Sunday, May 2, 2010

You're Scaring Me

When we observe something and don't understand it and immediately know we never will, it can be jolting. That ignorance can cause fear and right now I've got ignorance and fear in spades. This I hope will be the only, even remotely, political entry I make.

My two cents.

I've been watching on TV and reading about the illegal immigration mess current in the news. The scariness comes from the strong emotions and feelings this issue generates in a lot of us - and I mean very specifically - people I see during my day. Watching an issue on TV gives a certain distance that allows us analysis and further thought. Listening to people in conversation, people you know, is more immediate and sometimes jarring. I do not understand the emotional purchase this issue (both for and against) takes up in people's minds.

Back in college in the 60's, I did a paper on the country's immigration trends. Over the previous 100 years, the entry "spigot" was uneven; some decades a lot of people entered, other decades, not so many. The motivation always seemed to be the needs of the country. I'm sure some motivations were political, but for the most part America became a country of immigrants and immigrate we did.

And believe me.

You could not find a better pathfinder in the country of complaint and the land of feeling put upon than a college student in the 60's, i.e., me. If there was a hint of unfairness, I could and would have blamed the previous generations with great delight; Like Martin Luther, I would have tacked list of grievances to the door of the political science department that would make Luther's list look like a "post it" note. I had no such list - the river of immigration meandered in some places and flooded in others, but it always seemed to flow.

Why can't we see that flow now? Some would say the reaction is born of racist tendencies. If you want to look through that glass darkly, help yourself. Our history has given some cause. All ethnic groups could pull up a chair at Oprah's table with justification. But I don't believe people's lives are consumed with racism. I don't base that on extensive study and thought. I base it on the fact that in my entire life I've only known two people I would call racist. They deserve pity and prayer, but no consideration in American thought. They are vastly outnumbered.

Others see the the question in moral terms and it is not without a moral tinge. A father in Renosa Mexico that has to feed his family and has no prospects in Mexico may not give another country's immigration laws all that much weight. I know which side of the fence I would be on if I were that man and I think you do too.

But the problem is not morality, but mathematics. If you want to use this issue to delve in liberation theology - don't. If you want to encase the issue with every slight and injustice you've suffered - don't.

The federal government needs to solve this problem. Politics is the art of compromise. We are not going to arrest and deport the estimated 12 million people and we should not give them a pat on the back for being illegal. Set up a worker certification program and a explore a path of eventual citizenship for many. Perhaps not for all, but for many. Like Canada and Australia, we may find reducing general worker visas and increasing highly skilled workers is the way to go. This may cause problems and a rise in illegal migration again, but at least we can work inside a rational framework. One-half of the "Google" founders is a Russian immigrant, Sergy Brin, and he has done a fair job at creating wealth and jobs in America. Long term, the country, the economy and even immigrants benefit. We'll be fine if we remember that this country has been and should continue to be a shining torch of liberty and individual freedom to the world.

That torch is fueled by immigrants.

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