Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Bit of a Rant

Many students were absent tonight despite most of our classes giving the first part of final exams. Why? Many were scared to leave their homes and afraid to come to school.

There was a huge immigration bust at the Del Monte cannery in North Portland today. More than 160 people were arrested and sent to Tacoma leaving much of Portland's Latino immigrant community in a panic.

Yes, these folks were here working illegally. Working. Not causing trouble, not taking anything from anyone, but working to support their families. Working hard, nasty jobs for little pay, no benefits, and no job security. Not looking for handouts but paying taxes and rent, buying food, eating in restaurants, buying gas, contributing to our economy.

I'm so angry now when I read all the folks in The Oregonian's forums cheering this act: the incarceration of human beings, the separation of parents and children. How does having undocumented workers hurt us? What is the problem? What are people so afraid of? I hear so many ignorant, stupid comments from people, things like:

"They're all just lazy"--The vast majority of undocumented workers are men and 96% of undocumented men are working which, by the way, is a higher employment rate than that of US citizens or legal immigrants. Plus, if they were lazy, why would they be so eager to study English every night after putting in a full day of hard work?

"They're a drain on social services"--not only are undocumented immigrants ineligible for the vast majority of benefits, most won't get anywhere near government services for fear of being traced and deported. Yes, we educate the children of undocumented workers, but most of them (0ver 90%) are in fact US citizens.

"They're taking jobs from Americans"--when is the last time you lost out on a primo cannery job? Undocumented workers are mostly doing the work that American workers are unwilling to do, especially for low wages in poor working conditions. Illegal immigrants are consumers as well as workers and they are buying goods and services in numbers which actually stimulate the US economy to the tune of $300 billion annually.

"They don't pay taxes"--wrong again. The majority of undocumented workers pay sales taxes, property taxes (even if renting), gas and other consumption taxes just like everyone else. And most of these folks also pay payroll taxes in the billions. Needless to say, despite paying in to the system, few will be able to claim social security benefits, providing an enormous source of virtually "free money" to the government.

I wonder how many of us would willingly leave our loved ones behind, go into debt and endanger our lives to cross a border, work a dangerous job for low pay, and live in the shadows for months or years? It sounds horrible, right? But I think any of us would if we felt it was the only way to support our families. We should give thanks that most of us will never, God willing, be in such a position.

If you are not familiar with immigration issues, I encourage you to go and learn. Let the powers that be know that you support sensible and compassionate immigration reform. Our economy should not be dependent on an underclass.


Elizabeth said...

Hear hear! I was hearing about the bust on OPB on my way home from the park today. One girl told reporters that her aunt was taken, even though she was here legally--she didn't have her papers with her. Of course I have no way of knowing if that's true....but it makes me mad, thinking what, people are supposed to carry their papers with them everywhere? And what if she had children depending on her to take them home who are now out of their minds with worry? Where is the humanity in this? And how is it we US citizens expect to rob Mexico with our free-trade agreement and then expect hungry people not to come across the border? Argh. It just about drives me nuts.

Spgonahan said...

There's a pending state law in Colorado that would allow people to easily get a drivers license, without showing proof of legal immigration status. My dentist, a thoughtful, good man who travels to remote Mexican villages to provide charity dental care brought up this law and indicated that the governer hadn't committed to one sid or the other. Here's our dialog, starting with me:
"I want him to sign that bill ... I support that law!"
"No no ..."
"Oh, no, you're not one of those anti immigration nuts are you?!"
"Well, I think we have a problem ... there are illegal immigrants! They cost society blah blah .. "
"Well, as long as they're here, I want them to be licensed drivers, I want them to have insurance, and I want them to get social services."
"No, no, but lame yak yak yak ..."
" ... And I wnat their children to get social services!"
"Yak yak, whine, snivel ..."
"Their children are US citizens!"
"Gurgle, snort, gibber ..."

Mind you, good people are routinely full of shit in some areas ... this guy thinks mercury amalgam fillings are OK for example.

Magpie Ima said...

Regarding driving--Not only should we provide licenses to everyone who wants to drive and can pass the test and show proof of insurance, it's essential that we provide the drivers manuals in all applicable languages. If I am sharing the road with people who come from places with virtually no driving laws whatsoever, I want us all to have the same information.

But there's that word....illegal. So many people just stop right there and can't get around it. Me, I don't have a problem with people moving about freely and crossing borders. But many people just can't get past that so see real human beings with real families to feed.

karrie said...

You are so right.

Especially with regard to driver's licenses. I forget the exact statistic, but in some Boston neighborhoods the majority of residents are illegal, and unlicensed. Which scares the crap out of me, as a mom sharing the busy roads with them.