Brian Phillips was kind enough to let me post his Interview with an Immigrant here 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
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
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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