On Immigration

I am the child of immigrants. I am the nephew of immigrants. My father left Russia after being placed against the wall to be shot because he was Jewish, and fortunately one of the men in the firing squad knew him so he was spared. My pop then walked a thousand miles to Rumania, crossed over in the dead of winter, stayed there for a while, and then went steerage through the Dardanelles, the Suez Canal and came to America. So, my sympathies are always with the immigrant.

I found the latest proposal to deal, essentially with Mexican immigrants, to be outrageous and in violation of every tenet of immigration that is part of the American story. I am so sick and tired of hearing from opponents of immigrants (themselves descendants of immigrants) about the drain on America created by the illegals. Hogwash. They pay in much more than they receive since, being illegal, they are usually denied many public services and if their children are illegal then they are not allowed in to state colleges at the low rate for state inhabitants.

As each group moves up on the economic ladder they don’t want their children soiling hands with hard work. Throughout American history, immigrants do the dirty work. The illegal immigrant grows our foods, does the back breaking work from sun up to sun down, and often has their own children working in the fields. As a Woody Guthrie song asks, “Is this the best way we can grown our foods?”

Lost in the rhetoric is mock righteousness by opponents who claim those entering illegally are criminals and they do not believe we should pamper these terrible fiends who want to work all day in the sun at low pay and without health benefits. I believe the rest of us would welcome criminals who wanted to engage in such work rather than rob stores or people. I wish some of these loudmouths would check their own family history, because entering America illegally is an old custom.

I am particularly upset at provisions requiring payment of $5000, and insisting immigrants first return home and then come back. Are the authors of these crazy ideas in their right minds? How many immigrants would have enough trust to go home and expect Americanto allow them to return? How many immigrants can reach into their pocket and pull out $5000? Anyway, here is a proposal about the $5000.

  1. Create a payment scheme requiring immigrants to pay a $100/year for ten years.
  2. Have payments increased during the following ten years to $200 per year.
  3. Cancel all further payments if children of immigrants successfully graduate from high school.
  4. Cancel all further payments if any of their children serves in the armed forces.

Let me conclude with a story about my uncle Willie. Uncle Willie fought in the
Austrian army during World War I and was not allowed to get a visa to America. His family smuggled him onto a boat and kept him hidden. He was smuggled off when they arrived in New York. A few years later, immigration agents caught up with my uncle. As he told me, one of the agents chatted with him, looked around the apartment, and said, “Mr. Zuckerman, you look like a hard working man who has a nice family. We’re not going to do anything about how you came to America illegally. Keep on working hard and apply for citizenship. You are going to make a fine American.” They left. I believe 99% of immigrants are like my uncle Willie. They work hard. They care for families. They will make fine Americans. Leave them alone.