hit counter

home | life | tech | ritz | sports | vent | toon | events
What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been (Part 1)

Patrick Hunter-Kilmer Head Copy Editor
Published 04-21-06
Graphic By: Julie Brennan
So, let me get this right. It used to be that there were three groups of people who came to this country: religious fanatics, people too dumb to avoid being caught breaking the law and people who were wealthy enough to buy their way over. Those people came, in turn, for three reasons: religious freedom, economic freedom and freeing up space in prisons.

Now, people come to this country for (among other things) economic freedom, religious freedom and because they would be in prison (or worse) elsewhere.

Someone explain to me, please, what happened in the 386 years between then and now? I don't get it. Yes, I'm aware of the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corrolary. The only remotely relevant part of the Monroe Doctrine states that European countries aren't allowed to formally dump their citizens on us, and the countries currently supplying lots of immigrants are not exactly eating snails or scones by the bushelful. The Roosevelt Corrolary only expanded on the part of the Monroe Doctrine that basically said "Don't mess with us."

The arguments against immigration are, as I'm told, as follows:

  • Immigrants take jobs for dirt-low pay, which means American workers are out of jobs.
  • Immigrants cause significant strain on the social services part of various state governments and the federal government.
  • Immigrants don't often speak English, which pisses people off. (Some of you would be surprised how many people cite this argument.)

A full and proper response to any of those points could easily be a book, something I've been discouraged from writing. (Curse you all, and may your children have ADD and really bad gas.) What I can do, though, is clear away some of the fog concerning these issues and talk to you about why things just aren't that simple.

A few years ago, I held a job that required someone who could speak proper English. I worked in a Chinese food restaurant, and I was the only employee there who spoke anything above broken English. My job was basically to be an American face and implicitly assuage people believing the stereotype that immigrants are inherently dangerous. The pay was $6 an hour, which is none shabby considering I didn't do any dishes, bussed exceedingly few tables and basically got paid to walk around and talk to people. I was essentially being paid for being obviously Caucasian.

I held that job all of about a week. I'm not remotely bitter about not being asked to come back, and here's why:

  • I took the job knowing I could be terminated at the employer's discretion. I knew they were waiting for someone else to come along--someone who would do the work for less money and stick out less.
  • No bathroom breaks. I was allowed something like a 30-minute break for lunch, but I was expected to stay in the restaurant and eat from the buffet line. Anyone who's worked in a buffet-style restaurant knows how quickly the food there becomes anything but appetizing. I was basically on my feet for eight hours a day unless there was essentially nobody in the restaurant (employees sitting down on the job ... not so much).
  • There was a particular spot in the restaurant where I had to walk a bunch. I walk to class several times a week. It's about a 10-minute trek. I walked around this spot about as much on a given day as I walk to class on a given day. I stopped trying to count the number of times I almost ass-planted on that spot, and cleaning it? Given that it was the entrance to the kitchen, having water or a mop in the area during business hours ... not so much.
  • If I had gotten hurt, insurance would have paid for zero of that hospital bill. While I was getting paid $6 an hour, being laid up with bone bruises on my coccyx (tailbone) would not allow me to work, so I would have not only bills to pay but no insurance to cover me while I was unable to do much of anything but test out mattresses and my then-fiancee's patience.

I got all that, incidentally, because I could speak English. If I had been an immigrant from, say, Trinidad, no way would the transition from working there to not working there (I got a call one night, in broken English, saying they didn't need me anymore) have gone as smoothly. I probably wouldn't even have gotten the job.

This, given the fact that people say immigrants are taking Americans' jobs, makes me question that. Immigrants who can't speak English aren't going to get jobs that require them to speak English. They're going to get jobs I wouldn't let my dog take, and they're basically going to get abused by the system, because they get used until they get injured. A friend of mine works as an immigration lawyer and has a penny for every time she's heard about an immigrant getting fired on payday, getting critically injured and tossed aside, getting told the wrong time to come in and then getting fired for being late, etc.

And they keep coming back.

You're telling me we want to keep such perseverent people out of this country when we're fighting obesity and ADD so much? So many immigrants will work for a sandwich and a piece of dirt to call home, and nobody else wants their jobs for much longer than a day, and you want them to stay away?

Part two will discuss language and social service issues as they relate to immigrants.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Patrick writes a mural.

