The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Illegal Immigration Redux 

This post has been a long time coming, but I figured it was important to write now, in order to respond to some comments about an earlier post regarding a Bicycling Magazine article called Invisible Riders. The article, which purportedly was about people who ride their bikes to work, was really just about illegal immigration. First there was the person who claimed that stopping illegal immigration would destroy our economy:

This nation's economy would collapse if these undocumented aliens disappeared for, oh a week or so. They're forced to do the dirty work that the clean, white Americans wouldn't get caught dead doing. I found the article terrifically enlightening.

I always find it interesting how the people who most often encourage illegal immigration are also liberals who push unions, etc. Of course by encouraging illegal immigration they are pushing a large group of workers into an supervised black market where wages are depressed, there are no benefits, and also no recourse for workplace injuries. Ironic, no? Of course, if illegal immigration were controlled, then the number of possible workers would decline, which would elevate wages such that other workers might be more willing to take those jobs.

Then there was RC, who claimed I was bitter and have something against immigrants:

Damn, you're bitter. We're you screwed over by an illegal? Do you have something against immigrants?

"Invisible Riders" isn't about immigration, it's about people riding bicycles for transportation. It just so happens that some of them are illegals. I'm sure this segment of the population was chosen because they are the most likely to be dependent on bicycles for transpotation [sic].

Would this be any different if it were the working poor who were featured in the article? Just because some people are in this country illegally, it doesn't mean that they shouldn't be entitled to some degree of safety and respect. They're people, just like you, Nick.

I wish I could point to the full Bicycling article, but its not available online. Believe me though, there is no way to read that article in its entirety and not come away knowing that its about illegal immigration. Every person profiled in the article, save for one, is illegal. These aren't simply poor people somewhere who use their bikes to get around. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous.

He asks if I would feel different if it were about working poor... and the answer to that is absolutely. In fact, in the very beginning of the article, the author features a legal immigrant (actually a refugee). Here is what I wrote:

The story starts out following a particular gentleman named Francisco Orellano on his rides through the city to various locations where day laborers are picked up looking for work. He explains how much money he pulls down a week (about $200), and talks about his family in Central America. We find out that he is a refugee with a green card. He can't leave the U.S., because it will not grant him re-entry.
...
Of course, they also throw in details on the cheap department store bike he rides, and the traffic that he has to negotiate day in and day out. They talk of how long it takes to earn the money to buy such a cheap bike. Its a hard story, and it has me drawn in.

It wasn't until he treated the illegal immigrants, some of whom have stolen the bikes they ride, the same as the refugee that I was upset. Had the article not strayed into a profile of illegal immigration, I probably wouldn't have bothered with the post at all. In fact, I think the author would have been smarter to stick with profiling Francisco. It was the moral equivalency that bothered me. Legal and illegal immigrants are not the same.

Then RC says that they deserve the some degree of safety and respect. While I agree that they deserve some safety, they don't deserve respect. Respect is never deserved. Respect is earned. Someone who comes to this country by breaking our laws, and continues to do so while in this country deserves no such thing from me, and won't receive it. Francisco, the refugee who was profiled, who works his ass off to help his family, who came here legally from Central America has earned my respect.

Immigration laws aren't easy. I worked with several people from out of the country (several from India and a couple from China) who were here on either H1B visas, or had green cards. One in particular will always stand out in my memory who was here on an H1B visa sponsored by a local contracting firm. When his contract was cut where we both were working at the time, he had 30 days to find something, or be deported. When he couldn't find anything that would satisfy his visa requirements, he basically had to sell everything he had, furniture, electronics, etc. and take his family back to India.

I don't think it ever entered into Ragu's mind to stay here illegally. He cared very much about this country while he was here, and took great interest in politics, government, and the law. He was the type of guy who would've made a great addition to this country. He earned my deep respect. Am I bitter over that, as RC has suggested? I don't know. Is Ragu? Probably. The sad thing is that its illegal immigrants who make legal immigration so hard. Ironic, no?

Nothing bothers me more than people who treat people here legally, and people here illegally, like they are one in the same. Every person who is here illegally makes it harder to let in someone legally. People like RC, who treat the two interchangeably simply try to hide behind baseless claims of racism, or classism. Sadly, by lumping legals and illegals in the same bucket, it only hurts legal immigrants in this country, and brings upon them scorn and ridicule that is not deserved. People like RC are only doing them a disservice.

Comments:

Our debate this week is on immigration and the border fence Rep. Duncan Hunter wants to build. I'd love to hear your opinion!

Taylor
The Latin Americanist
http://ourlatinamerica.blogspot.com

  Posted at November 16, 2005 2:00 PM by Blogger Taylor Kirk  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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