Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

To the editors:

I really would like to hear more from writers of letters-to-the-editor in your April 2 issue who, in response to Marc Cooper’s article, advocate mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and massive increases in border security. I’m sure they have carefully considered all sides of the immigration issue before coming to their conclusions, but I’m too dim to get it. Perhaps you could give them the space to explain, in small words, how they get around the following problems:

1. The law of the United States is clear: Being undocumented is not a crime, and undocumented people are not criminals. If they were, the government would have to overcome beyond a reasonable doubt in every single case that the immigrant is a.not a citizen, and b. not here legally. How much would the taxpayer save if the immigration service had to do this?

2. Very large numbers of immigrants are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and spouses of US citizens and documented immigrants. How will state and federal budgets benefit from the huge demand for social services to fill in for the caregivers, parents, and providers of the abandoned US citizens and legal residents?

3. How will the country instantly replacement of the many doctors, nurses, teachers, carpenters, laborers, small-business owners, and other ‘criminals’ who, because of expired visas, nightmarish bureaucracy, arcane rules, among other reasons are here illegally? (The letter-writers should send their solution to Colorado. They seem to be a little desperate there since they drove out their immigrant agricultural workers.)

4. For that matter, how will social security be strengthened when this disproportionately young group of contributors (who, incidentally, will never recover a cent they paid in) disappears? Has it got something to do with New Math?

5. There are 10-12 million immigrants living in the United States. If the government must deport a population equivalent to that of Pennsylvania, how big will the budget surplus be?

6. Apparently, bleeding-heart Ronald Reagan’s blanket immigrant amnesty of 1986 must have violently torn the country apart leaving the nation in ruins of smoldering ashes. But I was here the whole time, and I didn’t even smell any smoke. Why not?

7. Do barriers to return to the United States once deported increase or decrease the odds that immigrants will try to stay here permanently?

8. Do strict immigration laws weaken or strengthen the negotiating power of immigrants to bring their wages to the same level as citizens? Do they become more or less likely to join a union? Are they more or less likely to be scabs? (Hmm, maybe cracking down on underpaid immigrants will be as helpful to working people today as cracking down on underpaid African Americans was to working people in the pre-civil rights South!)

9. Clearly, these anti-immigrant writers have irrefutable proof every single one of their ancestors came here legally (not counting the laws of Mexico or Native Americans). They have read and understood the entire immigration code and know how easy it is to comply with. Never mind those nattering naybobs who call it an inconsistent, nonsensical Byzantine monstrosity.They know exactly what an immigration lawyer would charge them to prove to the government that they themselves are legally here. (Or is it that our efficient, courteous, smooth-running immigration service could never misidentify and deport citizens?)

10. They must have a plan as to who will change the sheets in their nursing home beds in a few years or decades. As Katha Pollitt points out in the same issue, the US population would decline were it not for a large flow of immigrants, and the average age of US citizens grows steadily.

11. The consensus among economists is that immigrants bring in more value than they receive. Apparently, they’re full of crap. Please elaborate.

12. Would the world have been a better, or a worse place had immigration laws been looser in 1939 when we turned back the ocean liner St. Louis to Nazi-occupied Europe with 917 Jewish refugees on board? Are we not zealous enough in deporting their modern counterparts?

13. Are they being more selective? Maybe they're just talking about 'economic' immigrants such as those whose livelihood has been ruined by our subsidized agricultural products and 'free trade' agreements or perhaps those whose children are at great risk of dying before the age of 2 from preventable diarrheal diseases in their native countries. I'm sure they've thought hard about that.

14. When can the government tear down the Statue of Liberty and turn her into pennies? Apparently, these writers think her words don’t apply, it would be fiscally responsible, and she is French, after all.

I am sure that these letter-writers can’t be mean people. They must have a rational, moral way to justify condemning 10-12 million individuals as criminals and parasites, but I can’t figure it out! Maybe it’s like string theory.

Looking forward to the answers!

Tom Garvey, MD, JD

Lexington, MA, 02421

Mar 25 2007 - 10:05pm

Web Letter

As a Chicano here are my credentials: grew up supporting the UFW boycotts; family participated in the East LA walkouts; Union family; lived/fought in Nica/Honduras, against the Contras; worked with Reichler/Applebaum to sue the US at the World Court; worked for peace/human rights in El Salvador/Guatamala; worked with LA City to pass a sanctuary ordinance for activist in Central America.; director of programs dealing with homeless, gangs, welform, kinship ...etc...enuff said.

With that, any ILLEGAL alien in this country is a disgrace, a criminal, and needs to be sent back to their country of origin. My grandparents came here from Mexico legally...took many years, but they didn't break into our homes (country) and demand services, Spanish,..etc. Family reunification starts in Mex/Guata/Nica/Honda/El Sal..etc.!!


