In Defense of Immigration

Last time, the Master of the Extraordinary got mad at me because my topic wasn’t sufficiently polemic. “Controversy sells, Carlos, pick something that will piss people off!” So after scratching my head for a while, I finally settled on immigration.

Now I’m sure this will leave no doubt in the rabble-rousers’ minds that I’m up to no good: “Carlos is at it again, corrupting our good old-fashioned American values. Just look at his name, he is probably one of them [a proud Irish-Jewish mutt!]. Let’s deport him now before he causes any more problems.”

As our world has become increasingly globalized, immigration in turn has been rising steadily: Just look at all the immigration to countries in western Europe that until recently had been sources of significant emigration to the Americas. So while we can certainly argue about its pros and cons, the fact of the matter is that there will continue to be an  “immigration problem” as long as significant differences in economic opportunities between neighboring countries persist, and no physical or legal barriers are going to prevent this.

Furthermore, if individuals are willing to travel long distances, braving great dangers both human-made and natural in order to be justly compensated for their hard work, then we should welcome them with open arms. Now some may say, “Carlos, we don’t have a problem with the one’s who enter the country legally, just the one’s who are entering illegally!” This argument might be persuasive if we could all honestly agree that the current laws are sound. However, the desire to change them appears to be one of the few universals in this debate.

Others fear that the immigrants are somehow going to irreparably pervert American culture (Oh God, not tacos, accordion music and Catholicism!). Ultimately, as long as we teach them English, share with them our cultural values, and are willing to learn about theirs, the concerns about Latino, Indian or Arab immigrants today will prove to be just as unfounded as the concerns about Italian, Irish or German immigrants 150 years ago. Call me old fashioned but I still believe that there is inherent value in accepting the world’s “tired”, “poor”, “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse” (Emma Lazarus, 1883).

– Carlos de la Gringa




Filed under Carlos de la Gringa, In Defense of...

2 responses to “In Defense of Immigration

  1. Sarah Bonner

    I find it interesting that you mention teaching immigrants English.

    It’s been my experience that there is a lot of opposition to this idea, namely because there is a political taboo undercurrent quietly whispering into people’s ears that to teach English to immigrants would be to impose English as the official language of the US, which consequently (and supposedly) goes on to furthering racist agendas.

    I recently spent the last three years living out in Phoenix. As a non-professional worker, this brought me in direct competition with, you guessed it, the local Latino population (both legal and non-legal). One of the BIGGEST hurdles I was faced with when job hunting was the fact that I was automatically disqualified from about 90% of the available jobs out there solely because I did not speak Spanish. This was not only because many businesses served Spanish-speaking-only customers, but because they chose to hire only Spanish-speaking-only employees.

    There are many, many programs available in that area that provide ESL classes — often for free. However, I did not see a lot of use of these, and most adult Latinos that I grew to know did not even WANT to learn English; instead, they depended on their children to be translators. So there is also the problem of convincing immigrants, regardless of legal status, to use these programs and put forth the effort to learn English. Without actually requiring it of workers in the US, I have my doubts as to the success of these classes.

  2. Thanks a lot for your comment!

    When I say teaching English, I am referring principally to the education of children and not adults. In this case, it is important not for cultural or political reasons but for the simple fact that not learning English severely limits the options that these children will have for work in the future and their ability to participate in the greater American society. However, I have the sense both from what I have read and what a friend who teaches in the Chicago public school system has told me that immigrant parents are aware of this fact and want their kids to learn English just as much as everybody else.

    The fact that the adults aren’t learning English worries me considerably less. It is much harder for adults to learn a foreign language than kids, and I suspect it is considerably harder for those who are also working several low-paying jobs to support their families. Furthermore, I don’t really have a problem with the notion that there are certain parts of the country where English is not the principal language spoken, and I don’t think it is the job of the government to impose its usage upon the private sector.

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