Immigration Stories

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Immigration Rally, Brooklyn, NY, 1 April 2006 [themikebot / Flickr]

In the last couple of months, thousands of immigrants have protested in cities across the country against pending immigration legislation (over half a million demonstrated in Los Angeles alone). Some people are calling this the new civil rights movement; we want to understand what that means, from the immigrants’ perspectives.

The numbers break down something like this (based on the new Pew Hispanic Center study): There are about 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, and that number’s growing by roughly 500,000 a year. Fifty-six percent are Mexicans, and another 22 percent are from the rest of Latin America. Undocumented immigrants make up almost 5 percent of the labor force, and they tend to concentrate in agriculture, construction, and the household & food industries.

The political picture is fractured not only between Republicans and Democrats, but within the GOP: social conservatives (worried about threats to culture and values) risk the Hispanic vote to line up behind the anti-immigrant House bill; and business interests support the Senate Judiciary Committee’s bill that allows guest-worker permits.

The policy debate is a spaghetti-knot of amnesties, seemingly-arbitrary number caps, and arguments over whether immigrants are the future or the downfall of our culture — and whether they’re taking blue-collar jobs away from American citizens.

But what do the undocumented immigrants think and what do they want? Why did they come here; what are they escaping? What are their stories and experiences? How do they navigate the stresses of being here illegally, finding jobs, trying to support their families day to day? Or discrimination or quasi-slavery in the workplace? Or the bitter physical grind of low-wage jobs?

Greg Schell

Attorney for the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project.

Baldemar Velasquez

Founder and President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) AFL-CIO.

Cesar (pseudonym)

Recent high school graduate living in the Boston area. Originally from Peru.

Alexander

Lives in the Boston area. Originally from El Salvador.

Michael Marizco

Border reporter and blogger, living in southern Arizona.

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  • Nikos

    Katherine writes above: “and whether they’re taking blue-collar jobs away from American citizens.�

    This is the crux of it for me. It’s unsettling to hear conservative Republicans speaking for me – of all people! – by noting that the proposed ‘Guest Worker Program’ is designed to prop up Vicente Fox, by taking his unemployment problem off his hands (talk about a genius act of ‘outsourcing’!), and, more importantly, while awarding American business the labor-surplus leverage necessary to keep wages depressed.

    The Donkey and Elephant are equally complicit in this, since both are the creatures of big money.

    I say that the urge to immigrate is laudable, but not at the expense of the livelihoods of pre-existing American citizens. Think about the ‘Race and Class in America’ series: would not black men be less likely to end up in jail if employers offered tempting enough wages?

    Bush, as always, is a creature of corporate interests. It’s astonishing that this is now so self-evident that even his GOP cohorts are muttering it.

  • Nikos is right. I’m more conservative than he is, so I am not ashamed by conservative Republicans speaking for me. As the child of legal immigrants, I can attest to the fact that the system for those who come ‘documented’ through regular channels isn’t all peaches & cream. Frankly, the 1986 amnesty really angered my father because people who had arrived at the same time to the USA as himself, but through illegal means, were given green cards while he was still waiting on his.

    But it any case, the problem is that we can’t simply export all our blue collar workers who won’t work in dangerous and physically grinding occupations for $8-10 hour overseas. Nevertheless, I don’t see anything happening to solve this problem, the elites won’t do it. In the United States those who support high levels of immigration, legal and illegal, come both from the Left and the Right, from non-profit legal aid firms to corporations. This is a two-headed monster that is really hard to argue with, they have money and eloquence, idealism and the bottom line.

  • Iteachlang

    There is no doubt that immigrants, illegal of legal, have for the most part a low social status which we tend to cultivate so as not to give them the better jobs and better pay. Whether we like it or not they serve a purpose in this ever-growing economy as low wage workers. One may see it as a necessary evil.

    We do need guest worker permits for those laborers; but the increasing immigration we face is starting to be a major problem which needs a resolution now. The wall between the States and Mexico will not curtail immigration and more patrol will not dissuade the immigrants from coming; it hasn’t yet. There is more immigration now than ever. The only solution seems to lie in applying the laws already in effect like checking employers and their hiring practices; why aren’t we doing that?. This whole situation reminds me of the drug situation in this country. We are not really interested in eradicating drugs or doing away with the illegals because it isn’t economically or politically profitable; however it certainly is a good social controversy that keeps us from thinking too much about the other more pressing issues ie the war in Irak. Nice going Bush….

    I was actually wondering why Bush wanted to give amnesty to the illegals presently in this country and I realise that it can only be a ploy for his party to rack up votes for the upcoming elections. I seriously doubt he is keen on the amnesty process; but he isn’t the total idiot one may think. He knew he would stir up controversy among the Republicans as well as the Democrats which in the end makes him look like the good guy among the Latino population because if amnesty isn’t granted it won’t be his fault. Nice going….

  • There is no doubt that immigrants, illegal of legal, have for the most part a low social status which we tend to cultivate so as not to give them the better jobs and better pay.

    yes, there is doubt. i arrived in the USA at the age of 4, and my father was an immigrant who was allowed into this country for his Ph.D., not his willingness to do down & dirty work. 5% of american physicians are of south asian heritage, how do you think that came about? american immigrants are a diverse lot, and simply assuming they all do dirty low wage jobs is a generalization that only barely holds, the distribution is like an hourglass (lots of high educated, lots of barely educated). on the one hand you have people that started out as H1Bs and graduate students, and those who come to pick the fields, mow the lawns and labor on construction yards (as well as take care of kids, clean beds, etc.). i can speak from my own personal experience that being an immigrant does not entail low social status.

    Whether we like it or not they serve a purpose in this ever-growing economy as low wage workers. One may see it as a necessary evil.

    We do need guest worker permits for those laborers; but the increasing immigration we face is starting to be a major problem which needs a resolution now.

    the key here is low wages & necessary evil. why is that in the public discourse many who i assume would be on the left start sounding like cato institute libertarians? the economy has a will…and we must make it as efficient as possible. btw, economists like george borjas, as recently reported by paul krugman in his NY TIMES column, suggest that the impact of immigration to non-immigrants economically isn’t that great +/-.

    The wall between the States and Mexico will not curtail immigration and more patrol will not dissuade the immigrants from coming; it hasn’t yet.

    within the last 25 years, yes, but memory doesn’t often last across generations. there was a poor mexican nation to the south between 1850 and 1965, but the numbers of immigrants was trivial. why?

    why won’t a wall curtail immigration? i certainly won’t stop it, but it will make it more difficult likely reducing the numbers.

    but as i said, i see little movement on this issue. there is a perfect storm of corporate interest, liberal sentimentality and identity politics at work here.

    in any case, if benthamite utilitarianism is what people really care about, we should bring people from africa to do menial work, their lives are far more miserable than latin americans (who are, believe it or not, rather affluent compared to the citizens of africa or south asia). does the guatemalan peasant yearn to breath freer than a congolese?

    of course…all this neglects the reality that i can empathize with someone who wants to come to the USA from abroad and better their lives. but empathy should inform, not dictate, public policy….

  • Iteachlang, i just read your profile. as an immigrant do you feel low social status?

  • avecfrites

    This is of course a complicated topic. The aspects of immigration that get the most discussion these days are: 1) what is the effect of immigration on the wages of American workers?, 2) is immigration needed by companies to remain competitive in the global market?, and 3) can unsupervised immigration pose a national security risk?

    But immigration historically has been about more than that. Immigration saves the lives of people fleeing other parts of the world. Immigration brings fresh blood into the US, so we don’t end up with fossilized points of view (see for comparison Japan and Germany). Immigration connects us with other cultures. Immigration offers the downtrodden elsewhere a hope of a better life, and represents part of the shrinking list of good-hearted gestures that America makes to the world.

