A Response to a Friend on Facebook

It's very difficult for me to get into debates about immigration.  It's a very important issue to me and I get quite emotional when I think Americans are okay with violating individual rights.  It also makes me quite mad at our government and the fact that they've been able to divert the blame from them and onto poor immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families. 

This past week, there was a heated exchange on my Facebook page with someone I respect.  After settling down a bit, I wrote the following response to him and I hope it encourages him to rethink some of his opinions on the matter.  I've edited a few things to protect his identity.

Hi, [friend]!  Glad to hear from you! =)

About the "hating on immigrants" comment...it's an expression.  I didn't say you hate immigrants, literally.  To "hate on" something is to criticize it.  It's slang in pop culture.  I didn't mean to imply that you wish all immigrants were dead, as in you hate them.  I do not believe you think that.  My apologies for the confusion.

"They are lawbreaking looters to me and I want them all gone. Nationality is not the issue, it’s those coming here just to suck off the productive that are the issue."

This is an example of my use of "hating on" immigrants.  All immigrants are not law-breaking looters.  That's factually inaccurate and a really bad stereotype to promote.  I suggest you read Racism by Ayn Rand in The Virtue of Selfishness.  That essay really helped me rethink some bad thinking on my part.  Her take on why stereotypes are harmful is really good.  We must judge individuals on their merits, not by groups we put them in.   http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/racism.html

[Someone I know] immigrated to [the USA] illegally back in the 70s because he HAD to to survive.  Once here, he started a family and worked hard as a janitor.  He paid all of his taxes, like many illegal immigrants, by using a false social security number.  That means he will never receive credit for those benefits he paid, such as social security checks in retirement.  Essentially, he helped prop up our social security system.  (I can't help but wonder if social security wouldn't have already gone bust by now if it weren't for all the immigrants propping it up. ???) 

Anyway, he learned English and [worked his way up in the company where he started as a janitor.]  His children speak English (and speak no Spanish to their detriment) and are highly educated.  [One of his adult children is now] in the process of getting a PhD.

In the 80s, he was finally able to go through the process of becoming legal, which he did.  He, his wife and his two children are as American as you and I.  They all pay taxes, they are all productive members of society and none have ever been on welfare. 

They are not alone.  If you watch the documentary I linked to [Wetback by National Geographic], you will see the same hopes and dreams of the other immigrants.  Watching one of them read a Spanish to English dictionary on a bus nearly brought tears to my eyes, thinking about all the white Americans who claim that they refuse to learn English.  It's just not true.

"As a landowner I believe I have the total right to choose who can and can't be on my property, and to me a country has the same rights."

You do have the right to choose about your property, but not the property of others.  And the country is not some collective group of public property.  You can't have both.  And what a slippery slope to go down!  You have no claim what others do on their property as long as they're not violating your property rights. 

The US govt has an obligation to protect our rights, but that is all.  They do not have the right to keep employers from hiring who they see fit and they do not have the right to keep men from accepting employment, which is what the immigration laws in this country precisely do.

"Still, I am willing to let many move here, but not at my expense. Since there are numerical limits, I only want to take the best. The doctors, engineers, etc."

Why are there numerical limits?  Have you been in a plane lately?  America has plenty of room and resources for all.  Especially if the government would quit throttling the growth of the economy.  That's the beauty of capitalism...it will expand as much as we want it to.   

There are plenty of jobs for these people too, otherwise they wouldn't be coming.  (As evidenced by the reversal of the flow from the US to Mexico in 2008 when our economy tanked and there were no jobs for them.)

"I am 53 and have worked so hard and saved so hard to be able to retire on my terms. The more illegal’s here, the less I get to keep of my productive effort."

To the former, I understand and I have too!  That's why I want to fight the real enemy...our awful government.  I refuse to take an unprincipled and pragmatic approach to this.  I refuse to blame hard-working individuals for the awful welfare state that more American citizens, by far, use.  (And without any immigrants, we'd be going bankrupt anyway!)

To the latter, that's just factually untrue and I contend that you'd have even less for retirement had it not been for immigrants working low-paying jobs.  Immigrants make staying in hotels (vacations and business trips) more affordable, they make the foods we eat more affordable, they make the electronics we buy more affordable, they make the food we eat at restaurants more affordable.  If all of those things cost me more, my life would not be nearly as productive, happy or successful as it is today.

I hope you will think on these things more, read that essay and check out that documentary.  Even if you still disagree after all of that, at least you'll know you explored all sides of the issue and tried to give capitalism the chance it deserves.

Comments (5)

This is a very well done post, Kelly. Cheers.

Thank ya, ma'am!

I live in New Mexico, near the Arizona border, and only a few hours from the border with Mexico. I hire immigrants to help run cattle--a vaquero we have is very skilled--and other jobs that need doing. Some of them don't speak English well yet, and so it is quite comical as I speak bad Spanish (all present tense) and they speak bad English. It all comes out Tex-New Mex. But we communicate. Language skills develop with time. These people who want to work and have a life are not a problem.

At the same time, there are some real problems on the border. Recently, property damage by illegals crossing in large numbers has grown. So has violence along the border. Livestock are mutilated and killed. Water is contaminated. Equipment is damaged. There seems to be great disrespect for private property among the illegal crossers, and I know of ranchers and other property owners who have had to abandon their property because they cannot sell it and it has become too dangerous to live there any longer. Not long ago, a rancher was shot and killed while he was checking his herds in Arizona, near the New Mexico border. Some of this is undoubtedly a consequence of the drug wars. But some of it is also due to sheer numbers crossing the border illegally, on private property, rather than at designated crossings.

Again, I do not hate immigrants--my parents and grandparents were immigrants to this country. They came here legally, though, and agreed to obey the laws and respect the rights of the citizens already here.

I do believe that the Constitution authorizes the federal government the power and responsibility to control the national border in order to protect the life, liberty and property of citizens. Those lives include ranchers. That property includes wells, water, equipment and livestock. Our liberty is hampered when we cannot use our property or live on our land without undue risk to ourselves, our children and our employees.

FWIW, I think the problem is created by the fact that the federal government is not doing its job at the border, but has established "Constitution-Free Zones" fifty miles in. And there is no doubt in my mind that legitimate American citizens who have the wrong last name or the wrong accent have their rights violated at these checkpoints every single day. Since many New Mexicans have been here much longer than the United States has existed, this is not only insult to them, but injury. As for solutions, I think the federal government must be made to do the job at the border. I also think that we need to get rid of the welfare state and the drug war. Eliminate these, and most reasons for crossing the border will be legitimate and understandable, and new immigrants will be welcomed by those of us who need their particular skills.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Ms. Levin!

You are right in that the government has a responsibility to protect our rights, including our right to our own property. I also think you're correct when you say ending the losing battle that is the drug war and ending the welfare state are half the battle (if not more!)

When the government makes something illegal (people, drugs, etc.) they create a dangerous situation for everyone. If these immigrants (the ones without criminal backgrounds) were able to come in legally through designated checkpoints, I have no doubt many of the problems you and other ranchers face would largely disappear. It would also make catching the real criminals (those who violate individual rights) at the border much easier!

Again, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and I hope you continue to read and contribute to our blog! =)

I do not know the basics of immigration and its effects on economy, but I feel people should be free to move to the country they want to live in. Making immigration legal stops the flow of culture, skills and, most important, dreams.

By making immigration such a complex issue, so many lives have been stifled just because they weren't allowed to move to a 'Better World'...and so many still are being nipped every day.

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