Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"It is just so difficult to think that they don't want us."

Last Saturday, voters in Farmers Branch, Texas overwhelmingly (68%) approved an ordinance requiring apartment owners to demand proof of citizenship or legal residency when considering leasing housing to potential tenants. The target of the ordinance: the undocumented men, women and children from Mexico who live in the small, inner ring suburban community.

From my perspective this is an amazing development.

For one thing, it seems out of place for a city to tackle what is obviously a federal issue. This fact seems to motivate Deputy Mayor Pro Tem and City Council member Tim O'Hare who told Campbell Brown during NBC's Today Show on Monday that those in favor of the new city law were standing in the tradition of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Say what?

I thought Ms. Parks and Dr. King violated local and state laws to entice the federal government to respond to the injustice with new national laws and protections. O'Hare's logic and his understanding of history astound me.

Then, there is everything else.

Supporters of the ordinance claim that these hard working, undocumented families use up the scarce resources of the community, including public education and health care. Few will acknowledge the fact that these families pay all sorts of taxes, including sales tax, federal withholding taxes, property taxes and Social Security taxes that they will never be able to reclaim. Undocumented workers are in essence paying for my retirement, with no hope of receiving such benefits themselves no matter how hard or long they work.

Last week I read an article about the public schools serving Farmers Branch. Evidently, the high school is one of the best in the area. The student body is majority Hispanic.

The most common argument I hear--and at times, believe me, I do get an ear full!--is that "there should be no argument."

"We are a law abiding society and immigration is all about obeying the law."

Case closed.

Not quite.

Much is wrong with the way our laws regarding Mexican immigration have been applied, enforced and managed over the past decade or longer.

Somehow over 12 million undocumented immigrants, most from Mexico, managed to enter the United States. The vast majority of the adults have found jobs, work hard every day and serve the interests of American business as a cheap and often exploited source of labor. They are not made felons by entering the country.

The U. S. Congress has not been too keen on facing the challenge of crafting new, comprehensive immigration reform.

Until recently, with increased political pressure, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have done little to punish employers for hiring undocumented workers.

The IRS has been more than happy to bank the taxes paid by undocumented workers without comment, even creating a special "suspended file" for the funds paid on clearly bogus Social Security numbers. My understanding is that annually these funds are equivalent to 10% of the Social Security reserve fund.

Markets have done nothing but encourage the influx of more laborers without proper papers.

Major banks offer checking accounts and credit.

Our foreign policy has done virtually nothing to encourage the sort of economic development inside Mexico that would curtail the influx of immigrants to the U. S.

So, what is the proper response? Pass local, city ordinances to "uphold the law"?

The quote from the report in Monday's paper (The Dallas Morning News, "After immigrant rental ban's approval, some plan exodus," by Dianne Solis, May 14, 2007, A6) that really got to me came from a Mexican woman who is now moving out of Farmers Branch after living there with her family for years.

She said, the emotion leaping off the page and over my first cup of coffee, "It is just so difficult to think that they don't want us here."

Sorry, lady. It's all about obeying the law.

Maybe we need to remember the words and ideas of Henry David Thoreau expressed in his important essay, "Civil Disobedience." His thinking on the nature of law certainly influenced the likes of Dr. King and Gandhi.

Thoreau spoke of "actions through principles."

In other words, if the rules and demands of a government or a society run contrary to moral law and to individual conscience, it is my duty to reject, ignore and disobey them, according to Thoreau. That, of course, is what Rosa Parks did on that Montgomery bus. (By the way, I was taught this same value in Sunday School as a child here in Texas!)

Thoreau observed. ". . .it is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right." Law should be respected, not because it is law, but only because it is right, just and fair.

"The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right," he wrote.

To be morally right and to pursue justice in life is the goal, and is more honorable than being law-abiding, like the bus driver who obeyed the law and told Rosa Parks to go the the back of the bus where the law, a really bad law, said she belonged.

Ironically, Thoreau wrote his famous essay in 1848. He was thinking of slavery and the invasion of Mexico, both violated his conscience.

Laws can be wrong.

Laws can be bad.

There are higher values than being "law-abiding." Honest people who argue that obeying laws must remain our supreme, inviolate national value need to rethink their position.

Those who are hiding behind the rhetoric of "a nation of laws," need to get honest about their real concerns.


Anonymous said... nailed it on the head when you stated that:

"Those who are hiding behind the rhetoric of "a nation of laws," need to get honest about their real concerns."

The agenda is as old as Pharoah and the Israelites.

From African slaves working cotton and tobacco plantations; to Chinese immigrants being forced to lay our rail system to migrant hispanic workers harvesting crops.

Its no secret that from our country's inception, America has been built upon the backs and sacrificed lives of ethnic minorities viewed as slave labor and quite literally used as beasts of burden to further our economic agenda.

One can only imagine that if God doesn't bring our nation to its knees through plagues or their equivalent that he would have to apologize to ancicient Egypt.

Shawn Murphy
Blueprint for Life

Roger Cook said...

