When Immigrants Kill

Politically of course...All right, so I'm playing devil's advocate here. All I ask is that you hear me out. I'm going to use my own experience to explain why I think the common American is so far out in the extreme on the issue of immigration and why I think it will kill the left.

I have consistently argued in the past on this blog that Immigration is the one political issue that can yank the floor from beneath the Democratic Party without it even knowing. I'd like to take the time to explain why I think the psyche of America has become so anti-immigrant by using my own experiences.

However, my experience with immigration in my neighborhood may explain the animosity toward them we see today, even among first, second and third generation Americans who descend from people with similar circumstances. When I was 16, I went out looking for a job to keep myself occupied after school. I looked for something that can pay around $6 an hour, at least that's what I would put on my applications. I applied for many well-known national chain drug stores and supermarkets, but failed to get any jobs. After a few years, I gave up (I was graduating high school anyway.) What I remember about those days was the number of people, immigrants from Eastern Europe and the West Indies, who worked in these places I had applied to. They had a grasp on English and are warm people, but I remember expressing anger that they had gotten jobs that I, a natural born American, could not get. Later, I found out from a friend that a job she had been trying to get for me at a local establishment went to an immigrant who wanted minimum wage (which was about $5 back then.)

I honestly believe had I grown up anywhere other than Queens and a similar situation occured to me, I would've become the angry anti-immigrant like those who seem to overpopulate our country.

Even the most liberal Democrats I know, families and friends, tend to knock on immigrants. Among the quotes I've heard are;

"It's hard for us Americans to find jobs because immigrants will do the work for less"
"Because of them you need to speak Spanish to get anywhere and that's sad"
"Our ancestors came here in disease-ridden dirty smelly boats and had to go through intense red tape at Ellis Island, why do these Mexicans get to run across the border with no one stopping them"
"Why can't we just force immigrants to go through Ellis Island again?"

Now, like I said, I was lucky. I'm an educated person, expose to all kinds of immigrants; legal and illegal. I have a good friend of mine who immigrated from Eastern Europe about 17 years ago and is more American than some Americans. My positive experiences with immigrants as friends and acquaintances has allowed me to overlook the negative experiences of feeling like I couldn't get a part-time job because I was a white English speaking American who wanted to get paid a fair wage. However, most of America do not have these experiences, only the negative type that I previously discussed. Therefore, it should come as little surprise there is strong animosity toward immigrant communities today.

It bothers people when they speak their language. It bothers them when they fly the flag of their own country. It bothers them when do a job for little money that an American would do for a wage they deserved. It bothers people when immigrants come to the United States to have their children to "take advantage" of our citizenship laws. (although my grandmother did this, she still complains about it when "Latinos" do it)

Especially in this post 9-11 word, Americans see immigrants as threatening forces, here to work for as little as possible, thereby driveing down wages for the rest of us and helping fat cats get fatter. They see immigrants as people who have no respect for "American culture," which to them includes the English language.

It's not that Lou Dobbs convinced them and brainwashed them, it's that Lou Dobbs is saying what people are thinking.

So what does this have to do with politics? Well, as we have seen, things for the GOP are one way or the other, and the Republican Party has done an excellent job framing the Democratic Party as pro-immigrant and therefore Anti-American.

I live in Queens, New York, which is the most ethnically diverse county in America, and that is an understatement if you ask me. I count myself blessed the stork dropped me off here. Growing up, I have been able to partake not only in the cuisine and culture of my Italian ancestors, but also tasted the best Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, German, and Mexican food, as well as the best Roast Beef sandwiches from the best Jewish delis this side of Tel Aviv. I have had a chance to experience Cinco de Mayo, Passover, St. Patrick's Day and and Diwali with my friends and their families growing up, as well as our own holidays (Christmas, Easter, Columbus Day.) I learned three other languages other than English mainly from immigrant friends; Italian, Spanish and Greek and I've picked up plenty of Hebrew. On my street, I have for neighbors Italians, Scots-Irish, Indians, Filipinos, Guyanese, Germans, Russians, Dominicans, and African-Americans. I'm truly blessed, as a second generation American, to have experienced all of this. I have absolutely no animosity whatsoever for our immigrant friends. It is because of my ancestors and these present immigrants Queens is the masterpiece it is today.

I believe the way Democrats take back the issuse is to highlight the plight of immigrants in America. Prove to them that they are not a resource-sucking population looking to get free handouts meant for Americans. At the same time, Democrats need to get strong on undocumented workers. If legal immigrants anger Americans as much as it seems to me they do, even here in Queens, imagine what people think when they here illegal immigrants? People don't like Congress and the President because they don't feel like their fighting for the people, Law-obiding American citizens. When a President or party begins supporting the legalization of illegal immigrnats, Americans feel that their government cares more about people who came here illegally then the descendants of those who came here legally.

