Thursday, May 20, 2010

Political Rantings

'Scuse me for a moment while I get all political on ya. It's not often (ok, it's not ever, really) that I talk politics on this blog, but this is an issue that has got my hackles WAY up, and I need to vent for a moment. The outfit details are all the way at the bottom of the post if you want to skip my rantings; the rest of this post has nothing at all to do with fashion.

As you may have guessed already, I have a deep and profound love of all things Latin American, and as a native Californian I consider many aspects of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and other Latino cultures to be a part of my own heritage. So the shameful immigration law recently passed in Arizona, which I'm sure everyone has heard all about by now, just makes me clench my teeth with indignation.

Now I acknowledge that Arizona does have a hefty set of immigration-related issues that the federal government has done a terrible job in dealing with. But enacting a law that promotes mistrust and angry division is just never the right answer, is it?

Sure, illegal immigration poses problems; one of the most overlooked, in my opinion, is the way it undermines the Herculean efforts of people who come here by legal means. Talk to anyone who's gone through the process of obtaining a work visa in the US or becoming naturalized and you'll hear stories of miles of paperwork, gobs of money spent, hours in impossibly long lines, and legal red tape that would make your hair stand on end. Having obtained my citizen status by the easiest possible method, birth, I wholeheartedly admire the perseverance of legal immigrants. Moreover, I wonder what the US would be like if everyone was as passionate and committed to being here as our legal immigrants are? Would we suffer from the same sense of entitlement if we had to deal with the USCIS to obtain our rights?

On the other hand, it's pretty tough to blame people who risk everything to flee a desperate and often woefully impoverished situation for the chance of making a better life for themselves and their children. To me it is the original American Dream in its purest form. And the reality is that it's pretty much the same way most of our ancestors got here. Most Americans today cannot even fathom the sorts of troubles that people who flee to this country are facing in their home lands, and indeed, even the "better life" that many illegal immigrants find here is still far below the average American standard of living.

Illegal immigrantion does come with its share of other problems, not the least of which is the importation of drugs and the violence that goes along with them. But turning the local police, who live within that racially-mixed community, into what amounts to little better than an SS brigade, is a recipe for unrest and further conflict, most notably among people who aren't even a part of the original problem. Obviously the law legalizes racial profiling, but even worse, it builds walls between people who should be working together to solve these issues. I'm sorry Arizona, I don't have an easy solution for you, but the one you've opted for is quite possibly the worst you could've come up with.

I'd like to open up the floor for more discussion, because I know my insightful readers will have more to add on this one. Are there any Arizonians out there who have a different take on this issue? Legal immigrants who want to weigh in? People from Latin countries who are disgusted, irate, disappointed? People who have been impacted in one way or another? Let's hear it! Even if Arizona is taking a closed-minded approach, it doesn't mean we have to.

Today's (non-political) outfit:
Dress, bracelet: Betsey Johnson
Cardigan: Solemio
Harness: Audra Jean
Jacket: Tulle
Tights: Foot Traffic, via Sock Dreams
Shoes: Saks 5th Avenue
Adorable dog: Georgie


Emily Kennedy said...

The way the U.S. views its borders, being very nearly ENTIRELY a country of immigrants, is the utmost in hypocrisy.

My rant about Arizona would be deeper, wider, and uglier if I got started.

Heather said...

I lived in AZ (previously) for most of my life and I am also pretty outraged about the bill. It seems to me that the tougher we make our anti-immigration laws in the state, the bigger our immigration-related problems become. While it would be a hard (if not impossible) sell to the voters, relaxing Arizona's laws, or at the very least making legal immigration easier for folks would go significantly farther than this misguided attempt. I doubt that would actually eliminate the problems of drugs and violence that have come along for the ride, I think it would be a step in the right direction.

What makes this all much worse, in my opinion, is that people who are citizens by birth or laboring through red tape are at just as much risk for profiling as actual immigrants. It worries me that it will cause misplaced biterness and further the anti-Latino racism in the state, in addition to the general mistrust the law will inevitably breed.

