Immigration Misunderstood

Some Republicans once thought that immigration would be the major domestic issue that could galvanize their party and the electorate for the midterm elections.  The idea for draconian immigration measures aimed at preventing workers coming from Latin America found much support in the House of Representatives.  But when the huge national protest marches in favor of immigrants made it clear there were two sides to the story, the danger to the GOP was made clear.  Push too hard and the Hispanic/Latino vote in the elections will go solidly and energetically Democratic.

It has always confounded me as to why there is such a misunderstanding of the immigrant issue.  The fact that these new immigrants are coming to America for the same reasons that our great-great grandparents came here should not surprise us.  The hope for a better life, and a more solid way to pay for a family is not a new concept.  What many conservatives argue is that some of these new faces did not do what other immigrant’s have done, and that is renounce their heritage to fit in.    I would counter that there are reasons for that.

When the families of the 1800’s came to these shores they were no different than the Latino’s today, except they had far fewer barriers.   If the 19th century newcomer was ill they were held for a period of time, but otherwise were allowed into the country legally.  They were registered, counted, and in some cases offered land parcels such as here in the Midwest.  But perhaps the greatest difference is that those earlier immigrants were able to bring their entire family.

The whole family traveled together from whichever country they heralded.  They did not need to scale fences, dig trenches, or pay ‘coyotes’ for transport.  If they survived the often-rugged Atlantic journey they were welcomed to America and handed their citizenship.

Today Latino’s face a far different story and our understanding it is vital to this whole issue.  The worker from Mexico that comes here by any means possible does so to pay for a family he/she left behind.  A family he/she may never see again.  Think about that.  The economic plight in Latin America is such that in order to sustain a family a worker makes an attempt to get into America.  Once here the Latino takes any job available and sends as much money as possible back to his family by check or money order.  And I repeat, to a family he/she may never see again.

While in the United States the worker is paying taxes and Social Security and even may buy a home.  All they want is the right to live here legally without fear, and yet there are some cruel people who just cannot allow that to happen. 

The reason that many Latino workers here do not immerse themselves fully into our society is that they still have those loved ones living in abject poverty elsewhere.  The modern immigrant can’t renounce his/her past because they are tied to it through family in another country.

I fully reject the notion that these Latino’s are lazy or ‘free-loaders’ as I have never seen a harder working group of people.  I think it utterly repugnant that some, for pure political motives, would want to round up and remove the Latinos.  I think it ludicrous to build a fence and am thankful that the fence building idea was no more than political salve without the funds to actually construct it.  Finally I am grateful that the Iraq war, economic woes, high gas prices, lack of health coverage and many other issues in the fall campaign has swallowed up this hollow arguement over immigration.

One thought on “Immigration Misunderstood

  1. Kerr Mudgeon

    Immigrants who come to the US legally may pay taxes, contribute to Social Security, and even buy a home, as you state. ILLEGAL immagrants are largely in the underground economy — day workers who get paid low wages ‘under the counter’ with no benefits, no recourse if mistreated, etc. They don’t pay income taxes or earn credits towards a pension. They provide a large number of workers ready to be exploited by those who exploit, and there are always plenty of those. Illegal workers and their exploiters are a huge social and economic problem that cannot be so easily dismissed.

    And then there is the weird situation of illegal immigrant parents with citizen children. Issues like this can’t be swept under the rug but need to be addressed, tho without GOP demagoguery or simple-mindedness.

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