    It seems to me that immigration is good, provided we commit to and invest in two complementary and neglected sets of activities:

    1) We need to ensure that immigrants assimilate, not culturally but philosophically. Unassimilimated immigrants present national security problems and long-term social problems.

    2) We need to follow through on our commitments to current US residents, such as African Americans, to help them succeed. Any permanent underclass in the US is harmed by immigration disproportionately.

    If we are humanists who believe in the intrinsic value of people, and capitalists who believe in the productive value of labor, then we can think of each immigrant as a net positive. People can be trained to contribute to society. If we develop and maintain the ability to take untrained people and make them productive, this will represent a “core competency” of the US as we compete in the world. Each person can be thought of as a little “factory” producing more than he or she consumes; we want the factories over here, not outsourced somewhere else.

  • But immigration historically has been about more than that. Immigration saves the lives of people fleeing other parts of the world. Immigration brings fresh blood into the US, so we don’t end up with fossilized points of view (see for comparison Japan and Germany). Immigration connects us with other cultures. Immigration offers the downtrodden elsewhere a hope of a better life, and represents part of the shrinking list of good-hearted gestures that America makes to the world.

    a few points

    1) i don’t know that immigration “saves the lives” of many. jews were certainly driven out of russia by the pogroms, the was more terror than mass genocide (ie, the pale was still heavily jewish until the nazis arrived on the scene).

    2) if you read albion’s seed by david hackett fisher, you will note that many of the first settlers to the US were not not the wretched of the earth. the southern planter elite draws from the younger sons of the english nobility and the gentry. the new england colonies explicitly banned the illiterate and indigent and discouraged the emigration of calvinist nobles. the middle colonies were always entrepenurial.

    3) there was some cultural change from abroad. the german migration of the 1850s helped popularize beer for example, but, i would argue that the change enforced upon germans was far greater than vice versa, and this is the conventional tale. america changes, and the immigrants along with it.

    4) nations like sweden give a far higher % of their ‘immigrant’* slots to asylum seekers, so i don’t think the humanitarian element is really that big of a deal here. like i said, if humanitarian concerns were primary, i would argue that liberia and the democratic republic of congo should be primary countries from which we draw, no mexico, india and china. mexico’s GDP is $10,000 per year, it is a middle income country, while india and china have been pushing 10% growth rates for the past few years.

    also, end up with fossilized points of view (see for comparison Japan and Germany). i think this is unfair to germany and japan. it isn’t like they aren’t producing influential pop culture (japan’s pop culture is influential throughout much of the pacific rim).

    If we develop and maintain the ability to take untrained people and make them productive, this will represent a “core competency� of the US as we compete in the world.

    well, how about letting in people who are trained already? one point to remember is that the italian immigrants who arrived around 1900 as peasants were coming into a nation that was still 50% family farms. guatemalan peasants coming into the USA enter the post-industrial world where they can only work at the margins because their skillset is so removed from what is necessary in our mainstream economy.

    many of the points about economic utility, humanitarianism, etc. are good and valid i think. but they must be taken in moderate, and personally i do not see that they map well onto normalizing tens of millions of people who came into this country outside proper channels. there is a great deal of talent in the world, and there is a great deal of suffering. and we, are a nation of laws.

    * a swedish acquaintance claims sweden doesn’t have immigrants in the american sense as much as guests.

  • h wally

    I’ve been living in Mexico, off and on for the past 14 years. I speak fluent spanish and have many friends here. One topic that arises continually is immigration. It’s a complex topic and I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of the fence. I live in a small fishing village on the west coast. Many people from here go to the states so they can get enough money to build a house or buy a truck, anything that requires a large outlay of cash. The wages here average between 10 to 15 dollars a day. They can feed themselves but it would be impossible to save enough for a house. There is a myth about how cheap things are down here. Gas is over 3 dollars a gallon. Cement is about $9.50 a bag, most houses here are built of cement blocks, the only thing cheap here is labor. It’s almost a rite of passage for the young men, and sometimes women, to cross and seek work. One thing I notice is that many men return with stories of jobs paying 25 to 40 dollars an hour. No one wants to return in defeat. It’s a common sight to see someone returning with a fully decked out pickup. It takes someone from here about 10 days to get to Chicago which is a favorite spot for work. They help each other find work up there. Mexico is a country rich in resources but the average person here doesn’t see much benefit from them. Just like up there, the government has sacked the treasury. Corruption is rampant from the bottom to the top. I think a guest worker program is in order. We need an orderly process to straighten this out. You will not stop them. They’re willing to take the risks, they have no other options. I think it would help to change some of the laws such as children born up there are automatically citizens. Quite a few women from this village have made the dangerous trek up there just to have their children there. I wonder if our government is up to it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see halliburton running the borders before long.

  • I think it would help to change some of the laws such as children born up there are automatically citizens.

    yes, these are issues. what you are suggesting will redefine the united states as a nation-state. “guest workers” will be second class non-citizens. *shrug* someone has to mow the lawn and tile the roof….

  • reality_bytes_it

    anytime a liberal uses the word “complicated” it preceeds a portion of the arguement where they have to talk sense or based upon reality – then the proceed to apologize for the fact that they have to agree with a conservative point of view.

    It isn’t “complicated”, immigrants in general, compete with the least competitive portion of the society and there are members of each party in that portion of the society. That gives the “populist” wing of both parties and opportunity to use it.

    The opposition of the zenophobes onm the right is predictable since they have played this fear for a long time but I find it intersting that on the left, labor unions are opposing it. I think that it is a sign that they realize that they are finished. In the short run immigrants might compete with unionized labor and thus drive down wages for these groups who have skills that are not competitive and so thus depend on collective bargaining to keep them artifically high, but after a while, assimilated immigrants should produce a pool of willingly organized labor. But, since organized labor has been incapapable of recruiting new members for the past 40+ years they must opose them.

  • As a displaced high techie, whose great grand ancestors themselves were Irish immigrants, who spent a year in the kitchen elbow to elbow with my friends from Brazil, legal and illegal; I have a great deal of respect for these people. They come here without the ability to speak the language, possessing only the drive to work, live frugally and send the better part of their earnings to family back in the old country.

    Politically, I see the problems but to encounter immigrants at the human level, you get a visceral attachment – that this is something worthy, something we’ve forgotten. We are fat, dumb and happy and erecting a wall in southern Texas will never and should never stop these people.

    I used to want to visit the land of my ancestors but now I realize my ancestors are from Brazil.

  • We are fat, dumb and happy and erecting a wall in southern Texas will never and should never stop these people.

    If we are so fat, dumb and happy why is it that so many people come to the USA to work? I know what you are getting at, but I’ve been to the land in which I was born (Bangladesh), and there’s a reason people leave other nations for the USA.

    In any case, the idea that a wall won’t work is based on what? a priori assumptions. The fact is that the stream of immigration from the south to the USA has shifted over many decades. Sometimes proactive government enforcement and deporations (sometimes too enthusiastic, as native Latinos did get caught up in them) did remove laborers from the USA who were from the south.

    Reading about immigration in the mainstream makes it seem like only two time periods in American history existed, between 1880-1920 (the “Great Wave”) and the post-1965 era. Boy, Americans have short memories….

    (and as I’ve said, there are hard working people all across the world. I just looked it up, Mexico’s GDP per capital is $10,000, and Bangladesh’s is $2,000 per year. I’ll guarantee you I could go to Bangladesh and bring plenty of people over in boats and every American could live as a king with an army of little brown servants. Somehow I think the coast guard would stop me though….)

