Can we say “Ellis Islands, West?”

Can we say “Ellis Islands, West?” June 21, 2006

Getting back to this subject, there are plenty of people living and working here whose green cards or visas expired and who, encountering the quite broken INS, made the choice that to rip their established lives to shreds (particularly if they had children) in order to obey a corrupt and ineffective, floundering bureaucracy have made an understandable choice. “Illegal is illegal” might sound good, but it does not acknowledge the fact that our INS is irretrievably broken and unwilling or unable to look at these human beings and see human beings. And lots of hardliners have stopped seeing the human beings in this issue, too.

I got lots of hate mail for this post of mine but no one ever addressed this part of the piece:

Aside from the legal and moral ramifications of trying to “round them all up -” I got out of the car thinking, are they forgetting that we are talking about human beings, here? Many of whom have been here for years, initially through legal means, and who have created lives? People with lives and families who – like how they got here or not – are HERE and are mostly contributing to society in positive ways? Honestly, the folks on the radio sounded extremely narrow and over-the-top. The humanity of the illegals seemed as unmentionable to them as the humanity of a baby-in-utero is to a Naral supporter.

No one ever addressed this part, either:

70 or 80 years ago, my own ancestors were coming in, legally, and learned to hang drywall and fix automobiles and fight fires. Yes, they were legal…the nation had well-run, functional programs to handle a huge influx. Had such a program not been in place, they would have come, anyway…and they would have been illegal!

I wonder why it is that we do not, today have a well-run, functional immigration program to handle the huge influx of people who wish to live here. Why aren’t we WORKING on creating such a program? Why isn’t that part of any immigration bill – the reform of the INS?

We’re going to need our immigrants as the boomers retire and weigh heavy on our SocSec system and their children barely reproduce at replacement levels. Why can’t we bring back the idea of Ellis Island – create an Ellis Island West (or “Islands”) of strategically-placed processing centers, so to speak — which would prevent the “illegality” of our immigrants?

That might be helpful, you know? Make ‘em legal, get ‘em paying taxes…Sure, some people called my grandfather a “filthy wop” and my other grandfather a “lazy mick” and they bitched because the carousel at Coney Island suddenly played Italian hurdy-gurdy instead of genteel songs from the gay 90’s, but everyone adjusted. The nation grew stronger.

And please don’t give me Rush’s lines about how the country cannot absorb so many immigrants, or that it will either lower or raise standard wages. Rush loves supply and demand when it suits him, and our economy is surging and so strong – strengthened by tax cuts and the resulting increase in tax revenues – that we don’t have enough workers. The nation is already absorbing her immigrants, and I can’t imagine why suddenly the idea of an increased tax base is anathema to so many. Let’s get the illegal Irish over in Southampton and Montauk into the tax base, too, while we’re at it, because guess what, folks, thousands of ’em come in every year, and they’re not going home, either. Although I don’t hear any complaining about it.

I have written about some of the illegals who go to my church, who have lived here for many years, established themselves as best they have been able, have learned English, worked hard – they haven’t complied with the broken INS system, but they have become as model citizens as they might be under the circumstances. They come to church each week with mannerly children, impeccably turned out – the father is at daily mass every morning, and every day before he leaves for work he prostrates himself before the Tabernacle. Yeah…he should just be shipped back. Illegal is illegal and that’s all that matters. But what am I saying? I forgot, I’m a Catholic, I can’t be credible on this issue, because all we Catholics care about are asses in the pews and money in the collection basket.

No normalization, no reasonable examination of a person and his life and his circumstances…no plea bargaining…“no excuses, illegal is illegal…ship them all back…” might sound pithy, moral and right to some. But it is offering no solutions beyond a fence – it considers no reform. Some of these high-minded moralists betray something in themselves when they write – as some have in the ‘sphere, all their principals really demand is the “rounding up and shipping out” of millions of people, the disruption of established families, a wall and a guard standing a post with a loaded rifle.

In some ways
the breezy categorizing and dismissing of the human beings involved in all of this sadly brings to mind these Phelps disasters who see only “fags” and “fag enablers sinning away grace and messing with the wrong God.”

President Bush has not forgotten that we are talking about human beings, here and his “base” is all-too-eager-and-willing to kick him in the teeth for it. But he is on the side of the angels on this.

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