Punish the Victims

The Long Road to Here by Ernest Sittenfeld

August 9, 2010

The van arrived in Arizona, driving slowly and carefully. The local sheriff’s deputies suspected something was wrong and stopped the van. They ordered the driver to open the rear doors. Sure enough, it was packed with illegal immigrants – tall, blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful Swedish men and women. The deputies evaluated the situation and knew their duty. “Welcome to America”, they said, and drove off.

Fiction? Of course. They were little, brown-skinned, frightened Mexicans, and the deputies arrested them and they were deported.

But, if the 10 (or 8 or 12) million illegals in the country really were tall, blue eyed, blonde Swedes or Norwegians, we wouldn’t be discussing any immigration problems.

Now, we have heard all the partisan arguments about the immigration “problem”, but Casey Wolff got it right in the column he wrote in the August 1, Naples Daily News.

In America, we are experts at punishing the victims, and make no mistake, the majority of the illegals are victims. First, they are victimized by the governments of their native countries, which don’t provide them with jobs, education or health care. Let’s consider Mexico, which supplies us with the greatest number of illegal immigrants. The other countries, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, don’t really matter.

The government of Mexico gets a double whammy every time someone leaves Mexico to come to the U.S. On one hand, that’s one less unemployed person requiring health care and education for his kids, and on the other hand, he (or she) will find work in the U.S. and send money back to the village in Mexico. It’s a great deal.

Who else gets a good deal? The farms and other employers who don’t give the illegals proper wages and living conditions; the U.S. government, which gets the taxes deducted from their wages and puts the money who knows where, and does not have to reserve money for their Social Security and Medicare; the local merchants, who cheerfully sell food and appliances and cars and, in the not too distant past, houses to these people.

But please understand that I am against illegal immigration. I don’t think people should just be able to sneak into the country and stay here indefinitely. We have two problems: one, what to do about the illegal immigrants who are in the country now, and two, how to prevent more of them from coming in.

The first problem has no practical solution, except to give these people a chance to become permanent residents, not necessarily citizens. If they have jobs, a home and no criminal record, they should be given the opportunity to obtain some sort of legal document identifying them as foreign workers with permission to stay and work here. This will enable them to lead honest, productive lives, drive a car legally and participate in most of the activities that legal immigrants can take part in. These permits should be valid as long as the individual holds a job and stays out of trouble. They should be able to purchase life and health insurance and send their children to public schools and college.

The second part of the problem has several possible solutions, or a combination of solutions. My first preference would be to have the U.S. government persuade the Mexican government to take better care of their people, and, incidentally, to open their border and give Americans the chance to purchase property, start a business and provide employment for Mexicans in Mexico. Since that possibility is remote at this time, it is perfectly possible to use the same system of identity cards provided to the illegals already in the country, and to require employers to request the card from every potential immigrant employee (legal immigrants and citizens have a Social Security number, and every employer already requires a Social Security number before offering employment), and to establish heavy fines and penalties for those who employ people who don’t have the card. Immigrants without a Social Security number will also need the card to obtain a driver license, purchase a car or a house, even to rent and apartment. The technology exists to make these cards immune to forgery and use by someone other than the real person.

These are practical solutions to a difficult problem. If implemented, positive results will slowly percolate, and over a period of a few years, the worst of the immigration “problems” will have been resolved.

We are talking about unfortunate people who seek a better life for themselves and their families by making unthinkable sacrifices. They hand whatever little money they can get their hands on to unscrupulous “coyotes” who show them how to ford a river or climb a fence or cling to the underside of a truck, run through arid deserts and elude gunfire, just to get to a place where they can live with some dignity, care for their children and hope for a better life. When they are caught and sent back, they begin to plan their next attempt at getting to the “promised land”. They are human beings, no less valuable than you and I, and they do not deserve being spoken about like cattle or statistical numbers.

Unfortunately, our politicians are not interested in finding practical solutions that will bring hope and human kindness to these people. Politicians want their time before the microphones and cameras, talking through their hats without knowledge or intelligence on the subject. Most are only reflecting their racist upbringing and the ultra radical conviction that “America belongs to (white, blue-eyed) people of middle European descent”.

And, come to think of it, what do we do about the REAL Swedes, Frenchmen, Argentines and others who come with Tourist visas and forget to go back? Believe me, there are a lot of those, but let’s leave that for another day. We’ve solved enough problems for one blog.

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