Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Children of immigrants pitiless to others

Yesterday's column on Donald Trump and immigration drew the expected response of readers waving the fig leaf of legality. No one dislikes Hispanic immigrants, it's only illegal Hispanic immigrants who are the trouble.
   Great, then lets reform the system so that they can immigrate here legally...
   Somehow, that suggestion doesn't comfort them. They want a big wall. And deportations. A stunning 64 percent of Republicans in a CNN poll released Monday would prefer deporting illegal immigrants to putting them on a path to citizenship, which is just insane, morally, economically, logistically and politically. 
     What kind of people are these Republicans? In 2012 I spoke to one; rather, one spoke to me: 

     "Yes, I wish to leave a comment for Mr. Steinberg—Mr. Steinberg, for somebody that went to school for journalism, it seems to me you obviously don't know how to get your facts straight and put them out there. Because the only type of journalism that you know is biased journalism . . ."
     God bless voicemail. The perfect listener. A digital buddy, with all the time in the world. I try to listen too, but often just waiting for a point can tax the limits of patience.
     "Let me also state, for the record, before I go on, I used to be a member of your party that you obviously support. It's so evident, you're a liberal and a Democrat. A bleeding heart liberal . . ."
     Picked up on that one, eh? He eventually reveals why he's calling: immigration.
     "Since I am the product of immigrant parents, and I have the authority to speak out on this issue, because my parents immigrated to this country years ago, back in the '40s, right after World War II, from Europe, I think I have the right to speak out on this. Because my parents, who are still with me to this day, on occasion tell me how things were when they came over . . . because obviously immigration is in the news.
     That it is. Especially since the Supreme Court, while generally reaffirming that the federal government sets immigration policy, in theory, ruled Monday that cops in Arizona can keep demanding papers from anybody they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.
     "Knowing that they basically earned everything they've gotten in their life, whether it's citizenship, jobs, Social Security card, benefits."
     The common refrain: my sufferings ennoble me, while you're being given a free ride. No question previous immigrants had it tough. Anyone coming over in the 1940s faced bias even worse than that of today. In December 1945, a Gallup poll asked Americans whether more immigrants should be admitted into the U.S.: 5 percent said yes, more should be allowed in; 37 percent said fewer should be admitted; 14 percent said the number let in should be reduced to zero.
     "It seems to me you on the Left don't get it; these people need to earn their citizenship."
     "These people" being . . . illegal immigrants, right? I'm with you - we agree! They should earn their citizenship. The question is: how?
     "They shouldn't be granted amnesty, they shouldn't be given anything on a silver platter..."
     I'm not sure how crawling across the desert to end up - if they're lucky - washing dishes at a Denny's, devoid of most legal rights, is being handed anything on a silver platter. And isn't "amnesty" what you call any plan that lets them earn citizenship?
     "These people came here, first of all, without being invited. It's not like we said 'c'mon over.' They came here, they broke the law and knew they were breaking the law . . ."
     Nobody gets invited. Nobody invited the Italians or Greeks either ­- the homeland my caller cited for his parents and relatives, all of whom, he claimed, played by the rules and paid their dues. Maybe so. That sure wasn't the impression at the time - Italians historically suffered worse xenophobia than almost any group. "These sneaky and cowardly Sicilians," the New York Times once editorialized, "the descendants of bandits and assassins . . . are to us a pest without mitigation."
     "We bend over backwards to accommodate one group. We have their language on our driver's exam s. You can get election ballots not only in English, but in Hispanic."
     And in Chinese. And in Hindi. But those never seem to bother people. Why is that?
     Immigrants build our country. They always have. And they always face the same self-righteous scorn. Sometimes, ironically, even from their more established brethren - or their children - who feel entitled to gripe, worrying these less assimilated newcomers will draw unwanted attention to themselves.
     "As I was saying Mr. Steinberg, I'm not done yet. You obviously have the power of the pen and a column in which you can spout your biased ideology. It's so faulty, it's ridiculous."
     He spoke for 20 minutes, and I listened to every word, obscenities and all, just to make sure there was not a single moment when he viewed recent immigrants with a drop of the human sympathy he lavished on himself, or a fraction of the pity he slathered over his own family and whatever bootstrap fairy tale they fed him and he believed. Not a word. Then he paused to praise the sense of faith that turned him into such an unfeeling person.
     "I have the right to say what I said because I am the product of immigrants. My parents, aunts and uncles, my cousins, my relatives my neighbors... These people all went through the same things. They came here, got off at Ellis Island, which obviously was still functioning, and followed everything told to them . . ."
     And the new immigrants don't. I wonder why? Maybe they seldom get the chance. In the 19th century, our nation reacted to an influx of immigrants by constructing Ellis Island, as a port of entry. Our generation met a smaller surge by building a big wall, not just on the border, but in our hearts and minds.
      —Originally published in the Sun-Times, Jiune 27, 2012

30 comments:

  1. Well said, Mr. Steinberg. Yes, there was hardening of the hearts in the old days too,like when they wouldn't let Jewish immigrants in, other than some children, prior to WWII. No thanks to the immigrant laws passed in the 1920's, especially due to the post WWI Red Scare and Palmer raids.

    No, deportation isn't the answer. Would amnesty encourage more to come? Perhaps, but not if laws are reformed. But if the law is reformed will anyone listen to it? Is it enforceable with the porous border. Is a wall an answer? Don't know... there are no easy answers indeed. Yes, there are some criminal elements in the illegals, as with every other group. Reform would have to take that into consideration. True, most illegals are hardworking people looking to improve lives for their families. But you've given food for thought.
    Things can't remain as they are though. Sometimes border agents or homes to those near the border can be endangered as well. Some American citizens near the area have been kidnapped too. It's a shame their government is so corrupt but then they live in fear of the cartels too.


