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« Reason

Too many wars

By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)

Published August 4, 2008

We've got a war going on today. It's not in Iraq or Afghanistan; it's right here in America. It's not the War on Drugs or the War on Poverty. It's a war on North Americans, working in restaurants and factories around the corner and across the country.

The War on Immigration is creating new victims on a daily basis, both citizens and immigrants alike. Each arrest, each deportation puts at risk the life of the immigrant and the livelihood of the citizen counting on them for labor.

Take a look at the recent raid on Casa Fiesta, where 58 employees at eight restaurants throughout Ohio were arrested. You may call them what you like, but these immigrants are men and women, fathers and mothers looking for work and the hope of a better tomorrow. They're not so different from the immigrants who came by boat to populate Youngstown with Italians, Germans, Polish, Hungarians, and so many other ethnicities many years ago, except that they've come by land rather than sea.

They also missed out on a more liberal immigration policy. When President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the government had the brilliant idea that penalizing the employment of undocumented immigrants would reduce their opportunities and wages, thereby decreasing the amount of undesirable immigration. As we know, however, the numbers continue to grow. So do the problems.

Gravely troubling is the story of what happened in Iowa this May, when federal immigration agents raided a meatpacking plant after a long investigation into its workplace conditions. But, as the New York Times pointed out in an editorial last week, after amassing "evidence of rampant illegal hiring," "a videotape by an animal-rights group [showing] workers pulling the windpipes out of living cows," and "an ugly reputation for abusing animals and workers," "the government swoops in and arrests ... the workers, hundreds of them, for having false identity papers."

The workers are then charged with "aggravated identity theft," as if the workers' sole aim in visiting the United States was to defraud the government rather than earn what wages they can for their families, accepting whatever conditions they must in the process:

"Some said they worked shifts of 12 hours or more, wielding razor-edged knives and saws to slice freshly killed beef. Some worked through the night, sometimes six nights a week.

One, a Guatemalan named Elmer L. who said he was 16 when he started working on the plant’s killing floors, said he worked 17-hour shifts, six days a week. In an affidavit, he said he was constantly tired and did not have time to do anything but work and sleep. “I was very sad,” he said, “and I felt like I was a slave.”"

The progressive think-tank Center for American Progress has developed an in-depth report outlining the steps that must happen in concert for immigration reform to succeed:

  • Accept increased labor mobility
    Capital has become mobile, but labor has not kept pace, because we have restricted its flow. The labor market must likewise become global and free-flowing, if well-regulated.
  • Incorporate robust enforcement and safeguards
    We accept that there must be limits on legal immigration and there must be security at points of entry to our borders to acknowledge today's threats. At the same time, we must ensure our practices in dealing with immigrants and border security are humane and in accordance with the personal rights and privacy that are the foundation of our Constitution.
  • Protect U.S. workers
    We've taken too many backwards steps in the protection of workers, towards a new gilded age. We need to ensure workers retain the right to organize, can earn a fair wage, and may change jobs freely without fear of retribution or loss of a safety net for their families (e.g. health care)
  • Increase and diversify legal immigration
    We tend to think of immigration with an eye only towards our southern border, but there are all types of immigrant workers. The report cites 25% of "venture-backed companies founded between 1990 and 2005" started by immigrants and the $130 billion in revenue and 220,000 U.S. workers employed in the same period by "immigrant-founded publicly traded" companies. Overall levels of legal immigration should be increased to take advantage of the varied forms of immigration that power our economic engine.
  • Resolve the status of the undocumented
    There are millions of workers currently benefiting our economy, though with an undocumented status and with no legal rights. There must be a fair, firm path to become legal to escape the current exploited status in which the undocumented workers exist and to secure opportunity for those workers and U.S. workers alike.
  • Foster an inclusive American identity
    American society has always been influenced by immigrants, and the future will continue to find this to be the case. We must find a balance between promoting our traditional values and acknowledging that people must bring with them their own values to stay true to their heritage.


What can you do to help? Start by connecting with those who are already making a difference: organizations like Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Youngstown. You don't have to be a Catholic—or even a believer—to believe in their mission: "helping meet basic human needs, strengthening families, building communities and empowering low-income people."

And even thought its Web site clearly states that the group provides "outreach and ministry to immigrant and migrant populations," when I met with Executive Director Brian Corbin recently, he explained that when he speaks up on immigration, he regularly gets calls from angry donors who want their money back.

Reach out to organizations like Catholic Charities to help fight poverty and racism in America and make a difference in Youngstown and Northeast Ohio.

Write to your congressperson, and insist on a fair immigration policy that follows the guidelines set forth above.