I truly believe this is the issue that can and will mortally would Democrats. We need to formulate a policy here, but one that is fair and popular to the people. It takes time, but if we're going to show some gonzo now, we'd better do it this way, and not do the Eliot Spitzer "I don't care that it's unpopular, I'm doing it anyway" approach.

Spitzer got nailed on this issue and the rest of the party may too I'm afraid.

Tags: ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, immigration, Lou Dobbs, Mexico, New York (all tags)

Comments

21 Comments

I am not sure what to think

"Here to work for as little as possible," you say?

That is not my experience at all.  North Carolina is no stranger to immigration - legal or illegial.  I believe we are said to have the 4th highest population of illegial immigrants in the country.  

Regardless, those latin Americans that I see appear to be a very hard working bunch.  Most seem to work long days and often work 6 or 7 days a week.  Some work two jobs.

Some do this just to get by and raise families on low wages.  Others save a lot of thier money, and send a lot of money back home to other family members in need.

by dpANDREWS 2007-11-20 03:49AM | 0 recs
My bad

I read your post twice and still thought it said work as little as possible ... not "for as little as possible".

Still my experience here in NC, and I live around and have worked on consruction sites with a lot of latin Americans is that by and large the vast majority are hard working people simply looking for a better life and willing to do things that many of us would not consider to get it.

I am not sure how it is in other parts of the country but here in the Carolinas there seems to be enough work to go around.  I don't hear about many people having trouble finding work unless a textile plant closes abruptly and a local market is flooded with a large number of lay offs immediately.  The worst of that is behind, unfortunately there are not many more plants left to close.

by dpANDREWS 2007-11-20 05:03AM | 0 recs
My friend in CA

does construction and rehab. He employs his family.  

Recently, he has had a lot of trouble getting work to keep everyone going.  My friend is very hard-working and all that.  However, when you get in a bunch of people who undercut the wage system, it's really difficult to compete.

In the 80s, mexicans came here for ag work.  They have been working their way up the ladder, displacing Americans as they go.  These jobs are good paying jobs, and illegals should not be allowed to displace Americans.  We need a firm permit check system, and we need to penalize employers who hire illegals.

by dataguy 2007-11-20 06:15AM | 0 recs
why?

that's how your ancestors got a foothold here most likely.  They came and were willing to work harder for less money than Americans.  

by MollieBradford 2007-11-20 06:57AM | 0 recs
Re: My friend in CA

The people who are undercutting the wage system are the employers who choose to hire illegal workers.

by LakersFan 2007-11-20 09:26AM | 0 recs
Economics undercuts

When there is a supply, the demand will arise.  If the supply is larger than the demand, the price will drop. This is Econ 101.

In this case, the supply is the supply of labor.  As the number of illegals rises, the cost of labor drops. This is great if you are an employer, but not if you are a laborer.  If you own a small firm that employs your family, you cannot pay your labor less, as the competition does, to get jobs.  Rather, you get fewer jobs.  Eventually, the lower-cost labor drives out the higher cost.  If we have a market flooded with illegals, American workers will get driven out of the market.

This is not just construction, of course.  This is happening in many industries.

by dataguy 2007-11-20 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Economics undercuts

Economics 101 doesn't take into consideration labor laws. They are being broken by the employers.

You can't use a "supply and demand" to determine wages or else we'll all be working 60 hours a week, with no benefits, and our kids would be going to work everyday instead of school.

We have laws in this country that protect workers and establish minimum wages, maximum hours, taxes and insurance that need to be paid, etc. The employers are breaking the law on all sorts of levels, and if it weren't for illegal immigrants, they'd just find the most disadvantaged group of citizens to exploit instead.

by LakersFan 2007-11-20 10:04AM | 0 recs
Huh?

"When a President or party begins supporting the legalization of illegal immigrnats, Americans feel that their government cares more about people who came here illegally then the descendants of those who came here legally."

Of course, if by 'legally' you mean murdering the people here and forcibly taking whatever they wanted, I suppose that is correct.

The fact is that most Americans are completely ignorant of the situation.  That is... what they think is happening is not happening.

We cannot deal with the situation realistically and pander to ignorance.  Just like you couldn't simultaneously plan mission to Mars and cater to the belief that the Sun revolves around the Earth.  The two actions are mutually exclusive.

You are right about some of this, though.  People do feel this way... the countr is going to shit and immigrants are always a great scapegoat.

But I will NOT support any policy or strategy that further demonizes immigrants.  The way I see it, Democrats are only JUST better than Republicans anyway (because they always fold and the GOP get what itwants anyway, they just have to go through a middleman now).  If they adopt the GOP frame on this issue, they lose even that distinction.

