Sunday, June 17, 2007

Thoughts on Immigration

I haven't written much about this subject, in part because I feel humbled by the series of postings by The Anchoress on this subject. And because I have very mixed emotions about the subject.

Immigration deals with people. With families. And, like health care, no solution is going to be perfect.

Two members of my own family are immigrants. One came as a spouse, the other as a political refugee. Over the years, I have worked with several people here on work visas. Or who were here as legal residents, went home and married a local man or woman, then returned to the U.S. to wait as the proper paperwork was processed by INS and their spouse could join them. In two cases, the wives in the U.S. had babies while their husbands were still living in the Philippines.

I've gone to pubs and restaurants where I've been served by waitresses with brogues who saw in the U.S. a chance for a better life. They came for a visit and simply stayed.

Back in the 1980's, there were two cases where crewmen simply "jumped ship" while in port. In the early 2000's, a Chinese national left his fishing boat and stowed away on board a container vessel bound for the U.S. In all three cases, the would-be immigrants were caught and returned home.

U.S. Customs found containers of human cargo arriving at U.S. ports. Most of those inside had died from suffocation, starvation, heat, or cold. The rest were mostly sent home.

I watch the news and the rallies exhorting "Reconquista!" and wonder why the advocates want to bring here what they fled there. Reconquista makes no sense to me. Who do they think would live in Azatlan? Who would pay for the infrastructure, maintain the roads and the schools? Don't they know their history? The Spanish conquered the Aztecs who conquered the Mayans who conquered the previous culture. True Reconquista would give the land back to the Original People.

My family is typical for the U.S., but unique among the world. We eat German potato salad and bow; barbecue and lumpia; baguettes and tortillas. We drink beer and wine and sake, coffee and tea. We are liberal and conservative; we are technically-savvy and technical Luddites. About the only thing we agree on is that underwear is not meant to be displayed, at least, once you are over the age of six.

Where else could we live but in the U.S.?

The U.S. is the place of second chances, where people have come to reinvent themselves, to build a new and different society. A place where what you do is more important (usually) than who you are.

I worry when I hear people advocating that we change the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship. I worry when I hear people advocating unilaterally rewarding those who have jumped the line. I worry when I hear the concerns of those who live on the front lines--whose homes have been burgled, whose livestock and pets have been killed, whose land has been trashed--dismissed out of hand.

I want the border secured. I want the drug-smugglers stopped. I want the coyotes caught and punished more severely than the desperate people they prey on. I want convicted felons returned to their home countries, preferably to serve their prison time there.

I want those who hire illegals punished. I want those state and federal agencies who hire illegals exposed.

I feel most sorry for those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as young children by parents who were desperate that they have a better life. Coming here was not their choice. Going back is not an option. They are the ones whose status should be resolved first. (How do you prove they've been here since childhood? Check school records.)

Most of all, I'm tired of feeling like the World's Doormat. I'm tired of hearing what my country has done wrong, how terrible my country is, how inferior its culture. Then why are so many people so desperate to come here? Why does a movie like Pirates of the Carribean III set box office records worldwide? (Is it just Keith Richards?) I'm tired of two-bit dictators and presidents of corrupt governments telling me what my country has to do.

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. I don't have to bribe a police officer to stay out of jail. I don't have to bring my own food and linens with me to the hospital. I don't have to worry about the water that comes out of my tap. And the only time I have to worry about a bridge collapsing is during an earthquake.

I don't have to walk behind my husband. I don't have to cover myself. I can enjoy sex. I can read what I want. I can write what I want. I can drive where I want.

If I have the money, I can buy whatever the market has to offer. And while I can be fired, I can also quit. I can start my own company and work for myself. My success and my failure is largely up to me.

You, of course, are free to agree with me or disagree, read me or ignore me. Buy what I have to offer or refuse it.

But for all this to work, we must respect the rule of law. All of us resident here. Otherwise this just won't work.

Rather than pushing through yet another bill with provisions that will be selectively enforced, how about enforcing the laws we already have on the books? How about funding Border Guards and letting the IRS and Social Security Departments compare notes to see who is using invalid Social Security Numbers. And then going after those companies and government agencies where this seems to be a persistent problem.

Let's identify the immigration status of those in our jails. Those who are here illegally need to be remanded to the authorities in their home countries.

Perhaps cities and municipalities who think they are above enforcing federal law should not receive federal funds.

Once the laws already on the books are enforced properly, maybe then we can talk about what to do about the special cases, about where we go from here.

And there is a lot to talk about...