Acuña, “Immigration for Dummies I

Rodolfo F. Acuña, “Immigration for Dummies I,” ROUGH DRAFT, April 2010

Lesson one deals with education, which is based on reason. Universities are supposed to sharpen the cognitive faculties of students; in other words teach them to think abstractly. The Greeks used the word “logos,” the Latin “ratio” and the French “raison” to describe reason. The discipline of history follows this logic and pretends to be based on documents, not opinion or faith.

Unfortunately, much of the opposition to immigration is not based on reason but emotion. For example, when the word immigration is mentioned, it sets off a Greek chorus that sprouts a litany of doom, designed to suffocate rational thought.

The Greek Chorus begins chanting: The little brown ones are taking jobs away from Americans. The Chorus does not ask, Whose job are they taking? Are they taking my job? Are they taking jobs from teachers? Nurses? Retail clerks? Are they taking jobs away from senior citizens?

The fact is that each of these sectors benefits from immigration. They create demand and in turn jobs are created in other sectors. For example, when General Motors/Van Nuys shutdown its plant, Mike’s Pizza, Mi Casita Café and a string of small businesses closed down as a result of the closure.

Who took those jobs away from GM workers, undocumented workers?

The Greek Chorus remained silent as the last auto assembly plant left L.A.

The members of the chorus are the same people who proudly wave American flags while driving foreign-made SUV’s and talking into Made in China cell phones.

The Greek Chorus chants that the “illegals” keeping wages down and that Americans would take these jobs if they were paid more.

The truth be told, if the employers had to pay more they would out source the remaining jobs in the garment, electronic and like industries. The result would be that more Mike Pizzas and Mi Casitas would close down, and teachers, nurses and retail clerks would have to compete for the ever shrinking pool of jobs, and this, not undocumented workers, would depress wages.

The Greek Chorus chants: If the “illegals” weren’t here, the employers would have to pay white and African Americans higher wages. Americans will do these jobs if they are fairly compensated.

Like they say in Spanish, por favor!. There are presently twenty-three right to work states. Llook at the map and it looks like a presidential election. The red states are almost all anti union and it precisely in those states where wages are the lowest.
Wouldn’t it be logical to conclude that the reason that wages are depressed is that there is a lack of collective bargaining?

Moreover, the argument has racial undertones. I have heard people say that undocumented workers are taking jobs away from African Americans. The assumption then is that blacks should be doing menial labor. They should be cleaning houses; they should be working in the nursing homes Americans warehouse their old people.

Few question why society has completely failed to educate blacks in the same proportion that it has white Americans.

Why hasn’t American society given African Americans the tools to compete for upper echelon jobs? Instead U.S. industries import computer scientists from India and other nations rather than to educate African Americans.

The Greek Chorus ignores this flaw in U.S. society; the fact is that undocumented immigrants actually save jobs.

Americans buy at Wal-Mart because it is cheaper than the local store selling union made goods. If restaurants paid more to service workers, the prices of meals would rise. Rather than spend the extra money, they would go to fast food establishments, and get fatter.

Americans send their old to dilapidated old age warehouses because it is cheaper and more convenient to have them there than at home. I have heard some home operators suggest that they should move their old age homes to Mexico for cheaper labor and less regulations.

Instead of mindlessly chanting tales of doom, the Greek Chorus should put a human face on the debate.

Several years ago my cousin Oscar died in one of those homes, completely paralyzed, after being hit by a drunk driver who happened to be a 23-year old white lady. He told me the only thing that made life bearable were those Mexican immigrants who were always smiles, showed compassionate and treated him with respect. Everyone merits respect.