OWS and Three Immigrants by J. Brian Phillips

Brian Phillips was kind enough to let me post his Interview with an Immigrant Seattlehere in its entirety.  As a result of that post, I subscribed to his newsletter.  Last week, I received the following newsletter from Brian and have again posted  it with his permission.  The first part is about his experience with Occupy Wall Street in Seattle, but the second half is about three immigrants he interviewed while there. 

Last week my wife and I traveled to Seattle to attend a

wedding. We expected the weather to be cold and rainy,

but Thursday was a beautiful day, and we decided to visit

Occupy Seattle, which was about 15 blocks from our hotel.

We didn't know the specific location for the protest, so

when we got close we went into a grocery store to get the

exact location. The clerk we spoke to was a thin, wrinkled

lady of about 60, and she rolled her eyes as she gave us the

location. I asked her why she reacted that way, and she

proceeded to denounce the anarchists and WTO leftovers.

There are some who understand what they are protesting,

she said, but many are simply looking for handouts and trying

to cause trouble. She seemed sympathetic to the occupy

movement, but not the impact it was having on her neighborhood.

We found the camp about 2 blocks away from the store.

The camp covered about half of a city block. Apparently

they were using the park at the city community college. The

camp was packed with tents, which included a library, a "hospital,"

and a "spiritual center." When we arrived, a tour was in progress,

so we tagged along for a brief time. At the library, we were told

that we could donate a book, borrow a book, exchange a book,

or donate a book. Donations--for money, books, and tobacco--

were a constant theme during our brief visit. At the "spiritual center"

we were told that occupiers could spend quiet time contemplating.

My first thought was, if I had been a resident of the camp, I would

be contemplating what the hell I was doing there. But I suppressed

my thought.

We clearly did not look like the typical occupier, and I noticed at

least one person give us a look that did not appear friendly. Most

of the "residents"--one made it clear that the camp was his home--

were under 30, scruffy looking, and many displayed an abundance

of facial piercings. The atmosphere made me think of a giant,

permanent slumber party.

In general, the camp was cleaner than I expected, though we didn't

venture very far into the interior. There were several portable toilets.

The signs displayed were similar to those I've seen from other

occupations--they denounced the banks, they called for "economic

justice," and they expressed a variety of other leftist sentiments. In

the 10 minutes or so we were there, we saw signs or heard at least

4 different appeals for some form of donation--books, cash, or

tobacco. A block away we encountered an individual begging for

marijuana--I don't know if he was an occupier, but he certainly

looked the type.

A few blocks further away, we can upon a man who was shouting

at a well-dressed couple. While his diatribe was largely incoherent,

he was clearly unhappy that they appeared to be a part of the 1

percent. Again, I do not know if this man was/is a part of the occupy

movement, but his appearance, sentiments, and actions were

certainly consistent with it. As we have seen repeatedly, the

occupy movement is not content to merely express their ideas.

They have taken over parks and other spaces, caused property

damage, invaded banks and other businesses, and impeded

traffic. In word and in action, they have demonstrated no respect

for individual rights. At the same time, they demand to be

absolved of responsibility for their own actions, such as having

all debts forgiven. They are little more than brats throwing a

temper tantrum, and if they won't get their way, they will disrupt

the lives of the rational and productive.

Some of the occupiers spend a portion of the day in the financial

area of Seattle. In that area, we saw less than a dozen protestors

there. Most were the bedraggled, unkempt types that we saw at

the camp. Interestingly, across the street from these protestors,

2 middle-aged men were holding signs denouncing the banks.

They appeared to want to distance themselves from the rougher

looking occupiers. Apparently, even some leftists have standards.

I didn't really learn anything from the experience. But it did

make the whole occupy movement more real to me, particularly

when the weather turned cold and rainy on Friday. While I sat in

the warmth of the hotel bar, enjoying many of the values made

possible by the capitalism the occupiers are denouncing, they got

to huddle in their tents for meager protection from the elements.

They were living in the environment they want and so was I. I

hope that they enjoyed their environment; I enjoyed mine.

