Smart Borders

All future postings from blogger Matthew Webster will now appear on:

http://smartborders.wordpress.com

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Rio Grande Valley Tactical Infrastructure EIS Document Response, or The Difference between 1907 and 2007

    2007 marks the centennial of the United States’ peak year of immigration. 1907 marked a year where, despite awful discrimination against Asians in the ongoing Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the introduction of the Japanese Gentleman’s Agreement, America drew well over a million to its shores to participate in our thriving economy. The centennial of that year finds a very different attitude towards immigration in the polis of America. With the inhibitive and overly restrictive immigration laws and lottery system, we have no real concept of how many migrants, sojourners, asylum-seekers, refugees, and visa over-stayers “immigrated” this year. We do, however, know that some 12 million extralegal citizens currently reside in the continental United States, as defined by the Mexican-American War; in addition to these teeming extralegals, there are millions of other Americans complicit in this immigrant labor and success in our nation.

    While positive, concrete immigration reforms stalled in a staunchly partisan triumvirate political system last year, the only significant immigration legislation in recent years is the Secure Fence Act of 2006. This legislation is slowly, imperceptibly creeping along the Mexican-American border, attempting to replace the natural Rio Grande with the inefficacious Muro Grande. the 538-page U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report entitled “Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Construction, Maintenance, and Operation of Tactical Infrastructure Rio Grande Valley Sector, Texas,” detailing the border barrier and its efforts was just published to the public this past week. Having read these words with an eye to its impact on my own backyard of Brownsville, Texas, it appears to be a shameless show of smoke and mirrors. The purported aim of this barrier, in keeping with the same goals of this present administration which has already brought us to the desert of Iraq and the shores of Cuba, is first and foremost to counter terrorism, presumably being trucked across our Southern border as you read this. In addition, though, the border wall is also supposed to deter drugs (to help our healthy black market “just say no”) and stymie the flow of illegal immigrants in ways that legislative reform cannot.

    Preexistent in this lengthy document, however, is its own unstated downfall. The document brings up token dissent as a means of disproving “all” alternatives to a border wall stretching some 70 miles through the Rio Grande Valley and up to 700 miles along the entire border, but the criticism undoubtedly ricochets back at the wall. The report states that a natural hedge would slow crossings and promote nature, but that it regrettably would not be a foolproof deterrent and would need constant reparations. Such criticism could be directed at the border wall itself. Its staunchest supporters admit it will do littler more than slow down illegal crossings. The report itself states that, because the wall is not continuous, it will probably just shift illegal activity to other, arguably more treacherous, crossing zones.

    The document also proposes that the wall is a “force multiplier” to aid in stopping immigration. Intriguingly, this has been the rallying cry for American businesses so desirous of cheap immigrant labor. Additionally, this report ignores the fact that providing more legal means to citizenship, as opposed to vindictive threats of deportation and Catch-22 scenarios for extralegal aliens already here, would do more to reduce illegal immigration. Just as providing CHIP and family assistance does not serve as an incentive for the impoverished to have illegitimate children, neither will this sort of immigration reform open up the door to illegal immigrants. Rather, it will provide a way and means for qualified individuals to forgo a cruel lottery system in order to officially enter the ranks of the Americans they work alongside already.

    The border wall espoused in this document, replete with its treatment of dissent, is politically little more than a token gesture that both Republicans and Democrats are “tough on immigration,” though hardheaded and medieval in their means. Tokenism is, as Martin Luther King, Jr. writes in his “Bold Design for a New South,”

not only…a useless goal, but…a genuine menace. It is a palliative which relieves emotional distress, but leaves the disease and its ravages unaffected. It tends to demobilize and relax the militant spirit which alone drives us forward to real change.

