Saturday, April 15, 2006

The War on our borders and assimilation

With the immigration debate heating up (or, as I would call it, the illegal immigration debate) I think most people know where I stand. On this issue, I am very adamant and on the opposite side of the president, the Chamber of Commerce, big business, immigrant groups, and the Catholic Church (talk about a coalition!). I am not against a guest worker program, but I think that's it's premature to even consider one until we secure our borders, increase border patrol, and effectively stop all illegals from coming in. Then, the congress can take up a separate bill on a guest worker program and easing VISA requirements, not only for Mexicans for for Eastern Europeans and Asians, who really want to come here, but are blocked by our outdated and antiquated immigration system that is too slow and bureaucratic.
However, the unceasing flow of illegals is putting a strain on our resources--education, healthcare, etc. We are getting many of the people we don't want--such as the flood of criminals and gang members escaping Mexico's lax enforcement, instead of the Mexican immigrants who want to contribute to our success and raise families in the U.S. They are applying legally and prevented from coming by outdated, bureaucratic entry requirements.
We must also be careful to make sure all immigrants assimilate. Europe has clearly had a rough time assimilating its immigrants, as the riots by poor Muslims in France last year clearly demonstrated. Immigrants are relegated to ghettos away from the rest of society and nothing is done to make them learn the native language, history, and understand the laws.
We in the United States, having always looked with scorn on Europe's left-wing experiment with "multi-culturalism," instead, we have embraced the "melting pot" concept where all immigrants adapt into American culture, while still retaining some pride and knowledge of their roots, but at the same time recognizing they are Americans first. This quote from one of the protesters at a recent immigration rally troubled me:

I've always been proud to say that I'm Hispanic," said Rafael "Ralph" Tabares, 17, a Marshall High School student and an organizer of his school's walkout. "But on Saturday, I thought: Whoa. We can do something. And we can do it right." from LA times

This kid should see himself as American first, not Hispanic. These hispanics are coming in faster than we can integrate them into American society, and that spells trouble. The states are not helping matters by printing ballots in Spanish and giving customer service instructions in two languages. Any nation that tries to establish a dual-language system faces integration problems and civil unrest (think Canada--english and french, China, India, etc).

I can think of a very simple yet troubling example when I was working as a phonathon caller on campus calling alumni. I called an older woman in San Jose, California, asking for contributions to the university. I was working on Halloween night and I asked her if she had many trick-or-treaters at her door.
"Actually, we have'nt had one," the woman said, in a slow, almost surprised voice. "But this neighborhood has a lot of Vietnames immigrants, and I don't think most of them know what Halloween really is. I don't think anyone has ever told them. It's kind of sad, really, if you think about it. Not one trick-or-treater."

I was astonished. Now you may say 'who really cares, it's just Halloween. But Halloween is a distinctly American tradition. Until recently, it wasn't even celebrated in Europe. If immigrants are not learning about simple American customs such as trick-or-treating and American holidays, how can we expect them to learn our laws and values? The failure of some immigrants to celebrate Halloween symbolizes the larger failure of fully integrating into our democracy. It could mean the beginning of the end of America's melting pot society and our downfall as superpower of the world. Our laws, religions, customs, and holidays shape our ideas on democracy, freedom, represenation, free speech, and the power of the individual. If this message is not being transmitted to immigrants through simple practices such as Halloween, how can we expect to keep the fabric of our nation from tearing apart across racial and ethnic lines?

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