Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A City Boy's Random Questions on Immigration. . .

How in the world would anyone manage to send over 12 million Mexican citizens back home in any sort of orderly fashion?

What about children born in the U. S. who are citizens today? What would happen to them if their undocumented parents were sent packing to Mexico?

What would happen to the real property owned by undocumented Mexican nationals--homes, land, businesses?

What are we willing to do to help strengthen the Mexican economy so that citizens of Mexico would not need to enter the U. S. illegally in search of opportunity and better lives for their families?

Why do people calling for "border security" with Mexico in view of the threat of terrorists entering the U. S. not express the same intensity about the long unprotected border with Canada to the north?

How many strong advocates of deportation personally know an individual from south of the border who is here in the U. S. without proper documentation?

How can a suburb like Farmers Branch, Texas have city officials calling for extreme measures against Mexican immigrants while also offering a "labor hall" for these same people to catch out as day laborers in an orderly fashion?

Why have members of the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives decided not to work on immigration reform until after the November elections?

Why are honest, hard-working people considered a threat to the security and economy of the U. S.?

What would be so bad about every student in U. S. public schools working together to master at least two languages? Why wouldn't public school districts be happy to fund such an investment in student skills and intelligence enhancement?

Why does the Social Security Administration continue to collect Social Security contributions on workers' accounts that are backed up by false and invalid Social Security numbers?

What does President Bush understand about immigration and immigrants from Mexico that align him more closely with Democrats than with most members of his own party, especially in the House of Representatives?

Why is the infant mortality rate among children of poor Hispanic mothers almost as good as that for the infants of much more affluent Anglo mothers?

Why do so few residents of the State of Texas know the history of our state's dealings with Mexico from colonial days to the present?

Why has the North American Free Trade Agreement not resulted in more benefit to the common workers in Mexico and Central America, not to mention the U. S.?

What is the status of land ownership in Mexico? What sorts of reform efforts should be underway to help stabilize the Mexican economy by spreading the wealth among more of its citizens?

Why doesn't Major League Baseball open a franchise in Mexico City?

Why aren't there serious, on-going talks between the leaders of the Mexican government and those of the U. S. around the subject of immigration and mutually beneficial economic development south of the border?

Why don't the states that share a border with Mexico become new industrial sites for American corporations so that guest worker programs might flourish more easily at a convenient and feasible distance from the homes of Mexican laborers?

Could American corporations and investors develop alternative energy resources in Mexico that could create jobs and help supply energy to the U. S. in a manner that would be mutually beneficial to both nations?

Why do so many Christian people read a bible that is filled with admonitions to honor "the aliens" and treat immigrants with fairness and justice and then turn to display hateful attitudes toward neighbors who are from another nation?

Just wondering.

For a really thought provoking essay on what happened during the Great Depression to Mexican immigrants living and working in the U. S., see The Dallas Morning News, Saturday, September 9, 2006, "We're poised for a repatriation redo," by Sherry Jacobson. You'll find it at:



RC said...


Your post today is almost information overload. I am like most Americans. I know I am not well informed as to the details of the immigration crisis, but I know there is a problem. I think that there is a sense in America that the Mexican workers are just flaunting our laws. You can talk all day long, but at the end of the discussion these people are breaking the law. I am not for sending them all back. That makes no sense at all, but the present situation makes even less sense. Our country has always had laws which govern immigration. All countries do, including Mexico. I think that one of the problems is that the Mexican worker is in-fact depressing wages. The reports I hear is that they will work for less. If they were not here the employer would be forced to pay more. You are an excellent writer, but I think that you threw out more then my small brain could digest. I think we all agree that we have a problem. As far as the politicians, do you think for a minute that those spineless wonders will do anything of importance right before an election?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Larry. Just curious -- and this is an oversimplified, generalized question, do you opposed enforcing laws (or creating new ones) that would make it "tougher" for immigrants to enter our country illegally? While I agree with you that the solution to the current situation isn't to deport people who are currently here and have made America their home, I was curious on your take on tougher enforcement regarding those who have "not yet arrived"? thanks!


