The Coastal Post - December, 1996



"For the poor shall never cease out of the land: Therefore I command thee, saying thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor and to thy needy, in thy land." -Deuteronomy 15:11

"I therefore ask every priest and deacon do everything possible to support and encourage immigrants in our community and to calm their fears and affirm their human proclaim the teachings of the church that every human person, even an illegal immigrant, has inalienable human rights which are not conferred by the State but of which the State is the guarantor and protector." -Archbishop John R. Quinn, San Francisco

Like those European rodents, the lemmings, that on occasion stampede en masse over cliffs into the sea, Americans can be stampeded into self-destructive behavior. Our history records bitter campaigns against one immigrant group after another: the Irish, the Polish Jew, the Chinese, and within our memory, the Japanese, interned during World War II. In every case, we have looked back on our behavior with shame. The ongoing campaign of hate resulted first in California in Proposition 187, followed nationally by the miserable immigration bill, and an equally vicious anti-terrorist bill. This legislation, rather than bringing us together, is tearing our social fabric, creating inter-racial divisiveness, and promises to increase an already dangerous economic polarization.

Throughout U.S. history in times of depression with jobs scarce, some politicians have resorted to racial hate campaigns, bringing our melting pot to a boil. California's governor Pete Wilson used this tactic quite effectively during his last campaign, so effectively, in fact, that both the Democrat and Republican parties decided to launch their own political surfboards on this moving swell of hate, riding it straight through their presidential campaigns.

Both Dole and Clinton, realizing that 70% of both legal and illegal immigrants live in voter-rich states (California, New Jersey, Texas and Illinois) tried frequently during the election to benefit from an anti-immigrant stance. Pre-election poles showed that whereas 78% of Anglo-Californians took a negative view of immigration, in Houston, Texas, 2/3 thought immigrants strengthened their city. The Economist (July 13, 1996) credited this difference to the market. California exports mainly to Japan, Korea and Canada, leaving Mexico in fourth place, whereas Texas in 1995 exported $24 billion to Mexico and considerably less to Japan and Canada.

All American citizens, save for a few native Indians, are either immigrants or the descendents of immigrants. About one million immigrants enter the U.S. every year and 250,000 leave. Yet today only eight percent of our population was born outside the U.S., in contrast to the early 1900s, when most were white and European. Today most immigrants are Asian, Latin-American and Caribbean.

Nigel Harris, in his book The New Untouchables: Immigration and the New world Order, notes that no "host country" has ever been swamped by immigrants. "All evidence shows that large-scale immigration has a single cause...people move when there is work to move to." As a corollary, when there is no work, they don't move. As an example, Harris notes, "When the oil price dropped in the early '60s, 750,000 immigrant workers left the Gulf States, Again, when there was a small recession in the '50s, immigration to Britain from her Commonwealth was suddenly...cut in half, and in the Depression of the '30s, immigration to the Americas almost dried up." Harris, in all his studies, concludes that immigrants' impact on the host countries is always beneficial. Compared with the people already there, they take out less from the economies they visit than they put in.

In President Reagan's early campaign to "free jobs for Americans," some 6,000 people were forcibly deported. Their jobs were advertised and Americans applied for them. When they found out what the conditions were-$3.25 an hour for a 50-hour work-they walked away in digust. Other "illegals" took the jobs. A nationwide study by the Urban Institute clearly showed that immigrants produce a net benefit to any economy. They always pay more in taxes than they consume in social services. (AVA, June 15, 1994)

We Americans could learn from our European friends. To lessen the flow of labor across borders to greener pastures, the wealthier countries of Europe, before they admitted poorer Spain and Portugal to their Union, poured over $20 billion into these neighbors to raise their living standards. The U.S., on the contrary, selfishly encouraged the growth of maquilladoras in poorer Mexico, where low wages, anti-union activity and abuse of the environment fosters poverty with its resulting crime, disease and a mad rush to escape northward.

