Let me set the scene at the southern border:
Freight trains leave each day heading north. At the border “undocumented workers” swarm over the tracks, trying to catch a free ride into the promised land, and it isn’t uncommon for a train to have hundreds of people clinging to it, hitching a ride up north. But not everyone makes it — Hector fell under the moving train and lost both of his legs. Dangerous gangs roam along the border, and violence and prostitution run amok. Immigration officials catch some of the people crossing the river, but many make it past them. The officials and police will send the migrants back, but there are mixed signals being sent here: people from other government agencies patrol the border to advise people about their human rights, often giving them food and clothes. Commissioner Felipe Preciado laments over the Sisyphean nature of the illegal immigrant problem: “It took longer for our buses to turn around at the border than it did for undocumented migrants to re-enter [the country] somewhere else.”
Just north of the border, farmers and ranchers take advantage of the “temporary migrant workers,” paying them less than the minimum wage, and most often ignoring taxes like social security. Paying them in cash means not having to report the money to the government. These workers are often worked hard for a week or two, right up to payday, and then the immigration officers are called in to deport them before the money has to be paid out.
Edwin Morales has been an exile from his native land for almost twenty years now. He fled his home after the abduction and murder of one of his wife’s relatives by security forces. He went north because of the nation’s reputation for tolerance and democracy, but after three weeks in the capital city, he was arrested and detained by security forces. He was later deported to Cuba and told not to return for 10 years. Months later, Morales met up with his family in Nicaragua, and they now live in Costa Rica.
Not everyone is equally distressed over illegal immigration. Rigoberta Menchú Tum, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, recently referred to “our wonderful neighbor country that has been so dedicated and interested, that has made such great efforts in respect to the negotiations that are being conducted to achieve peace, [and] that has received and admitted so many refugees and exile[s]…” She said she was willing with “satisfaction and gratitude” not to keep her Nobel Prize medal, but instead to place it in a museum in the “wonderful neighbor country” to the north.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I once stood on a bridge spanning the Rio Grande between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. As I stood there, feet straddling the center line of the bridge, I spotted eight people wading across the river and running past the Immigration office. But none of the stories mentioned above took place on the southern border of the United States. They all took place on the southern border of Mexico. Just as the U.S. lures Mexicans who want to work and make money here, Mexico is likewise a shining lure to people living in Guatemala and places further south.
Mexican President Vicente Fox doesn’t like American plans to shut down easy access between the U.S. and Mexico. In a meeting with President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, President Fox said, “No country that is proud of itself should build walls. It doesn’t make any sense.” He also said that the new wall going up between the U.S. and Mexico should and must be demolished. If heading north is a basic human right for Mexicans, why doesn’t Sr. Fox feel the same way about Guatemalan nationals who wish to do exactly the same thing? I have previously pointed out that as individuals we would be very distressed to have neighbors and strangers wander freely into our homes at any hour of the day or night. A sturdy fence between the U.S. and its neighbors has the same purpose and function as a fence around one’s property and locks on the doors.
I don’t have a problem with legal immigration, as I have stated before, but I have a serious complaint against illegal immigration. This is one of the few issues where I strongly disagree with President Bush and his plans. And this is why I am in favor of the Minuteman Project.
Right now, hundreds of volunteers are patrolling a stretch of the Arizona border, and they plan on maintaining this patrol throughout the month of April. They are not there to physically stop people from crossing the border. They are there to spot anyone who enters the United States illegally and call in the immigration officials. They are extra eyes for the law, and a helping hand for people who are hungry and thirsty.
But not everyone appreciates what the Minuteman Project is trying to accomplish. Some of the attitudes against the Minutemen seem very similar to sentiments voiced by the ranchers and farmers in southern Mexico, who take advantage of cheap undocumented labor coming over the border. A Reuters article from April 6th echoes this sentiment:
“I had a Salvadoran work for me for six months, and it’s not uncommon for people here to drive a migrant north in their car rather than hand them over to the U.S. Border Patrol,” said cafe owner Charles Lewis.
The fact that these people are in the U.S. illegally doesn’t seem to matter to Mr. Lewis. I wonder if he would be as sanguine if his neighbors were in the habit of escorting people into his own home. Something tells me he would be very uneasy with that idea if it were made reality. But he has no problem with “people” performing a similar act toward his nation.
The article quotes another local’s opinion of the Minuteman Project:
“I’d rather take my chances with the Mexicans than one of these U.S. military type idiots taking part in the patrols,” local truck driver John Porter told Reuters, as he took the sun on a sidewalk table outside the Daily Diner.
“Migrants pay their taxes and I don’t have a problem with them,” he added.
“Migrants pay their taxes…” Do they really? I can’t deny that illegals must pay sales taxes on the things they buy, but how much property tax do they pay? How much income tax? I’m sure Mr. Lewis filled out a W-2 form for the Salvadoran who worked for him for six months, right? And since they don’t have a Social Security number, how could illegals be paying Social Security taxes? The answers to these questions are obvious. Illegal immigrants use our infrastructure, taking advantage of programs paid for with American tax dollars, but they do not pull their own weight because, as undocumented illegals who are usually paid under the table, they are not assessed taxes the rest of us must pay.
There is a much more compelling reason to secure the U.S. border. People exist who hate us, and who want to see us dead. An open border policy does not help keep these thugs away. Just as a fence around the property and locks on the doors are common-sense ideas, so is a secure border. New passport rules are a step in the right direction, regardless of alarmist claims that they will “threaten business relations.” I only wish President Bush would be as serious about securing our own borders as he has been in the rest of the War on Terror, but the sad truth is that he’s afraid to play hardball. Hispanic voters are a growing group, and woe unto the politician who angers a large group of voters in the United States.