a bird and a bottle

Three Tales of Immigration
December 21, 2006, 8:10 am
Filed under: law, news & views, politics

For some reason, many people can’t talk about immigration – and particularly undocumented immigration – without flying into a rage. At a time in which must political talk is polemical and verging on nonsensical, debates about immigration are still especially vitriolic. I’m not sure why that is. In part, I think, it must be because of fears that undocumented immigrants take American jobs or commit a disproportionate amount of crime. These fears, it turns out, are unsupported by the facts (for more information, check out the Migration Policy Institute’s website and publications).

What often gets lost in the frenzy over fences and walls and raids is the lived experience of the men and women just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Certainly undocumented immigration in the U.S. is a problem – it creates a permanent underground economy and may depress the wages of U.S. workers – but it’s not one that will go away no matter how high the wall or how many guards the Border Patrol employs. So we need to address the realities of undocumented immigration by taking into account the reasons people come the U.S. and by not focusing so much on the ways we can keep them out or make them leave. (As an aside, some people use immigration as an argument against national healthcare. This is bullshit. Good American healthcare is a force that pulls immigrants here, but if it were such a strong force, there’d be more in migration to Sweden and less here.)

Legalization is a start, but it has to be combined with other initiatives, like development, increased legal visa numbers, and maybe even a guestworker program (I’m really not sure what I think of guestworker programs, and would be thrilled to hear what you think in comments).

Anyway, I don’t have a solution and I don’t thnk there’s an easy one. This is all just to say that this week’s series in the NY Times, charting the immigration experiences of three Mexican sisters (Part I, Part II, Part III) is worth reading if for nothing else that it explores the gray areas of an often black and white debate.

(image source)


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