Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Troublesome Border

To some Americans, the issue of our border with Mexico is about jobs. Others see it about freedom as in everybody should be able to go anywhere they want to live. For some it's about cheaper labor to do work in agriculture, gardening, or construction. They nod their heads we should do something about it while they profit from the existing situation. They don't even have to hire the illegals themselves. They just hire a contractor who uses them. Many know it's what is happening (it's not like it's hard to tell who has not been here long) but they like the lower prices. Some worry we are being invaded.

The Hispanic community fights for legalization of all those who have already come across the border to live while we face the reality that if that happens, even more will be coming. Does a border have a purpose at all? Does any fence? Does any door? Does any rule? Not if laws are considered to have no meaning unless we agree with them.

Then there is recreational drug use which accounts for some of the border traffic. The profit in smuggling could be cut back by legalizing marijuana but how likely is that from the religious right or even the politically correct left? Legalize it and smugglers have one less way to profit from our excesses.

The border is more than about illegal aliens doing our grunt work or providing us with cheap drugs. It's about an unprotected border where the smugglers even prey upon the workers they bring and potentially anyone else they come across. It is about an increasingly violent situation that has been growing to the point that anybody who spends time down there knows it's not a safe place. While the workers are mostly ordinary people just looking for jobs, the ones who bring them across are anything but ordinary.

I have been down on the border off and on starting back in 1965. I used to like to go to Nogales, Sonora for fun day of shopping and just enjoying the atmosphere. That changed for me about ten years ago when I made a trip there and saw the scary toughs hanging around (on the American side) and the increasing aggressiveness of many of the Mexican men with over the line comments and no attempt at subtlety. There have always been the men who would let a woman know they appreciate her but this was different. It had an underlying aggressiveness. I haven't been back since. Now our American embassy warns of the potential violence there. It's a real shame as it has hurt the Mexican shopkeepers who weren't part of the problem but are suffering from its consequences.

Illegal workers could be stopped by regulations put in place to punish those who hire them up here. Then give green cards and legal admission to those who are genuinely needed. Drug smuggling could at least be lessened by following California's lead and putting legalization of pot on our ballots followed by voting yes to make it licensed, taxed and available without smuggling. Too simple?

Legalizing marijuana and cracking down on the hiring of undocumented workers won't totally solve our border problem. It's a start but we have to find meaningful ways to shut the border down. Given the terrain and many miles, that won't be easy. We can try harder. If we don't, what they smuggle up, may end up something even much worse. I can guarantee you that coyotes (the name for the smugglers) won't care. (Incidentally, the illegal trade goes both ways as we have sent guns south to help their drug wars grow even worse).

Ranch families on the border have been living with a potential nightmare, which for one of them tragically exploded (see links above), but I think the nightmare will expand if we don't start caring more and making a secure border into a national issue, not just a state or local problem. The solution is not unregulated militias. If you have ever been around any of them, you know that they can be as scary as the smugglers. The solution is our country taking the problem of illegal entry seriously.


Always Question said...

When you're right you're right. If we can't control our borders and we won't sanction employers who hire undocumented immigrants then all we are really doing is creating/enabling a criminal industry.
I've told my California friends that I'm not sure they can actually legalize the manufacture, possession and sale of a federally controlled substance, but it's not a bad idea.

Paul said...

The stuation on the Mexican border id deteriorsating daily and the federal government is unable or unwilling to address it-and the citizens suffer. People along the border have every right to defend themselves and their familiesor else abandon their homes.

Dion said...

I see *deportation* as the first fence to climb across. Many Americans don't want to reward undocumented workers with citizenship through amnesty. I can hear it now, "why reward a criminal". Admittedly, it is hard to argue against the logic of that.

I am pro-amnesty. I am for a national ID card, paid for by the Feds so the poor don't get screwed. I'm for stiff penalties for those that hire undocumented workers. I'm for English as America's official language. I'm for the legalization of marijuana. I'm for leaving families intact.

Let illegal workers have a path to citizenship. Let them pay $5K or some other amount to stay in the melting pot, learn English and maybe one or two other hoops that will quell the madding crowd. Deportation isn't going to happen.

Yes, the great divide on this issue will be *Deportation vs. Amnesty*.

Rain said...

deportation is a tough one, Dion; but if we don't face a real penalty on those who broke the laws to come here, we can kiss off meaningful control. Some of them are part of why we have the gang problems up here as they are part of that distribution system. Supposedly when Reagan gave amnesty, the deal was we'd then secure the border as well as stop employment of illegals. We did neither.

Now with the terrorism problem, the violence down there that wasn't there in the 80s, we have a worse problem to deal with and more reason than ever to do something. One dirty bomb and citizens will be demanding why we didn't. The cost is always too much, just like putting on secure cockpit doors, until you find out what the real cost is of not doing it.

Dion said...