  • Matt_Eldridge

    I think that increasing the immigration quotas will, in the long run benefit the American economy. Look at China; one could argue that a key factor of their current explosive economic growth (extreme fiscally conservative governmental policy notwithstanding) has been a vast, incredibly cheap, labor pool. Adding a large source of inexpensive labor to the American work force may, in the short-run be painful for many people. If someone is willing to do the same job for less money, in a free market the lowest bidder gets the gig; as a result of that, some Americans might take a pay cut. However, it would be mistake for our nation to fixate on that and be so shortsighted; we need to seriously begin to address the trade deficit we are currently experiencing. As unappealing as it sounds, I think to come close being able to compete with China in the mid to late 21st century we are going to need to seriously devalue American labor. This is, of course, anathema to most if not all working class semi-skilled individuals. However, I think we will have little choice. China is currently deliberately devaluing their currency; they are taking the long view, something we could begin to do here with the cost of American labor. This is country of immigrants, built by immigrants, don’t stop now.

  • Nikos

    I’m noticing a tendency here to conflate illegal and legal immigration. The latter is regulated, and the regulation moderates impacts on the labor surplus.

    The former destabilizes the employ-ability of our pre-existing underclass citizens.

    (Razib might care to chime in here with his perspective.)

  • I think over all we have a rather broken system. federal law breakers, guest workers, temp. works, everyone has a different idea or term for them. I don’t really hold the idea that they are taking the jobs from Americans. Americans are not going to pick tomatos in 100 degree heat all day for 6 bucks. Rasie the pay so Americans will take the jobs you say…. then your cantalope will cost 5 bucks. In turn that will hurt the poor and middle class.

    I think we should allow the undocumented workers to continue doing what they are doing but we do need to get a hold on the boarder issue now. Allow the workers accross the boarder as they are needed. Right now it’s just a free for all and really that probably just isn’t right.

    I will say this though, if they are working in the U.S. they need to be protected by our labor laws. We can’t have our cake and eat it too i.e. have the cheap laobor but exploit the hell out of them.

  • Nikos

    Mike, labor costs are a tiny fraction of the prices we pay in the supermarket. I haven’t the time for it now, but will later tonight (or tomorrow, depending on how lousy I feel) look for statistical evidence to support this contention.

    The notion that fair pay for farm work will jack up prices more than a penny or a few pennies per item is a red herring.

    (anyone else is invited to beat me to the stats.)

  • h wally

    Right on Mike. You hear a lot of people complaining about China but Wal-Mart keeps piling up the profits from Chinas exploited workers and we keep buying. It’s the same with the people flooding in from the south. Remove them from the equasion, send them back and see how soon the clamor dies down. It is, to the large part, about money. Nafta and all the other wonderful trade negotiations that are making life hard on people. They make grand promises but deliver little to the people who need it most..

  • h wally

    I disagree that it’s not possible to raise a family on what you make in Mexico. They have a thriving small business economy. In my village many people have small stores in their homes. Even the poorest families can sell cookies or some other food items they’ve made. All day long there are pickups driving around the village selling watermelons or oranges or household cleaning supplies. I think the villages with only old people are more uban legend than fact. Another important thing is the family structure is still pretty strong and people work together to support each other. I see lots of older people who live off what their children send them from the states.

  • h wally

    Something else that needs to be mentioned is the money being made off the illegal workers in the states. Many times the workers live 10 to 20 to a house built for a single family. They pay large sums in rent to have the landlord turn his head to an illegal situaton. Also in many places you have contractors who act as middlemen. They provide the workers to the farmers etc and the workers pay a portion of their already low wages to the contractors. It’s set up so the workers can’t work with out the contracter. I had some friends paying 2 dollar out of every 7 dollars they made every hour. If they complained or didn’t want to pay they couldn’t get a job and were likely to be turned in. There are many ways they’re robbed of their money. Some employers take out for taxes and social security and pocket the money. I’ve seen some of the papers and they’re obviosly fake.

  • Nikos, I certainly agree with you to a certain point. Labor costs are but a fraction of the cost at the super market. Maybe to be more clear, to treat these workers as you would any American (which I think you should because they are on American soil doing the work) your looking at workman’s comp payments, some form of at the very least small insurance coverage to cover their broken bodies after years of work and so on I feel in turn would eventually jack up the price.

    I guess my thought is this, you would have to pay an American at the very least 10 to 11 bucks an hour to do this work…I am certain that would jack up the cost at the super market.

  • Taking the long view… Recently Howard Zinn was interviewed on Alternative Radio http://alternativeradio.org/ in a program titled A World Without Borders. With no borders there would be no immigrants. Here’s an excerpt from Zinn…

    “Frontiers divide people into nation states leading to an us and then dichotomy. A political elite dominates power and the lexical discourse. Flags become potent symbols of nationalism. Patriotism is used to create the illusion of a common interest that everyone shares. Political leaders exempt themselves from law and basic morality while all the time loudly proclaiming their adherence to them. They declare that God is on their side. They call on their people to make sacrifices. Vast military power is deployed to defend what are called national interest. Other countries are attacked. This is called self-defense. This pattern is a formula for endless conflict. What if barriers dividing people disappeared? Can we imagine a world without borders?�

  • Nikos

    Mike, I did a ‘google’ to begin my search for stats, and found something I never expected at: http://www.cis.org/articles/2000/msk_testimony_600.html

    Threat to Agriculture

    “But whether the agricultural workforce is inflated through affirmative means — by a formal guestworker program, as proposed in H.R. 4548 — or tacitly — through toleration of illegal immigration — the result for American agriculture is the same: stagnating productivity and slowed mechanization, sowing the seeds of a competitive meltdown in the future, as it becomes increasingly untenable for American fruit and vegetable farmers to compete on the basis of labor costs with low-wage countries. Such competitive difficulties are sure to be followed by demands that Congress enact direct subsidies for farmers grown accustomed to relying on cheap labor. This would seem contrary to the Congress’s recent moves to phase out many other agricultural subsidies.

    “The period from 1960 to 1975 — roughly from the end of the Bracero program to the beginning of the mass illegal immigration we are still experiencing today — was a period of considerable mechanization, with the average labor-hours per acre used in harvesting horticultural crops dropping 20 percent. But a continuing increase in the acreage and number of crops harvested mechanically did not materialize as expected, in large part because the supply of workers remained artificially large due to the growing illegal immigration we were politically unwilling to stop.

    “Further evidence of the harmful impact of mass immigration on agriculture is falling wages. According to a March 2000 report from the Labor Department, the real wages of farmworkers have fallen from $6.89 per hour in 1989 to $6.18 per hour in 1998. A new guestworker program is likely to continue this downward trend in farmworker wages. This may seem superficially appealing to farmers, but from a competitive point of view, competing with low-wage countries on the basis labor cost is a dead end — no modern society will ever be willing to reduce farmworkers wages enough to match those paid in third world countries.

    “The importation of foreign farmworkers also leads to very inefficient use of labor, further lowering productivity. The same March 2000 Labor Department report found widespread underemployment — the average number of weeks a farmworker works in agriculture has dropped from 26 weeks in 1990-92 to 24 weeks in 1996-98. The average farmworker spent only about 47 percent of his time in U.S. farm work, compared with 19 percent of his time unemployed in the U.S., 8 percent of his time in U.S. non-farm employment, and 24 percent of his time living abroad. This inefficient utilization of farm labor is also reflected in the fact that the unemployment rate for farmworkers between 1994 and 1998 was routinely more than double the rate for all occupations, according to a December 1999 report from the Congressional Research Service.â€?

    Of course that’s only a portion of the full transcript.

    And it links to this: Immigrant Entry and Native Exit From the Labor Market, 2000-2005; March 2006

    http://www.cis.org/articles/2006/back206.html

    Lastly, ATC had a commentary from Krikorian today @: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5328552

    PS to Peggy Sue: I liked that Zinn hour too. But then, what can you expect? — I’m only a Guttersnipe.

