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Click here to learn about my mind-bending epic mythological novel A Conspiracy of Wizards!!!

(The following is a series of post on the Denver Post comment board for a recent tangentially related column by Tina Griego. The column, and the entire exchange of comments, can be found at http://www.denverpost.com/ci_17811283?source=bb).
This column brings to mind SB 126, Colorado ASSET. The students that Tina profiles here are similar to many that I encountered as an ELA (English Language Acquisition) social studies teacher in Denver Public Schools several years ago, most of whom were undocumented immigrants.

SB 126 has no fiscal note (it costs taxpayers nothing; in fact, it brings in revenue for our state universities). We offer kids a path to productivity rather than to desperation and criminality, the latter choice having a much different fiscal and social note for us to pay.

To highlight the inhumanity of our current attitudes toward undocumented immigrants (people whose only crime, like humans throughout history, was to migrate from destitution toward opportunity), I could go into the horror stories I encountered while doing a legal internship with Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network and, briefly, with a private immigration lawyer, stories like that of a detainee in Park County who lost limbs due to a staff infection and inadequate conditions and treatment, or of a young diabetic deprived of his insulin by clueless guards while his mother was frantic and helpless over the fact that they were in effect killing her child just for having been taken across the border as a baby. There are others, as bad or worse, and it’s tempting to tell them, but my experience as an ELA teacher is more directly relevant.

Teaching ELA is an unbelievable experience. These are great kids. Most good teachers love their students, but there’s an extra innocence and sweetness about so many ELA students, that connection is really amplified, in both directions. I felt ready to do anything I could to help my ELA kids over the hurdles they’re facing. A few of them were among the very best students anywhere, in every way, the kinds of kids that excel both in terms of commitment and in terms of just plain good nature. Several of my ELA students, whose faces I can still see as I type this, were kids who I felt then, and feel now, simply deserved a chance to succeed in life. And, given that chance, they would pay back the society that provided it a thousand fold.

Tina Griego is right: These children, many of whom are the product of people who found there way here to give their children greater opportunities in life, offer us hope for the future. We, in turn, need to refrain from depriving them, and us, of that hope.

dlprobert wrote: It costs the taxpayers the money that is discounted giving illegals in-state tuition. It costs the schools those funds!! Don’t say it costs us nothing, how dare you!!
No, it brings revenue into the schools. In-state tuition, minus the public subsidy that other state residents receive (which is how the bill is drafted), brings in more revenue to the schools than is spent on the students who are paying it. Since in almost all cases they wouldn’t have been able to pay out-of-state tuition, there is no “opportunity cost” of not having charged them the higher amount. This is simply an economic fact.
dlprobert wrote: All of those horror stories you mention could be avoided, had they stayed in their home country an applied to come here legally, waited their turn, like real LEGAL immigrants do. We, the TAX-PAYING AMERICAN CITIZENS, are tired of the coddling of illegals. We want current immigration laws enforced!! We don’t need any new rules!
1) The waiting list for current citizens of Latin American countries is upward of 20 years, even with a close relative. There is no “turn” to be waited. The real alternaitve is between migrating toward opportunity, or not migrating toward opportunity. Humans, all through history, have migrated toward opportunity, the lines drawn in the sand by past conquests and wars notwithstanding.

2) Illegal immigrants pay more in taxes for fewer pay-backs than citizens and legal residents, on average. This is another economic fact.

dlprobert wrote:That is what this TAX-PAYING AMERICAN CITIZEN would like to see, not the same old blather your keep throwing at us about how unjust America treats illegals (it’s obviously not bad enough, they keep coming).
My “blather” about a commitment to humanity rather than a mere self-serving antagonism to it is “blather” more of us should be “throwing” at each other, far more often and consistently.
dlprobert wrote: Then let them wait 20 years…their other countrymen did!
Really? Do you know the history of North American migration and demographics, not to mention American immigration law? First of all, Texas and most of the American West and Southwest belonged to Mexico before it belonged to the United States, until the latter prosecuted a series of opportunistic wars and anexations in order to acquire it. A large portion of the Hispanic population of this part of the country is descended from those who resided here before it became a part of the United States; in other words, the border crossed them. The words “colorado, arizona, california, nevada, los angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, las vegas…” are all Spanish for a reason. (And the iconic American Cowboy is actually of Latin American derivation.)

