Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What has brown done to you? (part, the second)

4b) Mexican, Central American and Latin American immigrants don't become a part of our culture, because they think of themselves primarily as Mexican or Honduran or whatever, and never fully learn about our traditions, culture, history, etc. This is a hard one to pull off, especially since many Americans have themselves taken up the banners of various forms of ethnic pride. Almost everybody you ask will tell you that they are French or Polish or Irish or perhaps Irish-American, Greek-American, African-American, etc., even if no member of their family has been in France, Poland, Ireland, Greece, or Africa, except on vacation in generations. In other words, we already have a culture in which people largely identify themselves as being from or of some other place. In a way, this is only natural, since in the language of one sort of political science, the United States is not a nation, i.e., a people unified by ethnicity or religion or history. We are a country made up out of different peoples, united by a commitment to a common set of ideals. So, if it is acceptable for my college friends to get all excited about their Irish-ness, wearing shirts that say "Kiss me I'm Irish", having bagpipes at their weddings and flying Irish flags outside their homes, we can hardly object when recent immigrants demonstrate the same sort of pride in their forebears and former homelands.
Now, you might argue that recent immigrants don't feel a deep connection to the shared history of our Republic. But, I must ask anyone fond of this argument to go with me into a college classroom and ask, as I sometimes do (in order to use certain examples), basic questions about American history. Upper middle-class, non-immigrant college-age Americans don't, for instance, know whether or not Washington was assassinated (we can leave aside that they don't know that someone who has been assassinated is of necessity dead), they don't know who Edison was or what he achieved, they don't know what Franklin's role was in the early Republic, they don't know when the Civil War was, that there was a Mexican-American War or a Spanish American-War, etc. If we really want to impose some sort of civics test in order to find out who is really American or tied to the US, we had better revoke the citizenship of a lot of native-born Americans.
In fact, I think that probably most immigrants, whether documented or not, have a much better idea of what the American idea and ideal is supposed to be about than most citizens. It is, after all, why they come here.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let me just say, Mr. Howard, that I oppose illegal immigration for all of the reasons you propose, but also for the obvious reason that it is terrible public policy to import poverty. It makes no sense to take in poor people from other countries who will work for a pittance, drive down wages, use governmental services, and commit crime at a greater rate than those who were born here. It's a dumb idea. We already allow in the most immigrants of any country in the world. Why do we want to take in 600,000 more poorly educated, non-English speaking people than we already allow legally? Why not be pissed off about that? It's bad public policy, and everyone knows it is (except for those who want cheap labor, those who worship multicultuarlism, and those who want to come here).

Tyler said...

First, you are saying, by claiming that you oppose immigration for all the reasons that I mention, that you don't care that some of your reasons are bad reasons.

Second, I don't deny that there are real and serious problems with the way that immigration, both legal and illegal, is handled in this country. I live on the border, I see the poverty and desperation that comes in.

I realize that, for instance, the tide of illegal immigration allows for Mexican and other Latin American countries to do absolutely nothing about their deep inequalities and unworkable economies. But I also realize that we have an immigration system that is based largely on 19th century views of everything from communicable disease to desirable and undesirable immigrants; and, which, inexplicably, also includes a lottery for green cards.

I agree that an open border is bad public policy, though I find it interesting that this debate comes up only when it is convenient for certain conservative politicians and demagogues to move public focus from other serious problems. Is it a coincidence that this is important in an election year? I wonder. Is it strange that the way the debate is framed appeals to hatred of minorities and anyone who is different? Nope, because just like the resurrection of the FMA, it was planned that way.

Now, I would love to address you by name, as you almost did me (my last name is not Howard), but, of course, you are anonymous, so I'll just go back to my altar of multiculturalism.

Brian said...

Mr. Hower, I used to call you Mr. Howard when I was a young lad.

When I said that I agree with the reasons you propose, it was not to concede that your objections to those reasons were valid. But those are all secondary reasons for why I oppose illegal immigration. My main reasons are two: 1) it's bad public policy to have open borders for the reasons previously stated and 2) it's an issue of national sovereignty. WE get to decide who comes into our country, not the people of Mexico, not the President of Mexico, not big business, and not the multicultis.

As for your claim that this was brought up by conservatives for their own purposes, I think that's unfair. President Bush is spitting on his base here (of course, he gets no credit from those opposed to him on all other issues). He's the one who wanted this semi-amnesty, guest worker hodge podge. He's pushed it before 9/11 only to shelve it for the obvious reason that most of the hijackers were folks who had violated immigration laws (like overstaying a guest visa).

He's pushing his plan because he thinks it's right. It's certainly not working for the Republicans.

The FMA is altogether stupid.

Tyler said...