I would think $5 K would be hefty penalty for someone working under-the-table. I would think their low wage makes a $5k fine somewhat substantial. The $Billions it would cost to deport them is also substantial. It's substantial at over $200 Billion for a five year deportation program. So I guess the plan may be to hire people at $70 k a year to round-up and deport migrate workers who make a paltry wage. With capitalism like this we may find ourselves owing China a whole lot more than we already do.

And at the back of my thought process are the kids of illegals that are U. S. citizens. What will we do, kick out the parents and put the kids in a government run orphanage? Great, a new place for pedophiles to find work.

Dion said...

A dirty bomb can be built within our borders. Nobody needs to smuggle it in. We have a mega tons of radioactive material right here. Ask your hospital.

Rain said...

I think it was an absolutely horrible thing we did by granting citizenship to children when their parents were not or could not become citizens. That should be changed now. If I was pregnant and my child born in another country would that automatically make the baby a citizen? There is no need to have that law in place as a way to break up families. Personally if they were to deport (which they won't) those who broke the law to come here and continue breaking it to stay, I'd say send the kids home too and allow them to return at 18. None of that will happen.

Farm Boss says it'd take quite a bit of expertise to get into hospitals and get that waste and then be able to use it. Our ports are also potential conduits for such bombs and much easier to bring in that way. My point on the border is that we are smuggling guns south and they are smuggling stuff north. Where Mexico is blowing up with violence (and it is right now many places) having an open border means we are also vulnerable to what is happening there.

Close the border and then discuss amnesty. When it's the other way around, it never works any better than when Reagan said he'd do it and didn't. Borders have meanings or they don't. Laws have meanings or they don't. I think when we look the other way on one set of laws, we are negating our whole legal system.

Rain said...

Incidentally not all who work here want to stay here. Some just want jobs and send the money back to improve their lives there. If we had a realistic work program that would be much easier for them to manage. We could do it but many prefer to get the workers at cheaper prices. Once they are citizens, those prices won't be cheaper anyway. Better is to pay what something is worth-- legally. Given our rate of unemployment, some of this will get even more complex if we admit a whole bunch of people to the unemployment system, won't it?

What I'd really like to see is Mexico to improve itself. If the richest man in the world is Mexican, it could be changed down there if they had less corruption and got their act together regarding laws. Then we'd be equal help partners. With it as it is, it's not healthy for us or them.

Dion said...

"Farm Boss says it'd take quite a bit of expertise to get into hospitals and get that waste and then be able to use it."

Yes, probably more expertise than using box cutters and a crash course in steering jumbo jets to topple the WTC.

Rain said...

The thing is we should have dealt with this when they granted that first amnesty. We have done what Europe did with allowing in labor to get our grunt work done cheaper but the price we may pay is going to be one we don't like. It's like so many things though that people want this or that but don't expect to pay for it. The manna from heaven culture or Reagan's voodoo economics which never were what people thought but the lie lives on.

The terrible thing about the border is how dangerous it has become down there. It is not fair to those who live there. You can't really protect yourself. That rancher had a gun but nobody who is honest shoots first. By the time you know you have a problem, it's too late for you. That is what is happening and mainly because the rest of American hasn't cared enough. :(

If we can really close the border, then I think we can work out which undocumented workers want to stay and which would want green cards for easy coming and going. This problem is not just involving Mexico either but from many nations.

mandt said...

The terrible truth is that our porous borders are permitted great lassitude because capitalist interests have high stakes in illegal contraband product. China exports huge amount of raw chemicals into Mexico for making drugs. Washington looks the other way just as it does in Afghanistan because it constitutes a form of bribery for the pacification of the border. What they seem to forget, over and over, is that there is no honor among thieves and innocents are slaughtered ......collateral damage, as the justification goes. Good report Rain.

Annotated Margins said...

To me, the issues of border violence and a secure border are separate. One solution will not solve both problems. Whether legalizing marijuana would create a fix for violence... I'm not so sure. Cocaine, heroin... old Mary Jane might just be a smoke screen to hide the real problems.

Rain said...

I think they are linked, AM. It's big country down there and if you cannot stop the traffic profiting from coming across, it's hard to stop the violence. I see it from the standpoint of a rancher and sympathize with what they face. Their fences are cut. Their water sources are destroyed, and for no reason. Garbage is strewn which can kill the livestock. There is no respect for those who live there and a lot of it is totally senseless as it appears was this murder. Violence begets violence. Mexico is suffering a lot of violence with drug gangs warring with each other and what law there is. It is coming across and will go farther if we don't deal with it.

They could still bring other drugs across if pot was legalized but they are making the most money off marijuana as it stands. More people use it. Stop that being profitable for them is also going to be a help to tax revenue as it can be taxed by governments.

Rain said...

Legalizing marijuana would likewise help our prison systems as it's surprising how much of the overcrowding is drug related. It won't solve meth or cocaine problems but it's a start. And it makes no sense to have pot be illegal as long as alcohol is legal. I am not an illegal drug user. I have never had pot in my life; but I see it as something we cannot stop anyway and before this rancher had been killed his brother had turned in a found cache of 290 lbs of marijuana stashed on their land. The drugs will be used one way or another. Legalize them and you can at least tax them. And it might cut down some on the profit for smugglers.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

This whole tragic situation is beyond my comprehension, I'll admit. When the kids were growing up and up until about 10 years ago I spent a lot of time in Mexico. Right now I wouldn't even go down to Rosarito or Ensenada.

