The IUSB Vision Weblog

The way to crush the middle class is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. – Vladimir Lenin

How Does It Feel to be an Uncle Tomas?

Posted by iusbvision on April 22, 2007

Readers may find the prospect of a legal Hispanic immigrant who is against illegal immigration a bit astonishing. There appears to be an unwritten law amidst Latinos from my perspective, more so than within other ethnic groups — that requires unquestioning and unbridled support of la raza when it comes to immigration. “Looking out for one another’, they say, “You don’t really know how bad it is back in the old country.”

 Well, I do. And I chose to come to this country legally.

The entire process began back in 1989. As millions of others who aspire to enter this country lawfully, we filled out the proper applications required by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now known as the USCIS – United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) for the fifty thousand immigrant visas awarded by the Secretary of State each year, in what had become known as the ‘green card lottery’.

The application was a long, rather invasive documentation process that required several days to complete. Some of the steps in the process included disclosing bank account information (account numbers, balance, and origin of the deposits), proof of military service, and reference letters from relatives living in the United States.

That year, over four million applications were received by the INS. Through computerized random selection, fifty-thousand eligible applications were chosen from the pool of completed and qualified applications. My father’s application was one of those fifty thousand. By mid-1990, after two trips to the American embassy for fingerprinting, medical screenings that included chest X-rays and HIV tests for my entire family, and yet more documentation, it looked like we just might get the chance to come to the Land of Opportunity.

One thing that precluded us from feeling like it was a done deal was the embassy’s insistence on keeping things uncertain; despite over a year of applications, tests, and various other loops, they asserted that the final decision to either grant us the visas was going to be made by the clerk at the embassy at our final interview. 

Finally, in March of 1991, our visas were granted and we embarked in a journey that, in retrospective, was worth every hurdle and obstacle.

It is easy to see now why any legal immigrant would be justified by feeling contempt for those entering the country by circumventing the system. We were subjected to a long, frustrating process that took several months. And meanwhile, it takes no more than a coiote and five hundred bucks to achieve the same objective.

Except, the quandary is far more complex and multifaceted because it does not involve only the ambitions of thousand of immigrants crossing the Rio Grande every year in search of better living conditions for their families. It also encompasses thousands of companies across hundreds of different trades and industries that depend on migrant workers for their own survival, as well as the need to provide national security and our ability to fight terrorism and drug smuggling.

So, what can this country do? When it comes to business, every company has two choices when implementing a new strategy: do nothing and leave things status quo, or take the appropriate measures that will be conductive to succeeding in the development of said strategy.

The same applies to the problem of immigration. Our government can choose to do nothing as it has been the case from Carter to Bush in fear of losing the clout of the Latino vote under pressure from Hispanic civil organizations (which sometimes have the despicable attitude of suggesting that things should stay as they are, and even more so, the US government should grant 100% amnesty across the board); or it can put into motion a plan that makes the country safer and ensures economic viability for agricultural, construction, and other industries.

Such a plan could consist of a temporary worker visa that would be granted for a period of several months to up to a year, renewable for good behavior for another year as long as the application for renewal was granted at the worker’s country of origin. It could also include amnesty for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants who have lived here for more than ten years without committing serious offenses or felonies (other than, obviously, entering the country illegally).

Regardless of what these measures would be, one thing is certain: our government would have to close the border between the US and Mexico. Otherwise, all of this would be for naught. What incentive would an immigrant have to go through the loops and hoops involved in acquiring a temporary work visa if he or she could avoid the hassle by crossing the border illegally?

The problem is dire and intricate, but the solution is surely attainable. Whether any president in my lifetime will have the guts to take the required measures to make it happen is another story altogether. Perhaps, it is because the government’s inertia and illegal immigration are more analogous than we are prepared to accept. In both camps, the overall theme seems to be “why bother”? 

Ed Hellig 

3 Responses to “How Does It Feel to be an Uncle Tomas?”

  1. A Student said

    Good article. Hilarious title.

  2. Jarrod Brigham said

    I too enjoyed reading the article.

  3. norikostale said

    Nice article. It seems these days, even to raise the question of border control is enough to earn one the title of “racist”. I realize that those who are so emotionally identified with illegal immigrants are well-intended, but they seem not to perceive the consequences of their position.

    I teach ESL here in Santa Fe, NM to Mexican immigrants, and so I am well familiar with their lives. Most of them, here legally or not, are barely surviving at the economic bottom of society. Those zealously liberals don’t seem to get that if you allow for an endless number of illegal immigrants to come across the Mexican border, you are making life much tough for such immigrants already here. Bringing new people on a sinking ship may be compassionate, but it is also self-destructive!

    Instead of the stand-off we now have, we need to push both the liberals and conservatives to compromise. To the conservatives who say “no amnesty – they broke the law!”, I would say – yes, they did, but our society was compliant in that act. Get off your high horse and agree on a process which can determine where amnesty makes sense and where it does not.

    This should be concurrent with gaining border control; contrary to the projection of “racism”, any sovereign nation has the right (and obligation) to control its borders against unwelcomed entry.

    I have written numerous times regarding this subject, in greater detail, at my blogsite: See posts there regarding border control and also those regarding teaching ESL more effectively. If interested, see the introduction to spiral dynamics, a remarkable model which puts these political-cultural oddities in remarkable perspective.

    By the way, my wife is Japanese, a legal immigrant, and she feels strongly just as you do. The zealots are so intent on projecting “victim” onto illegal immigrants that they can’t see how their stance victimizes those who conform with the law!

    Thanks for the nice post, Jim

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