I have found it difficult to explain to acquaintances and friends (who still live in the state) who are proponents of the bill that I'm not just some bleeding heart liberal, and in fact I support immigration reform...just not like this. It makes a rational and productive dialogue very difficult, and that too is unfortunate.

Megan G said...

I'm not from Arizona but recently heard that apparently my own state (TN) has heard about AZ's law and has decided to try and push it through here. =[ this is not-cool.

Malvina said...

i couldn't agree more. What was passed in AZ makes me worry about the law-abiding immigrants that live in that state. Making the police single them out is probably the world's worst way to control crime and drugs (because before they might have worked with you to keep their kids safe, but now? fogettaboutit)

Also, those legal means not only are ridiculously herculean, but they just aren't open to everyone. Only to certain countries, certain dates of entry.

All in all, the whole thing makes my hair stand on end. For years I tried to not bring it up in polite conversation because I didn't want to rough the waters.

Thanks to AZ and other events, I'm talking about it all that I can. It's the only way people are going to see how horribly unfair the whole system is.

Thank you for using your space to talk about something so very very important.

Rad said...

Audi, I applaud you for bringing this up. I think politics are important to talk about.
I agree with everything you say. However, I also want to state that this "illegal/legal" dichotomy is a little problematic. I prefer the terms "documentation" or "non-documented" workers, because the whole illegal categories adds a moral element, but obscures the bigger moral issue, which is the intensity of inequality between countries that are "rich" and less developed. Individuals who immigrate don't do it as a lark. They do so because the crap work they do (and higher costs of living) is still more money then they'd make at home, and therefore they can still send money back to their families at the end of each month. The average immigrant in the United States sends about $1500 home a year, which is a big percentage of nothing.
I just don't get the anti-immigration fear. Last time I checked, no one was stopping white Americans from getting jobs are fruit pickers, janitors, and low cost nannies and house cleaners. And the United States spends more every year propping up its cotton industry alone (whilst preaching "free trade" to developing countries) than it gives in official development aid, and refuses to follow the Millennium development goals of committing 0.7% of its GDP to aid. Don't even get me started on the military spending!

Michelle said...

/What makes this all much worse, in my opinion, is that people who are citizens by birth or laboring through red tape are at just as much risk for profiling as actual immigrants./

A resounding YES. Check it:

Audi, I think it's cool you're willing to talk about this stuff on a fashion blog. Especially with the hugely hot-button issue it is.

Una said...

As a first generation child of (legal) immigrants, I wholeheartedly agree... My extended family, and other immigrants I meet in work and in life, whether legally here or not, are far more devoted to the original American ideals of hard work and "the pursuit of happiness" than many of their detractors. Historically, every wave of new immigrants has been greeted with disdain and derision by the wave most recently preceding them, but this has gone far beyond that inso some crazy extreme hatemongering.

Thank you for being willing to use your amazing blog to bring up such an important and controversial topic.

Courtney said...

Second the comment on the use of illegal vs. undocumented. It's one thing to refer to immigration as illegal, but a person is not illegal. I think that's what is really missing from the discourse on the side of people in favor of persecuting those who emigrate to this country outside of legal channels--the recognition that the are still people. I feel that emphasizing the use of the term undocumented (and explaining why it is the preferred term) can help bring that back.

The Arizona law not only legalizes racial profiling--it mandates it. The law as it stands *requires* not *authorizes* police to demand documentation. This is codified racism as well as codified classism. Several years ago, I met a Latina woman who lived in El Paso, TX. She explained to me that if you are of latin descent in a southern border town, you do not dare leave your house if you are not dressed to the nines. Even if you are doing yard work or going to the gym, you dress in class-signaling, designer dungarees and wear jewelry. You make sure that you have as expensive a car as you can afford, even if that means you put less money into a place to live, and you keep that car polished all the time. Anything less and you get harassed by the police, even if your family has been in the town since it belonged to Mexico.

Marie said...

I live in Georgia, and recently even the Hispanic children here have become terrifed of going home from school and finding their parents gone...deported. So much that they have trouble concentrating in class. Regardless of what you think about immigration and reform, this law only causes fear and distrust.

