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Immigrant Nation

May 4, 2006

I’m under the weather with an obnoxious cold today, so I made myself
stay home and slow down.  The extra two hours I would have spent
riding back and forth from work on SEPTA (Philly’s public transit
system), I’m using to rest and write.

The last couple weeks have been busy with preparations for another
national day of action on immigration reform.  On Monday, May
1–International Workers’ Day–another series of rallies and boycotts
were held across the country.  In Philadelphia, we had our own
rally at Independence Park, a poignant location with the backdrop of
Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell across the street.  At
least 1,000 immigrants and citizens, including myself, marched from the
American Friends Service Committee on Cherry Street to the rally
location, stopping traffic with our peaceful demonstration.  The
Latino immigrants chanted “Si, se puede” at intervals along the
way–“Yes, we can,” as in yes, we can win the right to live and work
without fear in the United States.

During the rally, six of us from the Day Without an Immigrant Coalition
met with a staffer in Senator Arlen Specter’s office, presenting 150+
petitions signed by U.S. citizens in support of our call for
comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform.  The staffer was
genuinely interested in what we had to say, asking questions and
sympathizing with our frustration over the inflated statistics that
anti-immigrant groups disseminate in defense of their supremacist
position on the issue.  I must say that I have been very pleased
with Senator Specter’s scrupulous politics over the past several
months; he’s not letting rhetoric or the Republican party line dictate
his decisions.

Take a look at http://www.brazilserv.org/photos.html for pictures from
the rally, including a bird’s eye view from Specter’s 16th-floor office.

Below I’m pasting an email exchange I had with someone who clearly
opposes comprehensive immigration reform.  I’ve received many such
emails over the past week, some less polite than others.  The
exchange reveals the xenophobic attitudes of many anti-immigrant
individuals as well as my own position on the issue.

April 27

Cori,
 
A
co-worker of mine forwarded a couple of messages that you wrote on
behalf of your organization, and after suffering through the smoke and
mirrors of the second one, I just had to respond.  As a common citizen
forced to work near and around illegal aliens, especially Brazilians
and others of South American descent, I felt the overarching need to
“open your eyes” to this nearly irreversible plague that is enveloping
our grand country.
 
There
are a lot of US citizens who cannot read, but I bet they still don’t
want all those child bearing, welfare receiving, taco eating greasers
over here either.  Come to think of it,  I haven’t exactly met that
many educated illegal aliens that cross the line.  The immigrants that
wish to capitalize on the sacrifices made by our countrymen should be
treated like the criminals they are – rounded up and sent back.  Until
the illegals have a revolution, die on the sands of some desolate
island in the South Pacific, fight Muslim insurgents in Iraq, they should not enjoy the rights we have worked for the past 200 + years to attain.
 
<!–
D(["mb","i.e. voting, federal service) goes hand in hand with social virtue on the national level. The founding fathers of Hiroshima or Nagasaki would have something to say about the social virtues of  employing Atomic Weaponry, don't you think?  The use of naked force has resolved more conflicts throughout history than all other methods combined, and the oft quoted phrase that violence never solves anything is promulgated by those who benefit from the protections offered by civilized governments to the point they no longer realize that violence is what allows them to speak against violence in the first place!  

Simply put, service to the country is just another extension of  required social morality, asn ambiguous as some seek to portray this important concept, and we as citizens should be subject to it at all times.  Were Paul Rever’s actions moral?  What about the morality of Bernard Getz, did he have it or not?  Looking at this in depth, it becomes clear that morality was the centerpiece in the United States decision to retaliate against Iraq; it wasn’t trickery or malfeasance at the national level, it was social virtue owed to the people.  So why can we not extend this morality to include the mass rounding up of illegal aliens?  It would be interesting to see how you, Cori, would answer these questions in reference to the greater good of our imperiled nation.
 
I look foward to hearing from you.
 