  • Carroll

    Problems in Immigration Are:

    It is used as a political ploy by both parties.

    Both the democrats and the republicans view immigration from only two angles…what will work for their business campaign contributors who want cheaper labor and what will work for building more of their own voters base “niches”.

    I think there is some obvious credibility in the arguement that it lowers wages. My state recently released a study that showed that 2 billion in legitimate wages and resulting tax revenues were lost to the undocumented worker market.

    There is also credibility in the arguement that guest and illegal workers are helpful to corporations in breaking up unions within companies and lessening worker protections.

    I don’t give much credit to the accusation that it is about racism. I do think the objections are coming from an atitude of “protectionism” among americans.

    Calls for “idealism and human considerations” are employed by both sides to obscure the very real politic involved. “If” human considerations played any part in our policy , politicans would have long ago done what we know must be done to curb the vast migration of gsypy like people from one country to other, here in al over the world. That is to actually aid other countries economically instead of using them as resource pits for multi-nationals. The huge offshoring and exporting of american manufacturing to other countries has done nothing to stop the outflow of people from those countries…in short it has not raised wages or created enough jobs in those countries and therefore people still migrate in search of a living wage…while at the same time reducing american wages and jobs.

    Those who believe in “open borders” and even freer trade are to me extremely naive. It may sound liberal and caring but it is a plan for ultimate disaster. As that would destroy most social structures, laws and any state protections a country has for itself or it’s people. The world would be dominated by “Internationals”, subject to no rules but profit, with no protections for workers, and no way to enforce any if any existed. And the even more people would become what we see now happening..traveling hordes in search of survival only jobs.

    I feel the real crux of immigration will explode when the US undergoes it’s next bad recession or economic meltdown…..on top of which the national debt we have is stacked and we can no longer afford the basic services to immigrants now provided or even to non immigrants.

    The immigration issue should be looked at from a ‘what if” economic sceniro because that is where the crunch test, as to whether or not the US can afford 12 million more people or not, will come from.

    And that is the one the politicans won’t talk about because they know how close we are financially to that test.

    Add 12 million to a bad economic disaster and think what happens…so far the US isn’t even capable of returning a few hundred thousand to jobs, homes or services in New Orleans.

    There is only one answer to immigration for both the idealist and the realist…cure the problem in the country of it’s source, not here or at the first major bump in the road we will be the other country.

  • Carroll

    I would just like to leave another thought here for the people reading….

    The minimun wage in america has been $5.15 an hour for the past 9 years.

    Congress has voted down an increase every year.

    Congress has at the same time voted themselves a 3 to 4% cost of living increase in their own salaries every single year.

    Don’t think the immigration issue or the outcome will have have anything to do with compassion or human considerations in DC. This country is no longer governed for the majority of people in it, immigrant or non immigrant.

  • riposter

    These are emotional stories. I suppose that’s the point of your show. It’s not like you selected guests that might have another viewpoint worth consideration. Of course I recognize the very human wants of your guests. But that doesn’t stop with them or other illegal immigrants here. What person in the world doesn’t have a life that has equal value? So why not them too? Where is the logical end to it?

    If you don’t advocate opening up the border to anyone who wishes to come, what is the criteria you use for limiting other equally deserving human being access to a better life. And how would you propose enforcing the limits you set?

    These are the question you need to ask yourself because they form the basis for developing a coherent, rationale and defensible immigration policy. Yes the choice have consequences that are uncomfortable. But not choosing is choosing something also, even if it allow one the illusion of abdicating responsibility for it.

  • Nikos

    Carroll: I like your two posts. This: ‘The world would be dominated by “Internationalsâ€?, subject to no rules but profit, with no protections for workers, and no way to enforce any if any existed…’ has been the goal of what we now call globalization since the Trilateral Commission in the 1970’s. The putative ‘ideal’ was to ‘even out’ the world economy, although we didn’t then necessarily understand that the means wouldn’t be charity or foreign aid but off-shoring.

    Worse, this isn’t something we get to vote on because the Donkey and Elephant don’t run on these issues but other, more visceral ones. And no matter which party holds sway, the corporate interests lead the politicians by their noses – noses that only smell lucre.

    The American republic has hence become a sham.

    Off and on for a few months lately, some of us regulars have asked for a ROS thread or show that examines whether the 18th century Constitution serves all the People or merely the Rich. Now, in the Guttersnipe Alley thread, perhaps we have the perfect venue to begin a citizen’s examination of our government-as-constituted.

    Let me know if you’re interested, and we can begin a conversation there.

    And thanks.

  • Look at China; one could argue that a key factor of their current explosive economic growth (extreme fiscally conservative governmental policy notwithstanding) has been a vast, incredibly cheap, labor pool. Adding a large source of inexpensive labor to the American work force may, in the short-run be painful for many people.

    YES!!! YES!!! why didn’t i think of it, the chinese model! per capita GDP $6,000 per, massive coal fired power plants, dozens of 10+ million cities, 1.3 billion. let’s fill up america.

    now, to emulate the chinese model though, we’ll have to fix a few things

    1) impose common language and ethnic identity on 95% of the population

    2) let’s get oursevles a central authoritarian party which can cede to corporates goodies via fiat (no need for labor unions, laws, etc.)

    3) let’s remove environmental regulations, let’s not worry about overpopulation

    anyone here apples & oranges? chinese competition is real, but becoming china by filling up the USA with 1+ billion people seems a little ridiculous. reducing the median wage to chinese levels seems a little ridiculous too, it isn’t like the average american worker isn’t more productive than the average chinese worker.

    This is country of immigrants, built by immigrants, don’t stop now.

    this is a country of people, built by people, don’t stop now. really the phrase doesn’t say much because even the native americans were immigrants. except for a small portion of east africa we are immigrants everywhere.

    i hold that what makes this nation special and distinct vis-a-vis other cultures is the anglo-saxon foundation of the settler colonies. we emphasize the later irish, german and “great wave” migrations, as well as the recent ones, but those all follow in the footsteps of the first settlers.

    I’m noticing a tendency here to conflate illegal and legal immigration.

    well, it makes the arguments easier. “illegal” sounds bad. i don’t blame people conflating it. the question is: are we a gov. of laws, or of men? men have hearts, and i think most of them would grant people who yearn to attain a better quality of life their due. but laws do what is right, even if it hurts.

    then your cantalope will cost 5 bucks. In turn that will hurt the poor and middle class.

    cantalope is a not a staple that i know of (perhaps my cultural background biases me against assuming it is a necessary condition of the “good life”). in any case, this is a nation that is being wracked by obesity. i don’t find the food-will-get-more-expensive argument very persuasive.

    Taking the long view… Recently Howard Zinn was interviewed on Alternative Radio http://alternativeradio.org/ in a program titled A World Without Borders. With no borders there would be no immigrants. Here’s an excerpt from Zinn…

    the idea of a world without nation-states and working class solidarity seems to have gone away as a real dream with world war I when democratic socialist parties marched off to war. a realistic political program needs to take into account human nature, and there is a lot of evidence that we are groupish.

    as i told a friend of mine, the econometric arguments are neither here nor there. nikos can find more statistics, and pro-immigration folk can google the CATO archives. ultimately, i think we need to go back to simple values. two points

    1) on the Right many restrictionists are motivated by pretty obvious intentions, they want to preserve “their kind of america.” is this all bad? there is a lot bad with america, but overall i think there is a lot of good with it.

    let me offer an anecdote. my family is bangladesh is relatively affluent. 2 years ago i sat in their apartments in dhaka and listened to them complaining above lack of public spirit and squalor in their society. all the while they were throwing trash out of their windows (their apartments were meticulously clean, maintained in part by servants). additionally, they rarely had friends come over who were not related to them, friendships were generally formed between relatives. society was a circle-of-cousins to a great extent. many countries are like this, they bemoan the lack of public spirit, but they are trapped in an iron circle of social dysfunction. if you brought all of bangladesh to the USA (130+ million people) they would bring this social dysfunction. if you bring a few bangladeshis they can’t recreate the-circle-of-cousins, they have to interact with those on the “outside” (as my parents have).

    i was born at the top of the social pyramid in a third world country. i’m a relatively well educated person who has a good skillset, i’m not scared for myself in the “global economy.” i have relatives across the world, and wealthy uncles in bangladesh. but here in the USA i want to one among peers, not a prince among peons.

    if we let in tens of millions of the poor and downtrodden from the south of this hemisphere, and other nations too, then we are going to create a caste system. there isn’t a great shame in that, the lower castes will have a better quality of life than they would down south in terms of material goods, but people who come without high school educations will never had a real shot (on average) at becoming peers with other americans.