Post a New Comment
Name: Email:
Subject of your post:
Your Comment:
No Subject
Posted by Some Anonymous Whim Reader

"So many immigrants will work for a sandwich and a piece of dirt to call home, and nobody else wants their jobs for much longer than a day, and you want them to stay away?"

Ummm, there are a few things that need to be addressed here. First, I don't know of many people who think that LEGAL immigration is a bad thing. Secondly, are we or are we not a nation of laws? Illegal immigrants don't just break the law when they cross the border. They come here to work, right? Well, it's a crime to work in the US if you are an illegal immigrant. They have to drive, right? Well, they can't get a driver's license. Let's suppose that they decide to break the law to get a job. Either they don't supply the required documents, which is enticing somebody else to break the law, or they supply fraudulently obtained documents, which is a felony kind of "no-no". So, do they pay taxes? Sales tax, yes; Income tax, not so much.

How many laws are you willing to let people break? And how many laws are you willing to repeal because a few million people break them? Domestic Battery in this country is at epidemic levels. Should we repeal those laws too because so many people break them? The problem isn't immigrants. The problem is ILLEGAL immigrants. They are breaking the law.

No Subject
Posted by Some Anonymous Whim Reader

BTW: Failure to pay income tax is what Al Capone got put away for. It's not a "small" crime at all.
No Subject
Posted by Ray

Wow, you missed the ball completely. I'm not even sure you are playing the same sport after your first 3 bullets. What does your job have to do with anything? You can point out one job you took over immigrants that lasted a week? Sounds productive. Like the person said above me, the problem isnt legal immigration which is regulated (even though of those we do let in, we have a set standard on how many may be 'skilled professionals'.) The problem is those who are sneaking in under the radar. Sure some of them pay taxes, but really, how many who have already broken the law by sneaking into the country are going to be honest enough to pay taxes when they dont have to, which in turn creates a paper trail which puts them in more danger. I could go on for days about this, but I'll wait till all this is brought up by the discussion because you article was uninspiring. Sorry, and dont take it as a personal attack, but there is almost nothing to do with illegal immigration in your illegal immigration article.
No Subject
Posted by Some Anonymous Whim Reader

why the hell are Republicans worried about immigrants not paying taxes when they themselves try to evade taxes ? psycho conservatives
No Subject
Posted by Some Anonymous Whim Reader

Just because you couln't handle a menial job should not be an excuse. To imply that we are too lazy. or too "above" a position that pays us to do basically nothing is outrageous! Many of our ancestors came to this country and literally broke their backs at low paying jobs just to become a part of this great country. Don't believe me? Ask your grandparents what their grandparents did for a living back in the day. The difference is that they came and busted their butts to become Americans-- not part-time "guest workers". They saved up money and made a better life for themselves here-- not running back every weekend to spend their American earned pesos in Mexico. Illegal aliens set a bad precident for anyone considering coming here legally.
No Subject
Posted by Michele

Paying income taxes is really not something an individual can choose not to do, unless you end up owing at the end of the year. When you get a job, you fill out forms that allow your employer to take taxes out. The reason many immigrants are not paying them is because they're employers have hired them illegally, are paying them under the table, and are most likely paying them less than minimum wage. The "criminals" here are not the poor schmoes sneaking in for work, but the rich farmers and business owners who don't want to pay workers comp, unemployment, payroll taxes, and living wages.
No Subject
Posted by Some Anonymous Whim Reader

"Paying income taxes is really not something an individual can choose not to do, unless you end up owing at the end of the year."

It's very easy to do if you don't file W-2s (or file using somebody else's SS#) and are paid in cash. If you are working illegally, why would you file a tax return? All it would do is give the government a way to catch you.