Anonymous said...

While you all have commendable feelings, it might be a good idea to have better information. The law, nearly identical to existing California and US law, only allows for interrogation when there are other circumstances--not just generally occupying space. It does not single out Mexicans. If any poorer person in the world may come here, what limits would you set? Or none? Should we be the only country not requiring immigration and residence permission? And if you are enjoying all sorts of services at low wages from, yes, illegal residents, then you are exploiting them and depressing wages for low skill legal residents. And yes because they do NOT possess docuements giving them permission o live and work here in accordance with the law, they are illegal residents. Changing language does not change facts.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous. The AZ law is similar to the federal one, but that one is stricter. People can be stopped for no reason. So I think it's ironic that the president and others are complaining about this law.

My husband came from Mexico legally, and he supports the AZ law. Is it perfect? I don't know. Why not give it a chance, and if the problems arise that have been suggested, then change it. He would gladly show his ID if it meant things might be safer here. We live in a mid-size town, with many immigrants, from various countries. It saddens us to see many who won't even try to learn the language or assimilate, while other groups work very hard to. We see many bring the problems they had in Mexico here to our town, and we have problems because of it. We're discouraged by the entitlement mentality.

I understand the poor conditions many of them come from. I've seen it, but we can't take every one of them in and spend money this country can't even afford, to take care of them all.

Jennie said...

The one good thing about the Arizona law is that it has brought to the forefront the need for Federal immigration reform. We definitely want people to be documented. I think everyone can agree on that. How we do that is another discussion entirely.

In regards to "Anonymous"'s comments about undocumented vs. illegal -- it may not change facts, but it does influence the way people view these undocumented immigrants. Semantics are extremely important, especially when it comes to politics.

Clara said...

Thank you, Audi, for speaking your mind about the Arizona law, and for inviting further discussion. The many issues raised by the comments merit much more discussion than I can offer, but I'll share a few thoughts.

1. Illegal immigration is a problem for many countries, including the U.S. Engendering suspicion of people who are "not like us," either at the federal, state, or local level, is a foolish and unconstructive way to address the problem. Teaching our children to do the same, by giving these acts legal standing, is, well, un-American. Arizona's law does not literally target Hispanics, true, but curbing immigration from Mexico was clearly its rationale and being able to easily identify and get rid of undocumented Mexicans is its obvious intention.

2. Studies show that the children of immigrants become bilingual fairly quickly, and that many immigrants learn to speak enough English to get by in their new country. Usually it is only older immigrants who have difficulty learning the language and, yes, may never learn it. This is, folks, the story of America. It's likely than 90% of the people reading this post have ancestors who did not speak English when they came to the U.S. If this is something that bothers you, recognize that it will change.

3. My parents are immigrants from Cuba, and I was born there. We were legal immigrants, but I don't consider our profile otherwise much different from those of many immigrants who are not. All their lives my parents held jobs doing manual labor that many U.S.-born workers chose not to do, thus filling a need and contributing to the economy. They managed to own their own home, help put their child (me) through college, and meet their primary goal of giving me opportunities that they never had. And their credit scores are out of the ballpark, to boot! Although most might consider their achievements modest, I consider them the most successful people I know. My life is better, and I am an even stronger contributor to the economic health of my community and country because of them.

4. My parents' story is the predominant story of immigration in the U.S. It always has been, because we are a nation of immigrants. It's not necessarily, of course, the story that the media emphasize. Perhaps if we looked at the issues surrounding immigration from a broader perspective, and with a long-term view, we might look for solutions that are in greater alignment with the principles that we admire in our system of government, and that make us proud to be Americans.

Jen said...

I completely disagree with Arizona's law as it stands. It's unacceptable. I also, however, disagree with this whole "don't call it illegal; it's undocumented" whargarble. If it's against the law to enter the country without proper documentation, which it was, last time I checked, then being in this country without said documentation is, in fact, illegal. Call it what it is. Don't sugarcoat wrong doing. Breaking the law for a good reason (such as seeking a better life for your family) is still breaking the law.

