Welcome to the Ever-Changing, Ever-Same Face of America


As America becomes more diverse, there are edgy calls from
talk-show-radio hosts to save the country for white, Christian (mostly)
males . . . as though they had done something (other than kill off the
natives) to deserve preservation. It’s interesting, to me anyway, that
these Limbaughs and Coulters are a couple generations in from Ellis
Island themselves and want almost desperately to slam the door on
anyone and everyone else.

Limbaughrush
As America becomes more diverse, there are edgy calls from
talk-show-radio hosts to save the country for white, Christian (mostly)
males . . . as though they had done something (other than kill off the
natives) to deserve preservation. It’s interesting, to me anyway, that
these Limbaughs and Coulters are a couple generations in from Ellis
Island themselves and want almost desperately to slam the door on
anyone and everyone else.

America is, in their minds, a gated community.

(Amy
Chua, Washington Post) If you don’t speak Spanish, Miami really can
feel like a foreign country. In any restaurant, the conversation at the
next table is more likely to be Spanish than English. And Miami’s
population is only 65 percent Hispanic. El Paso is 76 percent Latino.
Flushing, N.Y., is 60 percent immigrant, mainly Chinese.

Chinatowns
and Little Italys have long been part of America’s urban landscape, but
would it be all right to have entire U.S. cities where most people
spoke and did business in Chinese, Spanish or even Arabic? Are too many
Third World, non-English-speaking immigrants destroying our national
identity?

For some Americans, even asking such questions is
racist. At the other end of the spectrum, the conservative talk show
host Bill O’Reilly fulminates against floods of immigrants who threaten
to change America’s "complexion" and replace what he calls the "white
Christian male power structure."

Oreillybill
Complexion? Power structure? O’Reilly sounds suspiciously to me like an
Irish name and there was a time, not all that long ago, when ads (even
for household help) stated ‘Irish need not apply.’

Bill O’Reilly gets a lot of kicking around as everybody’s favorite
wingnut, but his broadcast and educational credentials are extensive.
Power, on the other hand, may be problematic for Bill.

My own name, Freeman, harks back to the Magna Carta, when freed
serfs became ‘free men.’ My grandparents (grandpa English, grandma
German) emigrated from Canada in the late 1890s. Mom’s side (exact same
ethnic mix) boasted her own paternal grandfather serving as a corporal
in the Illinois Militia during the Civil War. Great grandfather Craven
lost a hand in that war, but that’s still not a very deep tap-root for
an American heritage.

No matter, we Craven-Freemans are damned glad to be here. Chua continues . . .

But
for the large majority in between, Democrats and Republicans alike,
these questions are painful, with no easy answers. At some level, most
of us cherish our legacy as a nation of immigrants. But are all
immigrants really equally likely to make good Americans? Are we, as the
Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington warns, in danger of
losing our core values and devolving "into a loose confederation of
ethnic, racial, cultural, and political groups, with little or nothing
in common apart from their location in the territory of what had been
the United States of America"?

Profhuntingtonsamuel
Well, there has to be a Harvard and, if there is a Harvard, then
certainly it follows as sunshine after rain that there must be a
Harvard political scientist to apply the white, male, Christian litmus
paper to a loss of ‘core values.’ I don’t know what the good professor (much less Harvard) takes to be
core values, but Samuel Huntington is a pretty WASPy name and one can
make the undocumented case that his core may merely have predated
O’Reilly’s by a century or two.

And yet Ann Coulter, with whom I seldom agree on anything, writes,

America
has a seller’s market in immigration, but thanks to Teddy Kennedy’s
1965 immigration law, we no longer favor skilled workers from developed
nations, but instead favor unskilled immigrants from the Third World.
Kennedy’s bill promptly cut the number of European immigrants in half
and increased Third World immigrants to 85 percent of the total.

Not
surprisingly, post-1965 immigrants have sharply higher levels of
poverty and welfare dependence. Europeans may not seem like ideal new
immigrants, but the truth is, if what they want is welfare, they’ll
stay in France.

Anncoulter1
and it’s a good point, or at least a bit more specific and arguable than O’Reilly or Huntington.

Silicon Valley makes much the same point. We are simply unable to visa the skilled of the world who want to come here and whom we wish to hire.
Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, as middle-class jobs slide
inevitably toward the bottom of the hiring scale, bringing the poorer
in to work looks less and less ‘melting pot’ and more and more a threat to workers. We are not the 19th century America that welcomed all comers.

My suggestion will be disagreeable to both camps, unlikely to satisfy Teddy Kennedy or Ann Coulter:

  • Overturn the Kennedy legislation
  • Offer open-visas to the North American continent.

Mexicanworker
If that sounds counter-intuitive, it may be, but it’s worth debate.
With six billion people in the world, immigration without education
priorities is just no longer practicable. Equally impracticable is
walling ourselves off from historic neighbors Canada and Mexico.

Prioritizing is defensible and a needed response to an absolutely
clogged immigration system. Walls are so unsympathetic to the American
image of freedom and opportunity as to essentially Balkanize our own
citizenry into disparate camps of varying degrees of racism.

America is more than a gated community among the world’s nations. We are better
than that, but what we have in place is no longer working,
immigration-wise. So I propose a two-level solution to a multi-level
problem:

First, an immigration policy toward
the world outside our continent based, as the rest of the world bases
immigration, upon needed skills and individual circumstance;
essentially, those whom we value for their talent, be it technical,
artistic, economic, etc.

Second, open work visas for all North Americans. Canada is not and never has been a problem, it’s Mexico we’re talking about in this discussion.

  • A huge number of Mexican aliens are trapped in our country because of their lack of documentation. They simply cannot go back to Mexico
    for fear of not being able to re-enter the U.S. An open visa policy
    would solve that, taking an enormous welfare load off our hands.
  • The undocumented are ‘black’ workers, an underground underclass. Among the ‘unders’ are under-paid, under-taxed and under-repatriated. Documents (visas) are the key to both taxing and keeping track of this spectral society.
  • Mexico, desperate to not lose its access to American jobs, would be required to provide state-of-the-art passports to all who apply. America, desperate to solve
    the economic and social disaster that has dogged Mexican migrants
    seeking work here, would be required to visa any Mexican
    passport-holder appearing at the border.

Visas would be for workers, not families. Visa-holders must hold jobs, pay taxes, have health insurance and remain felony-free
in order to remain in the U.S., just as in other nations of the world.
Emerging from the shadows of an alien existence should allow sufficient
levels of income to support those requirements. Undocumented
Mexican workers now hidden in America would have to return to Mexico
for appropriate papers and any found not to have done that would be
deported without return access for two (?) years.

Fencemexicanborder
This will not satisfy everyone. But it will raise wages (both Mexican
and American), provide tax income, reduce the load on welfare and
education systems and allow Mexicans and Americans to look one another
in the eye with a degree of pride and evenhandedness.

Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, the hero of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, “Mr. Chertoff, tear down this wall.”
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