Greg

“,1]
);

//–> You
know, Cori, you seem to belong to one of those subsections of society
that acts as a barrier of sorts in dealing with many of today’s
problems which are themselves inherently societal problems.  Morality,
it seems, would support the decision to forcibly remove illegal aliens
rather than support their efforts to remain within the boundaries of
this great nation.  Is it not the moral obligation of citizens to
support the state in it’s efforts to protect the life, liberty, and
pursuit of happiness of United States citizens?  I like to couch this
term as Social Morality in which citizens of this country act on a
moral level for the greater good of the nation.    Social morality at
the individual level (i.e.
voting, federal service) goes hand in hand with social virtue on the
national level. The founding fathers of Hiroshima or Nagasaki would
have something to say about the social virtues of  employing Atomic
Weaponry, don’t you think?  The use of naked force has resolved more
conflicts throughout history than all other methods combined, and the
oft quoted phrase that violence never solves anything is promulgated by
those who benefit from the protections offered by civilized governments
to the point they no longer realize that violence is what allows them
to speak against violence in the first place!  

Simply
put, service to the country is just another extension of  required
social morality, as ambiguous as some seek to portray this important
concept, and we as citizens should be subject to it at all times.  Were
Paul Rever’s actions moral?  What about the morality of Bernard Getz,
did he have it or not?  Looking at this in depth, it becomes clear that
morality was the centerpiece in the United States decision to retaliate
against Iraq;
it wasn’t trickery or malfeasance at the national level, it was social
virtue owed to the people.  So why can we not extend this morality to
include the mass rounding up of illegal aliens?  It would be
interesting to see how you, Cori, would answer these questions in
reference to the greater good of our imperiled nation.

 
I look foward to hearing from you.

My response:
Hello,
 
Thank you for sharing your views with me and for giving me the
opportunity to respond.  I consider myself a moral person, as I can
tell you do of yourself, but our definitions of morality differ.  Allow
me to begin my response with the definition of morality that I live by
in my life. 
 
I believe that actions can only be moral if they do not
jeopardize the health and well being of other human beings, including
human beings of other nations.  I do not limit my morality to defending
the interests of my fellow U.S. citizens.  At the same time, I do not
exclude the health and well being of U.S. citizens when considering
what policies, programs, and actions would best benefit humanity as a
whole.
 
That being said, I believe that immigrants are a benefit to U.S.
society.  Our nation was not built by one set of immigrants that came
to the USA 200+ years ago, rather it is continually constructed and
improved by people from around the world who come here in search of
freedom and opportunity on a continuing basis.  The United States has
granted millions of these people the right to live, work, and vote here
because it knows that the type of individual who would leave his or
her home to come to a foreign place is the type of individual who is
extremely committed to making the most of the opportunities presented
to him or her.  Unfortunately, every so often, one of these individuals
turns out to be a criminal rather than an honest worker–but not at any
higher a rate than in our own native population. 
 
Furthermore, many immigrants earn their citizenship by fighting in
our wars for us, enabling as many U.S. citizens to stay home and work,
study, etc.  Were it not for immigrants seeking citizenship via this
route, many more U.S. citizens would have to risk their lives in war
than currently do.
 
I wasn’t quite clear as to what point you were trying to make in your last few sentences about Iraq
I agree that Saddam Hussein needed to be removed from his post in order
to pave the way for a better future for Iraqis and that this reasoning
is moral, although I’m not sure it was the USA’s place to do so.  It
seems contradictory, however, for you to think of the War in Iraq as a moral action but not supporting immigrants.  We went to Iraq
to spread freedom and democracy–stepping outside of our borders to do
so–so why would you not want to allow immigrants into our country who
seek these very virtues?  I disagree with your portrayal of immigrants
as greasy, taco-eating welfare recipients (perhaps you are unaware, but
the largest block of people on welfare is poor white women).  In my
experience, immigrants are hard-working, loving people who bring a
taste of the world to the USA with their restaurants, celebrations, and
languages.  Most of those that I have interacted with, which is a large
number, obey our laws and pay our taxes, even those who are here
illegally and will never be able to collect the Social Security
payments they now make when they are older.  They do this in the hope
that they will one day be granted citizenship and will be in good
standing with our government.  I suggest that you make an honest effort
to really get to know some of the immigrants that you work near and
around.  Find out what their stories are, what their families are
like.  Chances are they have many of the same hopes and dreams as you
do, and that they’ve felt the very same emotions over the courses
of their lives as you have during yours (love, fear, anxiety, etc.). 
<!–
D(["mb","