I have no problem with immigrants in this country. Legal immigrants. I have no problem with some illegal immigrants. Most of the people I know that fall into those categories, at least in my area, are Hispanic. And pretty much to a person, legal or not (and I have no idea which or which unless I hire them), they're hard working, polite and intelligent people. Sure, they have flaws, just like we citizens do, but they're as a whole, good people.

I DO have a problem with illegal immigrants who come to this country and consume public resources. There was a piece on the local news a few months back, about a local clinic that was closing down. One of the patients that they interviewed was a woman who was in this country illegally, and had been here for many years (she wasn't Hispanic), who needed kidney dialysis, and she was complaining that once the clinic closed up, she would have to pay for her treatment, or go back to her own country and die. While I feel sympathy for her position, and I certainly wouldn't want her to die, it just stunned me that she had the gall to sit there and complain that this country, to which she has contributed NOTHING in the way of tax dollars, which were funding her free treatment, was now taking her free treatment away. I have health problems, fairly serious ones, and I can't afford insurance. I'm a legal, tax paying citizen, and I STILL have to pay every dime of my health care costs myself. No one gives me a free ride. So why should she get one when she shouldn't even be here? I realize she's not the rule, but I don't feel like she's such a great exception to it either. There are a lot of others like her out there, and THAT is the main problem I have with illegal immigrants. I know they're not all that way, probably not even most of them, but there's enough that are and it burns me up.

I think a good start at reforming immigration laws would be to change the way you become a citizen on the birth end. Make it so that only babies who have at least one parent who is a legal citizen, or is actively, and legally, seeking citizenship can be made citizens. And if in the latter case the citizenship request is denied for the parent, the child's is denied too. If I recall correctly that's how it works in the UK, or something close to it. At least it would stop the influx of women that come across the border just to give birth.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Jen.

I'm sorry, but if you're not even supposed to be here, you shouldn't be getting free medical care that is not available free to most legal residents and citizens. I've actually *lost money* working for hourly wages ($9 and $10 an hour, far above minimum) and trying to pay for my own insurance, but I was never eligible for any help. (Don't get me started on health care reform . . . )

I think the Arizona law is a disaster but I hope it forces Washington to do something. Birthright citizenship needs to end. Children of legal residents should be legal residents, to change automatically to citizenship when their parents become citizens. Children of illegal immigrants--and they ARE illegal--should be citizens of their mother's home country.

Come on over to the U.S., but do it legally. Since you're so eager to reap the benefits of the U.S. economy, pay your taxes and reinvest in us instead of sending as much as you can out of the country, which is what a lot of people do here, since we're near a national border.

Please don't drag out the "we are all immigrants" line, either. At some point, we are no longer immigrants. America is its own culture. I have ancestors from eight different countries (at least. Eight that I can document), none of whose cultures I share, and some of whose languages I don't even speak. From which of those eight countries am I an immigrant? All, kind of, but really none. I am not German or English or Welsh or French or whatever. I am American.

Chelsea said...

Audi - I think it's awesome that you are bringing up this incredibly important topic on your blog. It reaches those outside of the SF Bay Area, which can feel like a progressive bubble, and it's good (though can be troubling) to get other perspectives.

I can conceptually understand the sentiment expressed in the comments that illegal/undocumented immigrants should not be able to benefit off of tax-supported public services. But what seems to be forgotten is the fact that becoming a US citizen legally is immensely difficult and expensive... thus the need for reform.

Also, free clinics are available to anyone (usually based on REPORTED income), not just illegal/undocumented immigrants. The wait times are crazy because of lack of funding and resources, but if you have the need you can obtain services. The problem with health care is the INSURANCE COMPANIES, not the illegal/undocumented immigrants.

Chelsea said...

PS, I LOVE the color combinations in this outfit, Audi! And the leopard mary janes are making my heart flutter :)

WickedThrifty said...

aha, it makes a great deal of sense that this dress is betsey, because it makes me swoon. gorgeous, gorgeous. i remember when you got that cord jacket at tulle! i had just blogged it. love the orange/purple combo. it's taking me some getting used to to see red with it but you're always the best with color so i'm sure it's good ;)

and-- i agree with you. but don't have anything to add.