* * *

On a different note, one evening I stepped out for some fresh

air and struck up a conversation with a valet at the hotel. It turns

out that he immigrated from Ethiopia about 25 years ago. I asked

him about the difficulty of the immigration process. He said at that

time it wasn't too bad, but it certainly was becoming more difficult.

He expressed some sympathy for illegal aliens, but seemed to

generally support America's immigration policies. When I said

that virtually anyone who wants to come to America should be

free to do so, he became very interested. Unfortunately, he was

called to work before we could finish the conversation.

This was my third conversation with an immigrant on the topic of

immigration in the past few months. My first conversation was

with one of my employees. He illegally entered the country from

Mexico as a child. He is now a citizen. At first, he was very

hesitant to speak with me about the topic. I suspect that he

thought I might have an anti-immigrant attitude. He eventually

said that he thought those opposed to illegals were racist, and

he seemed genuinely pleased with my position on immigration.

My third conversation involved the bride in the wedding we

attended. She is a Filipino. She was in the process of being

deported when she met her husband--the company that was

sponsoring her was no longer sponsoring immigrants due to

tighter government restrictions. Ironically, when they met, he

was about to embark on a year in Thailand. So they actually

got to spend a year together in Asia, and during that time they

labored to get her back into the country. I won't go into the

details here, but it was a stressful and expensive endeavor.

Last month I interviewed them for my blog. They were

generally supportive of the government's immigration policies

and only complained that those policies are not efficient.

The contrast between these 3 immigrants is interesting. The

Mexican had the most rational ideas. Today, Mexicans are

the scapegoats, just as the Chinese, the Irish, and other

immigrant groups have been before them. So they are feeling

the heat more than other immigrants, and I suspect they are

seeing the irrationality of our immigration policies more

easily than others.

The Filipino was the most accepting of restrictions on

immigration. During my time in Seattle, I learned that most

Filipinos worship America. The bride's father, who was at

the wedding, spoke highly of Douglas MacArthur, even

though he (the bride's father) was not born until after WWII.

I got the sense from him, and from the groom, that Filipinos

believe that America can do no wrong. That would explain

the bride's acceptance of our immigration policies. Also,

she is an accountant with significant experience in international

accounting. So she has more economic opportunities than

the Mexican or the Ethiopian.

The Ethiopian fell in between the Filipino and the Mexican.

He didn't like Arizona's anti-immigration law, properly saying

that he felt threatened by it. I told him that I too felt threatened

by it.

When I later shared these experiences with a friend, she

remarked that many immigrants are probably scared to "rock

the boat." They want to come to America, and if they complain

too loudly about the unjust process, they will likely be denied

entry. I suspect that she is correct. But I also suspect, as she

did, that the problem goes deeper.

Most Americans do not have a proper understanding of rights.

Progressives regard rights as a gift from society, while conservatives

regard rights as a gift from God. Both of these views are flawed.

If rights are a gift, then that gift may be withdrawn at any time.

While this is true, no matter the alleged source of this alleged

"gift," I find the conservative position more interesting and


If, as conservatives claim, our rights are a gift from God,

why are those rights denied to those not born in America? Is

God a racist? Are Americans God's chosen people? That is

certainly the implication of the conservative position.

While conservatives are quick to say that they are not

anti-immigrant, they are equally quick to deny rights to

immigrants and would-be immigrants. They want to build

fences, check papers, and deny freedom of association.

On one hand, conservatives claim that rights come from God;

on the other hand, they seek to deny certain individuals those

rights through man-made laws.

Conservatives also claim that they aren't opposed to immigration,

but they want people coming through the "front door." They

evade the fact that the front door is essentially locked, and it

will only be opened when certain arbitrary criteria are met.

I had the good fortune to be born in America. But if I hadn't

been, I would be willing to do nearly anything to get to this great

country. Just as slaves had a moral right to flee their masters, and

those who harbored them had a moral right to do so, those who

come to America illegally have a moral right to live where they

choose. I do not advocate breaking the law, but I do not fault

those who break immoral laws. The abolitionists of the nineteenth

century fought to eradicate a gross injustice. Those who love

America and the principles upon which it was founded--individual

rights--must fight to change America's immigration policies. We

must demand the repeal of any law that denies an individual--

any individual--his moral right to his own life, his own liberty,

and the pursuit of his own happiness.

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