“The United States is not a territory that is up for grabs, and that belongs to
whoever manages—legally or illegally—to get here. It was founded by Europeans,
who gave it its culture and institutions, and America’s European core has every
right to resist dispossession.”
Immigration is a hot topic these days, and in fact it has been such for several decades (at least). What saddens me most about the topic is the erosion of the concept from the days when it was a pride-inducing fact that America was ‘a nation of immigrants’ to today’s version, the one that effectively reverses the concept and instead defines (non-European non-WHITE) immigrants as dangerous, or worse. “Rapists” anyone? Drug runners? (They’re the ones with “cantaloupe calves”). “Radical Islamic Terrorists”? Go ahead, ask most any Republican. They know all about immigration. Just stop askin’ before you get to any of that Humanitarian nonsense because about that, they know nothing at all (and are proud of it).
Following is my (captured, 2005) transcription of a two-way online discussion between myself (Frugalchariot, F.C.), and one whose ‘stage name’ was SmirkySmirk, or S.S. The original topic was an April 2005 web post by Christian Ramirez entitled Minuteman Project: A grotesque caricature of patriotism (the link is not to the original post, but instead is to a ‘snipped’ version still available on Democratic Underground), and is Ramirez’ 2005 anti-extremist rant about then-recent anti-immigrant ‘projects’ in Arizona. The post’s main topic concerned the arrival of the armed (so-called) “Minuteman” militia in Arizona, ostensibly there to guard the Mexican border and to help the Border Patrol deny entrance to the USA of all those “illegals.” Ramirez aptly summed up his overall conclusion on the matter in his last sentence on the cited link:
When society has generated such a hostile climate that it allows extremist
organizations to be perceived as genuine and legitimate, that’s when we have
to stop and wonder if the path this country is taking is not leading us to an abyss.
I couldn’t have said it better myself — back then or, for that matter, today.
So now here we are, eleven years and five months ‘down the road’ from that point, and it’s still safe to say that Amurkkka’s overall position on what we continue to call “illegal” immigration/immigrants has not changed. It may, in fact, have gotten worse thanks to the hate, fear, and greed-based philosophy of our resident Republican Party and their 2016 presidential nominee, Donald Trump, who endlessly spouts faux-bogus plans of mass deportation along with his ridiculous “BORDER WALL” notion. I suppose it’s not really ‘weird’ that Trump’s “wall’ has been so voraciously accepted by our resident population of fear-mongering, hate-filled, racially bigoted xenophobes — those who loudly express hatred of all the “tired,” the “poor,” those “Huddled masses yearning to breathe free” who hope and pray that America might one day offer them and their families a chance at a better life. But (sadly) that seems to have become “our” (using the word loosely) new norm.
What so many Americans (sadly) seem unable to grasp is that the immigrant “problem” cannot and will not ever be solved by (a) a border wall or (b) mass deportations. A twenty-foot tall border wall will only accomplish one thing: it’ll create an instant market for twenty-one foot-tall ladders. And mass deportations will fatten nothing other than the wallets of coyotes, i.e. that ever-prosperous north-for-money contingent of people-smugglers. None of this says, of course, that our southern border “problem” is unsolvable, it simply points to the FACT that fear, hate, and greed will never combine to fix things (well, maybe if they added concentration camps, gas chambers, and crematoria, but I don’t want to go there).
It forever remains a solvable issue, of course, and all that’s really required is sympathy, caring, and sympathetic action — concepts generally unacceptable to modern day Amurkkka. Still, maybe it’s worth a try? Sometimes there are notable exceptions. Sometimes intelligent conversation can impact what at first glance may seem to be polar opposite viewpoints; dialogue is required, of course, but if it works, then walls and deportations might actually be seen as excessive. Maybe?
Maybe indeed. Here’s the online conversation from nearly 11.5 years ago that I referred to above, the online ‘chat’ between myself and SmirkySmirk. At the beginning, we were clearly polar opposite in viewpoint, but by the end we had come to at least a level of understanding and respect. Not perfect, but surely better than a wall, better than mass deportations.