Dissolved Girl said...

I completely agree with Jen.

The reality of all this is that Arizona is trying to take care of their immigration problem, since the Federal Government is doing nothing about enforcing the laws that we currently have in place.

PS: I really like the outfit color combination.

Courtney said...

@ Jen--

It's not "whargarble." As someone else stated up thread, semantics do matter. There is absolutely nothing wrong with stating that being an undocumented immigrant is illegal in this country or otherwise describing the act as illegal. Acts and things are illegal. People are not.

When you describe a person as illegal you are encouraging others to see undocumented immigrants as less than human. Undermining the humanity of a person is a prerequisite for doing harm to them. Whether you mean it that way or not, excusing or encouraging the use of the terms "illegal immigrant" or "illegals" encourages those who already see them not as people, but as "trash" that can be abused.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts (I live in AZ):

A. God, do I miss Janet Napolitano (our former gov). We really really really need a Democrat to counterbalance our hardcore Republican state senate.

B. There was already an enormous amount of racial profiling going on, especially around Phoenix (our media darling, Sheriff Joe Arpaio), so I don't know that things will get that much worse. I would call this more of a publicity stunt than an actual policy change.

C. People shouldn't be given a pass (moral or otherwise) for breaking our immigration laws, but it seems obvious that the real solution is to go after the employers. With all respect to Rad, there are many industries whose business models depend on an easily intimidated workforce who won't complain about sub-minimum wages, horrible working conditions, etc.. This is what we ought to be cracking down on.


Tracy said...

I am a recent transplant to Arizona, and I found it interesting that between here and California and here and New Mexico there are Border Patrol check points. All cars are routed through these check points, and at one we were merely asked if we were citizens, and at another we didn't talk to anyone. No ID checked. But all the cars with non-white people were rummaging for paperwork. Profiling?

What about the people that come here with no intention of working? To bring drugs, or just to use the services of a free clinic? No employers to fine there, so then those people go unpunished.

Unfortunately, sometimes a radical solution will bring the necessary changes to an ongoing problem. Obviously attention was brought to this issue after this state has been asking for assistance for years. Sen. John McCain recently asked for the National Guard to provide assistance to the border here, and as far as I know it was denied. Who else has a solution for a state whose resources are already stretched to the limit?

A farmer was killed on the land his family has owned for generations, while helping an illegal immigrant.

I can't find the article, but I read somewhere that an illegal worker in the Phoenix area was going to go to another state or back to Mexico because "it's just too racist here." All states could potentially feel the outfall from that, and then what? More states like TN pass a law similar to AZ?

Why do little kids in Georgia fear their parents will be deported? Are they here legally? Quoting children will definitely tug the heart strings, but sometimes they don't quite understand the situation or who is at risk.

If a car is pulled over for a standard traffic stop, all people in the car are asked for identification. In every state and country. Passports get checked in Mexico all the time. And I have not heard of people sneaking in to Mexico to live and work.

Franca said...

Hi, I work in government research, and immigration is one of my areas of responsibility, so I have a lot of opinions. They are mainly based on the UK experience, but I think a lot of the points apply across to the US as well. So:

1. Even if you agree that illegal immigrants should be removed (which I don't) 'tough' immigration laws based on deporting large numbers of people pretty much never work. It would cost a ridiculous amount of money to actually track people down, detain and deport them, and if people realised quite how much there would be a public outcry, because that would mean there would be less money for health and education.

2. What usually happens is that governments pass a new draconian law and then don't allocate enough cash to actually enforce it. Detention facilities are notoriously overcrowded and in them there are human rights abuses left right and centre. Immigration departments are notoriously understaffed, and people simply disappear off the radar of the authorities. Underground migrants are hugely vulnerable, so this fuels crime and prostitution. Which would cost even more to get under control, but of course there is no money, so the police is ever only scratching the surface.