Why have them in power?  To cater to the same ignorance and petty hatred.  So that WE can be the ones demonizing immigrabnts, giving everything away to the rich and corporate classes and expanding our global war on anything and anyone who doesn't plunder their own country for our benefit?  Sorry - I'm not fighting for that.  I really don't care if the person imposing the 'Washington Consensus' on Venezuela by invasive use of force has a -D or -R after their name and state.

by teknofyl 2007-11-20 05:28AM | 0 recs
my most recent immigrant ancestors

came in the 1850s or earlier.  Most of them, the vast majority came in the 1600s, the earliest greeting those who stepped off the Mayflower. A few miles from here is a monument for the Battle Of Wyoming and on it are the names of a (multiple) great grandfather and several Uncles.  I have an ancestor who was a general in the Revolutionary war who fought several famous battles, one he won and one he lost. My ancestors were Yankees and abolitionists.  
Now I live in NE. PA.  I have some friends who are Italian and they are about two generations removed from grandparents who came here and never learned more than a little bit of English,  Yet they bitch about constantly about Latinos who don't learn english and have taken over the local markets.
My friend is a teacher and a democrat and will vote that way, but her daughter who has a boyfriend twice her age who is a dumbass bigot is all up in arms about the illegals and thinks the mayor of Hazleton PA, Lou Barletta is a big hero is probably going to vote for the republicans.
It amazes me, I grew up in a heavily Italian area of Schenectady NY and most of my friends had grandparents living with them and most of them spoke no enlish and now that we are all middle aged suddenly the most recent accepted immigrants, the Italians, the slavic etc.... want to roll up the welcome mat.
Ugh, I say let's roll it up and get rid of everyone who came after 1860.  
It is only the last 5 years that there were any laws at all about Immigrants.  Most of our ancestors had no impediments to coming here at all.  If they could have walked across a border "illegally" they would have. But only the fact that they couldn't swim the Atlantic Ocean kept them from just showing up whenever they felt like it. Europeans are no more inherently law abiding than central and south Americans or Asians.
So people had to go through Ellis Island. BooHoo, my ancestors stepped off the Mayflower and half of them died the first winter.  We all have our sad stories.

I know someone who hires mexicans for construction work. They have documentation and as far as he knows it may or may not be legitimate.  He pays them they same as everyone else and when there is extra work he keeps them on the extra hours or brings them in on a saturday.  The reason is because they work harder. You didn't lose out because you wanted an extra dollar an hour.  If someone was going to hire you they would have told you what the job paid.  If your story is true, you lost out because recent Latino immigrants have a reputation for working their ass off to make it in this country. And so they will.

by MollieBradford 2007-11-20 05:29AM | 0 recs
tha should read

it is only the last 50 years that there are laws and quotas governing who comes here.

by MollieBradford 2007-11-20 05:36AM | 0 recs
Irrelevant

It is simply irrelevant WHEN the laws about immigration came about.  The situation 100 years ago (about when the quotas were established, not 50 years ago; read "Ship of fools" by Katherine Ann Porter to understand the immigration problems suffered by Jews prior to WWII) was very different than today.  100 years ago, we had plenty of room for anyone.  Today, we do not.

Things change over time, and the laws change to reflect that.  As such, comparing the situation 100 years ago is silly.  

We need to come up with a system of laws and quotas for today.  We need quotas, and we need to ensure that the quotas are respected.  We cannot accept the entire world in the US.  As such, we must ensure that a sensible subset of the world is allowed, and that persons who jump the line and cheat do not gain an advantage.  That's only fair and only right.  Giving cheaters a leg up is not only stupid, but it is wrong, in the most fundamental sense.

by dataguy 2007-11-20 06:22AM | 0 recs
Not as far as I am concerned

I think there stopped being room right after my last ancestors came in the 1850s.  If yours came after that, get the hell out of my country.

by MollieBradford 2007-11-20 07:00AM | 0 recs
You don't know much about immigration,

and that's too bad.  

When a law like an immigration quota is passed, no one cares about what happened before.  That was then, this is now.

So, now we have quotas.  Quotas make a sensible, rational system possible.  We need quotas, since we cannot take the entire world.  

If you believe we can I suggest you open your house up.  Some poor immigrant deserves it more than you, so leave it to them.  If you believe that your house belongs to you, rather than to the Oneida, perhaps you should give it to the immigrants.