*Note: responses are un-edited for grammar, spelling, etc. Sic and Sic, resp.
“Minuteman Project: A grotesque caricature of patriotism” by Christian Ramirez;
Sunday, April 03, 2005
F.C. — I’ve lived in Arizona since 1962. During those 43 years I’ve traveled to Mexico uncountable times, both on the border and into the interior; I’ve enjoyed the close friendship of many dozens of people — from both sides of the border — who are today referred to with a sneer as “mexicans” (lower case intentional).
Twenty years ago I was a watermelon grower in the Gila Bend area, and the great majority of my harvesting crews were from Mexico, “illegals” in the current vernacular, and a finer and harder-working, more honest and trustworthy group one could never find anywhere. During harvest, at least once each week the Border Patrol would happen by and gather up most of the crew and return them to Mexico; the next morning (or at worst, on the second morning) they’d be back, a little worse for the wear but nonetheless ready to work. We paid them a fair wage, in cash, always under a two-way ‘gentlemen’s’ agreement: we wouldn’t screw them, and they wouldn’t screw us. They worked hard and were completely reliable; meanwhile, they provided us with an address in Mexico to which we promised to send their earned wages should they be hauled away and not return. On one occasion, only one, we did indeed have to send a man’s earnings to the address he had provided us. And we did. He made it back the following year, made it a point to thank us, then went back to work — this time for a higher wage than the previous year and in a better position.
Those were, in a sense, the remnant of the good-old-days; since then, laws have been passed making employers into criminals if they should hire, knowingly or unknowingly, “mexicans” who are here illegally. More recently, a gathering fever has infected Arizona, a fever I’ve not seen since the racisim that infected much of America in the fifties and early sixties. There is an unreasonable and perhaps unconscious sense of fear (that’s the polite word — hatred may be more to the point) rustling through society which has resulted in efforts designed to keep “mexican” laborers out of the US. And those efforts have, in effect, caused a tremendous and probably proportional increase in illegal border crossings. Every year, dozens of innocents — men, women, children — die of exposure as they attempt to cross the desert on foot, unprepared; hundreds, perhaps thousands more, pay human traffickers — coyotes — money to deliver them to the US. Coyotes are, without a doubt, consummate scum who care nothing about humanity, only about profit (they’re probably republicans, in other words). Often, bodies of murdered “mexicans” are found in remote desert areas, shot and killed by coyotes because their payment was not there on demand, or was insufficient. Meanwhile, *legal* (I’ve lately come to hate that word) “mexicans” are also victimized in the same way, usually because they agreed to pay the coyote to bring a family member to the US but then came up short when payment was demanded.
The coyote process works, however; scarcely a month goes by where, in the greater Phoenix area alone, a collection and distribution point (usually what appears to be a private home) is not discovered along with its hundred or more occupants — illegals waiting to be distributed elsewhere. These places are, metaphorically, what wholesale produce warehouses are to a supermarket chain. In a more down-to-earth context, however, they’re parcel to an emerging slave trade.
Meanwhile, the percentage of “brown-skinned” Hispanics continues to grow, and grow, and grow. I can’t recall offhand the specific estimates, but it’s likely not too long (a decade, give or take) before “white” will be a minority in many Southwestern states, and if trends continue unabated, “white” will, one day in the foreseeable future, become a minority “race” in the US. That scares the shit out of a lot of people, and brings forth the worst traits of even otherwise seemingly decent folks: overreaction to trumped-up fear — always the Repug’s motivational tool of choice.
Last November, Red-state Arizona passed a referendum which was couched in an “honorable” protect-America-from-illegal-immigration-$$-expense pretense, but which really grants legal premission to harass by virtue of profiling (let them greaser fuckers know who’s in charge here in Amerikuh).
And, of course, last but by no means least, out come the gun nut vigilantes, the fruitcakes for whom a gun is little more than a pecker-extender, a deadly weapon which helps (in their own dementia) portray them as “Real Men” rather than the cowards they truly are. Sometimes I wonder: if gun ownership could somehow be (gender)-restricted to that small percentage of males who are happy and satisfied with the size of their schlong, would all the gun companies go broke within the year?
