Thursday, April 29, 2010
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
IMMIGRATION CONTROVERSY DIRECTLY
What if by some magical occurrence, every illegal immigrant was removed from Louisiana? Well, there would be few roofs replaced on houses, and most of the state’s golf courses would grow up in weeds. Take a good look around your local community, and you will find, even in smaller towns, that numerous menial jobs are held down by Mexicans and other Latinos. Little or no English spoken, and yes, please pay in cash if possible. With no illegals, Aunt Mary would have to clean her own house and it would be an effort to get washed utensils at your local restaurant.
It’s just not Arizona where large numbers of illegal immigrants have congregated. Louisiana has an estimated 250,000 undocumented workers, with more than 100,000 concentrated in the New Orleans area alone. It’s a fact of life that, just like in a number of other southern states, illegals make up a significant number of the state’s workforce. And the numbers are growing.
Many economists as well as a number of businesses will argue that illegal immigrants are a vital and necessary part of the state’s workforce, and they should be allowed to stay. Supporters for illegals point out that these workers pay into the social security system, often with fraudulent social security cards. Therefore, no claims can be made on the money deposited, and the federal government is the beneficiary.
Arizona has now decided that the added value of undocumented immigrants is not worth the huge social and financial cost. The state has an estimated 500,000 illegals, and the Arizona border with Mexico has become a main crossing point for smugglers and drugs. And with the federal government impotent in dealing with the country’s broken immigration system, Arizona said enough is enough. Right or wrong, it has attempted to do on a state level what the federal government has failed to do on a national level.
Opposition to Arizona’s efforts cross party lines and has rallied strong opposition across the country. You know there’s a gathering storm when President Obama and former Bush adviser Karl Rowe totally agree. They both oppose the Arizona law, with Rowe saying it makes him “uncomfortable.” Critics like Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony likened the action to “German Nazi techniques” that compelled people to turn on each other.” A little strong to compares illegal immigrants to Jewish holocaust victims. Jews were rounded up for extermination and were German citizens where illegals are not.
Of course there is something ugly and uncomfortable about the police, even local police, asking citizens for their “papers.” I watched a few nights ago the academy award winning film “The English Patient,” where the German officer asked for identification. “Darf ich ihre Unterlagen sehen?
But you know what? There is something ugly about the fact that you can often be almost strip searched when going through a security line at a U.S. airport. I have watched women in their 80s, who have to use a cane struggle to remove their shoes and have to empty and open every jar and tube in their purse. There is also something ugly about IRS agents prying into all of your personal financial transactions. Your privacy is invaded much more personally in this manner than in merely showing a driver’s license.
There is new and troubling legislation in the making in Washington to mandate that every worker carry a government I.D. card to prove his citizenship. The card must be carried every day and may be checked by employers and any governmental authority upon request.
All U.S. citizens would be required to carry such an ID card according to this plan. It’s meant to keep companies from hiring illegal immigrants. No matter where you apply for a job, under the plan, you would have to have a card carrying bio-metric information on a microchip. It’s like your fingerprints, or a scan of the veins in your hands.
And what about an invasion of a U.S. citizen’s personal freedoms? That fact that in Louisiana federal court, a citizen can be charged with a crime, and immediately be put under a “gag order,” making it impossible to speak out in one’s defense. How about the fact that in Louisiana, the jury that determines your fate can be, at the whim of a judge, picked in secret with your family and the press prohibited from being in the court room? And then allow the prosecutors to show to the jury only what they want, holding back key evidence that would set you free? (Don’t think this kind of thing regularly goes on in Louisiana? Just Click Here.) I don’t want to digress, but basic constitutional rights of American citizens are compromised on a regular basis. So let’s keep the plight of the illegal immigrant in its proper perspective.
Yes, if I were a Latino American citizen living in the U.S., I too would be offended if I were arbitrarily stopped on the street to show proof of citizenship. But it happens regularly in Mexico. The country’s constitution, Ley General de Poblacion, sets out specific restrictions on non Mexican citizens, including the requirement that necessary documents and identification must be carried at all times, or you can be arrested as an illegal alien. There is also a ban on free speech by foreigners. Noncitizens cannot “in any way participate in the political affairs of the country.” What’s good for the goose?
The new Arizona law has a 70% approval rating there and a 60% approval nationally. There obviously is a strong feeling throughout the country that the immigration system is broken, and that congress has sat on their hands for years doing little to address the growing problem. Arizona has taken matters into their own hands, because the federal government has been derelict in its duty to protect the borders Arizona has had enough and is crying for help. Other states, including Louisiana, could well join the fray.
So far, there has yet to be a Louisiana member of congress speak out on the issue that dominates the national debate. But the buck stops with them. The only viable solution lies in comprehensive immigration reform.
“All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.” Pat Paulsen
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com.