Responses to my initial piece speak to how difficult it is to discuss illegal immigration in the US these days. But make no mistake about it, illegal immigration is a nationwide issue as noted in our presidential campaigns. The US has been building a border fence for several years to slow down the flow of illegal Hispanic immigrants entering the US. This immigration is felt at local levels.
“Immigration Gumballs” is a YouTube video that addresses this issue on a macro level by using gumballs to illustrate various points, including the ever- increasing influx of immigrants. Consistent with the information provided in this video, I too have noted an increase in immigration locally such as a significant increase in the number of students who wait at our school bus stop. The number of students has gone from fewer than 5 students when my daughters were growing up to perhaps 25+ students who appear to be Hispanic who may be here illegally. I am using the term “Hispanic” to verify the info on the video and identify a group when discussing immigration no differently than presidential candidates identify groups like women, blacks or Latino when discussing campaign strategies. We need to know about whom we are speaking and what we are talking about. That is not racial. That is communication.
At times the immigration discussion is cast as a racial issue but that perception does not ring true. Other than the turf wars between Hispanic and black gangs, following the news I do not hear of racially motivated crimes in the general population. I lived in a state in which there was a far greater influx of Hispanics than in NJ. There I noticed that Hispanic people got jobs and opened businesses and intermarried, blending in with Texan culture. My daughter is a guidance counselor in an Abbott district with a significant Hispanic community and she reports there is no racial tension among her students. I am hard-pressed to see any major racially motivated components with respect to the illegal immigration debate. Insisting there are seems to give racial tension false life and to introduce unnecessary hard feelings. It clouds the issue.
Concerns about illegal immigration, and they are national level concerns, center on money, limited resources, lost jobs and violation of the law. There seem to be two types of immigrants that enter our country in addition to those who seek political asylum. There are the skilled ‘techie’ immigrants who see the opportunity to use their skills here. These immigrants contribute more to the economy than they utilize. Then, there are the unskilled who come for a better life they cannot seem to achieve on their own. Among these are a large number of Hispanic people who are entering here illegally. Hence the fence. These folks make more demands on the economy than they contribute to it. So we are running at a deficit here. It hits the billions. This translates into a greater financial burden being placed on the shoulders of the average American. In 1990 each native NJ household was contributing $200+ to subsidize illegal immigration. I do not have more current figures.
America is a nation of laws not a nation of personal discretion. It has been an immensely successful nation achieved by observing that model, observing the law. And we would hope that America would not be challenged by other peoples of other countries who would disregard our laws no matter the intention. We expect all Americans, no matter their station, to obey the law. The dictum ---No one is above the law---is a deeply held tenet of American political thought. And the influx of illegal immigrants flies in the face of that dictum. Simultaneously, a compassionate people by tradition, Americans try to mitigate the impact of that principle if possible to be generous and understanding of other people’s hardships.
Trained in ethics, I have the concern that by not addressing this issue, we are enabling the development of a second class citizenry, one that does not have full rights as citizens. This will lead to more inequities and social problems. So our leaders need to lead. They need to hammer out a solution and get the ball rolling in a better direction here. Do I have a magic answer? Of course not…but we have not even as a nation begun to diligently address the problem. This cannot continue.