Imagine 1

May 13th, 2008

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a young man in your 20s, trying to make your way in the world. You are married and have a young daughter, just old enough to start to talk. You live in a run-down neighborhood, long passed-over by any economic advances. What schools you had access to barely taught anyone much. The few jobs you can reach have fierce competition, even though the pay is low. You worry about your health, but even more about that of your wife and child. Finding food is a constant concern. Although you are still healthy now, and you are willing and able to be a hard worker, there is simply nobody hiring people in your area. Not to mention the gunfights that erupt between gangs or drug dealers. Oh, and did I mention that your wife is 4 months pregnant?

Your top priority is to do your best to keep your family safe. You’re afraid that your whole family will starve, or be killed by an errant bullet. You’ve tried for a long time — it seems like forever — to do everything you can think of, with no success. Finally, you decide that the only way you can have the hope for a better life is to move somewhere where the economy is better, and the drug dealers are fewer.

But moving hundreds or thousands of miles away is no easy task when you have no money to move. Somehow, with some luck, ingenuity, and tenacity, you have finally managed to find a way. You have no job offer in your new town, but conditions are so bleak at home that you just can’t risk staying there. So the three of you move 1500 miles away.

You arrive with no money, no apartment, and don’t know anybody. But you’re a hard worker, and have talked yourself into a job. It pays what passes for minimum wage in your new home, but it’s a fortune compared to what you made before. It’s backbreaking work, and you work long hours. But soon you can afford a cramped apartment, and keep your refrigerator stocked with food. What a luxury!

Pretty soon your new baby son is born. You can afford to feed him, your daughter, your wife, and yourself, every day. When you’re really lucky, you even have some money left over to send to your brother back home, who is still struggling to make ends meet there. You seem to have climbed the first rung on the American Dream ladder.

Years pass. Your old home becomes a memory; your daily life revolves around new struggles now. Your oldest child is in school, your wife finds part-time work sometimes too, cleaning houses for rich people. You’ve been laid off several times, your income isn’t guaranteed, and the others in your new home don’t take kindly to strangers — and they still think you’re one. But it’s better than flying bullets and never knowing where your next meal will come from.

Then one day, while you are at work, federal agents show up. You are arrested and taken to jail. Agents show up at home, too, arresting your wife. It turns out that they realized you entered the country illegally from Ecuador those years ago. Meanwhile, your wife wonders what will happen to your son that was playing in a neighbor’s yard while she was arrested, or to your daugther that was at school.

After months in jail, with little contact with each other, and poor medical care, the government decides to deport you to Mexico. Why Mexico? Well, it’s cheaper, and there’s no documentation showing where you came from. Apparently you “look” Mexican, and they don’t believe your story.

After months in jail with no income, you are once again bankrupt. A government bus takes you to Mexico and drops you down someplace there, with your wife and your oldest child. Your younger child was born in the United States, and so is an American citizen and can’t be deported. But the government isn’t going to give him a free ride on a prison bus (and Mexico wouldn’t take him anyway, since everyone knows he’s American). You have no idea where he is. You have no idea how you’re going to find food in Mexico, no idea how to find your son, no idea where to find refuge from the ever more prevalent drug dealers. Meanwhile, the Americans think you’re scum because you wanted to protect your family, and it’s going to be much more difficult to get back in to try to reunite your family.

This story is based on true events.

It’s truly easy to demonize illegal immigrants, isn’t it? Easy to round them up by the thousands, easy to build a bigger fence, easy to lock them away.

Sometimes it seems like this nation built on freedom, supposedly on Christian values, has lost sight of compassion for the lowly. In this country, we would throw in jail parents that didn’t do everything humanly possible to find food for their children. We also throw in jail parents that grew up in other countries that are just doing the same.

How sad that we have people going on TV, suggesting we round up millions of Americans that happened to come here illegally, breaking up millions of families, creating an immense foster child problem, a human tragedy on a mass scale. How incredible that some of these people on TV wear the title “senator” or “candidate for president”. How stupid do they think we are, suggesting that a poor South American family would somehow be able to navigate the arcane American immigration system and wait the 15 years to get here legally, if they manage to come up with all the necessary money somehow?

