Monday, May 01, 2006

The Slaves Never Got This Chance

Today, the nation protests immigration reform.

A key argument in the current controversy over immigration from the pro-"amnesty" side is that we need migrant workers to "do jobs that US citizens won't do" and not having them will "damage the economy." Look at the jobs, and look at the argument, and consider the pro-slavery arguments of the 19th century. They are remarkably alike. Consider now who, primarily, is making the arguments, and you find interesting bedfellows. The majority of "social progressives" are advancing the above argument, but, in the 19th century they would NEVER have advanced such an argument.

There are better ways to argue one's position on immigration, whatever that might be, beginning with opposition to illegal immigration, because it degrades the persons doing the jobs, the jobs, remember, that us lowly citizens won't do. We have dances to attend, mint julips to sip, and plantations to manage. It takes advantage of their willingness to work for low wages. Of course, all of these require a fundamental belief in the worth of a human being, not a belief that we are the sum of our genetic code and random forces, nothing more.

Consider also those who oppose illegal immigration. The battle cry there often revolves around some permutation of "they're taking our jobs and benefits." In other words, the cry is selfish, because they are taking something away from us. I happen to agree with this argument to a certain extent. In my own state, our budget last year was cut in some areas and some programs went unfunded because of budget shortfalls that were due in part to the influx of uninsured, undocumented workers. This year, our state legislature is going to try and go back to refund some if not all of those programs, because they were able to increase the collection of taxes. The point I'm making, however, is that, at its core, this argument is about what they do to harm us, rather than what the institutionalized degradation does to the persons involved in it. After all, if the jobs they are doing are lowly and unwanted, then it naturally follows they must be degrading, if, that is, it is really true these jobs are lowly jobs that we won't do.

Look at the jobs the slaves did in the South. They worked the fields and kept the homes and performed other menial jobs. Look at the jobs we "need" illegals to do: work the fields and keep the homes. Of course now we call them "migrant workers" and "laborers" in the field not "field hands (and I'm only using hands because I refuse to use the n-word), and members of the "cleaning industry" (not house workers, and I'm only using workers here to avoid using the n-word').

The only real difference is that they came here on their own, we didn't bring them here, and we pay them. On the other hand,they come here, get involved in immigration scams in which they are told they can stay, but really can't and end up worse off than when they came here. Some divorce to come here, because coming here single is easier than being married, but then don't remarry when their (former) spouse arrives, because we don't respect marriage ourselves, or they can't find their spouses. So, we end up having some hand in dividing families. Sound familar? It should. We're just not forcing it upon them like we did in the Old South. Not every abolition society was as altruisitic as one would be believe. There are reports from the North about the slums created by runaway slaves who made it to the North and had to live in crowded hovels and who could barely survive. Sound familar? Ever been to a home populated by the new immigrants? Many slaves reported they didn't want to leave their masters. Sound familar? It should, for today many are in the streets telling us they want to stay and keep their jobs--the ones the rest of us are to high and mighty to do it seems. I fear we're repeating our history.

If both of these groups arguing about what to do would abandon their 19th century thinking and think biblically, they would at least start with a premise (the worth of humans being created in God's image) and seek to make laws that alleviate the degradation of these persons. Did we learn nothing from the 19th century? Have we learned nothing from Dr. King? This is NOT an easy problem to solve. It will not go away over night, but surely we have enough of a history with these issues that we can muster the insight to resolve it without doing to the Mexicans and Latin Americans what we did to the Africans and their descendents.

No comments:

Post a Comment