3. The fact that there is this law which basically isn't enforceable, heightens public perceptions that immigration is 'out of control' and in people's minds, 'immigrant' and 'illegal immigrant' are the same thing, when really undocumented (I agree with RIB that that is a better term) migrants make up a relatively small proportion of all migrants.

5. This perception of lack of control usually leads politicians to pass yet another 'tough' law which has no hope of succeeding. It's a vicious circle in which everyone is worse off. The government is spending ever more money on enforcement without getting anywhere, their approval rates plummet, the 'indigenous' population (I hate that word but it is routinely used) is increasingly scared and feels that xenophobic feelings are legitimate, legal migrants are assumed to be illegal and discriminated against, underground migrants are at the mercy of organised crime, the state doesn't earn any taxes off underground workers but there will be periodic crises of particular prostitution rings or people basically working as slaves being uncovered that it then has to deal with. It's all shit, basically.

I could go on and there is evidence to support all of this, but this is a comment on a blog post so I will refrain.

Wendy said...

You say your outfit is "non-political," but I would disagree. It expresses a countercultural bent, a fashion progressivism. I like this. As a community college professor, I like the idea of dressing in a way that subtly (or sometimes not) expresses who I am, including my politics. Maybe you should highlight more ways we can do that. How can we make political statements through fashion? (Workplace context taken into consideration, of course.) Are buttons the only way to show your stance on a cause?

Belinda said...

Hi everyone. Living in Australia, I have read all of these comments with great interest. Of all the comments, I feel Franca has summed up the problem the best. This issue is a never-ending vicious circle.
Australia is basically a really, really big island. If you think monitoring land borders is a big job, trying doing it over hundreds of thousands of miles of ocean. We have thousands of Asians (predominantly Indonesian) risking their lives every day sailing in boats (& I use the term "boat" very loosely) trying to get into Australia.
The millions our gov't currently spends on detaining these immigrants is a huge sore point for many Aussies. And the way our media reports on it only feeds the flames of racism, xenophobia & general resentment more & more every day.
And like Franca says, there are human rights violations left, right & centre going on in these detention centres. But because these immigrants are "illegal", some people feel as though this treatment is justified.
But we must remember that we are talking about people here - real human beings who are trying to escape living conditions that we couldn't possibly imagine enduring as we sit in front of our computers surrounded by creature comforts. Ask yourself how far you would go if your family, your children were in danger of being raped, murdered or tortured because of political unrest or religious persecution. Does anyone ever judge the Jews for fleeing their homes and seeking sanctuary in other countries during WWII? Yes, I admit that most "illegal" immigrants aren't in as much danger as Jews were in WWII, but what I am trying to point out is that a lot of these immigrants are in desperate situations which leads to desperate action.
It would be wonderful to see Gov'ts working together to stop the "people traffickers". Or what about developed countries fundraising to help these countries build schools & medical centres. If everyone in Australia donated $2 a year that would be over $40m that could be used to aid these countries. What if every American donated $1?? We've seen the power of the human spirit when it came to the Haiti earthquake and Hurricane Katrina. Why does it have to take a natural disaster for humanity to rally together? Why can't we have that mind set every day? I hope and pray we will get there one day :)
Thanks Audi for shining a light on this problematic issue. And of course, for bringing us another wonderful outfit.

bonincontrus said...

I work in a hospital. Each department wears a certain color scrubs and name badges to identify where you belong. If someone is not wearing a badge or wearing a certain color in a restricted area you better believe we stop and ask the person for identification and reason for visit. What is so much different about this law? It is not just randomly pulling people over, but even if it was unfortunately they can do that no anyways no matter what color you are.

Fact of the matter is is that if you are here legally then 5 minutes of your day was wasted and you have nothing more to worry about.

My family was split up while waiting to cross the border LEGALLY and it burns me up to see all these people here ILlEGALLY.

Northmoon said...

I agree with the commenter that suggested getting at the root of the problem by helping to improve the situation in the country of origin.

