Monday, April 03, 2006

Crossways


“I pity the poor immigrant
Who tramples through the mud,
Who fills his mouth with laughing
And who builds his town with blood,
Whose visions in the final end
Must shatter like the glass.
I pity the poor immigrant
When his gladness comes to pass.”

- Bob Dylan – “I Pity the Poor Immigrant” (1967)

I’m finding myself at cross purposes with some readers over the immigration issue. Last Thursday, for example, I got the following comment:

“The real heart of immigration is a low wage work force, keeping all wages depressed. If you can keep the bottom of the work force impoverished through fear and exploitation, you can keep the excess profits for the very top.”

While the commenter never said it directly, the implication was that, in supporting the U.S. Senate’s approach to immigration, I really support fear and exploitation. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I support is opportunity.

What’s happening on our southern border is a validation of the law of supply and demand. There is work available here in the United States. Mexican workers, whose wages for the available jobs in Mexico, take the risks they do because the wages offered, which by American standards are very low, are still far better than the wages offered in Mexico. That reality does not mean that I support fear and exploitation. It means that I believe we need to find the mechanisms to improve the lot of those coming north.

While things aren’t now where they need to be, it simply isn’t true that illegal immigrants are depressing wages here in the United States. Just the other day columnist Tony Snow observed that:

“On the work front, Hispanic unemployment has tumbled to 5.5 percent, only slightly above the national average of 4.7 percent.”

Snow then went on to cite some very startling economic data:

“According to 2002 Census Bureau data, Hispanics are opening businesses at a rate three times faster than the national average. In addition, there were almost 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses generating $222 billion in revenue in 2002.”

The long and the short of the report is that Hispanics are taking advantage of the opportunity America offers. A million and a half businesses created and a quarter of a trillion dollar contribution to our GDP by this community hardly seem to be the result of fear and oppression. Hispanics have taken the opportunity and run with it. The result is that they are flourishing in America.

I’ve also heard some claim that illegals don’t pay taxes or contribute to Social Security. Some even go so far as to claim they’re clogging up the social welfare system in this country. Are the claims valid? Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey recently reported that:

“62 percent of illegal immigrants pay income taxes (via withholding) and 66 percent contribute to Social Security.”

For close to two years now I’ve been receiving a Social Security check. Come July of this year my wife, Nancy, will be too. I’m grateful for the contribution the 66% are contributing to our welfare.

As to the claim that illegals are clogging up the social welfare system, Forbes magazine recently noted:

“Mexican illegals aren't clogging up the social-services system: only 5 percent receive food stamps or unemployment assistance; 10 percent send kids to public schools.”

What the numbers seem to reflect to me is that those coming do so to seize an opportunity. They come with a strong work ethic, family values, and pride. I admire them for that and I want them to find a way to flourish and succeed here in America. That’s one of the things this country is all about.

It’s interesting how it all works. This morning I read a short piece in the Kansas City Star about current labor crunch in China. Apparently the Chinese are beginning to pay the price of having a superheated economy:

“The shortage of workers is pushing up wages and swelling the ranks of the middle class, and it could make Chinese-made products less of a bargain worldwide. International manufacturers are talking about moving factories to lower-cost countries such as Vietnam.”

Interesting. The laws of supply and demand really do work.

In the same way, finding a legal way to solve our current immigration/supply-demand problem here in America will go a long way toward bringing wages and benefits for those here illegally in line with those of America’s workers. That’s not fear and exploitation in action. It’s fairness and decency. If our legislators allow for it, programs and laws drafted under the Senate provisions will work.

My views on immigration seem to have also set me crossways with a large number of my fellow Christians. Last week I got the following two question survey from the American Family Association:

The first step in dealing with the illegal immigration problem is to seal the borders and keep additional illegal immigrants out.
I agree.
I disagree.
How strong is your feeling on sealing our borders?
Very Strong
Strong
Not Strong

The survey results to this point indicate that 95% of those surveyed believe that “sealing our borders should be the first step in stopping illegal immigration.”

