Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Carol : An Immigration Tale

For me, no Christmas celebration is complete without a viewing of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. Most of us are familiar with the story, but may not know of the underlying message.

Although Dickens wrote because he needed to make money, it was a social commentary. During Dickens’ time, overt religious celebrations complete with eating and drinking were taboo since the Cromwellian Revolt and magnified by the influence of the Puritans … in fact, for some years Christmas was abolished. To these radical Protestants, the holiday was more a pagan tradition and certainly not part of Christianity. It was deemed a wasteful day off. And even in America, the U.S. Congress met on Christmas day up until the 1850s. Most people worked on Christmas and schools were in session. For Bob Cratchit to ask for a day off would be a violation of Puritan values.

But Dickens’ message was as much about greed as the plight of the poor -- a time to reflect on man’s responsibility to his fellow man. Read more here.

Dickens uses the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to ask Scrooge to reevaluate his thinking … and so I will use these Ghosts to ask you to look at the illegal immigration question.
I think it is time to accept the fact that the Mexican-US border is now being addressed … fences are being built and additional border patrol agents are being hired link.

It’s time to ask the question, what about the people that are here now ?

The Ghost of Christmas Past
I grew up in a suburban lily-white environment of white-collar middle-class parents (albeit tipping to the upper end of middle-class.) My neighborhood was a blend of ethnic origins -- Irish, Italian, Germany, Polish, and Hungarian but my high school … how shall I phrase it --- oh, you could easily find the pepper in the salt shaker. But we all got along and most of us went to college. I had a girl friend … her parents were good people … her Dad was a crane operator and didn’t like me (or anybody else that would “date” his little girl) and her Mother was deeply religious … and a great cook. I recall going over for a “study-date” and her Mother said she would clear her books from the kitchen table. I asked her what she was studying … and she said she was studying to take the test to become a US citizen.
Turns out my girlfriend’s Father was first generation American as his parents came over on the boat, and he returned to family’s homeland to see relatives where he met and married my girlfriend’s Mother. I didn’t realize it at the time, but today, her Mother would be branded an illegal alien.
The message that The Ghost of Christmas Past is telling me is that we may not realize that there are good people among us that raising their children, being active in our communities, and supporting local business growing.

The Ghost of Christmas Present
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests during the past thirteen months have resulted in hundreds of illegal immigrants being deported leaving behind families in fear and uncertainty. It is estimated that there are approximately five million US children with at least one undocumented parent. These are the innocent victims. It has been reported that one of the targets of the 12/16/06 raid, Swift & Co. lost $53 million to decreased productivity, but business will go on … only the innocent are left to face the consequences.
If you will recall Scrooge became very upset and asked the Ghost of Christmas Present to cover his robe …. Why … he sees the children and the word on the boy’s forehead is “DOOM”.
They are truly the innocent victims.

The Ghost of Christmas Future
This Ghost would ask “What would it be like if all the illegal immigrants were deported ?”.

There are so many impacts that there are too numerous to mention, so here are just a few.

We would look at small towns with shrinking property values as illegals who owned homes were forced to sell; rental properties that were empty; and increased defaults for property taxes bills. Small businesses would fold without customers. If Tom Stiehm, the mayor of Austin, is correct that there are 5-7,000 illegal immigrants in a town with a population base under 30,000, a max exodus would have severe impacts on the local economy. The result would be higher property tax bills and smaller school populations raising the questions if some schools should be closed.

We would see a military draft. (Did you know that the “surge” in Iraq required the same number of soldiers as the military current has as non-citizen soldiers. link If first-generation soldiers decide that they will follow their deported parents home, the loss of recruits will force a military draft.

We may lose the leaders of tomorrow. Fourteen CEOs of Fortune 100 companies are foreign-born. Arnold Schwarzenegger became a U.S. citizen in 1983 after graduating from University of Wisconsin-Superior in 1979. Carlos Gutierrez, Bush’s Commerce Secretary is an immigrant from Cuba. Mel Martinez, Republican Senator from Florida, left Cuba when he was 15. Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s UN Ambassador was born in Afghanistan. Henry Kissinger grew up in Germany and then immigrated to America. These may be legal immigrants, but if America adopts a nativist policy, why will they want to come where they are not wanted. Even families could be affected -- Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba, is an immigrant from Mexico. We may not agree with all the policies that these people advocate … just as some may not agree with practices performed by Alberto Gonzales (who never explained how his parents arrived in America) or Jose Rodriquez (from Porto Rico and of the CIA tape destruction fame) … but they have made a contribution. And how about the number of doctors and scientists that come here … will they go elsewhere?

The message of the The Ghosts is simple : it’s time to move beyond fear mongering and address how we will operate as a society to legalize those that are here (if they want to stay here.) Admittedly, they have arrived illegally, but it is unfeasible to contemplate deporting all these people. The courts and detention facilities would be overwhelmed.

It’s time to reflect on man’s responsibility to his fellow man. What sort of America do we want – compassionate with laws that allow for past sins to be absolved – or a nativists promoting prejudice ?

1 comment:

magyart said...

I agree with this new AZ law and the comments of federal Judge Neil Wake, who said any delay in implementing the law which allows suspension or revocation of state licenses of companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers would harm the state and, in particular, legal Arizona residents.

"Those who suffer the most from unauthorized alien labor are those whom federal and Arizona law most explicitly protect,'' Wake said.
"They are the competing lawful workers, many unskilled, low-wage, sometimes near or under the margin of poverty, who strain in individual competition and in a wage economy depressed by the great and expanding number of people who will work for less,'' the judge continued.

It's against the law for employers to knowingly hire illegalaliens. It's REASONABLE to expect employers to verify social security numbers of employees.

The only employees walking off their jobs, are illegal aliens and they SHOULD be denied employment, since it is against the law.

I want the federal version of this law passed. Call your elected representatives and ask them to co-sponsor the SAVE Act. The House bill HR4088 already has 131 co-sponsors, but needs more. The Senate version S2368 has only three.

Illegal aliens do not have a legal standing to question a state or federal law. Employers should do all that is possible to comply with the laws of AZ and the nation. It's their civic responsibility.

Help take our country back. Support the AZ Sanctions Law and ask your U.S. Congressmen to co-sponsor the SAVE Act.