n

 

n

In supporting immigrants, I do not feel that I am a barrier to the advancement of the United States.  I believe that to spend the time and money needed to round up the 12 million undocumented workers in the USA–who certainly won`t offer to leave voluntarily–would consume precious resources that we could better spend on educating our children, caring for our elderly, and protecting our environment (and even spreading freedom to other countries–although I do not think that war is the best way to do that).  It is my opinion that nU.S. citizens who blame immigrants for our county’s ills–e.g., low wages–are pointing their fingers at the wrong group.  More to blame, I believe, are the leaders of huge corporations who make billions of dollars per year while their workers earn no higher than a poverty level income–and often without benefits.  Not that these corporate individuals are wholly to blame–indeed, there are many people and factors involved in our nation’s problems, including you and I–but their companies’ wage and workplace policies certainly could use some improvement.n

n

 

n

Our best bet for improving our country is for immigrants and natives alike to work together to demand better wages, better benefits, and better educations–to reclaim the rights won by workers’ movements at the turn of the century (was it the turn of the century?  I’m forgetting precisely when the union movement first arose in the USA), rights which seem to be slipping away in our ever-globalizing economy.n

n

 

n

I must get back to work now, but feel free to "counter"-respond.  I sincerely hope you’ll take me up on my suggestion to get to know some of the immigrants around you–not just by observing them, but by interacting with and conversing with them.  If they only speak Spanish or Portuguese, try to befriend them by utilizing the little English they know, perhaps offering to informally teach them more (ne.g., by pointing out items and saying their English name).  I can envision some laughter coming out of such interactions, and laughter always seems to be one of the best ways to put people at ease and encourage them to see each other as equals.n”,1]
);

//–>

 
In supporting immigrants, I do not feel that I am a barrier to the
advancement of the United States.  I believe that to spend the time and
money needed to round up the 12 million undocumented workers in the
USA–who certainly won`t offer to leave voluntarily–would consume
precious resources that we could better spend on educating our
children, caring for our elderly, and protecting our environment (and
even spreading freedom to other countries–although I do not think that
war is the best way to do that).  It is my opinion that U.S. citizens
who blame immigrants for our county’s ills–e.g., low wages–are
pointing their fingers at the wrong group.  More to blame, I believe,
are the leaders of huge corporations who make billions of dollars per
year while their workers earn no higher than a poverty level
income–and often without benefits.  Not that these corporate
individuals are wholly to blame–indeed, there are many people and
factors involved in our nation’s problems, including you and I–but
their companies’ wage and workplace policies certainly could use some
improvement.
 
Our best bet for improving our country is for immigrants and
natives alike to work together to demand better wages, better benefits,
and better educations–to reclaim the rights won by workers’ movements
at the turn of the century (was it the turn of the century?  I’m
forgetting precisely when the union movement first arose in the USA),
rights which seem to be slipping away in our ever-globalizing economy.
 
I must get back to work now, but feel free to “counter”-respond. 
I sincerely hope you’ll take me up on my suggestion to get to know some
of the immigrants around you–not just by observing them, but by
interacting with and conversing with them.  If they only speak Spanish
or Portuguese, try to befriend them by utilizing the little English
they know, perhaps offering to informally teach them more (
e.g., by pointing out items and saying their English name).  I can
envision some laughter coming out of such interactions, and laughter
always seems to be one of the best ways to put people at ease and
encourage them to see each other as equals.
<!–
D(["mb","

n

 

n

By the way, I’d be interested to know what writings of mine you read; I am unaware of any public messages I’ve written on behalf of BOSS.

n

 

n

~Corinne

 

“,1]
);

//–>

 
By the way, I’d be interested to know what writings of mine you
read; I am unaware of any public messages I’ve written on behalf of
BOSS.
 

~Corinne

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