Socially, ethically, morally, and economically, the Secure Fence Act which is now being treated as inevitable, is a negative, self-defeating gesture which will cripple our workforce, legislate nativism, forgo and delay meaningful immigration reform, and sap precious resources from our nation’s poorest. This wall will brutalize the fragile ecosystem and cultural legacy of La Frontera and will set up a racially-suspicious immigration which leads heavily in favor of Western European countries with its emphasis on numbers, irregardless of population size. This lengthy literary exercise in bureaucracy will soon disappear in the vaults of the Library of Congress, but if we erect a barrier in this Western Hemisphere and ignore real legislative reform for immigration, its legacy will be that of 1924 and 1882, rather than that of 1907, the biggest year yet in immigration. Future generations will peer inquisitive at our contemporary history, befuddled by the ways in which a country so in love with globalizing technology and overseas production could be so obstinately opposed to a globalizing populace.

Forgetting what makes us strong

It’s been a long time since we lived the idea that people are innately good. Just laws, the kind of legislation our country was founded upon, enable and protect the innate goodness of the individual against the circumstantial evils of a few. Unjust laws, however, demean this innate goodness by making criminals out of innocents. The country with the most laws is the most corrupt.

 

Unjust laws of citizenship can be explained by the fixation of American culture on the unpredictable, “evil” nature of people rather than the more common goodness of the individual. Fear, or terror, born out of a single event one September, has come to shape not only our war policy but also the way we internally police our nation and stalk our borders.

 

It’s been a long time since we remembered that people are good.

 

King writes it this way: “We have allowed our civilization to outdistance our culture…Civilization refers to what we use; culture refers to what we are…” America needs, has in fact always needed, immigrants and new citizens to keep its economy and culture vital. But throughout our history, from the Alien Act of 1798 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the citizenship literacy test of 1917 and the first nation-based “emergency” quota system of 1921, our country has operated in a schizophrenic manner, not wanting or welcoming the very immigrants which made it great. The Know-Nothing party, created for the sole purpose of opposing my immigrant ancestors the Irish Catholics, lives on in the Minutemen and now the inglorious border wall. We have consistently despised the very things which make us strong. It was only the innate goodness of man, coupled with divine Providence, that these opposing forces never gained the upper hand and tyrannically ended immigration

 

“The great problem confronting us today is that we have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live.” As a nation, America is materialistically wealthy but spiritually poor, full of knowledge but too often without wisdom. Capitalism, with its unseen hand of the marketplace, does whatever it can to keep the prices down and sales up; as a result, low-wage labor provided by immigrants has become an integral part of our national GDP. American citizens defend their rights as consumers but too often lose sight of the ends for which we live. As King writes, “As long as there is poverty in this wold, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars.” In the same vein, no one can be a citizen if there is someone living within our borders who is denied the basic rights of other residents.

 

It’s been too long since we made legislation which affirms the fact that man, made in God’s own image, is good and deserving of certain inalienable rights, alien or not.

 

IN this world of globalization, we must realize that the tenets this country was based upon do not apply merely to the continental U.S. but to the world at large. Globalization must have regulations, indeed, but we are hopelessly interconnected now so that the fate of one “illegal” immigrant is the fate of so many others. This new concept of the world begs a revised definition of the term “citizen;” how much longer can our nation exist with its double-standard for citizenship, with its 14 million right-less residents working to sustain the rights and wealth of the rest of our nation. We must come to terms that the way our nation stands right now, my rights are secured because someone else’s are denied; my paycheck is buoyed by the sub-standard wages of illegal immigrants we economically need and legislatively condemn.

 

It’s been too long since we recalled the goodness in our fellow man, in the global community, in our bordering neighbors, in all our residents of this great land.

 

The American dream reminds us that every man is heir to the legacy of worthiness.” And so, we must conclude that a nation which holds tight to restrictive, antiquated quote systems has forgotten the worth of the individual. We must reason that a nation which closes Ellis Island, hunts immigrants, and deports workers must not view people as an asset any longer, but as a burden. Far from being overpopulated, our nation’s immigration legislation heralds the arrogant notion that we already have everyone we need within our borders. But we know better than that. We must “in-source” ideas from Gandhi’s India, ideas about the importance of man and nonviolence. We must remember that people are good, not goods or commodities or without rights.

 

It’s been too long since we remembered the goodness of which we are capable and the means by which every one of us arrived at our blessed rights.