I’m in the five percent minority. It’s not that I believe that protecting our borders isn’t important. I do. But the questions were obviously loaded, meant to provoke fear and emotional response to the issue.

That’s really unfortunate. Christians, of all communities, should be thinking clearly about this. As Snow noted, the problem needs to be solved, but the solution must be in keeping with our national values:

“The United States somehow has managed to absorb 10 million to 20 million illegal immigrants not only without turning into Animal Farm, but while cranking up the most impressive economic recovery in two decades and the most prolonged period of declining crime in a century -- all in the teeth of the post-9/11 recession, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the double-whammy hurricane season of 2005.”

“Rather than panicking, the political class might want to take a deep breath and attempt a little common sense. Virtually everyone agrees that we need to secure our borders, deport lawbreakers and slackers among the illegal-immigrant population, and revitalize the notion of citizenship by insisting that prospective citizens master the English language and the fundaments of American history and culture.”

Finally, the solution to the problem must also be in keeping with the Christian value of grace. I believe we Christians should take the time-honored approach of Christian memory and apply it to what’s happening today:

Ephesians 2:12-13 (New International Version)

“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”

If we apply Snow’s common sense and the Christian virtue of grace to this problem, I’m convinced we can, and will, solve it.

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6 comments:

Aurelius said...

I'm on the mad blog four digit desperado race, but I feel like your blog deserves comment even if I only scanned the contents of it.

Who said our economy was on the rebound? What hasn't been fueled by debt in the last five years?

Ceasar Chavez fought against the 'guest worker' type of program cuz we can't allow our working class to get divided on racial issues. If you want a job in the 'norte' then you need to join up with the unions that fought for the pensions, healthcare, and on the job security that we American's enjoy.

wish I had more time to read ya.

Jaxson said...

I think you make some good points. I don't believe putting up a big wall will solve any problems. I do however feel the crunch of depressed wages. I wish everyone were paid a fair wage, and not take advantage of those who are desperate enough to earn less.

Anyway, just wanted to say, I'm with you in that 5% also. I think this is just another attempt to take our focus away from what is, and to have us focused on fear and lies.

prying1 said...

The real problem with the porous border is that terrorists can come in as easily as those seeking work. We must close up the open border or possibly face calamities perhaps not as big as 9-11 but certainly devistating to those who are victims.

I say build the wall and as far as the workers go let them enter legally.

CM Edwards said...

I've kind of got mixed feelings about all this.

In a way, I agree with your critics about the low wage factor. If someone is in this country illegally, who is to stop their bosses from exploiting them and pay them less than they deserve.

But another side of me, agrees with you that these are people just trying to survive like everybody else on this planet.

My paternal great-grandfather immigrated here from Syria back in the early 1900's. He sold fruit on the streets of Marietta, Ohio and eventually made enough to bring all his siblings that wanted to come over too.

Sorry for the indecisive rambling, but I must spend some time thinking on it before I decide which side I'm on.

James Fletcher Baxter said...

It is inappropriate to attempt to solve a problem of illegality by supporting the breaking laws. Either require recognition and support or change the law. (It would be wrong to raise our children with such an outlook.)

Grace is a Christian principle that was initiated applying only to individuals - not governments or collectives. Law breaking would not stay confined to one specific area of Law.

New laws will hopefully be reasonable and respected. In the meantime, America must mean what it says.

semper fidelis

web_loafer said...

It's simple.....count up the number of abortions in the last 20 years, and that number is equal to the number of illegals the sheepales of America had to let violate our borders, our sovereignity, just so we could continue with our drunken turn at the helm of the, "goodship humanity"
I'm not so sure God is still smiling when the word America is spoken by an angel in casual conversation.

On the same page in my dictionary that I found the word, sovereignity, when I was checking spelling...I found these words...ON THE SAME PAGE...

soupy
sour
sour grapes
sourdough
sourpuss
sousaphone
souse
southland
southeast
southeaster
southern
southpaw
southwest
southwester
souvlaki
sovereign
soviet
sow
soy
sox
spa
space
spacecraft
spaced out
spadix

and my favorite
spaghetti