    2) this brings me to the arguments i see from liberals…look, i fancy myself mildly libertarian when i do express political opinions. i am acquainted with david boaz and i’ve been to CATO institute events. the rhetoric i see from people i assume to be on the Left when it comes to immigration doesn’t really differ much from stuff that i heard from fat-cat oil men who were complaining about tax rates and waxing on about efficient economization. what happened to egalitarianism? all of a sudden everyone wants to maximize national productivity, growth. the lawns must be mowed! the crops must be picked (cheaply!)! inequality is a fact of life! let the caste society come, it is inevitable! it just doesn’t strike me as plausible.

    what is going on here? i think part of the problem is that people don’t want to seem racist. in the late 1990s i read a senior thesis by a stanford student that surveyed the stress between racial minorities and environmentalists on the campus of that university. the thesis pretty much made the argument that racial minorities felt environmentalist, which its anti-pop-growth rhetoric, was “racist.” ultimately the conclusions were pretty wimpy, even though the writer was an environmentalist in his biases he wouldn’t come down on the side of environmentalism. i emailed him and asked him what he thought, and he wouldn’t give me a straight answer. the fact is if anti-environmentalist rhetoric was put forth by rock-ricked white republicans than they’d be ripped to shreds, but since it was expressed by racial minorities…well, one has to be sensitive. here in oregon our governor tom mccall in the 1970s quipped that “come visit, but don’t stay.” that seems a little abrasive when thought in light of oregonians, but what about immigrants into california? since 90% of them are non-white…well, it seems kind of racist.

    well, causation does not equal correlation. *shrug* america can absorb many immigrants. but, there is a point on the spectrum between open borders and no-immigration, and people need to stake out their ground.

    myself, i will offer the following:

    1) immigration levels per year should be modulated so that the USA population is stabilized. we are below replacement in birthrate for native-born, and if it were not for immigration our pop wouldn’t have gone much higher than where it is now. but, because of immigration we’ll possibly hit 500 million within the next century (btw, this 500 million are mostly going to fit into ca, ny, ill., etc.).

    2) bias toward education. this will ensure that immigrants can slot into society as peers, potentionally. until recently immigrants were more educated than the american population, that isn’t so anymore. of course, a society of peers causes problems, who is going to do the “dirty” work. perhaps no one. our lawns were become unkempt, and we’ll have to figure out about daycare and perhaps basic goods will become more expensive if we can’t import them. big deal. the society should not live for the market, the market should live for the society, and i believe that a stable republic is one where inequality is ameliorated (this might be an argument against hypereducated immigrants too).

    3) strong favor the young and unmarried. family units nucleate and grow into ghettos. this will be stressful for the individuals in question, but they will be absorbed into society, and hopefully marry outside of their group. it will foster cross-linkages quickly.

    4) keep illegals out through a variety of measures, from physical barriers to measures against employers who hire them. the fewer undocumented workers there are in this nation, the fewer there are to offer their testimonies so that our hearts are tugged. i don’t see anyone here spending much time talking about the grotesque bestialities commited against innocent civilians in the congo everyday. out of sight, out of mind.

  • Nikos

    Carroll – and everyone else too – I’ve just posted this: http://www.radioopensource.org/guttersnipe-alley-april-2006/#comment-8998

  • Jeff Moore

    Bartolomar (sp?) was on to the essence of the problem. Commodities can pass through the borders and labor can’t. The unshot is that the pressure on wages EVERYWHERE will lead to the result of migration. Labor must be both international and politically powerful enought to lift ALL boats

  • Nikos

    Okay, I’ve now listened to the whole hour – even the final emotional minutes featuring ‘Alexander’ and Michael Marizco.

    One engaged citizen’s post-show analysis: the Guest Worker Initiative is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    It exploits more than it humanizes.

    Yes, it’s true that illegal immigration is bigger than merely the ‘Mexican border issue’. Yet under- and unemployed Mexican nationals comprise the biggest wave of the undocumented inflow from abroad.

    And though it’s true that the USA has broad shoulders, can we in good conscience shoulder Vicente Fox’s unemployment problem while our own economy’s feet continue to trample down our own pre-existing ‘underclass’ – who are already citizens?

  • Nikos

    This is a duplicate post of this in Guttersnipe Alley: http://www.radioopensource.org/guttersnipe-alley-april-2006/#comment-9031

    The reasons for the duplication will become obvious.

    Despite Brendan’s open invitation to use Guttersnipe Alley as “a place to discuss broader…issues (or anything else you want)�, I’m having qualms about the propriety of using this thread as venue for conversing on this post’s topic.

    It’s not that the post doesn’t live up to the Guttersnipe idea – or ideal! – it does. But this is more than a social, chatty type of topic. It could dominate the thread to the detriment of many other uses. On the other hand, this thread is likely to host many diverse conversations, especially many non-emotional ones.

    So here are a couple of options for the ROS Nation to vote on here and now. This ‘first ballot’ might set a precedent for future use of this thread, or, of course, we could simply by evolution of habit and custom transform the precedent over time to another ROS ‘culturally’ accepted use of the thread.

    Keep in mind that this thread is meant to be an ‘everything’ venue – and yet not become pirated by one topic. So…

    If we label the posts with Topic in a title, people can simply skip whatever their not interested in. This offers the advantage of drawing in new folks to the topic. And, for the most part, I think I favor this.

    However, the Immigration Stories thread is already slowing down – no posts since last night (as I write this at 11:00 AM PDT), and this post’s topic is the next step of a conversation with Carroll that began in the Immigration Stories thread – so, we might be better off pirating that thread than this one. Eventually we’d need to abandon that venue though, since folks don’t keep up with threads as they slide down the Recently Aired column and into the oblivion called Archives.

    My working solution right now is to post this here and there – and after your reactions to the initial exchanges of conversation, we’ll get a sense of the ‘first ballot.’

    The ROS staff’s opinion would be very, very helpful too. Perhaps Brendan would like to see the experiment play out for a few days before structurally guiding our efforts.

    Constitution

    Perhaps we should begin a critique of the government-as-constituted by recalling that in its inception it was revolutionary and yet a compromise that clung to the ‘head of state’ concept in the form of an elected presidency instead of a monarchy.

    It feared the population’s ignorance as much as it recognized the people’s sovereignty.

    It safeguarded the wealth and property rights of the new nation’s leadership class at the expense of the lower classes. This constitutional emphasis on wealth-protection has grown over the many decades since.

    A rich source of food for thought is Thom Hartmann’s Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights – http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=2-1579549551-0

    “Hartmann…describes the history of the Fourteenth Amendment—created at the end of the Civil War to grant basic rights to freed slaves—and how it has been used by lawyers representing corporate interests to extend additional rights to businesses far more frequently than to freed slaves. Prior to 1886, corporations were referred to in U.S. law as ‘artificial persons.’ but in 1886, after a series of cases brought by lawyers representing the expanding railroad interests, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were ‘persons’ and entitled to the same rights granted to people under the Bill of Rights. Since this ruling, America has lost the legal structures that allowed for people to control corporate behavior.

