Pay It Forward

pay it forward 2“Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans – liberty-loving risk takers in search of an ideal – the largest voluntary migrations in recorded history… Immigration is not just a link to America’s past; it’s also a bridge to America’s future.”         

George W. Bush

We all know that the current immigration crisis has and will continue to have a strong impact on our national life. A number of us are quite exercised by the recent placement of concertina (razor wire) on on the US side of the border wall at our neighboring port of entry in Naco, AZ. I find the placement of the wire distasteful and an eyesore, but I don’t think it amounts to much of a deterrent. Like the border wall itself, it’s tall and foreboding as it extends for a mile or two on either side of a community, but then it tapers off as the miles increase and the media and politicians lose interest.

The wall and its shiny decor isn’t really the problem though. It’s emblematic of course and satisfy some that we are finally getting tough about immigration and those ‘damned illegals.’ At the heart of the issue, however, is not that we don’t want more undocumented to come in; at issue is the fact that we don’t want those that already are here to stick around. We didn’t want brown people around during  the Great Depression and ‘deported’ hundreds of thousands of US citizens to Mexico-some of whom had never been to Mexico or spoke Spanish- during the Mexican Repatriation.

We moan and complain that the 12-20 million ‘illegals’ are a drain on our infrastructure, health care system, and historic commitment to our heralded monolinguality. Each time an ‘illegal’ accesses emergency room services or gets in a fix with the law, our hard earned tax dollars disappear down the Rabbit Hole and don’t benefit us real Americans.

The argument  however, that undocumented people here represent a drain and a burden on our economy  is like the razor wire on the border wall: it only goes so far. The millions of undocumented folks live and work in our economy and, as such, they shop at supermarkets, purchase gasoline, and buy clothes. Here in Arizona, except for food, those items are taxed. ‘Illegals’ also pay rent, mortgages even, have car payments,  and make donations at churches. Those that work under fictitious Social Security  numbers (let’s not kid ourselves, plenty do) pay income tax and into Social Security that benefit us directly.

I don’t have a fancy report behind me that supports all this (they do exist), but I think common sense will suffice. Let’s just say that there are 15 million ‘illegals’ here in the US right now. Let’s give half of them jobs (very conservative), some of which pay under the table and some of which pay legitimately-sort of. Okay, in a family of six, the two parents are going to probably work. Maybe grandpa or grandpa says home. That leaves three children not contributing to the economy. One’s a good kid. No trouble. One’s a stoner. Minor legal difficulties. One gets sick and has been to the ER twice in three years. The ER kid didn’t need an extra organ, just broke an arm and had a high fever. The bill’s high but it won’t bankrupt the USA. Say the stoner has an uncle who does the legal work pro-bono. It’s settled out of court. A few hundred dollars for court fees and paperwork. They’re good. I think the parents in both their employment and consumer spending have pretty much covered their costs and then some.

How about we take the good kid into account. BTW, her name is Esperanza* and here’s why. The good kid is healthy, stays away from the stoners, and likes school.  Some enlightened politician finds a way to get the good kid college tuition and the good kid is now a graduate student and then becomes an engineer. She figures out a way to reverse global warming by pulverizing used plastic water bottles after dipping them in old motor oil, and crop dusting the atmosphere with the concoction. This low investment, high-yield technology has the surprising and deeply ironic effect of cooling the globe. George Bush II said immigration is a bridge to our future. Hell, I think it’s a bridge to our survival.

Clamoring about public support of immigrants betrays a myopia that neglects the long view, the certain benefit we will accrue as we ‘pay it forward’ and invest in those who believe the American Dream exists. History is on the side of these ‘illegals’. I pray we can be as well.