Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May Day

At my staid old aerospace employer, there was no discernable impact from the big boycotts that were supposed to take place today, but I have to say that the impact on my commute was phenomenal. At 6:30pm, the shank of weekday rush hour, the freeways were less crowded than they normally are at 10:30pm. I got home in 25 minutes, where a more typical evening drive is 50 minutes. Obviously, a significant number of people here in Los Angeles were participating in the marches and/or boycotts.

I hope that Congress pulls itself together and passes some decent immigration reform. The Senate got close, although a good bipartisan attempt may have fallen apart due to partisan mistrust. I think everyone agrees that immigration should occur in a controlled fashion, so we know who is coming in and who is here. But some people just don't seem to get that we need to make legal immigration possible at levels that meet the real demand. Immigrants desperately want to come here, and we desperately need them to come. For the immigrants, the level of desperation is such that many currently take amazing risks and incur amazing costs to cross into our country illegally, sometimes paying "coyotes" many thousands of dollars to get them across, and sometimes dying in the desert in the attempt. With the depth and breadth of immigrant desperation to come here, we could no more seal off our borders than we could build a leak-proof roof that covered the entire nation. For our part, we need immigrants to come not only for labor (in agriculture, construction, and food service, to name a few industries highly dependent on low-cost immigrant labor), but for plain demographics. We need replacement population, which we natives are not sufficiently providing by reproduction, and the population that is here is living longer, and on average, getting older. We need the immigrant labor not only to help prop up Social Security (not that it can be saved, and not that it will ever get fixed), but to be here to take care of us when we're all in nursing homes. (Finding a native-born nurse in a nursing home is about as easy as finding a straight male hair stylist.)

I do share the concern that immigrants are properly assimilated. It's dangerous to leave immigrants alienated, as we can see from Europe's example. It is important for all of us that immigrants see themselves as Americans, and are accepted as Americans. Our country was founded on a set of ideals, rather than a particular people, so it is possible in this country more than any other for new immigrants to be grafted into American society. But the graft will only take hold if based on understanding and acceptance of common American ideals. Only if we bring immigrants "out of the shadows" can we make sure that they are appropriately educated.

Perhaps creative new ways can be developed to channel immigrants legally and more effectively into society. Here's one idea: if immigrants are willing to pay $10,000 to coyotes to take them on a risky illegal border crossing, surely they would prefer it if they could put that some money up as a bond to the US Government to obtain legal entry on an initially temporary basis, but renewable, and with a path to permanent citizenship if certain goals are met (e.g., learning English, taking Civics classes). The bond is forfeit if they get into criminal trouble, but perhaps part of it is refundable to them upon attaining citizenship. (Part goes to support the costs of the immigration system.)

In any event, I believe the future for all of us depends on making immigration possible and practical.

1 comment:

Martivic said...

I've created a website that lists every Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility in the USA. All 50 states are represented and the data is current.