I simply don't know what can be done.

As for immigration, closing the border isn't a simple answer, to say nothing of how in the heck to do that and enforce it.

I personally would like to see legalized marijuana, but this isn't going to stop drug trafficking.

I'm in the minority for another one time amnesty for immigration. Do you remember that old film "El Norte?"

Rain said...

Although this blog is really about the border, making it safer and closing it down to illegal traffic which would take employing more people to do the job, using more sophisticated tactics to help with it, I will say what I think about amnesty since it's come up several times. It could be a blog of its own but I have others planned; so for now it won't be.

I also have seen movies which make one sympathetic to those who have come here illegally. I see the people at my grocery store where I know they likely are here illegally, see truck loads of them during Christmas harvesting season, but there is a problem with putting a horse before a cart and that's what amnesty is given our current border situation.

To grant amnesty to those who broke the law to come up here is to say make those who obeyed it punished for that and to reward those who didn't.

Try this analogy on for size. A lot of people are in trouble with credit card debt. Some through no fault of their own. Times were tough. Let's just forgive all those debts... How does that make you feel who paid your bills all along? What does it mean for any sense of responsibility? That's what I think amnesty does.

We could give, those up here illegally, green cards to work legally but if we grant them full citizenship, then what does that do to the job situation? We are at 20% under or unemployment right now. What do you think adding a huge workforce that is legal into that mix will do? The jobs that an illegal might work at now won't be all they want as full citizens and so the whole problem just expands not to mention things like unemployment benefits and this new health care bill which currently is for citizens.

When Reagan gave amnesty, he promised a secure border, the end of the flood. He didn't do it. Nobody has done it since. There is no reason to think that amnesty again will do anything except mean more coming here illegally with the knowledge that Americans don't really mean their laws. It's no wonder we have so many Americans who don't believe them either (something we are seeing today with the teabaggers who threaten violence and anarchy because they didn't get their way). Are we really such a lawless people? That scares me. Our laws are only when they are convenient to us?

Anonymous said...

I am for legalizing Pot and I have never smoked in my life. Tax it! And give stiff sentences to Meth cooks and high-level drug folks. Say 20 years minimum and no parole consideration until that time is served. These people are a plgue on our society. Check the crime statistics. And anchor babies have to be addressed. These are a good start .

Kay Dennison said...

What you and AQ said . . . damned right.

I've seen it from both sides. And there's plenty of blame to go around.

I worked with the Hispanics who come here to work. I couldn't tell you if they were legal or not because I didn't want to know. Most of them are nice people who just want to work in peace and be free. Many of them are here because there is genocide going on in their countries.

I did a lot of research for my boss on immigration and the issues around it. Talk about confusing!

One thing I did find was an article about illegal Irish immigrants in NY. Apparently it's a good-sized problem but there isn't much being done about it. Is it because they look like us and have a cute accent?

At this point we have prisons warehousing -- for an average of 6 years -- these people at an exhorbitant cost. And who runs these prisons? Haliburton. So follow the money and see who is profiting from it.

Legalize pot? I say go for it and tax it like hell.

There are no easy answers.

Ingineer66 said...

Hey Dion, we found a topic we agree on. I agree with your first comment about the border and immigration situation pretty much 100%. See the right and the left can work together.

Ingineer66 said...

I agree that unless we really secure the border all amnesty will do is create more people coming through, but we should not split up families and all deportation does is gives them another chance to come back over. We need to keep the ones here that want to work and give them a path to become legal. The ones that want to make the US part of Mexico can go back home.

Dion said...

It is nice to agree, Ingineer66. Amnesty will have an uphill battle though, as most Americans, Left, Right, and Moderate are against it. Even Rain, who I almost always agree with is on the other side.

Rain said...

My concern is that we won't shut the border and we will see what happened after the last amnesty-- more illegal traffic. If we shut the border first, then I would be more open to considering the other. We could temporarily grant the ones here illegally green cards as a way to not deny them employment that they have already been doing. I just see it that without border success, this situation will only keep escalating. It won't be that simple to grant amnesty either given some who do one kind of work now may feel they won't with citizenship and we are back where we are now which is what happened before.

Part of this is I relate to people who have followed the rules all their lives and suddenly find they lose out for doing it. I never like those ads on TV where the person brags about owing so much money to the IRS and only having to pay a fraction of it. Having had a mistake on our IRS that led to a penalty and big tax bill, and our just paying it, I have to wonder does it pay off more to not follow the rules? I do not want to think it does.

Ingineer66 said...

Kind of like paying my mortgage on time and the politicians in DC want to give a bunch of my tax money to the deadbeats that didn't.

And I agree that we need to secure the border or the rest of the immigration issues are just window dressing.