Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Immigration. Too hot to touch.

Immigration legal or otherwise is a subject that usually starts with statistics and ends with a volley of angry words. In between the lines of fire we miss that we are dealing with human lives.
The United States of America accepts more legal immigration then any other country. It has been a beacon to people looking for a better life since its inception. And immigration has always been a bone of contention. When the first wave of Germans came, Benjamin Franklin was convinced they would never assimilate. Next came the Irish, many thought that Catholics would take over and run everything according to the Pope. (Don’t we wish?) Prior to World II Congress had put restriction limiting the amount of immigrants. After the war Congress in a patchwork system removed certain labels, and allowed a more liberal immigration. The majority were Europeans that moved here came during the 1940 to 65. Afterwards there was shift to Third World Countries; it started in the 1970s and has been steadily increasing. According to the Pew Hispanic Center “More than half (50.5%) of the overall population growth in the United States in this decade, a significant new demographic milestone for the nations largest minority group” More statistics according to Health and Human Services, the birthrate here in the States is about 1.9%, you need at least 2.4% to replace and maintain an aging population. Last statistic (Pew Hispanic Center) 11.9 million illegal immigrants live in the in US of those 8.3 million are in the labor force (3/2008). They work in lower paying farms, construction and janitorial work. Adults typically have kids; there are 2.7 million children of illegal immigrants living here or 63%. Enough numbers for you? I think so.

I sometimes tell my kids a joke I borrowed from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades. “Watch your head; it can break your heart” Our first inclination is to deport any an all illegal’s or undocumented person. After all I am first generation born here, and my grandmothers and parents worked hard and immigrated legally. However my parents would tell you times were different. And they are, it is far more difficult to immigrant here, I have cousins and a sister in law who can attest to the amount of paperwork that has be to file. It is not a reason to immigrant illegally; however with a lack education or money there aren’t many options. This leads to the next sticky wicket, what do when the undocumented person has set up a life and a family and has lived here for more than 5 years. Boot the individual, forced to leave children, spouse behind or take them back to their former country. The heart says let them stay here together the head says if they want to stay together it shouldn’t matter which country there in. In this case the head and the heart should be able to work together. Every case should be judged individually; second criteria should be put in place that allows undocumented people to become legal residents or citizens. The burden for services is already there: kids in schools and healthcare. By making them legal these individuals will pay taxes (many already do, and are unable to claim returns), companies will be forced to pay better and provide benefits.

The end result is the United States runs better when we have all kinds of people coming here. We thrive on our dynamic colorful quilt; its threads may get pulled and frayed but we still come together hoping for a better life for ourselves and the future.

(Pew Hispanic Center 2008)

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