Posted by Sean

Michelle, yuo obviously have not worked on a farm, or with illegal mexicans. Me and my family are some of those "rich farmers and business owners" who actually now no longer farm due to a lot of issues, but one of them is falling prices. We used both legal, government sponsered workers, who actually had it better than our regular workers in both pay and housing. the legal guest workers made more than i did even. if i remember correctly they made 6.50 an hour,(me and the other guy made 6/hr) we had to work them at least 35 hours a week, had to take them to the grocery store once a week at least, had to provide them a place to stay, etc. The county had to come check it out, and it had to pass all kinds of inspections so that they could live there and work for us. they definately lucked up. they had a nice place to live, got paid well for physical labor, had guarenteed work (some weeks we had to have them doing non vegetable work so that they would make 35) so basically the government sponsered ones had it nice, but thats not surprising for a government program.

now on to the illegal ones. i've worked with about 8-10 different ones who later turned up to be illegal. They provided SS numbers which later turned out to not exist according to the IRS. so yes, ours atleast paid taxes, because they were taken out of their pay. everything was done above the table. not saying that all do, but we did, dont lump us with the few shady ones out there.

going back to what the first SAWR was getting to, the point is not that they are here, but that they are here ILLEGALLY. you have to enforce the laws, they may not be popular, but they have to be enforced, otherwise whats the point...this is starting to sound a lot like the Radford City police and thigns that are being said. the law is you cant drink until 21. thats it, just like you cant work in the USA illegally.

i'm not sure how to fix the problems associated with illegal immigration, but something needs to be done other than give them a free bus ride home. here is something that was emailed to me the other day, and i think this a lot of stuff...kinda makes me wish i was an immigrant somedays....

Dear President Bush:

I'm about to plan a little trip with my family and extended family, and I would like to ask you to assist me. I'm going to walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico, and I need to make a few arrangements. I know you can help with this. I plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration quotas and laws. I'm sure they handle those things the same way you do here.

So, would you mind telling your buddy, President Vicente Fox, that I'm on my way? Please let him know that I will be expecting the following:

1. Free medical care for my entire family. 2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not. 3. All government forms need to be printed in English. 4. I want my kids to be taught by English-speaking teachers. 5. Schools need to include classes on American culture and history. 6. I want my kids to see the American flag flying on the top of the flag pole at their school with the Mexican flag flying lower down. 7. Please plan to feed my kids at school for both breakfast and lunch. 8. I will need a local Mexican driver's license so I can get easy access to government services. 9. I do not plan to have any car insurance, and I won't make any effort to learn local traffic laws. 10. In case one of the Mexican police officers does not get the memo from Pres. Fox to leave me alone, please be sure that all police officers speak English. 11. I plan to fly the U.S. flag from my house top, put flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic celebration on July 4th. I do not want any complaints or negative comments from the locals. 12. I would also like to have a nice job without paying any taxes, and don't enforce any labor laws or tax laws. 13. Please tell all the people in the country to be extremely nice and never say a critical word about me, or about the strain I might place on the economy.

Mr. President, I know this is an easy request because you already do all these things for all the people who come to the U.S. from Mexico. I am sure that Pres. Fox won't mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely. However, if he gives you any trouble, just invite him to go quail hunting with your V.P.

Quoting Neil Boortz
Posted by Ray

President Bush is now on record as saying that a massive deportation of illegal aliens in this country just wouldn't work. OK, so he didn't call them "illegal aliens." He used the "immigrant" word. That doesn't work for me. Immigration is a legal procedure. Rushing across the border without permission is not immigration. It's trespassing at best, an invasion at worse. But .. we digress. Bush has now told Republicans that "massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It's just not going to work."

He may be right. I've said it before right here. If we started loading these criminals onto busses and airplanes and tried sending them back to Mexico, the Mexican government would simply deny permission for those busses to cross the border and for those airplanes to fly into Mexican airspace. The United Nations would then immediately start screaming about massive human rights abuses on the part of the U.S. Forced repatriation with Mexico for the invaders is simply not going to work.

Before we get to a plan that would work, let's review the problem.

Since 1990 an estimated 25 million Latinos have crossed the Mexican - American border .... northbound. The reason you keep hearing the 11 million figure is because the other 13 to 14 million were given amnesty during the mid-1990s.

Mexicans have come to view crossing the border into the United States in order to work and send money back home as a way of life. According to an AP article by Mark Stevenson (4/23/06) "Mexico's economy, society and political system are built around the assumption that migration and amnesties for undocumented migrants will continue -- and that the $20 billion they send home every year will keep coming, and almost certainly grow."

Stevenson also reports that Mexicans -- the ones actually living in Mexico -- are giving their babies American names like Johnny and Leslie so that they will fit in better once they've moved to the United States.

Vicente Fox, Mexico's president, considers the illegal aliens to be "heroes." Why? Because they send those tens of millions of dollars back to their families, thus, at least to some extent, relieving Fox of the necessity of tackling corruption in the Mexican government and reforming the Mexican economy so that these people can earn that money there instead of invading the United States to get work.