More recently, we have utilized various immigration policies to bring in cheap labor when it served our purposes, and try to remove it when it didn’t, frequently dividing and disrupting families in the process. We created the flow of people from south of the border, cultivated it, trying to turn it on and off like a spigot at our convenience, another source of chattel for our exploitation.

Most of that population is predominantly indigenous in its ancestry, descendents of the Indians belonging to that larger population we conquered and displaced, and to a large extent simply massacred, to acquire the wealth we now enjoy (a fact that Hitler cited with admiration, as a justification for his own policy of “lebensraum”). That wealth, produced on stolen land, was produced for centuries with the assistance of imported and abused human chattel from Africa.

You’ll notice, also, that I had said that even those with close relatives have waiting times of over 20 years; those without close relatives can’t immigrate, period. And for those who are lucky enough to have a 20-some year waiting period, their main purpose, that of providing their children with better opportunities, is undermined by the wait, since those children will be adults, and will have to get in line themselves at that point!

America has many admirable qualities, and has, at times, strived to be a gift to humanity. But we are also burdened with our fair share of horrible acts of violence against others, and those you disparage now are both descended from our earlier victims, and are in many ways just the latest incarnation of the disposable labor we have so long cultivated and exploited.

dlprobert wrote: We have no more room in our budget for any more! I’m sorry, but the US can only handle so many immigrants. That is why we have immigration in the first place!
Actual economic analyses, rather than arbitrary claims in service to blind inhumanity, tells a different story. Most analyses hover around the conclusion that illegal immigration is an economic wash nationally, though the geographical distribution of costs and benefits is uneven. Undocumented immigrants pay taxes, and are denied some of the services they pay for. They solve a fundamental demographic problem in America (the worker-to-retiree ratio), perform some jobs that there really are not American workers willing or able to do (primarily in the agricultural sector), keep consumer prices low and perform a vital function in our overall economy. This debate, which we have had throughout our history, has never been about our capacity to absorb newcomers; it has always been about the bigotry and xenophobia of those who are already here.
dlprobert wrote:Illegals cost the state of Colorado over $1.5B annually….that’s a fact.
No, it’s not a fact. Those who have ever done any honest work in the field acknowledge first that we have no firm numbers, for a variety of reasons. Second, the range of conclusions tends toward zero. Third, you’ve obviously cherry picked a number that some propagandist generated for your convenience. It has absolutely no basis in reality.
dlprobert wrote: The money they earn is sent to their real home countries! In fact, the reason El Presidente came here cryin to Obama was, if we started enforcing our immigration laws, the loss of billions to the Mexican economy!
They send a significant portion of their earnings to their home countries, where their wives and children and parents are struggling to survive, while they live spartan lives working long hours here generating wealth in our economy. Improving those foreign economies is also good for our own, in a variety of ways, but, more importantly, it is good for humanity, which is the responsibility of all human beings, even the exceedingly fortunate ones who live in the world’s wealthiest nations.

In your orgy of belligerence, you’re anxious to impose a lose-lose scenario on all of us, hurting ourselves in order to punish others for daring to do what humans have done throughout human history. Let’s focus on what my original post was all about: Providing undocumented teenagers with a chance to succeed in our society. The alternative is not, as you imagine, deporting them: The costs of doing so, even ignoring the astonishing inhumanity of it, are far, far greater than any estimation of the costs of not doing so.

