Given the emotional and deeply divided and entrenched debate around immigration issues going on throughout our great nation, I thought I would try to bring some rational thought to this open discussion in America. Let me know what you think….
On the practical level, yes, we need stronger borders, and we need to better enforce our nation’s laws here.
And yes, we need to insure that folks pay their way, and contribute their fair share.
But no, we should not criminalize illegal immigration. Criminality is not so much about the act, but the intent behind it, which is precisely why in one death it might be determined that someone died (as a result of an accident), while in another it might be determined that they were killed (an act of malice). Latino’s coming from Mexico and other places are not trying to destroy America, nor hurt me or us. They are coming because we have done too good of a job marketing a great idea; freedom, prosperity and the American dream. That is why they are coming. We should try to find a way to honor that, while managing our necessary and even essential limits on publicly funded compassion, as well as a call for a heightened sense of personal accountability by illegal immigrants themselves.
That said, the broader illegal immigrant community in America should have to help pay their way. I would even be for instituting some sort of special tax, similar in many ways to the controversial cigarette tax, which would be paid from wages earned in America (by those found to be here illegally); funds which would in turn help offset the enormous public expense associated with medical care, public education and other public services and subsidies enjoyed by those who find themselves in America. Expenses and costs which I might add are driving and fueling a good deal of the latent resentment around illegal immigrants in general. Said tax might become effective either on the third occasion that an immigrant is found to be living within the U.S. illegally, or after three years of their living in the U.S. (as documented through their ITIN number), whichever comes first. Every dream, including the American dream, has a price.
Note: this odd relationship with individuals not exactly legal in America, but forced to pay their fare share of their cost and/or responsibility to society, is not exactly a new idea. When the U.S. Justice Department could not convict Al Capone on serious charges tied to purported illegal behavior, the IRS convicted him on income tax evasion instead. That activities in question were clearly illegal were not in fact in question at all, but that did not stop Uncle Sam from wanting his fair share.
On the Black and Latino issue, I said recently at the national conference for the National Forum of Black Public Administrators, “black folk in Los Angeles are upset because the significant rise of the Mexican population. I don’t understand why. Latinos are simply coming back to get “their stuff,” in a manner of speaking. I mean, what do we think Los Angeles means anyway? I continued, “Black folks better learn to put some salsa on their bar-b-que in coming years.” Message: we are all in this together, and in many ways our Latino brothers and sisters are the future.
There is enough poverty – and prosperity – to go around. We are all in this together.
There is an old saying, “you can take no pleasure from the fact that there is a hole in my end of our boat.” We are all in this together.
On civil rights to silver rights. One of the reasons that progressive minded African-Americans have not been seen publicly supporting Latino leaders on the immigration debate is that this debate is largely a traditional, basic and even “classic” civil rights issue, similar to the ones wages by black America 40 years ago. While much still needs to be done in the vineyards of civil rights, many new leaders of today are focusing on what we call the “silver rights” issue of tomorrow; or the economics of freedom, prosperity and opportunity in America. In other words, for mainstream black America it is not so much just about traditional civil rights battles in the streets, though there are still important battles that still need to be won, but emerging “silver rights” battles and challenges in the suites. Same battle for social justice, but a different time, tactic and strategy. Make no mistake, we are with them in spirit.
On the spiritual and social justice front, Dr. King, the year he was killed, was focused on “The Poor People’s Campaign,” which was a campaign for and inclusive of poor blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, etc.” Moving them all up the economic ladder. The Bible does not say help the “black poor,” it says the poor. That’s all of us. We are all in this together.
On the business front, the “immigrant (of every ethnic group) as essential entry level worker” argument is an easy one to make in a capitalist country looking for the lo
west price, the most efficient means of production, and the highest rate of return on its investment; particularly in an information age where everyone I know is scrambling up the economic ladder as fast as they can, looking for more money and frankly, less hard labor, tied mostly to increased education and job readiness. If immigrants who happen to also be illegal stop doing a great deal of the entry level work in American industry and commerce, frankly I don’t know who would.
On the economic front, this is a real and substantive economic issue to wrestle with as well, and speaks to the very structure of our current economy. Bill Marriott, CEO of Marriott Hotels, reports that approximately half of all his workers are immigrants. And he is not talking about Germans here.
We should not punish the CEO when law enforcement fail to do it job, nor should we seek to draft the CEO as our newest law enforcement officer, when that was never their job to do in the first place. Making a crap load of money and arresting folks are two completely different skill sets. Let’s keep folks in their lane.
We need to find a way to give immigrants who are in America illegally both personal dignity and public responsibility at the same time.
We are all immigrants! Save the native Indians and black folks, who effectively got on the wrong boat, everyone else amongst the close to 300 million citizens that call themselves Americans came by way of parents, grand parents or great grant parents who were immigrants, both legal and not. The only difference is a lot of these immigrants looked European and hailed from places such as Germany and Italy and Poland and Russia. We are all vagabonds, coming to America.
This is also the business of diversity in action. Diversity is not a goodie-goodie issue, it is a business issue. Always has been. And diversity is a business strength too. Always has been. At the end of the day America is the largest and most successful economy in the world almost precisely because we are also the most ethnically diverse place on the planet. The only nation in the world where every race of people in the world lives within its borders.
You do not do business with governments or countries, we do business with people. People increasingly who look just like the ones now coming from Mexico and other Latin American trading partners. The largest U.S. export to Mexico are remittances (wire transfers) from Mexicans earning a living, increasingly paying taxes, and otherwise contributing to the economy through everything from retail consumer sales to home sales, right here at home. Individuals, and the newest wave of American immigrants, looking to help us write the next chapter of what we call the American dream. Add salsa.
Just me taking out loud. More to come later….
Of course, let me know what you think. Interested.
Onward, with HOPE