NE PA is pretty close to NY. In NY, the indians claim that they own much of the land.  Possibly your house?  Maybe you should exorcize your guild and give it to the Indians.  Then you will be a free and clear person.

by dataguy 2007-11-20 07:14AM | 0 recs
Re: You don't know much about immigration,

Some of my ancestors were native Americans. I'll claim some land on the Mystic river thank you very much.  = )  

I do not recognize quotas.  I think this country was over crowded right after my ancestors came here.  It is your ancestors who crowded in and ruined this country. Now there is not enough room for everyone to have their own land and a farm to be totally self sufficient.  Maybe if you all hadn't come here we wouldn't be worrying so much about jobs, everyone would be feeding themselves.

On top of that all of my ancestors spoke English when they came here with the exception of native Americans.  So we were not a drain on the school system... oh wait, we invented the school system. We built it and funded it, along with all of the great universities.
We wrote the constitution and fought the Revolutionary and Civil wars.  Then the whole thing went to hell when your ancestors came over running our beautiful cities, speaking other languages taking advantage of all that we had built, taking jobs from Americans, working for low pay and just generally bringing ways that were unlike my northern western European ancestors who had so beautifully built this nation.  
When the Poles, Ukrainians came to work the mines in Pa they weren't satisfied to just do that and go back, they stayed and moved up the ladder taking jobs from real Americans.
When Italians came to work in factories in the cities, they couldn't be satisfied with that, rather than rejoining their wives back in Italy, they brought them here and were willing to do anything to make it in this country and not all of it was legal.  They should get the hell out.  What  laws did they have to meet? None, they just had to be disease free.

Really life for all us WASPS was much better before the rest of you got here.

by MollieBradford 2007-11-20 07:46AM | 0 recs
I agree with your perspective

There are plenty of immigrants who come here legally.  I support these immigrants. My grandparents were legal immigrants.

I don't support illegal immigrants.  We have plenty of poor people with low skills who can do the crap jobs that immigrants take.  We need the crap jobs for our own poor.  

We also need far fewer H-1B and green card immigrants.  These scabs come in and take the good jobs that our students need.  We do not need a bunch of crap scabs from India taking our jobs.

Recent surveys show that we do NOT have a huge number of unfilled jobs.  Rather, we have plenty of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) grads to fill those jobs.

Immigration is an important issue.  Democrats need to support 1) legal immigrants 2) a sensible temporary program like the bracero program to bring in temporary ag workers and 3) reserve American jobs for Americans.

The most progressive, advanced position is to find jobs for our own people.  That's progressive.  It is NOT progressive to say that immigrants deserve jobs that Americans should take because they are poor.  That's just stupid.

by dataguy 2007-11-20 06:11AM | 0 recs
Re: I agree with your perspective

How do you know your grandparents were legal?  What made them legal?  They met some quota?  If they could have walked across a border to feed their starving family I bet they would have.

And we don't have lots of poor people willing to do the jobs the "illegal" immigrants do. If we did, we wouldn't have the problems we have.  There are farm communities in the midwest that would be in big trouble without "illegal" immigrants. They aren't scabs, they are paying taxes the same as the rest of us, they are not taking union job.  The vast majority are not undercutting wages.  Many  ARE using fake documentation and getting decent paying jobs in right to work states where they are beating the hell out of the local labor pool in willingness to work hard.  
I am afraid that the days you long for are never going to come.  Stop blaming other people for what has always been.  People willing to work harder than anyone else will succeed.

by MollieBradford 2007-11-20 07:20AM | 0 recs
I see that you are FIRMLY convinced

of the rights of plenty of others to lose their jobs so that some illegal can have it.

Mighty generous of you.  I admire that.  It's sort of immigration chickenhawkery.  You volunteer others to lose their homes and jobs so that some persons from other countries can have them.

Generous to a fault you are.

by dataguy 2007-11-20 08:58AM | 0 recs
Re: When Immigrants Kill

Dixicrats are back!

by Dee 2007-11-20 07:24AM | 0 recs
Re: When Immigrants Kill

Just to clarify, there have been Immigration laws with quotas limiting the number of "undesireable" immigrants since 1924, particularly aimed at immigrants from the Asia/Pacific region.

by dctransplant 2007-11-20 08:29AM | 0 recs
Re: When Immigrants Kill

As a 16-year old high-school student, you were asking for more than minimum wage and were surprised that they hired a non-student who was willing to work for minimum wage? It doesn't sound like your experience has anything to do with immigration. But it sure was a clever way to write a diary with a lot of negative stereotypes about immigrants while claiming that you're tolerant of diversity.

by LakersFan 2007-11-20 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: I think you missed the point
You blamed immigrants when you were "young, ignorant and uneducated", but you got those ideas somewhere. (Probably from your family and friends judging from the quotes you provided.)
My point is, you may not have been quite as tolerant as you believed yourself to be. Many people would never blame immigrants for not getting that job, even if they are young and/or uneducated. Either way, it's good that you recognize this now.
by LakersFan 2007-11-20 10:55AM | 0 recs

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