The real question is how to manage the costs of a 12 million strong undocumented population in America. You have a choice between pushing them into destitution, even those who are most capable and dedicated to success, breeding predators rather than contributing members of society, or, more intelligently, offering roads for success, by which we all benefit.

There are those in America, as in many other times and places, that are lost in a fog of ignorance and belligerence, viewing the world through a lens of neatly separate nations and races, of “us” and “them” defined along a variety of dimensions. Such people are the authors of genocides, of enslavements, of brutal conquests and exploitations and oppressions. Then there are others, also in many times and places, who recognize that humanity is undivided except by the lines in our own imaginations, that we share a fate, an on-going endeavor, and fare better when we face it with reason and mutual goodwill rather than with irrational belligerence and hatred.

It’s time for people to start choosing which of those groups they wish to belong to with more wisdom and compassion than many here are doing now.

dlprobert wrote: You said…it was war…and to the victor go the spoils!
Thank you for being so transparent about your orientation. You are steeped in the notion of violently despoiling others in service to yourself and your tribe; I am steeped in the notion of thriving, cooperatively, in service to humanity.

dlprobert wrote: I choose to be anti-illegal immigrant, like a majority of TAXPAYING AMERICAN CITIZENS are!

And I choose to be a reasonable person of goodwill, as all of us can and should choose to be.

dlprobert wrote: Look Steve, I am really not trying to be an a__

Fair enough. Then let’s have an informative discussion about all relevant considerations and factors.

First, it’s important to note that this conversation didn’t begin as a blanket defense of “illegal immigration.” My personal view, for a variety of reasons, is that the more open the borders (here and elsewhere), the better. This is beneficial to humanity on several levels: It leads to greater global wealth (by removing barriers to the free flow of the factors of production); it increases global distributional justice (by openning up opportunities to earn a larger piece of the pie for those currently with smaller pieces); it creates more cross-cutting ties among nations and peoples, thus preparing us to better deal with our proliferating global rather than national problems and challenges; it reduces the increasing disparity between the wealthy enclaves in the world and the impoverished mass of humanity, almost entirely by raising up those who are somewhat poorer rather than by bringing down those who are somewhat richer, which is not only more humane, but also helps avert a future that is otherwise guaranteed to be full of horrible violence aimed against those rich enclaves, which will be increasingly unable to stem the tide of humanity demanding global structural changes.

But one doesn’t have to agree with this view to agree that we have a practical problem concerning how to assimilate (or remove) the 12 million or so undocumented residents of this country. Removal, as I’ve already pointed out, is simply too expensive (even ignoring the inhumanity of it). By any calculation, the costs far, far, far exceed the benefits. Fiscally and economically, it is simply completely impractical. Added to that is the fact that you would witness something akin to the Nazi round-up of Jews in 1930s and 40s Germany if that were the path we choose to go down. We would, indeed, become a global villain, and would be historically remembered as such.

That’s what happens when people think primarily in terms of “nations” rather than in terms of “humanity.” The Germans of that epoch, you might recall, justified their actions by recourse to nationalism; they were concerned with the welfare of the German people, and with ridding Germany of a foreign element that they considered a burden on their national welfare. It was irrational of them; they couldn’t have been more wrong. And it is irrational of us; we couldn’t be more wrong today.

The reality is that we have a deep historical link to the people you misidentify as mere invaders. About a third of our contiguous territory was a part of Mexico before it was a part of the United States. Many Hispanic residents of that third are descendents of people whom the border crossed rather than of people who crossed the border. We have purposefully exploited the porous border to the south to our benefit, and have created a population that we consider inferior and disposable. “Legally” or “illegally,” they are a part of our nation and our society, and we have a moral oligation to them.