Probably not, but the NRA’s membership would fall off to nothing, and in the process a huge portion of the Repugs financial base would fall into the toilet — where it belongs.
Let’s recognize this emerging fruitcake posse for what it really is: the American equivalent of the German Sturmabteilung — the SA, brown shirts, storm troopers — those paramilitaries that Hitler found most useful and used accordingly. In other words, WAKE UP America!
S.S. — While I do not agree with the use of militias to combat illegal immigration I am not an advocate of illegal immigration.
I have been a SoCal resident since 1982 and during that time have witnessed a steady meltdown of the economic, educational and social landscape:
formerly pleasant areas of town are now crime-ridden, drug-infested, gang polluted ghettos-this phenomenon is growing and spreading now to other areas; elementary schools are overcrowded to the point of bursting, wherehousing historically the greatest number of students per classroom-and growing (moreover 2/3 of the 5th grade children in the SF Valley school district B system do not speak English- typical and in some areas of Los Angeles County the incidence of non-English speaking children is much higher);
wages have been decimated in parts of SoCal since the 1980s (many laborers are working for well below the state and federal minimum wage- I personally knew dozens in my area working for $4-$6/hr. and there is no reason for me to believe their plight was unique); and finally a subject I rarely hear addressed in debates on illegal immigration but equally relevant- the impact of illegal immigration on the critical housing shortage in Southern California that has led to exorbitant rents in even the seamiest parts of town;
furthermore, the delivery of healthcare, particularly in Los Angeles, is in acute crisis with many shelters closing due to shortfalls caused in large part by the burden of low payed illegal immigrants overtaxing the system.
That these phenomena are indeed occuring and are the result in part of unenforced immigration laws, I think, is beyond dispute.
What I object to is people reacting to immigrants with unjustified and implacable hatred for the what is the failure of the Federal government to do its job. What I object to is business getting a free pass on a problem they have created by transferring the cost of maintaining their underpaid, undocumented workers onto the shoulders of society.
Oh, I also object to anyone turning a purely economic issue into a humanitarian one and accusing the opposition of odious racial motivations or inhumanity for objecting to illegal immigration.
F.C. — The problems of illegal immigration will never be solved via vigilante posses, nor will they be solved via a modern day “Maginot Line” of contiguous military security. There is no necessity, either, of opening the borders for all of Mexico and Central America to move north into the US. But none of that’s to say or suggest that there aren’t solutions amenable to all concerned.
The big problem began in the sixties with the elimination of the Bracero program during the Lyndon Johnson administration. That program allowed Mexican nationals to come to the US and work, to send their money home, and to return home after their work stint was completed. The program was, indeed, plagued by employers who treated the workers effectively as slave labor, but that was a problem addressable by means other than slamming the door.
The solution, of course, will take place naturally if and when the economies of the US and Mexico come into a sort of equilibrium, whether by a declining US standard or an elevating standard in Mexico (illegal immigration along the Canadian border isn’t much of a problem, for perhaps obvious reasons). Equilibrium between Mexico and the US is a long way off, however, at least if the gap is to be closed by Mexico attaining par prosperity — there are way too many political and cultural roadblocks in Mexico for that to happen in the short term. OTOH, the US is in a position to assist AND to reduce its border problems at the same time by resurrecting some form of the old Bracero program, this time in a way which denies practices of exploitation. That is, in fact, the one suggestion Bush himself made during his first four years that I could agree with.
Of course, we could nuke the place I suppose, but both that and an impermeable armed border sound a little rash.
S.S. — To the above poster: Why am I not surprised that someone who has profited so much as yourself financially from illegal immigration are also an advocate for it. Can’t find US citizens to do the work? Don’t give me that crap! Pay A DECENT WAGE AND BENEFITS and you will have droves of Americans lining up at your door to work for you. But, you’re right, I’m sure Americans probably would not work for the pittance wages you paid illegals to do the work.
