Immigration problem needs more attention

Tony Cox

I’ve done my best to focus my attention this semester on state and local concerns rather than national and international ones. After all, there are people more articulate and intelligent than I could ever hope to be who do that sort of thing for a living, and it’s rather presumptuous for me to assume that my commentary is on par with theirs.

But I’ve been reading a number of letters and opinion pieces in this newspaper on the question of illegal immigration that are in need of correction. The immigration problem is one of a complex nature which has dramatic ramifications in virtually every aspect of American life, from economics to national security. And, as is the case with most complex problems, people are more prone to oversight when discussing it.

Take the assertion by politicians in Washington that immigrants are necessary because they “do jobs other Americans won’t.” The statistics, however, don’t bear this out. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, immigrants comprise only 45 percent of the workers in the farming/fishing/forestry industry – and far less in other jobs that Americans supposedly won’t do.

Now, 45 percent seems like a substantial figure, but consider this: If immigrants make up 45 percent of the workforce, who makes up the other 55 percent? Why, native-born Americans, of course. So Americans are, in fact, doing these jobs, as they have throughout our nation’s history. As I recently read, it’s not that immigrants are taking jobs Americans won’t – they’re just taking wages Americans won’t, and helping themselves to our schools and entitlement programs all the while.

There are also cultural concerns. In two books, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” and “Who Are We?,” Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington detailed the notion that, in the post-Cold War geopolitical climate “civilizations” will replace nation-states as the antagonists in international conflict. It is easy to apply this hypothesis to the current immigration crisis.

Millions of illegal Mexican immigrants have settled in the southwestern United States, but more often than not, their loyalties lie with their native land and culture. Instead of considering themselves Americans, or even Mexican-Americans, they view themselves as Mexicans who happen to be living in America. They further attempt to justify this attitude by claiming that the land on which they have settled is really theirs anyway, land stolen generations ago by greedy white fascists. (These are vital considerations when comparing Mexican illegals to the European and Asian immigrants of prior generations – considerations which most people tend to ignore while crying about racism.)

When John Edwards spoke about “two Americas” in the 2004 campaign, I doubt this is what he had in mind. But the fact remains that the cultural divide in the United States, particularly in the southwest, is quickly reaching critical mass.

And there are obvious security concerns with having an unprotected Mexican border. Of course, the same things could be said about the Canadian border; but there aren’t thousands of Canadians illegally immigrating to the United States on a daily basis.

There’s no easy solution to a problem of such magnitude, but refusal to act on this situation will surely lead to profound difficulties in the coming decades. Let’s hope that our officials in Washington will realize the gravity of this crisis, and that they will act accordingly. For once.

Tony Cox is a senior philosophy major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]