ugly unamericans

I’m pretty sure that my lawn man, Miguel, is a legal immigrant. I’ve never checked papers on him but he tells me that he makes regular trips to and from Mexico. As far as I know, that does not involve a covert middle of the night swim.

On the other hand, I’m not so sure about Miguel’s hired hands. The faces change periodically and when I speak English to them, they usually smile politely and nod toward Miguel who speaks reasonably functional English. I’m guessing that the papers are not necessarily in order on these people and I’m very glad it is not my job to verify that.

I’m not so glad that it soon will be.

In the world as it is about to be, if you do not make it your business to check papers, you will be in jeopardy of becoming an involuntary guest of the federal penal system. I don’t know how risk averse you are, but these new laws will probably have me doing my own lawn again for the first time in many years: the old reliable neighborhood teenager just isn’t available anymore.

I know this from experience. Last fall some teenagers came to my door looking for some leaf clean-up work. I thought it would be good to support the industry of American youth even if it was at Miguel’s expense, so I agreed. They started on the job and since I had to leave, I paid them before they had finished and paid more than they asked for in their inexperienced low job bid. When I returned, the job was about half done and I never saw the budding entrepreneurs again.

Miguel handled the rest of the job.

Immigrants have been handling the jobs that second and third generation Americans would not throughout our history. One of the amazingly stupid things is to consider that we had to have a whole civil war over the forced labor of Africans in the cotton and tobacco fields when “free” labor was readily available were we not too stupid to pursue it. Even before slavery ended, Chinese immigrants were famously tending to the construction of railroads and other laborious jobs on the Western frontier. Irish and German coal miners too are a part of our fabric of unconscious social memories.

I say unconscious because individuals fully aware of the centrality of immigration to the success of our nation would not exhibit the mass stupidity that is rampant. You have seen them on the news too. I heard a seventy year-old lady on the radio who pulled no punches. “I hate illegal immigrants”, she said with a vicious edge. Increasingly they have the sensibility to include “illegal” in front of the word immigrant lest their bigotry show too clearly.

This misdirected anger is very odd because unless you are one hundred percent indigenous American, you too are an immigrant of sorts. It is rather trite to say that immigrants built this country, but as is necessarily the case, trite things became so because of their truth.

We love to think of our modern selves as more enlightened than the bad old days, but illegal immigration is the source of the worst de facto racial exploitation since the Emancipation Proclamation. What makes it so bad isn’t the actual condition of the illegal aliens. There is little doubt that the immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th Century were materially far worse off than the Hispanic immigrants of today. What is so horrible is the intentional complicity of our government in creating a black market in Hispanic labor to bolster our economic health.

Intentional may seem a strong accusation, but the facts compel that conclusion. The notion that we can not effectively control our borders is simply absurd. Examples are easy to come by, but surely none is more relevant than that of the state of security in the post-occupation Iraqi oil fields. And the Soviet Union was famously able to effectively seal borders long before the advent of modern electronic hardware.

To think our present situation to be involuntary is delusional.

Perhaps it is just voluntary ignorance. The facts are there in plain sight such as when it seems just yesterday we had multiple mini-scandals of would-be federal Cabinet appointees that knowingly employed illegals for domestic services. The rich and powerful are clearly benefiting from the existence of the black market in a very personal and direct way. It is no great leap to realize that these same people understand the value of illegal immigrant labor to their key campaign contributors in business.

Nothing new here: just follow the money.

I’d also urge you to follow your instincts in evaluating the moral depravity of people who have for decades turned a blind eye to illegal immigration only to turn around and suggest that illegal immigrants be demonized as felons for nothing more than a political side-show. The very people who have profited most from the presence of illegal aliens are using them a second time for crass political advantage.

Much has been said about the fact that these people are here illegally and have it coming. I simply can not stomach that simple minded rationalization of fundamentally bigoted attitudes. I would ask you to put yourself in the shoes of a Mexican laborer with a family to feed and support. For decades, Estados Unidos has ineffectively guarded its borders and unaggressively pursued illegal residents who want nothing more than to earn some money to send home.

The only thing missing is a formal invitation.

The real question is how do we fairly and compassionately fix a broken system? The answer is certainly not to round up the illegals and deport them for their felonious ways.

The honest and effective solution is to allow an appropriate level of legal immigration from Latin America, but increasing these levels is untenable until we stanch the flow (and exploitation) of undocumented people. The avarice of our ruling class is further exhibited by the undeniable double standard that exists between expanding the H1B visa program for skilled workers while creating an underclass willing to do the dirty work. Instead of asking the world to send us their huddled masses, we invite those having the key skills powerful corporations are seeking and those who are willing to sneak in illegally and work for substandard wages.

This all gives a whole new dimension to Ugly Americans.

I hate to make the economic argument when the moral one is so strong, but perhaps Ugly Americans might respond to such an appeal: sadly, it is the only one that works for many. So I ask, have you given any thought to who is going to be paying the taxes for your Social Security and Medicare support in a few decades? Declining birth rates among European descent Americans tell you that it won’t be our own kids. Have you given any thought to where the labor will come from to continue to grow the American Economic machine? Rising productivity will only take us so far.

Like every important issue of our time, factual analysis and deductive reasoning seldom visit the hyper-politicized forums of inquiry. Time after time we allow political agendas to pervert our national discourse. A return to genuine skeptical inquiry is no more likely on this critical matter than any other.

It is doubly sad that this is so on something so fundamentally American and formerly at the forefront of our social consciousness.

That is decidedly un-American.

And ugly.