F.C. — I’ll ignore your presumptions of profit and dismiss them as coming from someone who knows nothing about farming. Beyond that, I’ll guarantee you that any farmer would happily pay a “living wage” as you call it, to each and all of his employees AND would happily add a full benefits package as well. All he would ask would be that he still be able to market his (perishable!) crop quickly and at a decent profit. I suppose you and yours would joyfully and willingly pay ten or twenty bucks a pound, give-or-take, for fresh produce? Hey, people pay that much for fresh tuna, right? Why not for broccoli? I give up, why not?
S.S. — Let me ask you a question, did you provide your employees with health care and a living wage?
F.C. — Nope, but that part wasn’t terribly concerning — for a small operation, margins are too thin to provide “the bosses” with health care either. As for a living wage, what is that, exactly? Is that a salary paid to one who works in an air conditioned and cushy office, a wage that goes up annually without regard to production or accomplishment (yes, I’ve worked in corporate offices too), or is it whatever accrues when one works in the fields for 12-15 hours a day, 7 days a week and hopes the markets will pay enough for him to get his costs back plus make a small profit? My instinct suggests that you’re probably damned fortunate to have a supermarket handy where you can buy your food at a reasonable price, that if you’d have to grow your own you’d be on a diet.
S.S. — Or did you just expect the taxpayers to pick up the tab with subsidies to YOUR EMPLOYEES?
F.C. — I look at it this way: if the taxpayers can pick up, among other things, a “defense” tab that totals more each year than the next ten or fifteen countries combined, if taxpayers are willing to reduce the taxes on those who can best afford to pay them to the tune of a hundred billion a year, give-or-take, such income shortfall to be added to an already balooning deficit, then what the hell difference does it make if they subsidize someone who works for a living too? Sorry for the smart-assed answer (not really), but that was a stupid question.
S.S. — There are some very serious issues on the table surrounding illegal immigration. And dismissing concerns of those opposed to it with calumniating epithets of “racist” and “hatemonger” is a red herring that has no place in the debate over the true merits and demerits of illegal immigration. In fact, if I were Boardnanny, I would delete your post as the kind of dung that were only worthy of flowing from the pen of a troll.
F.C. — I didn’t use a pen. Meanwhile, you’d be much better off if you’d take some time to investigate realities and then maybe work to delete instead the undercurrents of racism and hate that are parcel to the anti-immigration movements in the Southwest. Whether you choose to see or acknowledge them or not, they’re here and they’re becoming pervasive. And, they accomplish nothing but to further the polarization, to exacerbate the problem.
I agree with you that something must be done. But unless it’s an enlightened approach that takes the CAUSES into effect AND addresses them directly and responsibly, the result will be roughly the same as pissing into the wind.
Monday, April 04, 2005
S.S. — Excellent riposte, Frugalchariot. You could tone down the rancor a bit, but I suppose I’m guilty on the same count; my post oozes with vitriol as well. You’re right, I don’t know all the challenges peculiar to farming (although I’m sure that I could rightly guess at many) and perhaps I should have confined my statements to the business environment at large instead of so roundly censuring a person whose individual circumstances are alien to me.
I have no doubt that your assessment of the economic equilibrium requisite to the voluntary cessation or slowing of illegal immigration is spot on. And as long as the scale is so imbalanced in favor of the US, the allurements of a better life will persist and draw people experiencing economic privation in their own countries here. I never harbored doubt to the contrary.
This is precisely why the Federal government needs to take on businesses hiring the undocumented workers as opposed to muscling up border security in the futile effort to stanch the veritable tidal wave of illegal immigration with what amounts to a screen door.
You ask what the hell does it matter if the government subsidizes someone who works for a living? Nothing, provided that someone is in the country LEGALLY.
As for your rarefied vision of addressing the undercurrent of racism inhering to illegal immigration, we are looking at a much widerspread phenomenon endemic to our culture and not strictly appertaining to the subject under discussion.
The small-minded bigots of our society will never fall short of victims for their insensate rage, nor will they ever leave off despising illegal immigrants and any hope to the contrary of using illegal immigration as a means of allaying the larger issue or of fostering more sanguine relations between these cretins and those crossing into the country illegaly is a noble, if risible understatement of the problem.