John Greenan said...

This statement gave me pause

"Our country has always had laws which govern immigration."

because it isn't true.

For most of the history of the United States, we didn't have any laws restricting immigration (except for the Exclusionary laws limiting nationals of certain countries--like China, from entering). If you were a "white" European (and the definition of that changes over time--read:Working Toward Whiteness), you could come.

It was only even more recently, I think about WWI, that immigration laws were passed restricting immigration. Even then, it wasn't a crime to enter the country without permission--I think that happened about the time of WWII.

If even someone like rc, who seems both thoughtful and intelligent, doesn't know the historical background, then expecting the less enlightened to worry about the facts is probably hopeless.

Anonymous said...


While I agree knowing the facts (as opposed to myth) surrounding a debate is a must, I don't know that whether a person realizes when immigration laws were passed qualifies as a crucial fact. If I said our country has always had laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, people would laugh because most of the laws are relatively new. However, does that make me any less able to engage in a discussion about the need to eradicate discrimination and harassment from the workplace?


RC said...

I stand corrected, and take no offence. I consider myself a student of history, but I, like most people, tend to focus on certain periods of history. I will be the first to admit that I know very little about immigration law and thus my faulty assumption. Regardless of my lack of knowledge of the history of immigration laws the fact remains that we do have laws now and they seem to be basicaly ignored. John, thanks for the correction. It is a stupid person who cannot stand corrected.

Anonymous said...

In a recent interview on the Talk Show on KERA, the author of an article in this month's Mother Jones described in gripping detail the actual journey of many of these people entering our country. I would recommend reading the article, which describes just how driven such people are by economic necessity/survival.

President Bush used to be known for his call for compassionate conservatism. What I find frequently missing in this debate on the part of many is any hint of such compassion in their formulation. This is a blog that calls for social justice. Compassion should certainly be high on the list of values we cherish.

What I always appreciate about Larry is that compassion is clearly the underlying value behind his comments.

In this immigration debate, there is a scene in the movie Titanic that frequently pops into my mind. Jack, and others from "steerage," are trapped in a lower level of the ship by the rising water, literally locked out from the path that leads to the lifeboats. Jack and the others pick up a bench and crash through the locked gate. Not because they wanted to "break the rules," but because they simply wanted to survive. That basic human drive (read Maslow) is a very, very strong motivation for action.

I do not know the solution. But I do know that as long as people are struggling to survive, they will do what they can to survive.

A number of years ago, with looting running rampant during a blackout in New York City, some one came out with this line: "the poor must be moral too." I agree with that line. But when the poor have to feed their children (or their parents or their siblings), they may define a journey across a border as a very moral choice.

Randy Mayeux, Dallas

Stacey said...

Stop asking such hard questions, Larry. It's SO much easier to just pretend these issues have easy answers that the politicians can tie up in pretty paper with bows and everyone goes home happy.

Unknown said...

I don't know very much at all about immigration laws, or the raging debate about what should be done to "solve" the problems surrounding immigration- but I do know one thing: all people are just that- people. They can't all be lumped together in neat catagories, and they are all searching for the same kinds of things I am searching for, too. I got an email a few weeks ago that just blasted the "new"immigrants (read- Hispanic) of today as opposed to the "good ole'" immigrants of Ellis Island days as:
thinking they are entitled
not having sacrificed to be here
loyal to their home country, not America
unwilling to learn English

Well, I wrote the person back that sent the email to me and let them know that I don't agree with this kind of rhetoric that lumps everyone together into some kind of unworthy, lazy, pessimistic view.

I see many Hispanics- probably immigrants- whether legal or not, that are hard-working, dedicated to their families, have sacrificed much to come to the US, and carry with them deep cultural and religious feeling that adds to the varied flavor of American culture.

So, before I start trying to wade through all the political hype- I am just going to remember first that we're talking about human beings that are just like me.

John Greenan said...