    “As a result, the largest transnational corporations fill a role today that has historically been filled by kings. They control most of the world’s wealth and exert power over the lives of most of the world’s citizens. Their CEOs are unapproachable and live lives of nearly unimaginable wealth and luxury. They’ve become the rudder that steers the ship of much human experience, and they’re steering it by their prime value—growth and profit and any expense—a value that has become destructive for life on Earth. This new feudalism was not what our Founders—Federalists and Democratic Republicans alike—envisioned for America.

    “It’s time for ‘we, the people’; to take back our lives.�

    Hartmann stops short of advocating a wholesale constitutional overhaul, but I don’t.

    The most important goal is a system allowing multiple parties from which the electorate can shop between a wide diversity of political philosophies and policy options.

    The two-party state is not sanctioned in the Constitution, yet it is the Constitution’s misbegotten and unintended mongrel child. The two-party state is in one important way worse than the one-party totalitarian model: it seems to offer choice, yet doesn’t on the most fundamental operations of society and economy.

    The many poor folks who lived in single-party states knew damn well they had no real choice.

    We seem to think we do.

    Concerned citizens let’s talk. Let’s collaborate. Let’s begin something meaningful – not mere moonbatting.

    Let’s germinate a new way out of our two-party entrapment.

    Our current constitution’s drafters and signers intended to curtail political parties. The situation wasn’t terribly unlike Iraq now where none of the factions dare submit to the others – thus parties were viewed then as political pariahs to be avoided if at all possible. Individual and independent representatives were deemed preferable to those linked to strong parties. This might have seemed sensible in the context of an 18th century agrarian country just beginning to shake off an imperial/colonial yoke, but was naïve in foresight. The platitude ‘strength in numbers’ is a social truth, I’m afraid, and so the development of political parties was inevitable.

    The result, however well-intended in its inception, is a bloated government run by a ‘soviet’ of two instead of one. Instead of multiple and healthy parties representing an ideologically diverse and vividly distinct spectrum of political thought and possibility, we are stuck with two thought-impoverished animals. Both of these creatures focus on more on raising money for the election of individuals instead of on representing the policy options that voters can shop through to find the slate of candidates most representative of the voter’s political sentiments. Neither party can set aside their obsessive focus on pandering in favor of simply representing political philosophies founded on integrity. Meanwhile, the Elephant operates much as the Donkey except that it also seeks ideological domination from which it can bully with (fatuous) claims to ‘realism’, while quietly championing and advancing the interests of its richest contributors. And, being wholly without conscience, it doesn’t much care how many other, less powerful real people it ignores and tramples in the process.

    So, this initial and tentative offering concludes with the suggestion that we discuss the greater inherent democracy of parliamentary systems that elects legislators not as individuals but from party slates.

    AND: Multiple professional political parties offering real policy differences and diverse options wouldn’t need the new ‘fourth branch of government’ called lobbyists – who corrupt while drafting not merely policy but law.

    Honest to goodness professional political parties can draft their own policies. Just as they do in Europe.

    (The Senate is a whole nother animal. It requires a treatment in a later conversation.)

    PS: another excellent – and more Republican – source for thought is Kevin Phillips’s Wealth and Democracy http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0767905342-1

  • Nikos

    Okay, why not go whole hog and get the thing right for a change. SORRY!

    Oy gevalt!

    Despite Brendan’s open invitation to use Guttersnipe Alley as “a place to discuss broader…issues (or anything else you want)�, I’m having qualms about the propriety of using that thread as venue for conversing on this post’s topic.

    It’s not that the post doesn’t live up to the Guttersnipe idea – or ideal! – it does.

    But this is more than a social, chatty type of topic. It could dominate the Guttersnipe thread to the detriment of many other uses. On the other hand, that thread is likely to host many diverse conversations, especially many non-emotional ones.

    So here are a couple of options for the ROS Nation to vote on here and now. This ‘first ballot’ might set a precedent for future use of the Guttersnipe thread, or, of course, we could simply by evolution of habit and custom transform the precedent over time to another ROS ‘culturally’ accepted use of the thread.

    Keep in mind that Guttersnipe Alley is meant to be an ‘everything’ venue – and yet not become pirated by one topic. So…

    If we label the posts there with Topic in a title, people can simply skip whatever their not interested in. This offers the advantage of drawing in new folks to the topic. And, for the most part, I think I favor this.

    However, this Immigration Stories thread is already slowing down – no posts since last night (as I write this at 11:00 AM PDT), and this post’s topic is the next step of a conversation with Carroll that began in the Immigration Stories thread – so, we might be better off pirating this thread rather than that one. Eventually we’d need to abandon this venue though, since folks don’t keep up with threads as they slide down the Recently Aired column and into the oblivion called Archives.

    My working solution right now is to post this here and there – and after your reactions to the initial exchanges of conversation, we’ll get a sense of the ‘first ballot.’

    The ROS staff’s opinion would be very, very helpful too. Perhaps Brendan would like to see the experiment play out for a few days before structurally guiding our efforts.

    Constitution

    Perhaps we should begin a critique of the government-as-constituted by recalling that in its inception it was revolutionary and yet a compromise that clung to the ‘head of state’ concept in the form of an elected presidency instead of a monarchy.

    It feared the population’s ignorance as much as it recognized the people’s sovereignty.

    It safeguarded the wealth and property rights of the new nation’s leadership class at the expense of the lower classes. This constitutional emphasis on wealth-protection has grown over the many decades since.

    A rich source of food for thought is Thom Hartmann’s Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights – http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=2-1579549551-0

    “Hartmann…describes the history of the Fourteenth Amendment—created at the end of the Civil War to grant basic rights to freed slaves—and how it has been used by lawyers representing corporate interests to extend additional rights to businesses far more frequently than to freed slaves. Prior to 1886, corporations were referred to in U.S. law as ‘artificial persons.’ but in 1886, after a series of cases brought by lawyers representing the expanding railroad interests, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were ‘persons’ and entitled to the same rights granted to people under the Bill of Rights. Since this ruling, America has lost the legal structures that allowed for people to control corporate behavior.

    “As a result, the largest transnational corporations fill a role today that has historically been filled by kings. They control most of the world’s wealth and exert power over the lives of most of the world’s citizens. Their CEOs are unapproachable and live lives of nearly unimaginable wealth and luxury. They’ve become the rudder that steers the ship of much human experience, and they’re steering it by their prime value—growth and profit and any expense—a value that has become destructive for life on Earth. This new feudalism was not what our Founders—Federalists and Democratic Republicans alike—envisioned for America.

    “It’s time for ‘we, the people’; to take back our lives.�

    Hartmann stops short of advocating a wholesale constitutional overhaul, but I don’t.

    The most important goal is a system allowing multiple parties from which the electorate can shop between a wide diversity of political philosophies and policy options.

    The two-party state is not sanctioned in the Constitution, yet it is the Constitution’s misbegotten and unintended mongrel child. The two-party state is in one important way worse than the one-party totalitarian model: it seems to offer choice, yet doesn’t on the most fundamental operations of society and economy.

    The many poor folks who lived in single-party states knew damn well they had no real choice.

    We seem to think we do.

    Concerned citizens let’s talk. Let’s collaborate. Let’s begin something meaningful – not mere moonbatting.

    Let’s germinate a new way out of our two-party entrapment.

    Our current constitution’s drafters and signers intended to curtail political parties. The situation wasn’t terribly unlike Iraq now where none of the factions dare submit to the others – thus parties were viewed then as political pariahs to be avoided if at all possible. Individual and independent representatives were deemed preferable to those linked to strong parties. This might have seemed sensible in the context of an 18th century agrarian country just beginning to shake off an imperial/colonial yoke, but was naïve in foresight. The platitude ‘strength in numbers’ is a social truth, I’m afraid, and so the development of political parties was inevitable.

