Mexicans Are People Too
It is always difficult to make sense out of the immigration issue. For most Americans, only current circumstances are debated while not taking into consideration the ebbs and flows of America’s needs. While it is easy to speculate Mexican immigrants take jobs away from Americans, far too many jobs today remain unfilled due to the fact Americans will not take them. During the Reagan days as governor of California, I took issue with a close friend of Reagan, California Senator Murphy who outright said “Mexican’s are the only ones who can stoop low enough to pick our crops”. There was a truth but at the same time an insensitivity to the plight of the migrant workers in this country. There was a de-humanization which gave strength to the Cesar Chavez movement taking hold in the fields.
Volumes have been written about immigration and perhaps Doug Massey from Princeton University has the best perspective where he divides the Mexico-U.S migration into five periods. Starting with early in the 20th century, migration has been largely the result of the American needs for labor and the crisis or economy taking place in Mexico. The lure of paychecks caused tremendous tides as Mexicans came by the millions, worked, earned money then went back to their homelands. As recent as 1980, 46% of undocumented Mexicans returned to Mexico within 12 months. Prior to 1986, 85% of Mexicans who entered the United States settled in California, Texas or Illinois. Seventy-five percent entered through either El Paso or the San Diego area. With the advent of stricter border enforcement, now, 2/3 of migrants come in through nontraditional entry ways and as a consequence, settle in non-traditional states. The hardships and inability to return has all but cancelled the 46% return to Mexico of past years. This leads to our massive influx and sustainment of illegal immigrants who cannot go back for fear of not being able to return. Through the 80’s, 85% of new entries were offset by departures.
Despite all the hoopla, the inflow of illegal immigrants entering the United States has fallen to “net” zero since four years ago. By this I mean, just as many are leaving as are entering. The economy in Mexico is sustaining a rate of 5% unemployment. Compare this to 26% Latino unemployment in most migrant communities in the United States and you can readily see there are legitimate reasons why many want to return but fear not being able to come back. Wages are much better here but the cost of living has a tremendous bearing on decisions. For many, returning would split their family since many have children who have become Americanized and want to stay here. Clearly, this lends understanding as to why relatively few Dreamers (46%) have actually applied for temporary legality. Families would be split between siblings staying and those who would go back.
The immigration issue is fraught with politics; Democrats have no sincere wish to pass comprehensive reform. Blaming the Republicans for being ant-Latino is their only way to keep control of the massive Latino preference for Democrats. President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi totally ignored the Latinos during his first two years in office when they could have had immigration reform without ANY substantial opposition. For Democrats, the carrot needs to be kept in place.
Republicans on the other hand are lost in their own rhetoric and misunderstanding of the issue. A primary reason Republicans nixed the immigration bill as soon as it arrived in the House is because it was intentionally loaded with “pork” by Senator Harry Reid; As an example $100 million for Las Vegas marketing alone plus actual union jobs, and assistance to
labor unions, all Democrat votes. What do these things have to do with immigration? The answer not understood by Latinos is, it keeps Republicans on the defensive and Democrats looking good through confusion. This is dishonest, appalling and a disgraceful way to treat or truly assist Latinos. Groups of Latinos are on cue protesting Republicans for being against immigration. They are not against immigration, they are against the nonsensical bill that was presented but you will not get the truth from any Democrat from the grassroots up. Every local Congressman has been briefed and every local congressman will give you the same Pelosi equivocation.
In the end, both sides are off base; one side for blatantly lying and the other side for being too stubborn to work around it. We should not advocate a sweeping amnesty but we should advocate a real path towards citizenship with reasonable time/penalties, open doors for those who wish to return and employment contracts for agricultural workers who only want to be here seasonally. Tax returns required for all applicants and a clean record of felonies. Border security is a must for a variety of reasons going beyond the immigration issue.