Category Archives: immigration

Our Flawed Immigration System, Our Bad


I hear Americans making many of the following points about immigrants, most of them false. They say:

Immigrants take our jobs.

The government is using our tax dollars to provide benefits for undocumented immigrants.

Illegal immigrants vote fraudulently and they usually vote for Democrats.

Undocumented workers will work for very low wages and they therefore drive down wages of American workers.

White people would not be outnumbered by minorities if illegal immigrants were sent home.

We put illegal immigrants who break the law into American jails at taxpayer’s expense.

Undocumented people have large families and all of their children are born at no cost in American hospitals and automatically become citizens.

All illegal immigrants are from South of the Border.

Undocumented and legal immigrants exclude us by refusing to learn our language.

When we see women in scarves or even long garments like burqas or hijabs we think in our heart of hearts that this is not an American form of dress. We want women to take off these garments which to us seem like symbols of female submission and enjoy American fashion. We are afraid that people with such strong beliefs will impose their beliefs on us.

They will bring Sharia law.

We will find ourselves becoming a Muslim nation.

I could go on and on. These are all things we think about immigrants, especially immigrants without legal documents.

However, if we are perfectly honest it is America’s shoddy systems that allow people to come into our country and live and work with no documents, or stolen documents, or illegally obtained documents. Last week officials admitted that we have no system for tracking people here on visas if they decide to stay when their visa expires. I read an interesting book called Americanah (it won prizes) a few years ago by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian woman who came to America and had to stay until she could earn enough money to return home. She describes what she had to do to work in America without proper documents.

Another story, The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez is about a family that came to America legally from Mexico and describes their less-than-hospitable experience here and the great tragedy it lead to.

Some of the things we think are true of immigrants, both legal and illegal, have been researched and have been found to be false or mostly false. But statistics do suggest that America will not be a majority white nation for much longer or white people may have already slipped into the minority. Caucasians do not seem to be the wave of the future and it may be too late to reproduce a way back into ascendancy.

Deep down we feel good old American guilt over all these unfriendly or even hateful feelings. We are supposed to be the great melting pot where everyone shares the American Dream, deposits a few new wrinkles that make for a tasty cultural stew, and then puts nose to grindstone to climb the ladder of success.

We have dealt with groups that don’t see owning things and amassing wealth and fitting in as important goals. But these groups have been small and scattered and have not had an enormous effect on the American work ethic or our materialism. Recent groups do not seem as interested in assimilating (although assimilation can take generations). To us it seems as if they cling to the language and culture of their nation of origin. This was true of previous groups also, such as the Irish and the Italians. I think that this time people are worried that America is not strong enough to shake off these new influences and maintain its European/Caucasian flavor. Will our grandchildren speak Spanish? Will they bow to Mecca? Some of these things we can’t know.

Welcoming people and treating them well is more likely to keep America as is than treating people with isolation and hostility. But it seems counter-intuitive to many to accept strangers and it seems just plain wrong to accept people who came without going through the proper routes and who do not possess the proper papers. Although we don’t rely much on fancy identity papers in America.

I don’t know if these new immigrant groups will take over America (given that the Dream has gotten a bit thin for all of us) or if they will blend into and enhance American culture and the only way to find out is to wait and see what happens.

How can we deport people who simply took advantage of a very lackadaisical visa system or borders that are not secured (and, my guess, cannot be secured)? We should leave these poor people alone, grandfather them in, give them papers now or after ten years, or whatever punishing delay, and then create a system that works. That probably will involve doing some very un-American thing like using an electronic tracking system or eyeball-ID at points of entry and exit.

We are a nation of people who love to look for loopholes and then use them to our advantage. These are obviously people after our own hearts. So make sure that in the future we close the loopholes (not with walls; they make me claustrophobic) and recognize that whatever system we create in this age of jets will most likely not be perfect. Perhaps we will all have to put up with some kind of chemical or electrical ID markers in the not-so-distant future. However this has one big problem – the greater the control, the less our privacy.

Our leaky immigration system is our bad; it is on us. How can we blame those who use our mistakes to seek material gains or to find a better life for their children? We would do exactly the same thing if we had to.


By Nancy Brisson

Thinking Mr. Trump’s Immigration Plan Through

I often wonder when I am reading books about World War II and the Holocaust what I would have done if I lived in Europe in those years. When my neighbors, who I most likely knew were Jewish, but maybe not, put on a yellow star, how long would it have taken for me to start to avoid them. I doubt that I would have stepped up boldly to defend them. The German officers were brutal and deadly.

Would I have done something covert, such as take part in a human chain to hide someone and pass them on to safety or join a secret resistance movement? Often we have no idea how we will behave when faced with a choice that weighs our morality against our very life.

