Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I, on Immigration

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
from The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus (for the Statue of Liberty), 1883

Okay, so I keep seeing these rallies in my native land in support of rights for illegal immigrants.

I’ve got a little something to say.

I remember in the summer of 2001 when I "ran away" to New York from Tucson, the youth hostel I was staying at in Chelsea was filled with people, mostly from Europe, looking for work. I distinctly remember one British girl, not bad looking, who told me she had come to New York to work whatever job she could – on a tourist visa. She had no right to work, or even look for work, in the United States. At the time, on a job hunt of my own in the Big Apple, I actually sympathized with her. It’s okay, we weren’t going after the same sort of work.

Maybe that girl wasn't the archetype of illegal immigration to the U.S.,and maybe then I sympathized. But nowadays I wouldn't distinguish between an illegal immigrant like her and a illegal immigrant from a country much less fortunate in the economic sphere than the U.S., say, like Mexico. Let us not forget that though illegal immigrants often seek jobs most Americans don’t want to do, legal immigrants to the U.S. are also seeking those same jobs. A legal immigrant from Mexico deserves a job in the United States more than an illegal immigrant from Estonia. When an illegal immigrant takes even the most menial sort of job away from a legal immigrant…well, that to me is an example of injustice that should not be rewarded.

Immigrants of any sort who want rights as Americans should stop waving flags other than the Stars and Stripes at rallies and marches. I’m not here to disparage dual-nationality…as if, under the current circumstances of my life and choices I’ve made, I could do such a thing. No, I’m merely saying that those who are not American citizens by virtue of their birth (such as myself) or by legal immigration, should not go around demanding rights and justice from the United States Congress (especially when the people calling for justice violated the laws of the United States – i.e. escape justice – in entering the country in the manner that they did so) by waving Mexican flags.

Illegal immigrants waving the flags of their countries of origin in any American city and demanding that a Congress they didn’t elect, that doesn’t serve them, simply see the justice of their cause is insulting. It’s like Israeli Arabs marching against discrimination in Jerusalem or Nazareth and waving Palestinian flags – are they looking for rights and equality as legal citizens of the ‘Zionist entity’, or are they simply asserting their nationality as Arabs under the guise of seeking ‘civil rights’ in the Jewish state? Make up your minds!

When you want the Senate or House of Representatives of the United States of America to address your desires as illegal immigrants in the U.S. or, for that matter, legal immigrants to the U.S., or, for that matter, simply as Americans, you shouldn’t go about pressing for those rights by waving the flags of Ecuador or Mexico while demanding that you get citizenship, or guest worker status, or whatever it is you seek (free health care?).

Unless, of course, you’re arguing not for the right of immigration rights for yourself, but rather for emigration rights for the country you’ve come from. It seems to me these people not only want, after breaking the law, “citizenship-as-a-handout”, but also some sort of preferential status and cultural sympathy for illegal immigration from certain countries (like, say, Ireland enjoyed before its independence and later economic boom…and like Cubans enjoy now – simply flee Cuba, make it to U.S. soil, and you’re in! Screw Castro!).

It’s okay to be proud of the country you come from – that’s your heritage. Up until recent winds and rains reduced much of it to tatters, I had a good-sized American flag flying from the window of my apartment in Jerusalem. But if you’re in America legally or illegally, and want to be recognized and given rights as Americans, fly only the American flag at “Justice for Immigrants” rallies. Save the Mexican flags for Cinco de Mayo, José.

And while you’re at it, you might want to petition your own government to improve its economy – or even pressure the United States, if necessary, to pressure your government back home to get its fiscal house in order and work to create jobs. That makes infinitely more sense than Mexico City unnecessarily spending money to produce guides on how to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border.