I recently saw a social media post about Sirajh Ibn Wahhaj, the man charged with keeping 11 children in squalid conditions in New Mexico and training them to carry out school shootings as terrorist act.
The comment accompanying the link to an article said “And Democrats want to let thousands more in.” Of course, the poster was referring to illegal immigrants and people from certain countries or religious faiths.
There are two problems with the assumptions behind that post.
First, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj is not an immigrant. He was born and raised in New York City.
Second, and more important, is the implicit message that immigrants, especially undocumented aliens, pose a threat to the security and economic health of America.
I don’t embrace the positions staked out be either of the major political parties or hew to either end of the political spectrum. However, that doesn’t mean I ignore what is going on.
It also doesn’t mean that I ignore decades of personal experience.
I live just outside of a large city that has a tremendously diverse population. Over the course of the nearly four decades that I have lived in this city, I have worked with and known people from a number of different countries. Some of the experiences have been good; some not so good, but I have benefited from all of them in one way or another.
The one thing I know is that my life would have been poorer without them.
My ancestors came to the U.S. primarily from Scotland, England and France. I have it on reasonable authority that at least some of my predecessors were one step ahead of the sheriff (one of the families from my ancestry was rather notorious for the misappropriation of livestock). I have neighbors and people that I encounter in my daily life whose arrival in the U.S. is more recent. This includes people of Hispanic, Middle Eastern and African descent.
My pharmacist is from Nigeria. One of my best friends and a well-respected pastor is from South Africa. The assistant manager at a store I frequent is Pakistani; he’s a great guy and I am always glad to see him. The man who owns the lawn service company we have used for several years was born in Mexico. My younger son’s best friend’s parents are from Columbia. The list goes on and on.
I am glad that every one of these people has come to the United States. I have known some people whose entry into this country was more informal; every one of them worked their butts off to send money back home.
The people of the United States make up the third-largest nation on earth and quite frankly none of us are native to this continent. We are all immigrants; some of us just arrived a bit earlier.
No one seems to care that in the overwhelming majority of cases, legal and illegal immigrants bring a lot more to our nation’s prosperity that they cost in public assistance and shared services.
No, we’d rather bitch about a vanishingly small percentage of these people that become a problem or present a threat. We complain about the use of social services when most of the “undesirables” using them pay taxes just like the rest of us. They even pay taxes for benefits they will never receive, such as Social Security.
Our historical antipathy towards some immigrants is well-documented. The more well-informed of our population remember that late 19th Century gun control laws in many states were enacted to prevent newly freed blacks from possessing guns. Almost nobody knows that California, the poster state for the gun ban fans, enacted its first major statewide gun control law in large part to keep guns out of the hands of Chinese immigrants. That’s because some Chinese gangs in the San Francisco area were acting like, well, gangs.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that when it came to workers and entrepreneurs, the Chinese were an asset. There’s no way to know how many miles of western railroad track were laid by what was known as “coolie labor.”
In the past, we have erected barricades to immigration targeted on certain racial or ethnic groups. History has shown that these barriers were neither productive nor even particularly successful. Eventually, their desire to come to America — and our need for them — won out.
I am not saying that we should have completely open borders. On the other hand, I am saying we shouldn’t have completely closed minds.
If we don’t have a reason to deport someone who is being productive and not making trouble, why should we be spending billions of dollars shipping off people who are just making things better, including being willing to take on jobs that we don’t want?
What jobs are they taking? Are American citizens lining up to work in poultry processing plants or to be migrant field hands for marginal wages? I don’t know, why don’t we ask the farmers in some states who are desperately looking for workers to harvest crops? Why don’t we ask some of the companies like Tyson and Perdue how many applications they’re sitting on?
Not too many years ago, the Texas Legislature was debating a law that would make it a criminal offense to employ undocumented alien. The theory was that if employers could face jail time for hiring illegal aliens, they would quit doing it and the opportunities would dry up. One legislator generally supported the bill but wanted an exemption for those employed as landscapers and domestic help.
It’s important to have our priorities in order when considering legal sanctions.
Is it really too much to ask to judge immigrants based their actual individual track records instead of painting them all with some xenophobic brush? Is every follower of Islam an ISIS terrorist? If so, why is ISIS terrorizing them in their native lands? Not every Mexican is a member of a cartel or an insurgent.
If we think the answer is mass deportation of people, including some that have served honorably in OUR military, we need to look in the mirror. We can get a good look at the biggest idiots that ever walked the earth.