And please don't forget our friend, Professor Charles Truxillo of the University of New Mexico. Professor Truxillo says that there will be a new, sovereign Hispanic nation formed within the United States and northern Mexico in the not-too-distant future. The good professor says that this new nation, called "Republica del Norte" will take in all of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and southern Colorado, as well as several northern Mexican states. How will this all happen? Truxillo says it will come as a result of electoral pressure of the "future majority Hispanic population in the region."

You think it can't happen? Well, could you please tell me, then, why Mexican magazines are publishing articles praising the exploits of the "reconquistadors" while politely informing American citizens "with all due respect, Los Angeles is ours?"

Now, back to the president's remarks. As it happens, I agree. We aren't prepared to handle the reaction from Latin America and the howls of protest from the United Nations if we actually try to gather up these invaders and send them back from whence they came. There is, however, another way. Let me lay it out for you step-by-step.

1. Close the borders. Not next month. Now. Send the National Guard. Send American troops. What are they for if not to defend the borders of this country? Start stringing the barbed wire. Patrol with dogs. Do whatever needs to be done, but shut the border down. Let the rest of the world scream, but we have every right to defend our borders against invaders.

2. Immediately pass legislation providing for harsh penalties for any and all businesses and individuals who hire illegal aliens. No half-measures. Make it hurt. Last week immigration officials arrested over 1000 illegal aliens working for one company that makes pallets and shipping crates. The officers of that company should be headed to jail, and the company should be seized by the government and sold at auction with the proceeds being used to pay for securing our border. Put employers in jail --- take their stuff. Let them know that this is serious and that hiring illegal aliens is tantamount to giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The hell with their campaign contributions. Fine them and jail them. Make 'em scream. As for getting these jobs done? Pay a wage that will attract Americans. It won't hurt. The majority of people working in agriculture and construction in this country are citizens. They'll do the work. Spreading pine straw may be a problem.

3. Heavily tax all wire and other transfers of money from illegal aliens to their homelands. If Mexico is getting $20 billion a year from illegal aliens in the U.S., seize about 30% of it. Call it a fine. That $7 billion could also be spent on border and immigration control.

4. Change the law so that any child born to a person in this country illegally does not automatically become an American citizen. That child will adopt the citizenship of its mother.

5. Put an end to providing all but emergency social services to illegal aliens. No food stamps, no welfare benefits, no access to taxpayer-funded government schools ... no taxpayer-funded government services except for life saving medical care.

Enact those proposals, and what would we have? Those who have already illegally crossed the border will have one helluva time finding work in this country. No trabajo, no dinero. If they do find work they'll have another problem sending the money they earned back home. So .. they're here with no job, no prospect of finding a job, and no way to send their money back to Mexico without a heavy fine if they do happen to find work. Plus, they can't tap into the great American welfare state. What is there left to do? Go home! That's about it! And please notice that this is all accomplished without passing any laws making the illegals felons or threatening to deport them or put them in jail.

I heard of one other possible solution recently ... one that is apparently being given some consideration in Washington. Simply pass a law about illegal immigration that matches, word-for-word, the law in Mexico. Being in Mexico illegally is a crime, yet Mexico screams when we try to criminalize illegal aliens in this country. If our law read exactly the same as does theirs, what are they going to say?

No Subject
Posted by Zoe

Fantastic argument, Patrick! Very insightful.
No Subject
Posted by Some Anonymous Whim Reader

"Professor Truxillo says that there will be a new, sovereign Hispanic nation formed within the United States and northern Mexico in the not-too-distant future."

It's been tried before, in the War of Northern Aggression. It didn't work then, and it will not work now.

No Subject
Posted by Ray

Fantastic argument, Patrick! Very insightful.

What insights? He went over why people arent fond out illegal immigrants then told some unrelated story about how he was a white guy working in a chinese food buffet. How is that in any way insightful? Explain yourself woman! Hopefully part two will actually be about immigrants and not a "hey, look at me--i used to work here, my dad is sick for this reason, people dont like me so I'll discredit the way they present their arguments." Patrick, I've talked to you before. You are fairly smart... you need to convey that in your writings because this is garbage.

Inside Whim
Visit Our Sponsors