"I pity the poor immigrant, who wishes he would have stayed home." - Bob Dylan
As I write this, the President's State of the Union Address is still in the near future. I feel safe in assuming that one of the issues that will loom large in his remarks will be immigration.
The last time the U.S. Congress conducted a major overhaul of national immigration policy was in 1986. The idea then was to combine amnesty for current illegal immigrants with tougher controls on future incursions across our borders. In the end, we wound up with the first without any follow through on the second. The net result: an estimated 11 million more illegals inside America.
Stone me if you must, but I'm not sure I even want any more legal immigration. According to an online population clock I accessed the other day, U.S. population officially stands at around 315 million. Twenty-five million of us are unemployed or underemployed, according to other Internet data that I found. Why, then, are we admitting approximately a million people into the U.S. annually, I wonder?
Liberals like to imagine that immigration is their issue. Certainly the 70-plus percent of Latino voters who favored President Obama in 2012 think so. To the contrary, it's the one-percenters and their multi-national corporations that benefit from immigration.
Brenda Walker of Limits to Growth ("An iconoclastic view of immigration and culture") once wrote, "Government-mandated immigration policy is maintaining a system that falls hardest upon Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder, those who have little schooling and must rely on low-skilled work to make a living. The rich get richer as the job market becomes more favorable to employers and the poor get poorer as the low-skilled labor pool is filled with still more desperate immigrants. The harmful effects of over-immigration hit mainly on those already at the bottom - the poor, the low-skilled and working-class…. Around 300,000 immigrants arrive annually who have less than a high-school education. Forty percent of California's immigrant community has fewer than 12 years of school, while the future job market will require hi-tech skills." [http://www.limitstogrowth.org/]
That same website reports that today 40 percent of Americans blame illegal immigration for job loss. No doubt that's not the only, or even the major, cause. On the other hand, what Walker wrote makes sense to me, even more so today than a decade ago.
Organized labor used to agree with this thesis. But the AFL-CIO has shifted its stance, now favoring an easing of the path to citizenship for illegal aliens, no doubt to add such new citizens to its dwindling ranks. GOP Congressmen, spearheaded by Representative Raul Labrador, a Latino, disagree, demanding that illegals step to the back of the citizenship line, rather than leaping forward.
Faced with Uncle Sam's abominable failure since 1986 to enforce the integrity of our borders, several states - notably Arizona - have attempted with only limited success to fill the vacuum with their own laws. Towns such as Hazleton have enacted ordinances - mostly struck down by federal courts - to police their own inundated communities.
Yes, I know the pro-immigration arguments. All of us are the daughters and sons of immigrants. It's only fair to let others have the same chances our parents and grandparents had. Immigrants and diversity make America stronger. The U.S. is the last refuge of the wretched and the hungry.
My dad's family came to Summit Hill 100 years ago, when the U.S. population was less than a third of what it is today. The world was on the cusp of "the American Century."
In 2013, we need to take our eyes off the rear-view mirror and look around us. The tenacious unemployment rate suggests a paradigm shift in the U.S. job market. When recent college grads, burdened with a trillion dollars in total student-loan debt, can't find anything better than low-pay, no-benefit retail jobs, something has changed dramatically. The American Dream may not yet be the American nightmare. But the trend is disturbing.
Amid all the hot air being generated by the immigration debate, I hope that we all take time to fit this issue into the bigger picture. This isn't our grandparents' America anymore. We need an immigration policy that reflects the prospects (or lack thereof) for the century ahead, not one that echoes the century behind us.
Immigration is one topic I usually try to avoid. Just like I don't think a man can really know anything about, say, a woman's right to choose, I'm not sure that I, a middle-class white person, can really understand what it's like be an immigrant. To be someone who wants - needs - a better life. This all probably makes me sound like a bleeding heart liberal, so I might as well just go ahead and say I oppose the death penalty, too, while we're at it.
Maybe it's that I was raised to develop a curiosity in other cultures, or the fact that my parents traveled with my brother and me so much when we were growing up, but I don't have that intrinsic sense of "American pride" that's shared by so many people in this country. Rather, I've almost always felt more like a citizen of the world. I also feel that as one of the richest countries in the world, we owe something to those less fortunate than us. Again, my bleeding heart beats.
That's not to say that I don't understand that there are people suffering egregiously in my own country. But frankly, I'm only here to speak for my own demographic. My dad is right - twenty-something college grads are in a bad position right now. No one seems to want us. And yet, I don't know a single fellow grad that's working as a school janitor, a fast food employee, or any other job with a similar stigma attached. For better or for worse, I think we tend to consider those jobs below us, regardless of the economic climate.
I read somewhere that immigrants are necessary because they work the jobs no spoiled American would ever deign to take on. That's probably only partially true, especially now, but from my point of view? Don't keep immigrants out because of me. I'm too vain for that waitressing job anyway.