The Land Of Immigrants

When it comes to the question of immigration, I am amazed at the anger and venom that many Americans show with regards to the question of (illegal) immigrants. They are often blamed for the woes this country is presently enduring. “They are here just to benefit from the welfare we provide and are costing us taxpayers a fortune” and “They are taking away employment from US citizens” are just two of the many claims thrown at the immigrant population. The thing that bothers me as an immigrant myself is that the same people still buy fruit and vegetables at the supermarket that were picked by (illegal) immigrants. As a US citizen, would you like to stand in the fields all day long picking strawberries for two bucks an hour?

Who defines an immigrant as illegal? The US government! If illegal immigrants could pick up a monthly strawberry-picking work permit at the border for ten bucks, how many less illegal immigrants would there be? If you ask the question: “Do you believe that every man should have the right to seek the best opportunities to provide for their family?” most of us would reply: “Well, of course”. So why are we so quick to criticize men that risk their lives to smuggle themselves across the border to provide for their family?

The fact is we are a country of immigrants. Almost all Americans are the product of immigrants only two or three generations back. Why were our grandparents or great grandparents here as immigrants? To provide a better life for themselves and their families, right? Sound familiar? In fact the original settlers came to a country that was not even theirs. What gave them the right to land on these shores and pillage and kill the existing inhabitants so that they could have a better life? For some reason that was OK but a Mexican who is here, not pillaging or killing anyone, just putting in a hard day’s work to provide for his family back home has become the vermin of the Earth.

This debate has become so heated and political that now we are trying to build a physical, concrete wall between the US and Mexico! Something like the iron curtain the Russians built after the Second World War. Did that work in Europe? This is where hypocrisy rears its ugly head. The US was instrumental in getting rid of that wall so people could move more freely and could develop closer ties with each other and families that had been separated could reunite. America deemed that to be the best solution for Europe. But when it comes to the US border, the opposite values now seem to prevail. Sounds like a double standard to me.

The solution to this problem is very simple. Open up the borders like they did in Europe. Create a free flow of traffic between Mexico and the US and allow Mexicans (or any other nationality) to purchase work permits so they can be registered and be here legally. Most of them would jump at that possibility. They would then be able to go back home on weekends to be with their families, could contribute to our economy openly and it would free up lots of our resources to fight the real problems of our society such as drugs and other crimes. Would such a solution work? The naysayers would claim it would create a flood of foreigners across the border. My answer is the opposite. It would free up lots of illegal immigrants to go back home if they knew they could come back here to work freely.

Would such a solution work? Well, the US deemed it to be the solution for Europe so why not here? When the wall came down between East and West Germany, did all the people in the east move west? Of course not. They had their families and communities around them. What it did was create lots of investment by West German and other European companies in former East Germany to take advantage of the cheaper land and labor costs. The differences between the living standards started to diminish over time, which again reduced the appetite even more to move west.

The same would happen in Mexico. US companies would start to invest across the border so that Mexicans would not have to come here to work. They could stay closer to their own families and friends. US retirees would be able to retire more easily to a less expensive country, relieving much of the pressure that is building for them here financially. This would create a better bond between our two cultures as we come to understand some of the benefits that exist in Mexico compared to the Unites States. It would also change our attitude here in the US when it comes to foreigners who are here happily doing the work we would never do. The stigma “illegal immigrant” would gradually disappear.

Whether we like it or not the United States has been, and always will be, a land of immigrants. That is the excitement and advantage we have over other cultures. It provides our diversity and our creativity. In fact our basic laws encourage immigration. But for some reason it is OK for an Indian or Chinese university graduate to come here on a free ticket because we need them but not for the fruit pickers who provide the fresh fruit at our supermarkets at prices we can afford. As a land of immigrants we should embrace the concept and not use it as an excuse to chastise any one group of individuals that is trying to create a better life for themselves. I thought that was part of the concept we call The American Dream.

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