Each side does an excellent job of ignoring points raised by the other. Those in favor of the ordinance do tend to ignore how it's wrong to turn a blind eye to disobeying the law, then suddenly crack down on it. But one point I'm curious as to how you think about it is how the extra workers drive down wages for unskilled labor and promote unemployment among the unskilled men and women who were born here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your heart for those who don't have a voice in the process. As a resident of FB, I'm confused as to what the desired result of all this is. I guess I don't understand how one's immigration status changes their economic status in our city? I mean, how does immigration status change the socio-economic status of our neighborhoods. People usually buy or rent the houses they can best afford, regardless of their immigration status. (Best meaning neighborhoods, city, schools, location, etc.) How does what FB has to offer, change with immigration status of its residents? We still have the same housing, schools and city services to offer. So is the "nation of laws" group saying this socio-economic group is welcome in our city, as long as they are legal?

If I thought that was the case, then I might be in agreement. Because regardless of where you come from, what house you live in, how much money you make, what language you speak, you are equally entitled to a voice. You are equally entitled to live in this wonderful city with it's parks, schools, and city services. And I hope we make this city more accessibile, not less accessible, to a class of people who don't normally get access to these advantages.

But because I feel these steps are more about the "level" or class of people that reside in our city and the perceived negatives that come with that group, this is why I have a problem. Because again, where one falls within a class of society does not make one person better or worse than another. And it should never dictate how much of a say a person gets or deserves in the process of "improving" our city.


Anonymous said...

JB, take a look at the most recent issue of D Magazine--it is very, very revealing and relates to exactly what you are saying.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the first thing we should do is secure the border, otherwise the problem will continue. Did we not legalize millions in 1986?

Does any country have open borders? I know Mexico is very strict.

Tim Timmons said...

I read the article. It was an encompassing treatise on the term "Good Ol' Boy" and its importance in the politics in Texas.

The actions of the Farmers Branch Good Ol' Boys are no more than a microcosm of the same spirit which, when allowed to be unleashed, eventually leads to the actions in Darfur. The Spirit and the energy of the Spirit are one and the same.

It's us versus them and it's ok for them to be them as long as they stay over there and we are protected from them becoming us or, worse yet, us becoming them.

How can anybody see the movie Ghandi twice in the same week or read Louis Sheldon's "In His Steps" (thinking about how he would rewrite it today) ... then look down at their WWJD bracelet and have any question about any of this?

We were not placed on the Earth to learn how to support ourselves - we were put on the Earth to learn how to support each other. There is no us. There is no them.

"As oft as you did it unto the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me."

The illegal immigrants are the VIP's of Heaven - and the same ones who will take us there.

The last will be first and the first will be last.

David Johnson said...

Racism and xenophobia are still incredibly powerful forces in our nation. The reason illegal immigration is such an issue is that the mainly Hispanic people who immigrate do not "look like 'us'" or "talk like 'us'". And these people who do not "look like 'us'" or "talk like 'us'" are such motivated workers that "we" are scared they'll take up all of "our" jobs.

I've already noticed several times people talking about southern Florida, southern Texas, southern Arizona, and parts of California, calling these areas "third world countries." Why are they third-world countries? The level of wealth in these majority Hispanic areas far surpasses that of most all of Latin America--otherwise these immigrants wouldn't come here. The reason they are being called "third-world countries" is because many, if not most, of the people speak Spanish in their homes and amongst themselves and have light brown skin.

Anonymous said...

Is there any country that has an open border?

Anonymous said...


Your comments about Tim O'Hare and Farmers Branch boil down to this: You want the US to have open borders. Period. Your "end justifies the means" philosophy is not only wrong, it is unbiblical.

And to the person who said "Illegal immigrants" are the VIP's of heaven...ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I wouldn't call those who break our laws by coming over here illegally, steal someone else's identity to be over illegally, don't pay federal taxes, drive cars without a drivers license and without car insurance which is ILLEGAL and suck our health and social services dry, the VIP's of heaven. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

I really don't see what is so difficult to understand about this. FB is not alienating the LEGAL hispanics. The legals are welcome to come and go as they please. The problem here and all over the nation is that the illegal immigrants come here and they do take "our" jobs. I've seen some lazy white and/or black people that is true, and often mexican labor is available. The problem is this: Taxes. Say what you want, but more often than not those contract workers that put your roof on didn't even have an SSN, thus didn't pay taxes. I'm sure some might have a phoney one, but the majority don't. So taxes don't get paid, which means all that welfare they're getting for medical care and such is coming out of everyone else's pockets instead of theirs. Additionally, much of the money they make is sent back to Mexico to their family, which is respectable. However, this is money that isn't going back into the American economy, which creates economic issues. If your legal in this country, I really don't care who you are or what you do. If your here illegally, then you don't need to be here.
Also, the bit about MLK and Parks? Spare me man. this isn't a racial issue. illegal immigrant is not restricted to mexicans. Everyone these days likes to play the race card, all too often. Just because it affects you doesn't mean it's racially motivated because of you.