    The result, however well-intended in its inception, is a bloated government run by a ‘soviet’ of two instead of one. Instead of multiple and healthy parties representing an ideologically diverse and vividly distinct spectrum of political thought and possibility, we are stuck with two thought-impoverished animals. Both of these creatures focus on more on raising money for the election of individuals instead of on representing the policy options that voters can shop through to find the slate of candidates most representative of the voter’s political sentiments. Neither party can set aside their obsessive focus on pandering in favor of simply representing political philosophies founded on integrity. Meanwhile, the Elephant operates much as the Donkey except that it also seeks ideological domination from which it can bully with (fatuous) claims to ‘realism’, while quietly championing and advancing the interests of its richest contributors. And, being wholly without conscience, it doesn’t much care how many other, less powerful real people it ignores and tramples in the process.

    So, this initial and tentative offering concludes with the suggestion that we discuss the greater inherent democracy of parliamentary systems that elects legislators not as individuals but from party slates.

    AND: Multiple professional political parties offering real policy differences and diverse options wouldn’t need the new ‘fourth branch of government’ called lobbyists – who corrupt while drafting not merely policy but law.

    Honest to goodness professional political parties can draft their own policies. Just as they do in Europe.

    (The Senate is a whole nother animal. It requires a treatment in a later conversation.)

    PS: another excellent – and more Republican – source for thought is Kevin Phillips’s Wealth and Democracy http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0767905342-1

  • h wally

    Hello Nikos, I agree with some of what you said. You mention the conversation dying down on immigration. I think this site could develope into something profound. I wonder sometimes about the way we go from topic to topic leaving a trail of words behind us. Why can’t this place be something more. There is a community forming with very diverse views of the world. Why can’t we develope some thread to connect all these topics and see if we can’t come up with some Ideas of our own. Maybe we could be the guests on the show some night. It seems like a shame to put all this effort into all these topics and then just have them fade away. Why can’t we join them and form them into new ideas or a different perspective. I’d also like to see more acceptance of different ideas. I notice that sometimes we just skip over people and don’t acknowledge their contributions. Even if we disagree we can learn from them. It gives us a chance to see if our ideas hold up to a challenge. We always have Brenden to reign us in if we get off track. This site is unique. Sometimes when I’ve been away for a while it’s a good feeling to return and see the familiar names, yours in particular. I often wonder about you. It’s curious, the pictures we can form in our minds. I wonder at your great library of books and websites. You and I have different approaches but I’m glad. A lot of times I just read and don’t contribute. Other times I can’t keep my mouth shut. This isn’t Kansas but it’s home to me. I spent a good part of the past 30 years working to make this world a better place. I finally burnt out like some giant comet, that’s how I ended up down in Mexico. I shrunk my world down to one small village. A little bit ago the internet showed up and now I’m venturing out again. I write to you from the middle of a beautiful tropical paradise that most people don’t know exist. We see a few motorhomes but they keep their windows rolled up and their doors locked as they hurry through. I’m holding my breath as I watch “progress” progress. A few years ago satellite tv came and now you don’t see as many people sitting out in front of their houses at night. I’m one of the first outsiders to live in this village and I’ve had many wonderful conversations with people who’ve never had a conversation with an american, or people who’ve been up there and didn’t have a good experience with americans. It’s nice to see peoples reactions when they find out we have a lot in common. Well, I’m rambling. I guess that’s the fun part of sneaking back in to one of these threads after it’s closed down. Keep going Nikos, you’re an important thread here.

  • babu

    To me, the show was a gem of interviewing and 1st person reporting. Thank you ROS.

    (1) The most powerful moment was when it became clear what the role of NAFTA is in the current immigration picture: free trade seems to be cherry-picking low-wage jobs allowing nimble corporations to import labor wherever they need it. The example given was Archer Daniels and corn. Mexican subsistence corn farmers can’t compete with cheap US corn exported to Mexico. SO, Mexican farmers leave to become ‘illegals’.

    Seems like a tacit form of ‘voluntary slavery’ to me.

    (2) “if we let in tens of millions of the poor and downtrodden from the south of this hemisphere, and other nations too, then we are going to create a caste system. there isn’t a great shame in that, the lower castes will have a better quality of life than they would down south in terms of material goods…”

    razib: we do have a de-facto caste system here. This is how it works.

    razib: I’ve been fascinated by your thoughts on population, gene pool, etc; I visited your site and followed some of its links. Here’s a question that occurs to me which relates to immigration;

    As a landscape architect, I view the world first, even politically, as a network of ecosystems. I have observed that ecosystems, especially ecosystems of scarcity like deserts (Middle-East, for example) when streesed out of balance, give rise to human violence. When a small population is in balance with the natural carrying capacity the native ethnicities trade and interact with each other in the interest of survival. (See, for example 18th century Lebanon and Palestine–a pastiche of ethnicities, including Jews, who traded, iner-married, etc.)

    To me all current global crisis situations, from immigration to terrorism are a result of over-population resulting in strees on local ecosystem so that people cannot subsist.

  • babu

    PLEA FOR SHORTER POSTS

    I’m having a lot of trouble with these big blocks of uninterrupted text.

  • h wally

    Babu, The king of uninterrupted text is Nikos but I like his posts. They’re very well thought out and informative. It’s not much trouble to scroll past them if you don’t care to read them. I do sometimes but I always go back and read them later. I enjoy the variety of voices expressed here and would hate to see our freedom of expression reduced by seemingly harmless pleas. Don’t deny the rest of us our chance to get an education and an earfull. I also truely enjoy your unique point of view. Even if I disagree, I still respect your right to express yourself in as many words as you see fit. Power to the people.

  • Nikos

    H wally, that’s a great post (9:53 PM), and not because of the kind words you awarded to me (which I don’t deserve, but thanks all the same!).

    You wrote: “It seems like a shame to put all this effort into all these topics and then just have them fade away.�

    And I agree, but what most people don’t know – or realize – is that the threads in the Archives stay open for more posts apparently indefinitely. I don’t think ROS is so old yet that there’s any reason to close the old threads. Hard drives (including I suspect, the HDD’s housing the ROS web-site) have the capacity for millions and millions of words.

    SO: I recommend we use Guttersnipe Alley to inform others that we’ve dropped a new thought into an old thread. It might not garner a reply, but who knows? It might, and then we’ve just created a new chance to learn from our older efforts. It’s at least worth a try, in my estimation.

    You wrote: “I’d also like to see more acceptance of different ideas. I notice that sometimes we just skip over people and don’t acknowledge their contributions.�

    My reply: Think about it this way – didn’t Winston earn gobs of attention? We didn’t agree with him much, but we tacitly acknowledged his contributions in the intensity and avalanche of our responses! And why? – Because you were dead right about this:

    “Even if we disagree we can learn from them. It gives us a chance to see if our ideas hold up to a challenge.�

    That’s exactly right, and this truth is under-appreciated.

    Often we post our already hardened opinions, and react poorly to critique. This is unfortunate: if we’re willing to contribute our own thoughts, we should be grateful for the attention they garner – especially since negative attention can help us refine our opinions into better, sounder ideas. (My frustration with Winston wasn’t his willingness to contribute, but that the ideology he represented wasn’t open to critique. It’s an ‘all of one piece’ kind of thing, and about as fun to argue with as a bulldozer. Or a concrete wall.)

    Sometimes it’s worth positing our opinions simply to generate the critique process – which as often as not can come couched in approving words with small, kindly corrections hidden within. Perhaps that’s the gentlest way our opinions can be helped here – but it might not be the most consistently effective. I’m not sure. Strong critique can breed resentment and a subsequent hardening of opinion, and not a shake-up that leads to illumination. Maybe it’s a case by case kind of thing. How the hell do I know?