Politicians have been pushing our buttons for too long. We aren’t a nation of selfish hoarders; we came together through tough times, survived the Depression, put in place the Berlin Airlift that saved countless lives in West Berlin. But the thought of someone with darkish skin coming to this country and building highways is enough to send some people looking for a rifle.

I hope that we will someday do better.

Categories: Freedom

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Comments Feed14 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Well said.

    Reply

    Anonymous Reply:

    Im not much of a ‘reader’ but you got my attention

    Reply

  2. jlr

    I wonder why we’ve decided that this whole class of people should be ‘illegal’. In better times they could have immigrated legally.

    I blogged about this [url=http://dreaming-in-rlyeh.blogspot.com/2008/04/illegal-immigrants.html]recently[/url].

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    What a wonderful point and post. You’re quite right, and it’s high time we all revisit the notion that legality does not equal morality.

    Reply

  3. blah

    Just a minor factual correction: The Marshall Plan is not directly related to US support for West Berlin or even the Berlin Airlift. Actually, one could even argue that the Marshall Plan was one of the reasons for the Berlin Blockade in the first place. The way you expressed it turns things around, mixes up the reason and its result.

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    Quite right. Article fixed above.

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    I’ve known about this problem for a long time, but I only recently heard a good explanation of the solution: if you remove the massive welfare/handout/redistribution programs the US has in place, no further reason exists to prevent as many people from coming as want to work. Furthermore, you simultaneously remove the reason for much unwanted immigration: while some immigrants come to the US to work, others come to the US hoping they’ll get taken care of.

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    I have heard that argument before, and frankly, I’m unconvinced. I am not aware of any American jurisdiction where illegal immigrants qualify for welfare or other government assistance. The only thing I know of that they may sometimes receive is an elementary education, but even then you’re often talking about the American citizen children of illegal immigrants, and having a vast population of uneducated immigrants is not in our interests, or theirs.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an illegal immigrant coming to the United States in hopes of handouts. Every one I’ve heard of came here expecting to work, or was so young at the time that it was not their decision to migrate in the first place.

    Reply

  5. Russ

    Imagine that you are knowingly breaking the law by not applying for the appropriate visas. Not only that, but you are doing so at the peril of your own family.

    Reply

  6. Tshepang

    Quite a painful story you tell, making me feel so god damn lucky. Interestingly, here in South Africa, there’s been recent attacks of poor foreigners, with a few murders and multiple injuries. That sucks hard:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7404351.stm

    Reply

  7. Sam

    Yes lets get obama in office ASAP. Then we can start handing these people grants and free college scholarships. Then all the poor people will have bachelor degrees and they will all talk about how they worked so hard to get their degree and thus make mine useless. Then when I want to pay people $5 to do intensive labor on my farm I won’t be able to because they will all be too smart and lazy and maybe fat. Then the US will have to buy its “fresh” fruits and vegetables from china and kawackistan like everything else.

    So you have proven that you have a heart but do you have a brain?

    Reply

    Noah Reply:

    As you have demonstrated, perhaps a devaluation (reevaluation?) of one’s academic credentials may not be such a bad idea, grade inflation notwithstanding.

    Two ways of solving the problem of people gaming the system: (1) don’t teach them higher-order thinking skills, e.g. math, science, etc., or (2) redirect their desires to gaming higher (non-human?) systems, e.g. the laws of physics, biochemistry, etc.

    Yes, I too wank off while flexing my intellectual dollar getting those otherwise lazy asses slave on my farm.
    How their skins, dirty from foul earth, offend me! Ugh.

    Not for me to play G-d and grow an Einstein from turd. My mom taught me better than that. Keep the pearls among the pure skins of the family. Never before swine.

    Brainless I may be, but at least I don’t go around telling young women I’m the son of G-d. (And they believed me!)

    I don’t play G-d. Does anyone?

    Reply

  8. Sam

    Oh and also I might add that I am 25 and I have never had sex. So why is it ok for poor people that can not afford children to have sex and then they get hand outs because everyone feels so bad for them. This does not make sense. If someone does something that will make life hard for them, guess what, life will be hard for them.

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    To me, health care is a basic human right. It is not the child’s fault what sort of circumstances the parents are in. Children are the most vulnerable in society, and in fact, failing to provide proper preventative health care is generally thought to be more expensive to the rest of us in the long run.

    Reply

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