So last night President Bush spoke on immigration. We don’t have a TV so I couldn’t watch it, although I find it so terribly painful to listen to him speak that I probably wouldn’t have watched it anyway. I know I should have at least listened to it on NPR, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve at least brought myself to read about it today. I just had a feeling deep down in my stomach that it was not going to make me happy.

The NYTimes published an op-ed on Mr. Bush’s plan. It is called Border Illusions and you can read it by clicking on the link. First, in the interest of full disclosure, I am married to an immigrant. I have stood in line outside the government building in downtown Boston for 10 hours, I have filed and refiled papers because the information we were given was incorrect, I have spent literally hundreds and hundreds of hours filling out forms, collecting documentation, and searching online and waiting on the phone so I could find out basic information about the process of getting conditional permanent resident status documents, working documents, a social security card, and so on. I have never been treated in a more dehumanized, mean, grouchy, bitchy way than the few times we’ve had to go for interviews or meetings at the government center in Boston.

The Times writes

Those on the other side of the argument have spent frustrating months making a quieter, more complicated case. Supporters of a compromise immigration bill in the Senate want a balanced approach that is both tough and smart. They, too, would add people and technology to enhance security on the Mexican border, which is now about as solid as a screen door. But unlike the House bill, which is fixated on enforcement, the Senate bill seeks to restore law and order in a variety of ways. It would, for example, shorten an immigration backlog by adjusting work and family visa quotas, tighten the enforcement of immigration laws in the workplace and put illegal workers on a path to assimilation and citizenship.

First, thank you whoever wrote this for writing “making a quieter, more complicated case.” This is a complicated matter and one of my biggest frustrations with politics and media today is the way so many things are presented as easy or simple. This is not just a matter of tightening up boarder security, of creating a path to citizenship, or of protesting in the streets. It is a complicated web of political, economic, and social factors that are intricately interwoven. So that is the first point. Complicated matters require complex solutions.

Second, amen to “shorten[ing] the immigration backlog.” One of my Spanish tutors here in Boston had been waiting eight years to have his asylum case heard and that sort of wait is not unusual. It is taking the INS (it isn’t called that now – but whatever that organization is called now) over a year to process W.’s (my husband/partner) application to remove the “conditional” from his permanent resident permit. If you want to get an appointment to do an interview at the immigration center in Boston, you have to wait in line starting at midnight the night before. It was a hassle for us, but some others had traveled from other states, had to miss work, and didn’t speak English and it was just an amazing burden on them. It is embarrassing this our country cannot process immigration stuff in a timely manner and it certainly doesn’t help the system.

Third (sorry this is getting long), you can’t deport 11 million people. Not only is that logistically impossible, it would also devastate this economy. Your ketchup at Taco Bell, your dishes being washed at your favorite restaurant, children being cared for, houses being cleaned, meat being packed all depends on the cheap labor of undocumented workers. There are simply not enough documented workers in the U.S. willing to do this work. So the government might as well find a way to have the workers become documented, and in the meantime develop ways to protect them from being harmed and exploited.

Of course, increased boarder security is important. It makes sense that people shouldn’t just be able to come across the boarder without documentation. Rather, we should develop safe, effective ways to prevent this. If we develop a strong enough system, with the safety of those attempting to cross in mind, it will deter people eventually. That said, I think that we need to develop a way to allow vast numbers of immigrants into this country with documents. This land was stolen from Native Americans by immigrants. It is simply not morally acceptable that a group of once-immigrants or descendents of immigrants says “Well, we came to this land of opportunity, let ourselves in, killing millions of people along the way, and now that we have this land of opportunity we’d like to keep it for ourselves and protect our wealth.” Sorry folks, it just doesn’t work that way if you believe in justice or fairness. Yes, it will be harder for those privileged folks in this country if we open the doors much wider. But tough luck. No one said fairness and justice was easy.

That’s all for today. Time to work on my paper on Simone Weil.

4 Responses to Immigration

  1. jeff says:

    You hit the nail on the head, Elizabeth: fairness isn’t easy. Any answer to the immigration question is going to hurt some innocent people and benefit some scoundrels. In the longest run, John Lennon has a solution: “Imagine there’s no countries. I wonder if you can.”


  2. Elizabeth says:

    That little quote about no countries still gives me goose bumps. We seem sooo far away from anything like that. Somedays I feel so hopeful. Other days, so defeated…. But since it is sunny today, I think I feel a little more hopeful. I was feeling so grumpy last night and I had one of the foster kittens and our permanent cat Gustav started licking her and she went from being so scared to purring and being so happy. W. said, “That’s what really matters — not that the house is a mess, but that we are making life better for some little beings.” I guess that is all we can do — make life better for as many beings as we can and try not to fret about the unimportant stuff (as I tend to do… um, a lot)….

    Peace, Elizabeth :)

  3. Rebecca says:

    EG, see if you can track down Stephen Colbert’s well done, disturbing segment interviewing the Minutemen in California. It’s meant to be humorous, but it’s very disturbing that people think this way and are eqipped with firearms to do something about this.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I’ll look that up. Thanks RG.

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