Immigration is wonderful… if it happened a long time ago.

I have the luxury of being able to spend about half of my life in the East, and half in the SW part of the US. In fact, when I’m in the SW, I’m very close to the Mexican border. So, I get to hear the Easterners “solving” the immigration “problem”, and I also get to watch the “problem” up close and personal.

Coincidentally, one of my favorite hobbies is genealogy. I’ve been pursuing it for years and years now, and I enjoy the challenge of piecing together seemingly disparate pieces of information to make a whole. I’ve gone back as far as about 1300 C.E, and it’s interesting to note all the movements across borders. Either my family had the “travel gene” or it was a lot more common in the past to pick up your stuff and move.

So, how does living in the SW, listening to people complain about immigration, and the study of genealogy all mesh together. Simple, really. America is a nation of immigrants. I would hazard a guess that the majority of people who live here are here only because their grandparents, or great grandparents fled to this country. Perhaps “fled” is too strong a word, but a hundred to a hundred and fifty years ago, people came here to avoid starvation (e.g. potato famine in Ireland), pogroms (Eastern Europe), or simple poverty (Europe, Asia). Some came as brides from countries where arranged marriages were still the norm, some came to work at specific jobs (gold, coal mining, the railroad). And I, for one, see nothing wrong with any of that. Yet, the grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of those very settlers now abhor those who wish to enter the US for exactly the same reasons. Further, if the immigration policies in place today were in place only a hundred years ago, many of the complainants would either not exist, or be living somewhere other than the US. Whatever happened to Emma Lazarus’s

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

I guess we want the tired poor to stay behind the giant fence now.

However, what we want, and what we get are often two different things. We don’t know how many illegal immigrants there are in the United States, but we know we have lots of them. We also know they are still coming; those of us near the border see evidence of that on a daily basis. Border patrols driving up and down dirt paths beside the roadways, checking for footprints, road blocks where you stop and are asked “Are you a US citizen?” (This always strikes me as strange; if you say “yes”, you are waved on through, but if you say “no”, you must show your ID. Surely an illegal immigrant wouldn’t simply say “no” at such a road block? US citizens are asked for no paperwork, and even if they were, what would they have on them? How many carry their passport with them wherever they go?), and the sight of border patrol helicopters and high-tech surveillance equipment everywhere you go.

The politicians argue about the “problem” and will probably never agree. Whoever is in power is duty bound to disagree with whatever the group out of power say… at least, so it seems to me. My thinking is that if you have symptoms of a problem (and in my view, the symptoms are the numbers of people trying to enter the US illegally), you have to find the source and attend to that. If someone is bleeding to death, of course we stem the flow as best we can, but ultimately, if that person doesn’t get her arteries sewn up, or the gaping hole in their flesh attended to, we’ll spend our lives trying to stop the bleeding.

What then is the problem? Poverty for one, and safety for another. Drug cartels make a country unsafe not only for tourists (which is why most Americans won’t visit many parts of Mexico today), but also for the people who live there! This little fact seems to have escaped the notice of many of our immigration naysayers. Apparently, it’s ok for others to live in such conditions, but not us. That kind of thinking must stop. What happens in one country affects the world.

Perhaps if the US spent as much money in the countries from which most of our newer non-citizens hail as they do on border guarding, we might see a slow down in northbound traffic? After all, people don’t tend to attempt dangerous journeys for no reason (and yes, crossing the border can be dangerous. Every year, some of those who attempt it die, most commonly of dehydration). Take away the reason, and you solve the “problem”.

I don’t think the answer is easy to achieve, in case you are mouthing to yourself that I’m too idealistic and simplistic. However, all I see from my perspective are complaints from people who need to learn to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins, and a very active, well-funded border patrol. I don’t hear anything about efforts to go to the source, but I’d love to hear of any.