June 2, 2009

But What Are Immigrants Coming For?

Justin Katz

David Segal's phrasing of the motivation for immigration is telling:

Reasons for immigration vary year by year and generation by generation, but there are two basic themes: Flight from violence, and flight from destitution.

Whatever somebody's reasons for running from a place, it's not irrelevant to consider why they run to another place — in this case, the United States. Immigrants travel to the United States for freedom and opportunity — self governance — and unless we acknowledge that our nation has something of globally incomparable value, then we'll forget that precious qualities must be preserved. And if we forget that, then we just might follow the likes of Segal into confusion about how immigration policy can affect such preservation.

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Not all immigrants come from poor, war torn countries. In fact, a good many of them, like my husband, come here with an education, skills & speaking English. However, they often end up marginalized by these so-called "immigrant advocacy" groups because they aren't the ones who hop over the border & straight onto welfare, etc.

My husband is an immigrant from India. He had the opportunity to come here for graduate school & is now working full time also. We've spent thousands in filing fees for his green card. Yes, there are still suckers out there who do it the right way! He is eligible to apply for citizenship in 2 more years & cannot wait to be able to vote idiots like Segal out of office. It angers the both of us to no end when our hard earned money is used to support people who are here illegally.

Come here legally or don't come at all!

Posted by: Stephanie at June 2, 2009 7:09 PM

So your point is that the number of immigrants proves American exceptionalism? I'm not so sure about your metric. Most Middle Eastern dictatorships have significantly higher immigrant populations than the U.S. Can we intuit that the values of those despotisms are a beacon to stuggling masses everywhere, demonstrably more so than those of the U.S.?

Posted by: Russ at June 2, 2009 7:44 PM

No, Russ, that's not my point at all. I'm pointing out that yer pal presents his country as if it were a destination of last resort. It's not. For many — however many — it's a first choice, when they're able to choose.

As heirs to that Great Whatever-It-Is, we should give some thought to what it is and what policies will help to preserve it.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 2, 2009 7:57 PM

I'd say it's pretty hard to deny that the great waves of immigration seen in this country were tied to hardship or war in immigrants' countries of origin (been said by others many times).

Although I'll grant that Stephanie makes a good point above before dropping into the know-nothing talking points (if I'm not mistaken professionals now account for something like 15% of all immigrants).

Posted by: Russ at June 2, 2009 9:37 PM

Who's denying that? Have you not understood what I said?

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 2, 2009 10:19 PM

Hey people-even professionals can be economic immigrants.Just think of Filipino nurses and accountants-there are many of them here.They have portable highly skilled professions and almost all are very fluent english speakers.By coming here they can turn those skills into much more money than they make in the Philippines.Just an example.They are not necessarily fleeing hardship,and their country is a pretty free society.
BTW,I've spoken to Segal about immigration.It was a strange experience-he got wound up in this explanation of how we owed the Guatemalans a free ride,so to speak to atone for the CIA/United Fruit Co.overthrow of the "duly elected"(phrase beloved of fellow travellers in the 50's)Arbenz regime.Yes,we did it,and a good thing too.Arbenz was a client of Moscow and unlike Segal and most of you here I was one of the "duck and cover" generation when our country was faced off against the USSR in a nuclear arms race.
I have to say "duck and cover"came in handy later in Vietnam,but that's off topic.
David ought to check out Eric Holder's relations with the United Fruit Company,aka:Chiquita Banana.The shine will be off his hero fast.
As far as I'm concerned the United Fruit Company did one good thing for me-it hired my father in law,a Honduran,a an engine room drudge on one of their freighters and he was able to immigrate here legally in 1940,serve in three wars, and eventually become a Merchant Marine officer.More importantly to me,he made it possible for me to meet my wife.

Posted by: joe bernstein at June 2, 2009 11:02 PM

Gertrude Stein has opined that, "In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is."

So, freedom and opportunity are factors, but not necessarily the factors that drive immigration. You listed some, but there are others at least as telling.

On a personal note, my Italian relatives are quite content to live in Monteroduni, they make a nice living and show no desire to leave Abruzzi. I'd love to live there, climate being my impelling force.

Justin, mon ami, we differ greatly on what that "Great Whatever-It-Is". There are some socio-political conventions that you would like to preserve and that I would like to scrap, and vice-versa. And this leads us full circle back to the controversy about immigration.

I'm afraid that I stand with Stein's opinion rather than yours.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at June 3, 2009 12:51 AM

Hey joe,
Try looking under your bed, you might find a communist or two lurking there. Oops, it's Joe McCarthy!

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at June 3, 2009 9:45 PM

OTL-I expect better stuff from you than from Rhody,but your comment is just as tired as his.
Are you saying we WEREN"T in a decades long confrontation with the USSR?
I haven't got the time or energy to waste thinking of a snappy comeback.

Posted by: joe bernstein at June 3, 2009 10:12 PM

And Rhody Derangement Syndrome now spreads to threads where Rhody has not even commented.
'Nuff said.

Posted by: rhody at June 4, 2009 12:01 AM
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