A Double Standard For Immigration

   You can tell people to stay where they are or you can send the message that it’s okay to come on in.  Doing both at the same time and then complaining about the system being dysfunctional when things fall apart is hypocritical.

For decades that’s exactly what the United States has been doing.   And that’s precisely what’s happening now.

For decades our leaders have been speaking out against the evils of illegal immigration, while at the same time, millions of illegal immigrants have been given the green light to come on in and take advantage of  low-paying jobs, emergency room healthcare and the public school system.

Don’t kid yourself.  All the while our public officials at the local, state and federal levels knew exactly what was going on.  But America needed and wanted cheap labor.  People who would work for endless hours in the fields without complaining, doing the back-breaking work Americans wanted no part of.   People who couldn’t afford decent housing, so they would pack two or three families in one small apartment and sleep in shifts.

Produce prices were kept low while agribusiness contributed to political campaigns to insure the system would remain unchanged.  And they all knew what was happening.

“Despite heated political debate in Washington over illegal immigration in the United States, an increasing number of banks are seeing an untapped resource for growing their own revenue stream and contend that providing undocumented residents with mortgages will help revitalize local communities.”-CNN

In the early 80’s I went along with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the “INS,” on a raid of illegal immigrants working the onion fields up in Ventura County.   My photographer and I were in a government SUV.    As we approached a field filled with workers, a siren started to wail.  The siren had been put in place by the farm’s owner to alert his illegal immigrant employees that the INS was approaching and that they should run for their lives.  Which is what they did.  Like antelope running across the Serengeti Plain on some tv show.  But these weren’t wild animals, these were human beings. I had recently arrived from the east coast and saw the whole thing as being nothing short of surreal.  People being rounded up like a bunch of animals here in the United States?   What the hell?

The INS had the field surrounded, so pretty much everybody was “captured” and put on buses to be deported back to one nation or another south of the border.  The INS agent I was with told me they’d all be back in a matter of weeks because “this is where the jobs are.”   That being the case, I told him the whole thing seemed like a massive waste of time.  ‘Do you speak Spanish?” he asked me.  “No” I said.  “Better learn it,”  he said.

Now, nearly 30 years later, Arizona has a problem?

The border with Mexico is nearly 2 thousand miles long. It spans four states.   Do you seriously think it can be sealed off without the full cooperation of the Mexican government?   Thing is, there’s a war for survival going on between government officials and the wealthy and powerful Mexican drug cartels.

The cartels are being funded by America’s habit for illegal narcotics.

There’s also the fact that in the past, the Mexican government has openly encouraged its citizens to go ahead and cross over into the U.S. by any means necessary.

Then there’s the whole question of corn.  Corn?  Yes, corn.  A product, which, for centuries, has been central to Mexico’s culture and economy.   What did the U.S. do?  Following the passage of “NAFTA,” under the banner of “free trade trumps all,” our agribusiness conglomerates started dumping genetically engineered corn on the Mexican market.  Japan and Europe have restrictions on genetically engineered foods.  Mexico did not.   Mexico, now gets most of its corn from the U.S.   Activists say the result is that thousands of Mexicans have been driven from their small family farms.  Forced to look for work elsewhere, many hooked up with “coyotes” and crossed over into the U.S. while the Mexican government looked the other way.

Now, decades later, with millions of undocumented workers having been encouraged to enter the country illegally, Arizona is telling its law enforcement personnel to fix the problem by demanding that people with brown skin present proof of citizenship?

Yes, there are laws.  Yes, the laws must be upheld.   However, following decades of government negligence and hypocrisy the situation isn’t all that simple.  Dumping it on the cops by turning them into “race police”  is just plain wrong.

What’s needed is a workable solution.  But that will require a reasonable approach to undocumented workers who are already here, and the full cooperation of the Mexican government, a political body currently locked in a war for its life with drug cartels.

It would appear we must help Mexico to help ourselves.  This isn’t optional.  It’s mandatory.  Perhaps recognizing that the “war on drugs” is over, that it’s been over for years, and looking for a more realistic way to handle drug abuse would be a rational place to start?

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