Brian, first an apology for the snippiness of my last comment/response.
In fact, I will concede, gladly, that Bush’s proposed solution is not merely a matter of election-year posturing. I think he does really believe that it is the right—in some sense, probably right for business—solution. I think his solution is, in part, not workable or reasonable. Partly because I think borrowing a guest worker program from the Germans is like asking the Russians how best to build civil society, and, if we have 12 million or so people here that we let in without knowing it, it is hard to believe that we will be able to get people here on guest worker visas to return home, and, it goes against any understanding of human nature to think that these people will actually go home.
What I was thinking about primarily was not the President’s proposal but all the punditry and more conservative Republican rhetoric that is peppering the airwaves from Fox and CNN and that is everywhere in border states and border cities. To listen to the rhetoric that is thrown around here, for instance in the recent (i.e., yesterday’s) race to replace Randy “Duke” Cunningham in the House, you would think that we are faced with a not-so-golden horde coming across our borders. And, while the President’s rhetoric is not helping the Republican Party, much of this nativist and jingoistic rhetoric is helping the party quite a bit.
Since, I’ve been critical, I suppose I ought to offer something positive. I don’t think that we ought to deport the 12 million people already here, except in those cases where they are guilty of some crime not solely related to immigration law; so for them, we have little choice but to offer something like the semi-amnesty, with required registration, payment of penalties and back taxes, etc. Believe me, the Border Control has a hard enough time controlling crossing points and border areas, they cannot, without sizeable tax increases, round up 4% of the US population and deport them. And, we didn’t even pay more taxes to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, so I don’t see that happening anytime soon. But, I think that we should not institute a guest-worker program—we either work with the labor that we currently have or we allow more labor in on regular visa on the way to green card way. To do less than that is to treat “guest workers” as little more than chattel, and to create a permanent, if revolving, underclass that we have an interest in keeping un-integrated with the rest of society. At the same time, we have to make it perfectly clear to Mexico, Central America and, since this is where a lot of it is coming from now, Brazil, that we will not tolerate more illegal immigration, that we will not be a pressure relief valve for their social and economic problems or an external part of their economies through the remittances of undocumented workers, and, that we take them to have responsibilities to prevent the illegal emigration from their countries. We have carrots here that we can remove and sticks that we can implement.

Brian said...

Good thoughts. Let me tell you that this is a big issue not just in the border states, but in areas of high illegal centralization (like Aurora, Elgin, Joliet, and many other former industrialized towns around Chicago). It is not good public policy to have a large supply of low wage illegal workers without health insurance or English skills. If that's considered nativist, so be it. As I said, we get to decide who comes in and who doesn't. Sorry your country can't get its shit together. That doesn't mean you can come here, lower wages, and cause havoc in schools that are trying to teach American kids who already speak English.

I don't believe that what blew this issue up was Lou Dobbs or O'Reilly or anyone else (Fox News is in a strange position...they are first and foremost pro-Bush so they can't bash this issue like their viewers would like). What blew up the issue was the protests. People saw them and said: these people aren't legally here; they don't get to decide our public policy.

What's to be done? Border security, first. I don't believe we're going to deport 12 million people. We can prevent most people from getting in. I'm a pro-wall guy. Is it bad symbolism towards Mexico? You bet. Well, tough. The Mexican government shouldn't have given their poor maps on how to successfully navigate the border and break our law.

Internal enforcement should be a gradual attrition insument. Give employers a way to check that's better than an I-9. I favor a national ID with info that can be run through a credit card like machine to confirm eligibility to work. Relax anti-discrimination laws so that employers can refuse to hire based on a good-faith belief of illegality. Fine employers that act in bad faith and do it heavily. When the jobs dry up, those here for work go home.


In any event, this isn't an issue, in my view, that is being used for political purposes. It's an important public policy issue. Some estimates say that there woulc be about 100 million imigrants over the next 20 years under the Bush amnesty plan. Exactly why do we want to do this? Who is making this decision? No one wants it except powerful interests that do not speak for most people. That's why it's at the top of the agenda of many populist politicians and pundits. They're right.

Tyler said...

The protests happened after there were already moves afoot to criminalize giving any kind of assistance to anyone in the country without first checking their immigration status--they may have made the issue pop nationally, but they weren't the first move--in fact, they followed by more than a year, the presence of armed "militiamen" on the border; the bill as it was initially proposed in the House would have made it a crime for a minister or priest to help an undocumented victim of domestic abuse without informing the CIS. However, the protests were, at best, self-defeating. Particularly egregious was the omnipresence of the Mexican flag; if the point was to show that people feel themselves a part of the US, this was surely not the way to do it.

I'm not altogether sure how it is that a semi-amnesty for people who have already been in the country for a given number of years would lead to 100 million immigrants who aren't currently here. That's seems, at best, like a specious view of causality.

That being said, I think a wall is a fine idea, though I'm suspicious of our ability to police it. It took our officials months to find a mile-long tunnel between Baja and California under the wall that we do have, and people regularly walk around the wall separating the two at the ocean.

And, the fact that we don't have a national ID is one of the strangest of American traits. My partner, who, for the record and full disclosure is a permanent resident and considerably more conservative than I am on matters of immigration, has three separate national identifications from his home. It was time many years ago for such an ID here. Of course, with such an ID, there'd be no reason to relax anti-discrimination laws.

But with that, I'm out of this discussion for the time being. So, you can have the last word, if you'd like Brian. But I expect to hear more from you, since regaining contact with someone missed for so long is an awfully nice feeling.

By the way, everytime I call someone "Captain", as I often do, I think of you and how much you used to confuse Bingham.

Brian said...

I'll take the final word here, then:

You're right that the house bill was passed last year and the minutemen have been patrolling for longer than that. All of that goes to my point that this was not an election year ploy.

As to the claim that the House bill contained a provision that made it a crime for nuns to give them a bowl of soup at a soup kitchen...well, let's just say that reasonable minds disagree with that reading of the law. It was designed to deal with coyotes and those giving assistance in actually getting beyond the border, not charity. From what I heard, the Cardinal intentionally read the statutory language in bad faith.

The 100,000,000 immigrant figure comes from the Heritage Foundation. It takes into account increases in legal immigration and guest workers.

Take care, good man. I look forward to reading your other musings.