Often the policies of the west such as NAFTA and other trade pressure have harmed the economy in places such as Mexico. One example is global corporations flooding the Mexican market with cheap imported corn, result no local farmers can compete and they can't earn a living in Mexico.

If more could done to improve the lives of people around the world, I'm fairly sure most of them would prefer to stay in their country of birth.

We are on one planet together, we need to share some of the 'good life' or resentment and desperation will continue to cause problems!

Wendy said...

Thanks, Belinda, for a great analogy. You're right--people don't judge the jews for using any means necessary to flee Germany . Most of us, if we could go back in time would welcome as many jews as possible into out countries to save them from persecution and death (though Cuba, the US, and Canada turned away all the desperate passengers of the MS St. Louis in 1939--partly because they didn't have the necessary immigration documentation (the other part was probably bias against jews)). You are also right to say it's not an exact analogy; however, it reminds us that a discussion about compassion is in order.

ReaderRita said...

The funny thing to me is that the original inhabitants of this country were NOT white. White people started out as "illegal immigrants" in this country.
Perhaps Arizona is giving voice to a bit of fear that illegal immigrants might do to white America what white America did to the Native Americans?
Hypocrisy, methinks...

Jen said...

@ Courtney-

If a person is described as "an illegal" then you might have a point. But the majority of discussion refers to them as illegal immigrants, and that is exactly what they are. There is a legal way to immigrate to this country and when you choose to circumvent that legal path, you become an illegal immigrant. You're not saying the actual person is illegal, or "dehumanizing" them. You're stating the truth, that they are an immigrant that chose to enter this country illegally. You wouldn't call a convicted murderer an "unauthorized executioner" or a car thief an "unauthorized vehicle operator". You would call them what they were, based on the crime they committed. Granted, those are far more serious crimes, but the point still is, that when someone chooses to commit a crime, for what ever reason they do it, there is no reason to find a politically correct way to sugarcoat said crime. That doesn't mean they should be treated as anything less than the human beings they are, and it doesn't mean that a person who chooses to refer to them that way is in any way implying that they should be. It's calling it what it is. And someone who chose to enter this country without going through the legal channels of immigration is, in fact, an illegal immigrant.

On a different note, I agree with those who have suggested putting more pressure on the employers to make sure that their employees are legally allowed to work in this country. That would be another, less objectionable way of finding such things out. All employees have to fill out the I-9 form on a new job. No profiling necessary.

@ Chelsea - I don't think anyone said the sole problem with health care was due to illegal immigrants using it up. I totally agree that the insurance companies bear the blame for the astronomical cost of health care in this country. Free clinics are few and far between, and most of them deal in basic care, not long term illnesses that have to be monitored. But even if I were to go to a free clinic (and I would probably have to lie about income, not to mention feeling guilty about taking time away from people who literally had no other choice), I'd have to pay for my prescriptions, which still cost an arm and a leg. I never said that illegal immigrants were the sole cause, or even that they were to blame, for the problems with health care costs in this country. That doesn't stop me from being irritated when I see something like the story I mentioned, where someone who has never chipped in is complaining about having their free ride taken away. Becoming a citizen in this country is expensive. But the high cost of doing something legally doesn't excuse someone from their choice to do so illegally.

Maria said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Audi. It's really hard for someone who has never experienced life outside the comfort of the U.S. to truly understand the root causes of immigration, legal or illegal. I can see both sides of this issue, but people should really think that no one wants to leave their homeland, we do it because a lot of the time we have no choice. We either risk our lives to be here or we live an even worse life in our countries. Most of my life came here legally, but I know a lot of people who are undocumented and they don't have it easy.

They absolutely pay taxes and contribute to this country. Yes, it's true that they don't always assimilate or learn the language, but it's hard to let go of your culture when you are not readily accepted as part of this country. Even people who have been here for generations and are Hispanic are still viewed as foreigners. My husband is a good example of this. He's a 5th generation Hispanic and when he lived in Michigan he was often told to go back where he came from.

