Thursday, July 12, 2007

The New Colossus

"WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 — The Bush administration plans to announce numerous steps on Friday to secure the border with Mexico, speed the expulsion of illegal immigrants and step up enforcement of immigration laws, administration officials say."

Why all the hustle and bustle about illegal immigrants and "securing our borders" just as the campaigns are revving up for the 2008 elections? Don't we have bigger fish to fry? Like um... an imminent energy crisis, or a couple thousand US military personnel shucking around in the desert being shot at? Why here, why now, when the number of Mexican and South American migrants have been steadily increasing over the past three decades? Why do our political elite only seem to want to "crack down" on the number of brown-skinned rice-eaters sneaking through our back rivers and over our arid plains?

Because finding a bad guy makes our politico mass seem like a white knight riding into battle for our salvation. Because targeting the scapegoat in your back yard that has no voice and no rights is easier than to zeroing in on a well-armed, well-funded enemy half a world away.

It's obvious why the US political machine (that's both parties, boys and girls) is aiming at migrants from south of the border. The real question is, why are Americans buying it?

"They're not paying taxes!" you squeal.

This is true - for the most part, illegal workers are paid under the table, in cash, at the end of every work day. Sure, some back-of-house restaurant staff may use false identification so if the kitchen gets raided the business doesn't get shut down, but a large portion of the illegal workforce in America is completely off the books.

The cool thing about that is they're also not collecting Social Security, Welfare, WIC, or Americans with Disabilities checks. They're not using Medicaid and Medicare (though ERs are required to treat injury of all patients with or without documentation). By and large, they're not using the systems we create and fund with our taxes. Why should they have to pay into services they aren't drawing from?

"They're taking American jobs!" you might protest.

Yeah, because you really wanna prune bushes and mow lawns and pick apples in 100 degree heat for $2 an hour. Because your "when I grow up" aspiration has always been to labor through 16 hour days in a sweat shop at 10 cents per production piece, right? The argument stacks up to a big pile of manure. "Illegals" take the jobs we don't want, and are grateful for the jobs we're too proud to work.

Do you really think you'd be able to afford those designer blue jeans you wrap around your ass if the Gap had to pay the woman who made them union wages, health benefits, and vacation time? Of course not.

And what happened to the American idea that all people, regardless of race, color, creed, or gender, have the right to work hard and earn a better life for themselves and their families? I wasn't aware that the color of your passport was supposed to matter more than the color of your skin.

Maybe we should change the plaque at the feet of The Mother of Exiles: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... as long as they have proper documentation."

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