Harsh Times

By: - April 23, 2007 2:26 pm

So, I get up, and, unlike the inimitable David Lee Roth, something gets me down.  This Sunday it was the glut of anti-immigrant news.  The N&O kicked off the show with a piece on Alamance Sheriff Terry Johnson who has built a jail he hopes to turn into a clearinghouse for illegal immigrants.  He cites the double advantage of getting federal dollars for each day an illegal immigrant stays while simultaneously getting said individuals out of his county.  Next, I caught up on a Charlotte Observer report on Gaston County Commissioners' decision to reject Bank of America's bid to be their banker, the most favorable bid received, because the bank offers a credit card that doesn't require a Social Security number.  The card is only in a test phase (in California, I might add), is legal, and is designed to introduce newcomers to the wonders of American banking while allowing them to develop a credit history.  The fact that it could possibly be used by illegal immigrants is so anathema to Gaston officials that they've decided to spend more public money banking elswhere.  Finally, the New York Times highlighted Rudy Giuliani's distancing himself from earlier, more immigrant friendly stands he took as Mayor.  Yes, all in all, there was a distinctly unfriendly feel to the news.

I'm sure by now you all realize that I could get into a good swivet about each of these stories alone, but, for once, I'm going to try to look at the bigger picture.  I could go on about racial profiling and the mean-spiritedness of a sheriff who says things like:

Their values are a lot different — their morals — than what we have here," Johnson said. "In Mexico, there's nothing wrong with having sex with a 12-, 13-year-old girl … They do a lot of drinking down in Mexico."

I'm going to let that speak for itself.   I could also rant a little about a county that would choose, in a time when they are cutting human services to forgo about $120,000 over four years, based solely on the idea that something could potentially be used be an allegedly illegal immigrant.  Although, as Sheriff Johnson would be the first to point out fake Social Security numbers abound, meaning that BofA's program is probably more likely to be used by the legal immigrants we all claim to welcome.  Still, I'm not going to get into it.  Nor am I going to bang on about politicians reversing course to appeal to the lowest common denominator or to make points on the scary issues of the day, even though we all know they're doing it.  No, I'm sticking with the big picture.

To wit, why don't we slow down and, instead of rushing to destroy the families of those whose labor has "grown our economy" (I'll never forgive Bill for that one), take a good look at macro policies that have influenced the nature of immigration to the US.  For instance, why don't we take Michael Pollan's suggestion and reevaluate the Farm Bill, which is up for renewal this year, with an eye toward what it has done to Mexico's agricultural economy.  Then, perhaps, if we were still of a mind to do so, we could think about a way to pressure the US industries and businesses that rely on a steady stream of immigrants for their profits into forgoing that stream and those profits.  After that, we could take the time to examine our own communities and lives and decide that we too will forgo the labor that so very many of us have come to rely on for our own convenience.  Wouldn't that be something?  Instead of raging blithely and ignorantly against other people and their moral failings, we could examine our own hypocrisy.  Maybe  then we could talk about immigration enforcement or, if the mood is right, even amnesty.  Don't hold your breath, though, I don't have high hopes for any of these things coming to pass.  The businesses that make so much money off these poor people are also powerful political contributors.  More powerful, sadly, than you and I.

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