I agree that illegal immigration does undermine the trouble that legal immigrant go through. I've lived in this country for 20 years and became a naturalized citizen only 3 years ago, after a lot paperwork and money. So even if it does undermine my effort, not everyone is as lucky as my family was in coming here legally. To me it just comes down to trying to do better for your family, and uless someone's actually experienced poverty and hopelessness, they won't understand what drives immigration to begin with.

I appreciate you posting this because it's something a lot of us think about and shy away from posting on a fashion blog.

Audi said...

Wow, I don't even know where to begin in replying to all these great comments. Thanks again to everyone for chiming in; it's nice to see a balance of different perspectives and opinions coming together in a respectful dialogue.

I believe that no immigration reform can work unless we start from a place of compassion and understanding. Sure, we need to make sure that our public services are not sucked dry and that we don't allow our cities to become crime-ridden, but we also need to create easier and fairer paths for people to come here legally. Weeding out the few bad players who bring along drugs and other crime really should not be that hard if the federal government is doing its job (and also working with our neighbors to the south). The VAST majority of people who come here are not criminals, they are simply trying to improve their situations and provide a better future for their children.

I don't believe that illegal immigrants are not contributing to the US economy; quite the contrary in fact. The agriculture industry relies upon seasonal workers, many of whom do not have legal status. I would love to see them have a way to work here legally, as well as being paid fairly and receiving some sort of insurance coverage if they're injured; and I'd certainly be willing to pay more for produce if I knew it was grown and harvested using fair labor practices. But the question is, can we convince the rest of the US to do the same? If employers had to start paying minimum wage and insurance benefits for legal workers, we would surely see prices go up considerably, not to mention there's the little problem of not being able to fill many of those jobs, as Rad_in_Brooklyn mentioned.

I'm not really sure I see the importance of the semantic issue of 'illegal' versus 'undocumented.' I agree with Jen's point, and I also think it depends very much upon the mindset of the person using the terminology. For me, 'undocumented' carries more of a connotation that the person is working here, which may or may not be the case. And in my opinion, 'illegal' underscores the perilous situation that these people are in, and the risk they're taking by being here. Then again, I see this issue from the perspective of someone who feels that the system is unfair, and that many of the people who come here illegally do so only because of the arbitrary rules for who gets the legal blessing and who doesn't.

The problem with the Arizona law is not that people have to show identification; a police officer can stop anyone anywhere and ask for identification if it's warranted. The issue is that the law requires police officers to ask for immigration documents, so for instance someone who is a US citizen and is carrying a driver's license (which doesn't "count" as proof of legal status under the AZ law) can be stopped and hassled, probably for far more than a few minutes. And then there's the matter of how police officers are supposed to determine who looks like they're here legally or not; clearly that determination is always going to be made on the basis of race alone.

Even illegal immigration is not typically linked with more serious crime. Although there have been isolated cases of violence, such as the rancher who was killed, recent stats show that violent crime has actually decreased in Arizona even as the number of immigrants has gone up:

Finally, I'm concerned about what will come next if this law is allowed to stand. What would prevent states from requiring schools and hospitals to turn people in, or even jailing people who failed to turn in their neighbors? What really is the difference? Laws need to be enforced by the agency that has jurisdiction over them, so that the checks and balances are maintained.

Again, great discussion; I'm glad so many of you were engaged enough to stop by and contribute.

Kaija said...

Wow...great topic and thoughtful comments. We ARE a nation of immigrants and many of the fears and judgments being thrown the way of Hispanic immigrants were exactly the same ones being hurled at the earlier wave of Irish, Italian, Eastern European, etc. immigrants...some things we never seem to learn from.

My grandfather was technically an "illegal immigrant" who sneaked into the US via Canada while feeling conscription in the Russian army. Because he was Scandinavian and very "white", he got a lot of passes. His was the typical immigrant story, starting with back-breaking unskilled laborer jobs and working up to being a staunchly patriotic citizen and successful business owner. His extended family absorbed his values of hard work, education, and giving back to your community/those who need a hand.

As for the myths that immigrants use up all the free resources/don't contribute, here's a good link that debunks that tripe AND includes sources for their data!