    What I do know is that this ROS site is an improbable intellectual gift, and I have learned more here in the past year than I had from all my books over the previous decade. (I think.) Of course, contributing here causes me to read more and watch less idiot box, and that’s a damned fine thing!

    One last thought: sometimes we don’t react to the posts of others because they speak the writer’s mind just fine, and don’t seem to invite response. If a writer wants to generate conversation, all s/he has to do is equivocate a bit, as in: “I’ve got this opinion, but sense that it might not be sound…can anyone give me some feedback?â€? Some people do this and it works great. Others might be too proud, but that’s a shame and a missed opportunity for gleaning new knowledge.

    Blogging is best when done with admitted humility – like you use to great effect. It’s why you’re one of my favorite contributors.

    “A lot of times I just read and don’t contribute.�

    BOOO!!!

    “Other times I can’t keep my mouth shut.�

    Yeay!!!

    It takes all of us to make this thing live up to its potential. I hate to see my byline dominating a thread. I love to be only one of many in the mix. I harbor (and cherish) this idea that each human is a walking individuation of interstellar star-dust that collected by gravity into the Earth and then got sparked to life by earth’s cache of water + proximity to Sun + the energy called sunlight. This may sound ‘spiritual’ but it really isn’t: it’s just the facts, ma’am.

    Which means that every human is the planet in a different body – which means that every other human is me in a different body!

    Which means that when you’re supplying us with your perspective, you are, on my behalf (and everyone else’s) giving me another of my perspectives that my individuated brain doesn’t have immediate access to.

    Your contributions are as valuable as anybody’s. As everybody’s.

    Maybe this should (after someone with genuine writing skills cleans it up) go into the ROS/Guttersnipe Statement of Purpose and Etiquette.

    Anyway, proof of what I just wrote is the rest of your post…

    Your account of your life in Mexico is revelatory, and this is my favorite part of your 9:53. Brilliant.

    I had the good fortune to spend five summers of my late teens and early twenties on the Greek island my paternal grandparents had been born and raised on prior to their immigration to the States. These summers were in the mid and late 70’s, when electricity was new to the island, and a couple of small villages were still awaiting the car roads whose completion would bring the electrical and phone lines. So your account of Mexico triggers waves of nostalgia in me.

    We had tourists too: backpacking Swedish sun-worshipers who came to our island because it had no antiquities and therefore offered dirt-cheap prices. They avoided eye-contact on their ways to the island’s best beaches. Nervous. Worried. Just wanting to stay out of the darker-skinned locals’ ways, and not get busted for whatever illegal substances they might have stashed in their gear.

    It was kind of funny, but I can relate to your feeling of ‘disconnect’.

    And TV too: the advent of TV changed the islanders’ social habits. Not instantly for the worse, but progressively over the years. The idiot box, I think, is the ultimate reason the Bushies are getting away with murder and malfeasance. People socialize now around the box, and when it treats the unprecedented misgovernment and stream of lies from the administration and Congress as ‘news’ instead of ‘outrage’, people watching together just keep on thinking it’s ‘normal’.

    You think Edward R. Murrow would put up with this crap?

    The alternative is the box I’m now sitting in front of: another cathode ray tube that instead of preaching, showing, pontificating, and ‘normalizing’ outrages, links us to one another as global citizens. It’s new enough to not have made a big impression yet on the manifest malfeasances of the elites – but it has great potential.

    Let’s use it.

    Let’s try and spark a forest fire or two in the orchards and groves of the pampered, over-privileged, and willfully ignorant class of fellow humans called Americans.

    Let’s try to wake them up.

    Your 9:53 is a gem, and for exactly that reason.

    Thank you!

    PS: babu will forgive me this long word-brick. We’re driving together to Anacortes in 3 weeks! 😉

  • nother

    I was never more viscerally proud to be an American (including my time in the Navy) as I was today standing in Boston Common, participating in the Immigration rally.

    Tears periodically welled in my eyes as I bumped up against Latinos grasping onto the American Flag and raising it to the sky with sudden shrieks of exuberance. A young man in front of me had Old Faithful wrapped around him in like a warm blanket on a blistery night. A Haitian gentleman was speaking at the podium; a Brazilian woman to my left started a lone cheer; I turned around to witness a large group of Irish marching up the sidewalk in solidarity, a huge green banner waving above their heads. An African American pastor spoke inspiring words about dignity, followed by a Muslim man’s anger at the lack of anger concerning a law being proposed that would allow police to stop strangers in the street and ask for identification – detaining them if they have none. A frail and small Columbian woman stepped to mike to talk about the janitor’s union she heads in Miami and the strike she is presently leading. A Korean born city councilman spoke eloquently about change as the masses began to break into the rallying cry of “Oleee, Ole Ole Oleee, Oleee, Oleee!�

    The only common denominator amid the diversity was the image of Red White and Blue flapping in the wind. I altogether realized that these people did not come to this land to just take advantage of the material opportunities and then go home (as is a common perception.) These people came to these shores in search of deep intangibles; in search of dreams; in search of promise; in search of a spirit – a spirit that was summoned today. It is a spirit that unknowingly had, residing deep inside my being; it was like something rattled out of my DNA from past ancestors.

    Chris, on the show you asked your guests if most of the immigrants plan on staying or going back to their homeland. Your guests seemed to imply that most had the intention of returning home after making money. That is not what I felt today. What I witnessed today was a spirit that I imagine was present on those boats that sailed onto Ellis Island. These people were not raising the American flag as a symbol of goods; they were raising it as a symbol of the greater good. Holding these flags to these people meant taking possession of something some of us feel we have a proprietary right to. That was my realization as I stood their with watery eyes, we are all brought together by and have a right to, that “pursuit of happiness.� It can not be owned!

    We marched past the posh Park Plaza with men in expensive suits held up on the sidewalk by throngs of prideful people marching – held up by the people who make their beds, and wash their soiled sheets, and scrape the leftovers from their China plates. We marched with smiles, not anger. We marched with toddlers, and the elderly, and with hope.

  • nother

    I have to say that I was very disappointed with the lack of Anglo faces in the crowd. I heard someone say that the number might have been 1 and 10, but I think that might be too generous. It reinforces how prevalent the idea of the “other� is in this debate.

    A good MA. website for this issue is http://www.miracoalition.org/home

  • Potter

    Thanks for that heartfelt report Nother. It is immigrants that we come from, immigrants that made this country and kept it, recent immigrants that force the rest of us to continue to be what we say we are, immigrants that bring the energy that renews us. Our diversity is our strength.

    I am glad the American flag was being raised for this purpose. I was afraid we lost it to causes that were not nearly so worthy.

  • nother

    Thanks Potter! I’m fascinated by the symbol of our flag and all of the complexity it brings. I’ve been very discouraged by the trend recently to view it simply as a jingoistic sword.

    We can’t let the bad guys have our flag! Just because the pro-war hawks wear the flag like armor doesn’t give them ownership. Some of our liberal friends have been too quick to let it go and I see that as a lack of courage. When you let that flag go, you are playing right into their hands, as being weak willed. (Not you Potter!)

    My reaction was almost immediate, as soon as I stepped onto the Common and saw the frenzy of people in line to buy the flag (read in to that, what ever you will) a surge of patriotism bubbled up inside me. Not jingoism, but patriotism!

    These people want to want to stay here. They want to be surprised. They want that flag to mean something beyond nationalism; they want it to represent hope.

  • Nikos

    Re; Immigration

    This ATC story from yesterday contains voices just as deserving to be heard as those of the immigrants: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5341040

    It’s only a few brief minutes. Don’t be an ostrich. Listen to it.