Columnist Jonathan Marshall (Chronicle, September 3), says: "No line in the world divides such extremes of wealth and poverty as the U.S.-Mexican border." He noted that as the peso falls, every decrease in Mexican wages produces an eight percent jump in illegal border crossing, so that the identified southern U.S. border crossings in 1995 alone totalled 1.4 million. Marshall's figures show that two or three succeed for every one caught, so that the U.S. has more than one million illegal residents and is adding 200,000-300,000 per year.

The U.S. response to this perceived invasion has been less than intelligent. Like our drug interdiction program, the treatment has been more costly than the disease. A recent study in Santa Barbara showed that most illegal immigrants picked up on the street and in shopping centers and transported across the border at Tijuana were back in Santa Barbara within 48 to 72 hours. San Diego sports 18 miles of fence, complete with hundreds of agents, some on horseback, some with canine patrols, 170 electronic sensors, and 23 stadium lights. El Paso, Texas, has also increased its border presence.

The result: Aqua Prieta in Arizona, miles to the east, is now the favorite border crossing, where 35,000 illegals were detained during January and February alone. Far to the north, along the St. Lawrence River in New York State, illegal immigrants enter the U.S. through Mohawk Indian Territory. Indians understand immigration.

The Chronicle reported immigration law enforcement a farce. From 1989 to 1994, only 46 California farmers, packers, shippers were fined for immigration violations, despite the estimated 700,000 illegal workers. During this period, INS agents visited only 32 of 82,000 farms in the State. An amendment tacked onto the House Immigration Bill (HR 2202), March 21, 1996, allows 250,000 temporary foreign farm workers. The Wall Street Journal commented, "The idea of life without illegal immigrants is as alarming as life without the rays of the sun."

The response of our representatives at local, state and federal levels damages our humanity and injures us economically. The salaries of 10,000 proposed border patrol offices, 600 more INS investigators, temporary incarceration costs, triple fences, helicopter patrols, endless paperwork and intrusions into our workplaces which burden employers with computer checks, will cost taxpayers dearly. The INS budget of $2.6 billion will not focus on the 26,000,000 hired by federal contractors and subcontractors. Where are we headed?

Much of the anti-immigrant legislation was unnecessary, passed in a knee-jerk manner without adequate debate. As a result, our courts are being asked to do the thinking our lawmakers were too lazy to undertake, an expensive and time-consuming process during which the lives of thousands of our disadvantaged neighbors will be more miserable.

As Nick Tobias, social worker, pointed out (AVA June 15, 1995), "The U.S. is engaged in creating an Orwellian subclass of "unpeople" like the Black South Africans and the Palestinians... A generation of second-class citizens will be born stateless... no civil rights, no education, no health care, no vote, no voice." In 1995, the state Supreme Court in California struck down Proposition 187, a rebuke now being challenged in the Court. The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 1983 Plyer vs. Doe decision, said States may not deny free public education to their resident children, irrespective of their immigrant status. If we deny them medical care, we set the stage for epidemics which will threaten us all. If we refuse them education, we delay their becoming self-sufficient, add to the crime in our streets, and lessen their contribution to our economy.

More important than the rising cost of these anti-immigration programs is the damage to and loss of those civil liberties Americans cherish. As Anthony Lewis pointed out in the New York Times, allowing the U.S. Immigration Service to rely on secret evidence hidden from the defendants in deportation proceedings endangers us all. Lewis notes the recent Immigration Bill in limiting our courts' ability to properly review the activities of the INS, an "overburdened, harried agency...would stain us all."

Let's face it: our on-going economic and political policies enslave those peoples south of our border in Mexico, Central American and the Caribbean, and force them northward.

The golden rule isn't just a motto to hang on the wall, but a realistic economic and social statement. The worker you cheat with low pay can't raise the cash to buy the product you produce. Americans, who are descendents of immigrants, and who now with five percent of the earth's population enjoy over 30% of its riches, might rethink their attitude towards the minorities in our midst.

No: 77%.

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