Keep your eyes and ears open and stay educated on the subject of immigration, and be prepared to confront issues as they surface in conversation. Don't let racism go unchallenged. By standing up to hatred and ignorance, you can set an example and change minds.

Love one another.


Have a topic you'd like to read about? Or just want to give your feedback? E-mail me at reason -at- tylersclark.com


1lucy(135 comments)posted 7 years, 11 months ago

"Keep your eyes and ears open and stay educated on the subject of immigration, and be prepared to confront issues as they surface in conversation. Don't let racism go unchallenged. By standing up to hatred and ignorance, you can set an example and change minds.

Love one another."

Beautiful, Tyler.

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2tylersclark(182 comments)posted 7 years, 11 months ago

Thanks, Lucy! Always happy to have you here.

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3metz87(902 comments)posted 7 years, 11 months ago

The problem is some towns will lose half their workforce is if we deport all the aliens and then what do you ahve,a bad ecnomy.

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4tylersclark(182 comments)posted 7 years, 11 months ago

clarkkent, I recognize your passion on the subject and appreciate that you've taken the time to share your thoughts here. You say "illegal is still illegal." A friend of mine has a great perspective on this that I wanted to relate. He speaks about it more eloquently than I, and you can read more in full here: http://tinyurl.com/6hsjyv

The essential point is that immigration law is under the civil-administrative law, not under the criminal code. So, it's more in the same legal league with breaking the speeding limit than with robbing a liquor store. If you get a speeding ticket, are you branded an "illegal driver?" Or, worse, an "illegal person?"

These are merely convenient terms that help us dehumanize immigrants and cast them to the bottom of our discourse, so it's easier for us to forgive them their human rights. Sure, I wish Mexico was a more appealing place for its citizens. I also wish the U.S. took better care of its less fortunate. I wish a lot of things. Among those is a more humane immigration policy. Thanks again for your comments.

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5Ecran(1 comment)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm disgusted with this illegal immigration problem as the next person; however, if there is any blame to go around it ought to be the employer. I hate when people say that Americans won't work these jobs that illegals are taking. Americans won't work these jobs because they won't be paid fairly and do not want to be exploited. But employers on the other hand know illegals won't complain because they're happy to have a job thus exploit them for bigger profits. It's easier to hire an illegal than an American citizen. So I blame the employers for this illegal immigration problem that has been going on now for decades. Yes, everyone is at fault but I place more blame on the employers degrading these illegal immigrants.

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6Jon(27 comments)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

Again, very nice article.

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7tylersclark(182 comments)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

It's rare to find a group of so many commenters who will approach such a loaded topic with such thoughtfulness, restraint, and courtesy. Thanks for your comments and for respecting each other's views in your replies. This is how it should be!

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8Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

I really dislike the rascism implication being used here for those who favor enforcement of immigration law.

I believe that most illegal immigrants, at least the ones I've met, are law-abiding (except for their illegal entry), hard-working, good people. I certainly understand why they would rather live here than where they came from. They are seeking a better life for themselves and their family.

I also believe that a soveriegn nation, particularly one fighting a GWOT, needs to restrict its immigrants to ones who are not criminals, drug traffickers, those carrying comunicable diseases, or who have nefarious intentions. It also can't allow all others who don't meet the above exclusion criteria to immigrate. All finite spaces have limited resources.

I don't know what you're suggesting...open borders, or if once they cross that they're home free? What an incentive that would be to try to cross. Is it really that cruel to arrest someone and return them to their country of origin?

I've seen other countries guard their borders with heavily armed soldiers, and it keeps the criminals out while the legal immigrants immigrate after a background check. What's wrong with that?

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9tylersclark(182 comments)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

Nonsocialist, please note that I'm not saying you either agree with me or are a racist. But there are those whose attitudes against immigrants are colored by their skin. And I find we tend to see racism today in terms of merely black and white.

You'll note that we both agree there should be finite immigration controls and for qualified immigrants. I'm simply saying we should adjust our quotas to meet demand and ensure labor mobility keeps pace with today's mobile capital.

As for the border, I'm sure you know what's wrong with the heavily armed border you're proposing: our geography. It's simply not practical. If it were, it would be a less contentious issue. We have checkpoints, and they work as well as they can. Despite the beloved GWOT, our trillions can be better spent than on Middle Eastern wars and southern border fences.

Thanks for your comment.

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10Tugboat(759 comments)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

Immigration & National Security:


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11tylersclark(182 comments)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

Tugboat, instead of just posting a link, please cite what is especially relevant and noteworthy from this article to our discussion here and add your own commentary. That way we and the author aren't doing your work for you. Thank you.

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