Their hatred is beyond cure, amorphous and would take some other shape were the illegals gone tomorrow. Moreover, how should the hatred of these miscreative souls, exacerbating as it is to the current situation, be used to justify illegal immigration? I said it before and I’ll say it again: the issue of racism is a red herring in the debate over the merits and demerits of illegal immigration.
F.C. — A few comments:
On bigotry and bigots — yes, both’re there, always have been and always will be, and they’ll always find someone to hate, to villify; and unfortunately, they don’t all wear pointy white hats or identifying armbands. But please understand that when I speak of their involvement in — as was the topic of referenced essay by Ramirez — vigilantism against what are generically called ‘illegal immigrants,’ even a cursory review suggests that their target is really not so limited. There are far and away too many incidents, too much evidence, that those broader targets include both legal immigrants AND resident ‘Hispanics’ (lousy and overburdened word, but you know what I mean). In Arizona (and, I’m sure, in California as well) the undercurrent rancor of the “majority” (majority in their own mind at least) extends to virtually anyone of Spanish surname, but most especially to those with dark skin and for whom English is at best a second language. Now, be assured that I don’t like ghettos, gangs, crime, or “illicit” access to public services any more than anyone else, but the common solution of extending guilt to the broadest possible cluster — mass harassment, if you will, and/or exclusion — is not the way to solve the problem any more than tracking down and rounding up individuals who sneak in and wander across the desert hoping for the best is any sort of a solution. If there really is to be a solution, it’s going to require a lot of hard work, a lot of money, and a lot of sympathetic passion as well; bigots need not apply. Costly? You betcha. OTOH, Congress routinely grants Bush’s requests for ever more war cash, and in blocks of $75-85 billion at a whack. It’s NOT the required cash outlay that’s the problem, it’s the lack of will to care enough to even give an honest solution a good try.
Once again I suggest that efforts to improve the lot of those who own little or nothing could be most quickly addressed via a cross-the-border work program, a program which might well trumpet the beginning of an effort that will pay far more dividends than simply rounding them up or shunting them into urban ghetto/slums. The Coyotes won’t take things lying down, of course: there’s big money in human trafficking. And in fact, getting control of that situation is virtually a mandatory first step in any sort of defined entry program.
S.S. — As to your inability to find dependable, affordable domestic help, sounds like a personal problem to me; don’t make it mine…
F.C. — Yeah, well, we both use hyperbole now and then, don’t we. But there is more than a little bit of false optimism in the “find dependable, affordable domestic help” suggestion. The prospect of stoop labor, hard work, and long hours for a small paycheck finds little favor amongst Americans these days. And why, really, should it when one can make as much flipping hamburgers in 8 hours times five days as he could make doing stoop labor under a blazing sun (or cold, rain, name it) for 12 hours times seven days? Some are willing to work hard, but more are not. And too, recall that melons, vegetables, fruits are all perishable and the window that includes harvest, shipment, warehousing, distribution, and retail sale is brief. At the bottom of that sequence is the grower, and as opposed to virtually any other manufacturing business imaginable, he alone has NO control over the price he’s paid — in fact, he’s not even in a position to negotiate. He either gets the crop in **on time** and sells for the offered price, or he plows it under and writes off as much of his loss as he can; those are the only options. In other words, dependable hard working harvest crews are mandatory. They’re also hard to find.
S.S. — If you can’t compete in the market, get out and make room for those who can.
F.C. — I did, as have nearly all “small” (iow other than corporate mega-farms) produce growers in the Southwest (and, I suspect, in most of California as well). Corporate farms can play games that small growers cannot, often to the point where much of their “profit” derives from tax losses — some are legit, but a lot of them are courtesy of clever accounting. IOW, even with ‘legal’ harvesting crews, the taxpayers still pick up a decent portion of the cost of keeping the price of produce down in the supermarket. Paradoxical, no?
S.S. — According to a 2001 study reported on NPR the income disparity between the rich and the poor in Los Angeles County was surpassed only by Calcutta, India.
F.C. — My guess is that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet and probably won’t until the US budget and current accounts deficits team up to crush the dollar, and a new and changed America arrives to give a fresh meaning to the concept of the ‘third world.’
