My grandfathers came to the US about 100 years ago. Back then, the doors were wide open. From 1900 to 1910, the average annual flow of migrants equaled more than 1 percent of the American population. Currently, it's a third of 1 percent, not the hyped massive wave, hysterics like Lou Dobbs suggest, in whatever words they use, night after night.
After 1910, things tightened up. Who knows how many less Europeans might have survived, how many millions less than 27 million would have been executed in concentration camps if the US had kept its borders open? Who knows how many unwritten symphonies, uninvented modern miracles don't exist because we closed our borders? We closed them and horrible things happened. We didn't cause the horrible things, but we could have saved millions.
Let's compare the decisions to tighten our immigration laws with the "Iraq war," which will ultimately cost us in excess of a trillion dollars, the right wing idiots and their spineless Democrat compadres have foisted upon us in Iraq. We haven't done a single damned useful thing there. Oil production and electricity generation is down. Freedoms have decreased. Fear has increased. Atrocities have become everyday.
Now we have a "situation" where there about 12 million "illegal" workers in the US. They're illegal because they slipped in to the US through its pathetically porous borders. They work at the low paying jobs-- in kitchens, on lawns, on farms. When I was a kid, I worked in a restaurant for minimal pay-- sixty five cents an hour, back in 1965. I mowed lawns for a few bucks a lawn, with the power mower I bought with the money I earned delivering newspapers, since the age of 12, earning two cents per daily and a nickel per Sunday paper. Back in 1963, I was working seven days a week to earn $12. But that enabled me to buy my first electric guitar. Now, I own a home and a Mexican team does my lawn. But their boss assures me they are all legal. if a neighbor kid came along, looking to find some lawn work, first, that would be a miracle. Kids don't do that work anymore. They can't do it on the computer... But if one of my neighbor's kids came along, I'd find some weeding for him to do, some yard cleanup, just like I buy candy or candles, when it's the time for the school fundraising drive. The Mexicans aren't taking away any work. They're helping me. These workers have become a part of the fabric of America. They work. They pay taxes. I see them at the local convenience story spending their income. It goes into the economy. Okay, so they send some of it home, to Mexico, to Jamaica, to all the nations in the central, southern and Caribbean Americas. They are doing what we might be doing anyway, except then, the right wingers would call it welfare.
Now, some right wing extremists have adopted some policies originally advocated by the KKK-- build a security wall. Throw out 12 million people. The KKK and neo-Nazis call our immigrants "mud people." In the antiabortion world, the strategy is to incrementally weaken and nibble away at Roe v. Wade, to gradually erode women's rights. It seems that the same thing is happening with migrants. Neo-Nazis and KKK haters would love to see blacks, Jews and foreigners removed from the US. Just imagine how happy they'd be to dump 12 million as a first batch.
It is crazy to propose suddenly making 12 million people-- 4% of our population criminals. The demonstrations we are seeing in LA and elsewhere are just the beginning. If I were Latino, I'd be out on the streets. I support the demonstrations. I feel connected to the demonstrators, though my immigrant roots date back 100 years. My grandfather fled the shtetl in Russia. He had to. He'd assaulted a Russian officer to defend his village from a pogrom. As a soldier in the Czar's army, he would have been executed if he'd stayed behind. He could probably have applied for asylum if he was contemporary. He came by boat, through Ellis Island. Once he made up his mind to leave, it was probably a fairly SAFE process. So many of the workers who come to the US risk their lives to come here. That's how much they want to be here. There's something good about that.
Bush says no to amnesty, that you don't forgive lawbreakers. I propose an alternative way to think about the situation, inspired by one of my heroes, one of the world's heroes, Nelson Mandela. In South Africa, there was SOOO much enmity between blacks and whites. But they instituted reconciliation and forgiveness. They manifested a miracle. We could do the same here. We could work things out with the 12 million workers already in the US and even with the millions more who will sneak in before we finally do secure our borders. We do need to secure them, with the risks of terrorism. That's the real issue we should be dealing with, not the distraction, the smokescreen that Sensenbrenner has raised. While we're reconciling the migrant worker dilemma, maybe we should take a look at the millions of prisoners being kept in jails because they broke a law that had no victim-- usually drug laws. Those laws are also racist.
We have our own forms of apartheid here. Don't start on technicalities of the word. We have racist policies. We have racist laws, and the right wing is threatening to make even more, worse laws that are, at heart, racist.
The repercussions of the stupid, impulsive, reptilian brain, territorial anti-migrant reflexes the right wing fear and mongers are whipping up in America could be frightening. So far the demonstrations have been peaceful. But if jackbooted, redneck cops decide to start the process of deportation early, before the criminalization of 12 million people becomes the dumbest law ever passed, violence could easily erupt. People will die. Property will be destroyed, potentially billions of dollars worth of property. Business will surely be disrupted, and that doesnt include the unimaginable effects upon business by the deportations of millions of workers who are depended upon by industries. And lets not forget the legal workers who will leave the US to stay with their spouses, parents and children who are deported. I wonder if they are included in economic calculations.
We have recent historic proof that right wingers and spineless democratic legislators are willing and able to lead us to incredibly idiotic choices-- think Iraq. They are in the process of, worse than climbing onto a slippery slope, jumping off a cliff.
that got us into the Iraq disaster.
We on the left should stand with the migrants. Blacks should stand with the migrants. We should be valuing and appreciating them. We must remember that this is a distraction strategy that could be as outrageous and destructive a disastrous failure as the Iraq war.