And while that might not be the exact circumstance we will face if Donald Trump becomes President, it will feel an awful lot like those terrible days. Eleven million plus people will be rounded up. Will they be forced to wear armbands or pins with the flag of their nation of origin until they can be shipped home? They won’t all be Mexicans. They will be Dominicans, Turks, Bhutanese, Sudanese, Nigerian, Argentinian, Columbian, etc. Will we round them up and pack them into buses? Will we send them to ports on trains? Will we use planes? Will we put troops with them in transit to make sure they don’t escape? Will they shoot to kill? How else would we process and move 11 million people?

We think we are unhappy the immigrants and refugees are here; we will be even more unhappy watching the deportation process unfold. The optics will be awful but the emotional impact will be worse. What will happen to citizens who try to interfere? What is the plan for that? I’m guessing all that military equipment the police bought will prove to be quite useful for this operation.

Sending Japanese Americans to Internment

We don’t want anyone to come into America and overstay their welcome. How will we track visas and the people who have them? Will we attach tracking devices that can’t be removed? I think the devices we have right now can be disabled. People being tracked will find ways to go “off the grid”. Do we stop granting visas altogether?

After we alienate every citizen of every country around the globe and become a giant island between oceans who will buy our products? Isn’t it possible that we might become even more unpopular than we are, basically putting the kibosh on us getting the trade balance to tip in our favor? After all actions have consequences.

So think carefully. Even if we could find the money and come up with a foolproof methodology to do this thing, should we? Can we live with the wrenching human upheaval of actually hunting embedded neighbors down and the heartlessness of shipping them to places that might be dangerous for them or places that offer them only poverty and an absence of hope?

If our human spirits can survive this inhumane process intact, will we get what we want? The old adage goes “don’t wish for what you don’t want because you might get it.” Sometimes this same old adage can be stated as “don’t wish for what you do want because you might get it”. If citizens are suffering because of illegal immigration then we really need to think about how we can accommodate those who are here, keep out those who are not and have enough resources to make everyone comfortable. Donald Trump’s plan may sound enticing until you examine it closely, but I think we need a better immigration plan, please. 

By Nancy Brisson

We Don’t Want No Immigration

Nothing points out the rifts in the Republican Party better than the Immigration legislation that Congress is trying to pass. Republicans said that they would need the Hispanic/Latino vote in order to elect a GOP President in 2016. They lead us to believe that they wanted to woo the Hispanic/Latino vote, and yet it seems obvious that Republicans cannot agree that they want to pass a set of laws that will help them pursue this course. The bill in the Senate was drafted by a bi-partisan group of eight people. It does not make it easy for illegal immigrants to become citizens of the United States. There is a lengthy thirteen year process described in the bill. The Senate bill also adds border security along our border with Mexico by adding 700 miles of fencing and something like 20,000 more border guards. The Republicans in the House say that none of this enough. They want assurances that the border is impenetrable at least 90% of the time. They really don’t want to give illegal immigrants any path to citizenship. They say that even a path that takes thirteen years represents amnesty which they cannot accept.

It is unclear how they think any of their harsh approach to issues of illegal immigration will win them any votes at all from people who walked across the border between Mexico and North America, or arrived here on a visa and stayed although their visa had expired; or any votes from people who were brought into the country as undocumented workers to work in the households, gardens, or fields of American bosses, and were never sent back to their country of origin. It is equally unclear how it will gain them any votes from Hispanic/Latinos who are here legally, but sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants.

 No one (well almost no one) believes that we can get border security anywhere near the 90 – 100% range. This makes it clear to most Americans that Republicans have no intention of assisting illegal immigrants in America. They are merely playing some kind of cruel political game to create the illusion that they might some day pass laws which take a sensible and realistic view about what will happen to 11 million illegal immigrants in America, given that they cannot all be sent home.

What will stop us from having this same problem again in a decade, they say. However they have no more idea than you or I where things will stand in a decade. By that time the Mexican economy may be stronger than the American economy. Mexico has already shown signs of a strengthening economy. As for people arriving from the Caribbean or Pacific island nations to work on our farms and for our wealthy families, and in low paying American jobs; this current bill does nothing to block illegal immigration from these areas beyond what safeguards are already in place. There was supposed to be some kind of electronic identification program connected with this issue, but I have not heard about this system lately. Perhaps it was not challenged by anyone and is still a part of the bill.

It seems pretty obvious to most of us that the fact that Republicans insist on almost 100% border security (which everyone else contends is virtually impossible and which is certainly a very inefficient use of tax payer monies) and from the fact that they object to even a lengthy and demanding path to citizenship, that the GOP never had more than a momentary whim to pass an immigration bill. They have wasted everyone’s time and broken a lot of hearts over the insincere promises they made about their willingness to pass such a bill. The House Republicans have once again led Americans down a scenic garden path that leads nowhere. The House should pass the Senate Immigration Bill which sounds quite adequate to answer most concerns, and we should elect Democrats in 2014.