Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Thank God for Arizona

Were it not for the benighted legislators of that state we wouldn’t be having a long-overdue national discussion regarding immigration. If such people did not exist, we would have to create them.

Before, there was no real “dialogue,” just one-sided, loud declamations by people with no knowledge of immigration history and other, always-present xenophobes who can’t stand people unlike themselves.

During my residence in that desert state, I had many an occasion to visit the legislature and hear on its venerable floor the likes of Russell Pearce who rose to say the most terribly disrespectful things about migrants who, of course, were Mexican–things that should not be said to or about people who have a dignity of their own.

Such history was not uncommon to the U.S. Congress in the past when racist, privileged legislators said similar things about blacks and the poor. All the aforementioned were or are powerless, so it’s a bullying tactic that should have been the focus of efforts of the sort we are addressing in schools today.

Pearce & Co are still around today and amid the current controversy. We may not be able to imagine just how much they do not know, but we know what they feel, and in truth it has nothing to do with the welfare of that state. Off and on in our fair land, immigration has been a political football which people like Pearce hope to carry from one end of their cow pasture to the other, as Andy Griffith said in his comedy days, “without gettin’ knocked down or steppin’ in somethin’.”

This time they stepped in it: the entire nation sees them and reaction has set in that may devastate the Arizona economy, something dearly unwanted in these times. Of course, they now blame the “government” (meaning Obama) because immigration reform is slow in coming thanks to recalcitrant conservatives in Congress. They forget that Bush allowed a gush of immigration as a union-busting measure.

Indeed, I sat down with many a migrant worker engaged, e.g., in roofing new homes–a hot job in 110-120 degree summer heat. Some carried permanent limps because falls from housetops often resulted in broken limbs, but construction bosses wouldn’t allow them to leave for medical treatment–if they did, they not only lost the job but weren’t paid for work completed. When workers objected, the bosses said, fine, how would they like to be deported?

It was a great situation for the companies: they hired the workers in violation of the law, then used threat of deportation to avoid payment. Other fraudulent practices were rampant, but now the migrants are blamed for the current state of affairs while the employers are, well, rich.

This brings to mind the old Bracero program that lasted from 1942-64 and was an answer to the prayers of U.S. agriculturalists who desperately needed workers. It was also intended to avoid streams of undocumented Mexicans by giving them temporary status here. Sounds good, huh, and much preferable to what we have now?

Well, it wasn’t. It took awhile but what became “documented” was exposure of abusive practices by farmers. By the way, some 4.5 million Mexicans were here during those years and though the program was “controlled” by the government, they were subjected to substandard housing, fraud, harassment and oppression by extremist groups and racist authorities.

As the program ended and they returned to Mexico, fraud was rampant: money withheld from wages or placed into savings on their behalf was not given to them, either a permanent loss or they spent years in courts (at more cost, of course) trying to get it. Sound familiar? And are you listening, Mr. Pearce?

Consider the year the Bracero began: we were amid World War II and the arrival of those workers was a tonic to our survival as many American citizens, like today, refused the back-breaking work–or were off fighting for us.

It makes no difference whether we control immigration or not, our greed destroys what should be the best of a capitalistic system.

By the way, one state opted out of the Bracero program–Texas, which (and get this) preferred an “open” border! My, how times change.

It helps to have a sense of history. In this case it shows that human nature changes little if at all. We use immigration when it suits us, and throw it back when it doesn’t.

Some way to treat “neighbors,” half of whose country we took under false pretenses not so long ago. We are now a richest nation and they are among the poorest, yet we spent lavishly to rebuild countries that wanted our heads in a war going on when the Braceros arrived.

So, thank god for Arizona. Without their knucklehead politicians, we might remain ignorant of truth and history.

4 Responses to “Thank God for Arizona”

  1. Most informative.Point well-taken about our rebuilding policies, too.

  2. Welcome to all. Let them work hard and pay for health insurance, and taxes, and all their food. No! You say! Just let them work and I pay for their health insurance, I pay their taxes, and I give them food stamps. That seems a little one sided.

  3. Please someone, explain this to me. I know I might have this all wrong because people I admire and respect see this in an entirely different way than I do. Many, many Mexicans are in this country illegally and there are lots of problems on the Mexican/American borders which are spilling over into the U.S., Arizona included. If I am pulled over by the police I must show papers proving that I am driving under the requirements of the laws of that state; what’s the difference between a Mexican and an American? Why is it too much to ask them for papers? Is this one of those situations where we are bending over so far to make things “fair” that instead we are not giving citizens of our country the rights they deserve? Show me the errors in my thinking because at this moment I don’t think Arizona is wrong.

  4. I live in Florida, which is also dependent upon migrant and illegal labor. Here’s a collection of photos I shot in the fields and farming communities about 25 years ago.

    http://www.capecentralhigh.com/florida/youll-have-no-name-except-deportee/

    I have friends who get pulled over on a regular basis Driving While Black in neighborhoods where cops would never think about lighting me up.

    It’s a lot like the old signs in lunch counters that said, “We reserve the right to refuse service.”

    If you asked the person who owned the diner what that meant, they might have fudged by saying that only applied to “undesirables.” If you pressed them, they would eventually tell you that the didn’t serve n-words.

    On the face of it, Arizona’s law is reasonable, but it’s just another code word for racism.


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