I don't think you need to know all the history of something before talking about it--otherwise we'd all have to be quiet all the time, and I'm not trying to show anybody up, but I think the history of immigration in this country is important to this particular discussion.

There is a tone among many in the United States that, at least implicitly, contrasts their virtuous ancestors that legally immigrated to this country (maybe even especially virtuous because they were "selected" to come to the U.S. through some imagined process--which of course never really existed) against the current "illegal" immigrants that, having come here illegally, must be the scum of the earth.

We all make myths, but this one is both false, and, I think, pernicious to our society.

My ancestors are Irish and came here about 1880 with the original John Greenan stowing away and jumping ship in New York--about as close to illegal as you could get in those days. My wife is Hispanic. Her ancestors held a land grant from the King of Spain dating to 1660 for most of current Webb and Starr Counties, Texas. They became United States citizens when Texas joined the union.

Since then they've had a long history of military service. My family doesn't.

But the division between the United States and Mexico in the Rio Grande valley is entirely arbitrary. The area is culturally one. No current international body would allow a country to usurp territory as we did from Mexico (Iraq's claim to Kuwait was far better legally). Law suits are still going on over ownership of property rights dating back to the Spanish land grants (disclosure: including on where my wife has a claim) and the descendants of the original Hispanic owners are winning a fair share of those lawsuits.

I could go on far longer than any of you would choose to read, but I think you need to know some of this history (maybe more than I do) to start thinking about the moral issues surrounding migrations.

What rights does the United States have over the border? Over a territory taken illegally under international law and held on the theory that might makes right? Where the land was stolen from its prior owners? Where Hispanic families were dispossessed and discriminated against (my wife still remembers being refused service at restaurants)? Where families are divided by fiat?

I don't see a moral high ground for us to take in this discussion. Pragmatically, well, sometimes you have to do what you have to do, but that doesn't make it any more right.

I'm guess I'm willing to discuss what we have to do, practically. But I'm going to immediately reject any semblance of an asserted superiority.

Larry James said...

John, thanks for your words. You provide much needed perspective to the entire matter.

Anonymous said...

"Why are honest, hard-working people considered a threat to the security and economy of the U. S.?"

Honestly...because they "look" (sad but true) very similar to those who wish to do us harm.

I'm not saying it is right but that is why.


Unknown said...


As elections approach, what's a list of 5-10 questions you'd ask a politician to decide whom to vote for? You toss out tons of questions, but I figure it's a long shot to get even one answer from a politician (especially in my gerrymandered district where only the primary matters).


Larry James said...

Charels, great question. It will provide me grist for a future post. Stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

I have received at least two -mails this week from fellow Christians deriding illegal immigrants causing a strain on our social services. Hah! I am not counting your blog.
I will get up early in the morning to pickup a young farm laborer. He will give nine hours of work for $50. Working six days per week, he pays his own living expenses and supports a wife and two small children deep in southern Mexico. This county is over run at the present time with seismograph crews. They probably make conciderably more than $50 per day. They do hard physical work that others (i.e. most welfare receipients)will not or can not do. Since moving to the country at he age of 67, I have tried to find part-time help to no avail.
I have never drawn welfare but as a former business owner, I have certainly paid into it. I welcome any one willing to work and support themselves and their families.

Jeremy Goren said...

It always heartens me to see members of the faith community, like Mr. James, stick up for some of the principals of charity and goodwill that really form the basis of much of the Bible. Mr. James asks some obvious but important questions about immigration. These, in particular, jumped out at me:

Why do people calling for "border security" with Mexico in view of the threat of terrorists entering the U. S. not express the same intensity about the long unprotected border with Canada to the north?

This question seems even more important when we consider that no evidence of terrorist action has been detected near the U.S.-Mexican border, according to a Border Patrol spokesman I talked to in June -- while we have found evidence of terror activity much closer to the northern line. And the obvious answer to this question proves the fallibility of the argument that further border militarization is to stop terrorism. It's to stop brown-skinned people. (It's already been proven by academics that increased militarization of the border actually increases the undocumented population in the USA.)