Los Angeles, Ca

Feb 17 2007 - 3:56pm

Web Letter

I'm going to be honest here, I didn't read the article. 'Cuz I done!Done with the issue, done with the debate. And here's why;) Immagration is NOT the problem! It's just a very serious consequense. NAFTA, CAFTA, and any future FTA is the problem.(yes, the FTA pun is intended all you childern of the sixties). There has always been a flow of workers back and forth across the USA/Mexician border. As long as there has been a border there. The huge influx only started after NAFTA. Let's see how low the corporate bosses can drive wages in both countries. I don't think the workers should be penalized nearly so hard as the employers.However I have little sympathy. They knew the risks when they chose whatever covert and supremly dangerous method to get here.Last word, If you're going to come here to feed your family, whatever, just LEARN THE LANGUAGE.

Alex R. Thomas

Omaha, NE

Feb 14 2007 - 12:29am

Web Letter

A small comment re "victimless crime." My daughter-in-law had her reapplication for low-income medical benefits denied because she had too much income. This was only because she received a statement from the IRS showing that her Social Security Number was being used by a man in another county. Although it is obvious that this is not her income, she is the one who has to establish her identity, she has to fight to retain her health benefits and she is the one who will have to apply for a new SSN and wait a year, because of the backlog.

Perhaps Mr. Cooper would be so kind to extend his medical benefits to her, and since this is a victimless crime--it shouldn't hurt too much.

David Eisenberg

Seaid Valley, CA

Feb 13 2007 - 1:18am

Web Letter

In order for one to accept the author's assertion that illegal immigration is a harmless, "victimless" crime, one must first accept the unspoken assumption underlying his argument: that illegal immigration constitutes a seemingly miraculous exception to the basic economic law of supply and demand.

It doesn't. Flooding a first-world economy with workers who are willing to undercut wages by 50 percent exerts a downward pressure on wages, and destroys the bargaining power of legal workers competing for those same jobs. That's why illegal immigration is forbidden by law, in every civilized country on the planet.

When the Mexican government catches Guatemalan refugees working off-the-books in Mexico, the Mexican police arrest and deport those workers. If an Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking, college-educated 20-year-old goes to London and gets caught working under the table in a bar or restaurant, the British government arrests and deports that white, English-speaking US citizen. That white boy will never be allowed into the UK again, under British law. If a white, English-speaking American gets caught working off-the-books in Canada, the Canadian government arrests and deports that US citizen. If an Irishman gets caught working illegally in Boston, the US Department of Immigration and Naturalization arrests and deports that man back to Ireland.

It's not really about race, per se; it's about not destroying your own economy in a misguided attempt to keep the neighbors warm by burning one's own house down!

The race card is a major distraction, and actually quite racist in its pracice: Only Hispanic illegal aliens claim the bogus "right" to break a law that everyone else gets punished for breaking.

Joseph Austin

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Feb 11 2007 - 4:01pm

Web Letter

Thank you for your article. You did an excellent job describing the political landscape here in Colorado where politicians often step on the backs of immigrants on their way up the ladder.

The civil rights violations haven't ended there. We have entered into a new era in this state. Any police officer who "suspects" someone is an undocumented immigrant may now take that person into custody and hold them until their documentation is verified. What exactly would you base that suspicion on in a nation full of immigrants?

The Colorado State Legislature is now considering many other measures that do nothing to get at the supply and demand mentioned in your article.

As a nation, if we want different results we had better start doing different things. Our trade policies, our loan policies, and our constant connection of aid dollars to political favors, continue to provide fuel for corrupt and inhumane governments, creating the economic and human disasters which spur immigration.

Regardless of where the readers stand on immigration, it is time to recognize the reality of immigration. The time for rhetoric is long past. A sane, just, rational and timely immigration system must replace the one we have now. Comprehensive immigration reform is the only way to unmarginalize a large section of our communities and to establish order.

Comprehensive immigration reform includes: 1) A path to citizenship for all members of our communities; 2) Family reunification in a timely manner; 3) Creation of a work VISA program that respects the dignity and rights of all workers; 4) A clear system for helping immigrants integrate with English classes,etc into ALL aspects of our communities; 5) Restoration of habeas corpus for ALL immigrants (currently both documented and undocumented immigrants are denied habeas corpus); 6) Protection of the rights of refugees and asylees.

The only way to secure our borders is to create a system which respects human rights and the economic reality.

Jennifer Piper

Denver, Colorado

Feb 10 2007 - 5:46pm

Web Letter

Did you actually characterize identity theft as a "victimless crime"?

The stolen Social Security numbers belong to someone, regardless of whether you took the time to ask any of those who had their identity misappropriated what effects it had.

If it were you, would you call it a victimless crime? Regardless of how you feel about the government's enforcement methods, marginalizing the effects on people who have had their identity taken and used without their knowledge makes clear that you are placing a greater value on the rights of people who are working without proper authorization than on the rights of citizens who are respecting the law.

Alison Igoe

Washington, D.C.

Feb 10 2007 - 8:28am