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2004Debunking the Myth

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19 April 2006

I scream at the T.V. a lot.  Mostly I try not to watch things that make me scream at the T.V., but I happened to sit in and watch Face the Nation on Sunday.

The first guest was Virginia Republican Senator George Allen, who, when asked about Rumsfeld, continued to smile blandly and say that whatever the president said was OK with him. 

That didn't get me to scream.  I've become immune to such stupidity, I'm afraid.  (Their plan is working, I fear.)

Then they got onto the immigration issue and I have to admit that the whole immigration debate has me screaming a lot.

Allen says that we need to "secure our borders," to "increase the patrol" and, where possible "erect a fence." 

I've heard this strategy made over and over again and the thing that makes me scream is that it seems everyone seems to assume that "illegal immigrants" all come across the Mexican border in the dead of night.  I haven't really heard anybody address the whole situation, the whole problem.

I worked for The Experiment in International Living for years.  We placed people who came through the exchange program with families, for short homestays, or for longer periods of time.   We placed both adults and students.  Adults usually had a 3 week homestay; students came for 6 month or 12 month homestays to attend an American high school.

At some point during my time with The Experiment, we had to stop accepting Nigerian participants because so many of them came into the country through the program, and then disappeared on the way to their homestay.   They never intended to stay with an American family--they intended to disappear into the country and stay here indefinitely.

None of them came across the Rio Grande in the dead of night.

Some of the foreign students who stayed in our house never returned to their own country.  They stayed with us, and liked the United States so much they never went back, or did not want to return to an oppressive government in their own country (specifically what was then Zaire).  They disappeared somewhere into the United States.  These guys came into the country legally.  They just never went back.

I'm thinking of one guy in particular who was here for a set period of time through The Experiment.  He went back to his home country but because he was gay (or thought he was), he felt continuously persecuted, so he returned to the United States, on a legal tourist visa and never went back.  He moved to a large city and stayed there for 15 years, held several jobs, attended school, paid taxes, was a contributing member of the community in which he lived.  He tried all he could to become legal, but those doors were closed to him, as a gay man.  Ironically, he finally decided he wasn't gay after all, married a woman from another country and now lives out of the U.S., legally, in his wife's country.   But here was a guy who came here legally, who attempted to stay here, and when he could not find a way to make it legal, became a contributing member of the country anyway.

Nobody that I have heard has addressed the problem of sweat shops in Chinatown, where women are held prisoner because they have been smuggled into the country illegally to work.  None of them came "across the border."  No fence would have prevented them from coming into this country....and, if caught, will this country send them back to China?

A guy we knew from Brasil many years ago was caught by the border patrol--twice.  When they discovered he was Brasilian and not Mexican, they let him go, both times, even though he was clearly illegal--because it would cost too much and involve too much hassle to send him back to his own country!  He has since married an American and has permanent residency.

I have listened to angry diatribes against illegal immigrants for decades.  You can't live in California and not know that this is a problem. 

The most ridiculous argument I hear about illegal immigrants is that we should deny them health care and schooling for their kids.

OK.  On the surface, I understand that.  Health care comes out of taxpayer dollars.  Schooling comes out of taxpayer dollars.  Taxpayer dollars should not be spent on illegal immigrants.   But, think about it--would you rather pay for health care for a sick undocumented worker, or risk that worker having some terrible disease that is going to spread among the "legal population," if you will.  How about tuberculosis?  You want it to go undiagnosed? untreated? Isn't medical care the desirable thing, just from a strictly practical, selfish health standpoint, if not from a humanitarian point of view?

Do all those people who march in pro-life marches want to risk the lives of the babies of illegal immigrant mothers by denying them prenatal care?  Or are we only pro-life for legal residents of our country?

How about schooling?   Assuming that the families of children are here to stay, or at least until they are caught by the INS, which do we prefer?  Educating the children in schools, or having those children wandering the streets during the day with nothing to do and a chip on their shoulder because they can't go to school with the other neighborhood kids?  (For that matter, if the children have been born here, the children are American citizens!)

I don't have an answer to the problem of illegal immigration, but I do scream when people on television imply that this is a Mexican-American problem, or a "guard the borders" problem, when a good percentage of the illegals have come to this country legally, but overstayed the time they were legally allowed, and when a good percentage of the illegals are not Hispanic, but come from all countries of the world (Well, probably not from Canada, since I'm sure no intelligent Canadian would have any desire to sneak into this country!)


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