Why does the Social Security Administration continue to collect Social Security contributions on workers' accounts that are backed up by false and invalid Social Security numbers?

This is a little blow to the theory that undocumented migrants merely mooch off of our public systems without contributing. In addition to sales and property taxes, those using false papers pay into Social Security for the rest of us, with no hope of ever recovering that money.

Why has the North American Free Trade Agreement not resulted in more benefit to the common workers in Mexico and Central America, not to mention the U. S.?

This seems fairly obvious: The F in NAFTA stands for "free" trade agreement -- not "fair" trade agreement. We made it to bully other countries into an arrangement that benefits U.S. big business -- at the expense of other countries and U.S. workers, who lose jobs to people in countries with fewer regulations. The bigger question is why do we claim no responsibility for the devastating effects of our actions?

Why do so many Christian people read a bible that is filled with admonitions to honor "the aliens" and treat immigrants with fairness and justice and then turn to display hateful attitudes toward neighbors who are from another nation?

This, along with the quotation Mr. Henson cites on Grits for Breakfast in his posting previous to the one linking to UD, forms the core of the problem that exists with the supposed adherents of many religions. It's part of the problem with the violent followers of fundamentalist Islam for which too many of us in this country are quick to condemn the entire religion.

That so many so-called Christians -- and Jews, for that matter -- are so quick to want to expel, incarcerate, or summarily execute immigrants from certain countries shows a fundamental refusal to follow their declared faiths. How many times in both the Old and New Testaments does the Divine teach us to take in the stranger among us, to welcome the alien? It seems many among us would rather adhere to our prejudices and fears than to logic, the words of G-d, and the spirit of this country.

(And if you're looking for more information to tackle some of these and other questions on immigration, I offer my blog, Open Veins, as a source and gateway to more in-depth examination of the subject.)

(Larry, I meant to post here yesterday, as well. Your note reminded me.)

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Larry it looks like you opened a can of worms ... and I thank you for it.

Bobby Valentine

IBreakCellPhones said...

OK, I'm going to take a stab at these.

1. Very carefully. Start small, build it up.

2. They would be deported until their age of majority. Revoke birthright citizenship by way of location, clarify that "under the jurisdiction" of the US means that your parents were US citizens.

3. If they fraudulently obtained title, the property is forfeited.

4. That's a good question. What is the government of Mexico willing to do in that department as well?

5. Because we don't have thousands of people streaming to North Dakota from Manitoba each day.

6. Don't know. No, I don't know one.

7. I don't think it's straight-up hypocrisy, but making the best of a bad situation.

8. Political third rail. Move it one way, lose votes from one side. Move it the other way, lose votes from the other.

9. Supply and demand. As the supply of labor increases and demand doesn't increase as quickly, wages stay lower.

10. If public schools have a problem keeping up with what we ask them to do today, should we be asking more of them right now?

11. Don't know your answer there. Is there so much fraud that stamping out one causes three to pop up?

12. Some of us have always wondered about him.

13. Good medical care available to poor mothers, along with basic public health precautions (clean water, sewer treatment). Throw in many of those Anglo mothers having babies in their later-fertile years and it's completely understandable.

14. Depends on the version of history you were taught.

15. Because the common workers in Canada and the US had cheap competition from Mexico.

16. Good question, but that's one that I can't answer living in Texas.

17. The home team would have an unfair advantage in Mexico City. First, oxygen deprivation at 7000+ feet would hinder those not acclimated (also see altitude training for Olympic athletes). Second, it would become a batters' duel since balls would travel further in the thinner air. As for economic reasons, I'm clueless. Looks like it could be a good market.

18. I thought there were, albeit not at the Presidential level.

19. Lack of available resources near the border region.

20. Doesn't Mexico already export oil to us? What incentive is there to develop them?

21. The Bible often refers to "one law" for both the alien and the Jew. The aliens were subject to the laws.