    Mrs.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sorry, but there's one comment the caller made that I would have to agree with - why are ballots printed in several languages - not only Spanish, but Chinese and Hindi as well. Don't you have to know English to become a naturalized citizen? At least know enough English to vote? Holy cow, except for some referendum questions written by a committee of lawyers, how many words do you need to know to vote?

    Don't get wrong - I understand and appreciate bilingual signs everywhere else - it's good business and good government. But that is directed to everyone, citizens, aliens, and visitors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since 1975, federal law requires voting jurisdictions to supply multilingual ballots when 5% of the population doesn't understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process. So while there may be several languages provided where you live, others will have only English. Yes, some English proficiency is needed to become a citizen. But having sufficient English to pass a test and to navigate daily life may well not be enough to understand instructions and referendum information on a ballot. Studies have shown that more people vote when there are multilingual ballots, and that's what we want, right?

      Delete
  3. Mmmm. How to say yes to your thoughts, Neil, without taking back half of the yes. No, I guess I'll just have to agree wholeheartedly. No buts, no howevers, no taking back the yes. How we solve the problem we've created with bad laws, greed, and disdain for those suffering just what our immigrant forefathers suffered is best left to another day, perhaps another century.

    john

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good point, Peter.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a lovely and well dressed, young lady in the photo.

    ReplyDelete
  6. That is a great photo today. She is obviously very proud and happy to be a new US citizen. According to this web site: http://cis.org/immigrant-population-record-2013
    the current immigrant population in the US as of 2013 is 41.3 million people. One of the statistics cited is "The 41.3 million immigrant population (legal and illegal) in 2013 was double the number in 1990, nearly triple the number in 1980, and quadruple that in 1970, when it stood at 9.6 million." God bless them all. I hope they become citizens one day.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for the eye opening stats, Stan.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Electing Republicans will solve our immigration problem. They'll trash the economy through huge tax cuts and lavish military expenditures, possibly to pay for a new war or two, and then no one will want to come here.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The most strident of these protesters look at the problem as some kind of infestation; a malignancy that must be eradicated completely, though an absurd and impossible task. It's amusing because they look to Republicans to solve this problem, yet apparently are unaware some of the biggest donors to their party are the people who employ illegals, especially in the South. Why do you think every immigration bill stalls in Congress, even when pushed by amnesty seeking Republican presidents? Why aren't the laws against hiring illegals strengthened, especially in the age of technology where records are more accurate and accessible?

    No, they bleat every two to four years about building a "Wall", making the border impenetrable will solve the problem, which is as impossible as deporting 12 million people. Meanwhile, the vicious pile-on to legal and illegal Mexicans continues...The last openly racist bastion in this country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wendy--It's especially amusing (to me, anyway) to watch the Wall Street Journal, which was as right-wing as they come even before Murdoch took it over, sputter and fume over the nativist bigots whom they ordinarily see as supporters. The WSJ, of course, runs the moneyed interests that want a steady supply of illegal immigrants, to provide cheap, exploitable labor and depress wages in general.

      Delete
    2. yes, the south is always looking for cheap labor, Wendy, whether from illegals or union busting

      Delete
    3. Well said, Scribe.

      Delete
  10. Questionable super pacs and super wealthy are running the elections, no thanks to court rulings.

    I'm suspect of anyone who is too reliant on the WSJ. It looks like even the Dems can't help. One day a Socialist explosion needs to take place here.

    Laws are too lenient with tax shelters.

    ReplyDelete
  11. (But not like the Leninist/ Stalinist one with no consumer goods, miserable housing and trips to Siberia.) Democratic Socialism is the key.

    And cheaper or sponsored college education is necessary. Not people coming out of college up to their ears in debt, so banks can profit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. banks and college adminstrators

      Delete
  12. There have been some reports of African Americans resenting gains made by Hispanics.

    ReplyDelete
  13. How about ALL lives matter, not just black or white or anything in between.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How about not using a meaningless tautology to trivialize the anguish and anger of African Americans when their people get slaughtered by the police.

      Delete
    2. How many cops are slaughtered by gangbangers? so nothing meaningless about it

      Delete
    3. Slaughtered???? Is that right term, BS?

      Delete
    4. Surely you are not misconstruing the message to be Only Black Lives Matter, when it's clearly Black Lives Also Matter.

      Delete
    5. Viewer: Add up the totals, and I'm sure the cops will be waaaay ahead on points.

      Anonymous: When it's you or your loved ones getting killed for no reason, yes, slaughtered is absolutely the right term.

      Delete
    6. An African-American shouldn't trust a southern police officer at all.

      Delete
    7. Good thing you clarified that, Coey.

      Delete
  14. You have posted on the wrong blog. There is another section for off topic discourse.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The NY Times certainly has changed it's tune since those early days.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Scribe, how about you moving to the Austin west side neighborhood and helping out? see how nicely you'll be treated and feel free to walk around with no worries...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, and I'm sure that every time the cops kill an unarmed black man, it helps white people get treated nicer in Austin.

      Delete
  17. Sarcasm gets old after a while....do you really think most shootings by cops in northern cities are against UNARMED black men?

    Again, please read the daily city beat sections or blotters or go online if you don't subscribe to the paper.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.