More importantly, for the purposes of this conversation, our own self-interest depends on assimilating those undocumented people. If we want to improve our control of the flow, so be it. But the notion that we should control it by punishing those who are here in order to make our country less attractive to those who aren’t is sheer folly, both because it turns us into something we should not be striving to be, and because it breeds an angry, rebellious, opportunity deprived shadow population that will only, as a result, impose a real cost and burden on our nation, rather than the imaginary one of today.

dlprobert wrote: America cannot continue with it’s handouts to people that are not in this country legally

The notion that those who come here illegally are greater recipients of “hand-outs” than other members of this society is not only mistaken, it is backwards. Yes, some social services (e.g., public education and emergency room treatment) are not withheld from undocumented residents of this country, but most are. They cannot collect on social welfare and economic security programs (e.g., medicaid, unemployment, welfare, social security, etc.). As a result, unlike American citizens and legal permanent residents, if they’re not working, they simply leave. There’s no point in being here, paying for a higher cost of living while receiving no income. So they are virtually all employed, always paying sales taxes and usually paying income taxes (since they generally need to use fake social security numbers to work) for programs that they can’t collect on. They make a vital contribution to the economy, which is why the labor market places such a strong demand on them.

dlprobert wrote: but it’s still ILLEGAL

There is legality, and there is morality, and there is reality. It was once illegal for a slave to escape from his or her master in this country, or for anyone, in any part of the country, to harbor such an escaped slave. In the name of that law, slave owners could send out slave hunters into non-slave states to recapture escaped slaves, and, abusing that law, those slave hunters often captured free African Americans living in free states and sold them into slavery in the south. Legality clearly is not the final word on “right” and “wrong.” So, those of us who recognize moral defects in current laws have a moral obligation to struggle to change those laws in order to cure those defects.

Beyond legality and morality, there is reality. The reality is that humans have always migrated away from destitution and toward opportunity, regardless of the nature or legal status of the invitation they may or may not have received. Jews ended up in Germany as a result of a diaspora, not a German invitation; does that justify the Holocaust?

We create our nations, give them geographic definition, and create laws by which to govern them, but we do not dictate the underlying dynamics of human existence. We live in a world of far greater global interdependence than nationalists would like to admit, in which the plight of others is and will be our own, and violently so tomorrow if we do not recognize it as morally so today.

dlprobert wrote: Those that won’t even try to assimilate…I have a real issue with that. I’m a veteran and when I went to a foreign country, I made it a point to learn the basics of the native language, not only to get along, but to also fit in.

Good for you. You are the exception among Americans, but not among those of other countries. I’ve lived and traveled abroad for over eight years of my adult life (including two stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army, and over two living in Mexico). I’ve known ex-pat Americans, and travelers and tourists, as well as those of other nations, and we are by far the most disrespectful, imperialistic sods out there. Many Americans abroad not only don’t know the language of the country they are in, but are downright offended when citizens of other countries, in their own countries, don’t know English. “The Ugly American” is a term that evolved in light of this dynamic.

As a veteran, I’m sure you recall the phrases “back in the world” and “going back to the world.” That’s how American service members refer to the United States, denegrating other countries (including European allies) by implying that they aren’t even a part of “the world.” America is the whole world in this formulation; other places are unreal, inferior, less worthy of recognition or acknowledgement. So, let’s not decry the imagined cultural insensitivity of those who come to this country and continue to speak their native language (or continue to speak the language established here before we forcefully anexed this region).

And, lets’ be honest: While some first-generation Hispanics who reside here don’t know much English, the impression that that is the  norm is reinforced by selective perception. Most learn more than “the basics” of English. I detect a bit of an attribution and confirmation bias in your above characterization: You didn’t claim fluency; might it be that your “basics” of those other languages, of which you’re so proud, represents a comparable level of language proficiency to the failure to learn English you detect in others?

There are basically two ways to see the world: In terms of “us” v. “them,” or in terms of humanity. We will all benefit in the long run, enormously, the more we gravitate toward the latter orientation and leave the former one on the dust heap of history, where it belongs.

Click here to learn about my mind-bending epic mythological novel A Conspiracy of Wizards!!!

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