Immigration... it's the economy, stupid

First Blog...
I'm writing this blog because it's something very important to me and I need to express my deep feelings on this subject as the immigration debate wages and today hundreds of thousands will be out in a national show of protest to the House bill. However you feel about immigration, you need to understand a bit about the economics that fuel the whole situation. I realize that I am in the minority of the 40% of Americans who support comprehensive immigration reform, a path for becoming legal for undocumented immigrants, and justice for people who are human beings, not "aliens." But I don't care that most don't agree with me. To me, this is a human rights issue, and to those who don't care enough about human rights, at least try to understand that it's a simple economic issue of supply and demand which will continue to "chingar" (look it up) any attempt to restrain or restrict or deport or build barriers to the immigrant population.

Myths about Immigrants
For all those people who say that immigrants are destroying the US economy, stealing jobs from native born Americans, eating up our resources and milking welfare for all it's worth, I don't really even want to address you. But suffice it to say that immigrants contribute 5 billion more dollars a year than they take out in benefits, they are often pinpointed as the only force keeping our Social Security system afloat (all those SS taxes they pay in, which they will never see again), and the huge influx of immigrants since 1980 has boosted the average wage of U.S.-born workers by about 2 percent, partly by spurring additional capital investment. Contrary to popular belief, undocumented immigrants are most often paid by CHECK, not in cash, and do pay taxes (ones that they are not able to benefit from). They are NOT eligible for aid - Medicaid, educational loans, housing, etc. -it's all off limits to immigrants, even in cases of emergency. The only time they can receive help is when they show up in the emergency room of a hospital and under law, must be served. And even in my work, I've had clients turned away from the public hospitals who were suffering from severe mental health problems and suicidal. Is this any way to treat a human being?

It's the Economy, Stupid.
Did you know that the United States and Mexico represent the largest wealth gap of any two contiguous countries in the entire world?? Think about it. According to latest statistics (2002), half the population in Mexico was living in poverty and one fifth was living in extreme poverty. The situation is worse in Guatemala and the rest of Central America. Upon arriving to the U.S., undocumented immigrants are able to find work - even if it pays $5.50 an hour, that's still 11 times more than the minimum wage in Mexico - if they could even find work in Mexico. In the rural areas, often there is no opportunity. People crowd into the cities looking for work, especially Mexico City - a chaos of 25 million people - trying to find work, and often end up living in marginalized circumstances, gathering every morning holding signs for their skills - plumber, electrician, construction - with little luck. Whole communities live in garbage dumps, picking through the rotten discards for 12 hours a day, averaging $2.50 a day.

Our Message to "Illegal" Immigrants
So here in America, we say, "Don't come to the US, it's illegal - not to mention extremely dangerous, in fact, you may die getting here - but when you get here, we will reward you with a job." What message does that send? For some, it's the only option. It is their means to survival. Families are separated and desperately want to reunite. Whole towns in Mexico have ceased to exist or are filled only with the elderly, women and children, because the men have gone to find work. So more women are starting to follow them. Others, like many I work with, have been sexually or physically tortured and are escaping by coming here. Others were active in politics in Guatemala and had to leave if they wanted to stay alive. Immigrants are here for many reasons, working hard, trying to survive. They need our understanding, not our disdain, racism and threats.

The Useless War
For me, the immigration issue is similar to the drug issue. Drugs will continue to cross the border because it's an issue of supply and demand. The same is true with the immigrant issue. People will dig tunnels, swim through the Pacific ocean, spend days sweltering in the dangerous desert crossings to get here if it means a better life, a chance to give their families and their children what every human being deserves - safety, food, shelter, dignity (aka. basic human rights). Until we address the underlying & overwhelming poverty in the rest of the world and start to care, start to act, we can't expect immigrants to stop coming here, nor can we blame them. If I were them, I'd do it too.

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