived they were broke, and struggled to save the money to get going in the car business by working double shifts at a car wash.
A late friend of mine in Mexico was a chemical engineer, and served a term as governor of the Pacific coast state of Nayarit.
He also worked as a farm laborer in the USA during World War II when most all the able bodied men in the US were serving in the military. These foreign workers planted and harvested the crops and kept the country and the troops fed while everyone else fought Germany, Italy and Japan.
The USA contains approximately ten percent of the world’s truly habitual land, has less than five percent of the earth’s population and consumes on an average 28% of the world’s resources in any given year.
The US Federal government has supported numerous Latin American dictators over the years from Somoza to Pinochet, et cetera.
When the US federal government doesn’t like a duly elected government in Latin America they send the CIA in to overthrow the government such as Guatemala in 1954 or Chile in 1973 or The Dominican Republic in 1968.
It seems that most citizen of the USA have a fear of learning another language aside from English, if the blogs I read are any indication.
It appears that “Americans” don’t even like to hear another language, and are as bigoted and ethnocentric about it as the British.
I personally always feel rather linguistically deprived when I’m with my European friends, some of whom speak a half dozen or more languages. I speak two languages relatively well, and stumble through two others.
One blog mentioned how horrible it is that Mexicans and Latins in general don’t complete high school, as if education were really some measure of intelligence.
At least half the drops outs from the high school I attended have done as well financially as I have.
Having one time taught at the university level, I can attest to the fact that most students graduating from high school are not significantly academically prepared.
So what is to be done about “illegal” immigration?
Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to build a huge wall to keep people out.
A sizable section of wall is already in place and it literally keeps next to no one from crossing.
Congressman Paul also wants to do away with the income tax, and doesn’t explain how he will pay for anything he wants to do.
Alleged “Liberal” legislators such as Barbara Boxer want a “worker visa” program.
This is as impractical as a wall, and is only window dressing. It would allow a few hundred thousand or million people to work “legally” in the USA. It wouldn’t do anything to stop the other hundreds of millions who also want to come and work.
The IMF and the World Bank have sucked Latin America dry for years, taking all their capital as interest payment and depositing it in US and European banks.
President Kirchner of Argentina defaulted on the countries loans to the IMF AND THE WB. The world said it was insane.
The economy of Argentina is now growing at 8% per year, a healthier growth rate than the US. It’s a wonder what can be accomplished in a Latin country when all the money isn’t being sucked out of it.
The US has an aging population, and a general shortage of workers in many areas.
The undocumented workers ease this labor shortage.
One of the blogs stated that it was insane to consider a child of undocumented parents born in the USA to be a full fledged citizen. This has always been the case in the USA. We are a nation of immigrants, and I would venture to say that most indigenous people would say that the European immigrants have been and always will be “illegal.”
I’ve always been confused by this. How does the simple fact of being human make one “illegal?”
The only realistic and long term solution to the massive immigration from the south to the USA and Europe is to invest in viable small businesses in the countries with people abandoning them because of a lack of opportunity.
It obvious that the money cannot be given to the governments of third world countries or it will find its way to the numbered Swiss bank accounts of its leaders.
It’s costing the US taxpayers, and the Chinese investors $750 Billion a day to fund the war in Iraq.
This amount of money could totally transform the third world through a massive micro-loan program that would turn the countries into self sustaining viable communities, thus solving the immigration problem as well as many others.
This is the only realistically possible solution, and the only one that will work.