The Human Cost of Anti-Immigration Fervor

The mother and child you see there are Elvira and Saul Arellano. As many have noted (Nez at Unapologetic Mexican, Xicanopwr, Lindsay at Majikthise), this is painful to watch. No matter what side you take on the immigration debate, you must acknowledge the human cost.

There is a beautiful and ancient tradition that has long been a part of our culture.  Throughout our history it has been there: quiet and subtle, hidden and mysterious.  I am speaking of mercy.  The notion that even when someone is guilty of a crime, we can reach into our better selves and act compassionately.

The responses to this are sure to revolve around “She broke the law”.  Yes.  But how we respond to that is an expression of who we are and how we want to be.

So I am asking for the moment that we put aside our considerable differences on immigration, and simply consider the human cost of our policies.  And maybe when we pick our differences back up again, we keep that in mind when we try and find a compromise.


8 Responses

  1. I’m sad to see that this incredibly thoughtful, poignant post generated so little attention. There are, of course, human costs, on both sides of the immigration issue, some more direct than the others and I am willing to listen to any argument that takes that into consideration. I am also unwilling to listen to any argument that does not.

    “Economic development” is a great example too, where some people support economic development for its own sake, regardless of who is washed away in the “rising tide.” I’m not interested in the letter of the law or economic development or immigration or war if the human cost is not considered.


  2. Why do we see no pictures of the American children and their mothers and fathers who cannot find work because immigrants have taken them? Thirty years ago you could support a family with a union construction job. Not so today. You cannot find union jobs because the immigrants will work for little or nothing, plus they don’t insist on safety or benefits. They have lowered the wage floor for everyone. Many American families are dropping out of the middle class because the parents can only find jobs at Wal-Mart. It is the same with housing. They have driven the prices out of reach. Show us the pictures of the American children who suffer and tell us where the mercy is for them.

  3. Thanks JimPanzee. Your comment means quite a lot.
    you don’t see pictures and words about the cost of immigration and globalization because that’s not what I was writing about here. I don’t need to balance every little thing with its opposite.
    As for the question of immigration (and you seem to be talking about legal immigration here), is the solution to simply shut the borders entirely? That doesn’t make sense. A lack of jobs and lowered working conditions are issues we need to address at the source: the greedy corporations who impose them.

  4. Julia, you’re right, those filthy immigrants will sink to any level just to put food on their tables. Have they no shame?

    Actually I understand your argument and it’s part of the “human story” that is so deeply involved with immigration. But we can hardly blame immigrants for doing what any human would do.

    The real criminal in the picture you paint is not the immigrant but the company that hires them. If corporations weren’t always looking for ways to cut their bottom line they wouldn’t begin the race to the bottom that ends in laying off union employees for cheap Mexican labor.

    I mean, if the problem really is between cheap Mexican labor and the the (presumably) fair waged union labor, then the Mexicans are getting doubly screwed 1) they aren’t getting paid the correct price for what their labor is worth AND 2) people hate them for it.

  5. I have stated this before but cannot overstate it. I feel sympathy for the exploited people all over the world. As long as mankind allows the golden calf (money/same thing) to be more important than spirit (God, Buddha, Allah whatever fills your soul) then all animals and plants for that matter, will be exploited. I feel sympathy for my industry (residential carpentry) because carpenters are the oldest and most necessary profession and we get treated like the supposed oldest profession. The exploitation of illegal immigrants is not limited to corporations, far from it, citizens want a good deal and small business owners want to maximize profits and people are willing to break the law for just about any reason these days to get ahead. I do not break the law I couldn’t live with myself if I did and I taught this to my children. I also taught them to avoid being exploited to the best of my ability. I did this by not spoiling them and teaching them the importance of seemingly insignificant things being invaluable. What is missed in the immigration debate by many people is that there should be no reason for people to want to come to the U.S. over their own home. The connectivity of the internet should have by now leveled the social complexities of the world to the point of a government free globe but the opposite has happened instead. The world government has produced the biggest exploitation of life imaginable. We are all enslaved by the golden calf idiom and we know that we want to break free but cannot. It is so simple yet so complex. The answer is right there and the question is ignored. I have sympathy for exploited people anywhere. Myself included.

  6. Fitness I don’t mean to break any rules (posting sites) but here is just one example of why the human suffering continues with regards to the Mexican people
    I can provide more but you get the picture I think…

  7. JimPanzee,
    Right on.

    Michael D,
    No rules with posting sites or links. Although if you post too many akismet jumps on it, but I try to rescue valid comments incorrectly identified as spam.

    Why do we need to get rid of government?

    I agree, we need to focus on the problems that move people to leave their countries. That would be a very productive debate to have. But we must also acknowledge that immigration is healthy and natural. And our immigration policies, especially towards certain countries, are screwed up.

  8. I can’t agree with you enough. The distinction and the resulting problem (humanity lost) is the designation of illegal immigration or legal immigration and the government screws this concept up. Immigration is healthy and a sign of symbiosis which in nature (life) is necessary for continued existence. The government makes laws that make procedures that make immigration legal or illegal. Can we stand there and be omnipotent and say “ok you can stay but you must leave” The concept of immigration laws is to not have to be in the position of being god. Requirements that you learn English are not racist, or that you are immunized is not bigotry. It is self preservation (right or wrong that’s the intent). If the government were not so hypocritical it would pressure, Mexico for an immediate instance, to be assisting the people to desire to stay in the country they were born in and have pride in it and stand for it.

    The state of immigration in the U.S. is mostly a matter of assimilation where as the illegal immigrants want this to be Mexico not the U.S. which is why I am ill at the thought of having two numbers to call one for English one for Spanish (which I am fine with) but when you dial the English number the first thing on the message is “para espaniol marke numero dos” which I am not fine with. That’s the unwillingness of immigrants to assimilate and it is a bad thing. Unfortunately there is the human cost which is unavoidable whether they never come here at all and live with the bad conditions in their country or they come here and are breaking the law and ultimately are exploited and have to live as criminals.

    Good answer I have none. Idealistic solutions, only that the governments of the world stop trying to socially engineer countries and let people live. Provide for their countries and have citizens that would never leave. Sounds simple enough.

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