S.S. — Maybe without 10.3 million illegal immigrants in the country weighing down wages and forcing up rents more people could AFFORD $10/lb. vegetables. And it’s not just the border states that are effected by illegal immigration; it has a ripple effect that is felt throughout the entire domestic economy.
F.C. — I suspect the impact of a significant parcel of those 10.3 millions on the price of vegetables (not to mention hotel rates, residential yard work, among others) is to help hold them down to familiar levels, courtesy of their willingness to work for ‘weighed down wages.’
But all of that aside, the fact of the matter remains that so long as economic parity between Latin America and the US is so completely discombobulated, people from ‘down there’ are going to find a way to come ‘up here’ to work, and no amount of patrolling or barbed wire fence or even concrete wall is going to stop the flow. Seems to me that there’s only one logical way to approach the problem and that’s to see it, understand it, and then deal with it in other than knee-jerk fashion. That process will, of course, require both effort AND some thought, perhaps even some charity for a year or few. But to offer the means for someone to bring himself up to the level of the mainstream is invariably a far more productive solution than doing whatever seems appropriate to hold him down. Step one in the solution is the biggest one of all: to convince the masses that these people are not evil, not inferior, not lazy, not bums, that they’re simply people who seek a comfortable life for themselves and for their families. Not a difficult concept, but surely an elusive one. Overall, the problem is complex, but if it’s not solved — and solved in realistic, equitable fashion — then truly, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
I’ve enjoyed the discussion; maybe we’ve each learned something.
S.S. — I’ve enjoyed the discussion as well. You are intelligent, well-versed and articulate. I respect your arguments and believe that we share many points of agreement. And I most definitely have gained fresh insights from your experience into the complexities of the illegal immigration issue into the bargain as well. Thank you.
September 1, 2016. This day.
Times have changed. The clock continues to move, but two things remain unfortunately constant, and maybe have even increased in intensity over the last eleven-plus years: Hate, and Fear — fueled, of course, by xenophobia, racism, and bigotry. That’s always been the case, I know, but today, they’ve returned to the forefront and stand there as if soaked in gasoline and waiting for only that one little spark — said solution courtesy of Donald J. Trump and his “followers.”
The fact is, immigration remains a complex topic — not strictly related to farming and/or any other singular aspect — and solutions to the “problems” presented overall are not simple. They’re far more complex, in fact, than those ridiculous non-solutions of mass deportation and a border wall touted by Donald Trump. Still, the immigration ‘problem’ is, like all problems, ultimately solvable in ways which will work to benefit all sides — providing that the devised solution is able to overcome the one shortfall that has defined America since her inception: lack of any compassion for the less fortunate, esp. if their skin is not white, if English is not their first language, i.o.w. “our” heritage that goes back to day one of European arrival on this continent.
I, for one, am NOT at all optimistic that this country has ever had, has now, or ever will find the means to actually give a damn about anything other than those commodities we seem to believe define us and our success as a nation: White skin, Money, and the Power implicit thereupon. Compassion? Only if there’s money in it.
In the words of Mr. Christian Ramirez, April, 2005:
When society has generated such a hostile climate that it allows extremist organizations to be perceived as genuine and legitimate, that’s when we have to stop and wonder if the path this country is taking is not leading us to an abyss.
*Footnote: Back in the eighties, the fellow who managed and ran our watermelon harvest was a former migrant (‘Mexican’) laborer in the US. He was born in Mexico, came to the US with his family when he was three years old. He grew up ‘on endless circuit’ as a migrant farm worker. He later became a US citizen, married a woman of similar background, and settled in Arizona. His “profession” when I first met him was that of an agricultural labor crew ‘manager’ for each of several vegetable growers in central Arizona. He was a great guy and became one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
He was introduced to my partners and myself by another friend, a local vegetable/produce grower, a second generation American of Japanese Ancestry — Nisei — who had spent his youthful years (1940’s) incarcerated in a Japanese Internment Camp near Sacaton, Arizona.
Therein lies the Grand Irony:
Race and ethnicity fears are meaningless!
Pass it on.