No Need for Immigrant Bashing

I feel compelled to write and express my disgust with the comments made by Howard Pellett in a letter to the editor (4/15/00 PP). Pellett wrote in to denounce two wonderful journalists, Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez, who speak up in their column on issues concerning the Latino and immigrant community.

Pellett whines that the Progressive Populist doesn't "balance" Gonzales and Rodriguez with the same kind of far-right, immigrant-bashing crap that we already get in the mainstream media. No thanks. I can turn on Rush Limbaugh if I want to hear that crap. Rather than demand that the mainstream media include the news and perspectives found in the Progressive Populist, Pellet thinks the critical media issue of the day is the lack of anti-immigrant perspectives in the Progressive Populist. What nonsense.

Regarding some of the anti-immigrant myths and stereotypes perpetuated by politicians and the mainstream media, I cite the following points made by the Fair Share Network in their September 13, 1993, newsletter:

Myth 1: "The welfare rolls are swamped with immigrants."

In fact, according to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, immigrants come here to work, not to go on welfare, and use substantially less public services than people born in the US. (1985).

Immigrants make up 22 percent of the population of California, but are only 12 percent of the population receiving AFDC. (California State Department of Finance 1991-92.)

Immigrants do not receive permission to enter the US unless they can demonstrate that they are not likely to need public assistance. Most new immigrants are automatically disqualified from receiving public assistance for three years. (Immigration and Nationality Act, section 212 (a)(4).)

Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all public benefits except for emergency medical and perinatal services.

Immigrants legalized under the federal amnesty program were not allowed to receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or Medi-Cal for five years after obtaining permanent residency. (Immigration and Nationality Act)

Myth 2: Immigrants and refugees cost government more in revenue than they pay in taxes.

In fact, newcomers pay more in taxes than they use in services. The problem in that most tax revenues generated by refugees and immigrants are collected by the federal government while the cost of providing health and education services to newcomers are borne primarily by local and state governments. A January 6, 1992, Los Angeles Times analysis piece, which accurately summarizes the best research available, comes to the following conclusions:

"Immigrants contribute mightily to the economy, by paying billions annually in taxes, by filling low-wage jobs that help keep domestic industries competitive, and by spurring investment and job-creation, revitalizing once- decaying communities. Many social scientist conclude that the newcomers, rather than drain government treasuries, contribute overall far more than they utilize in services."

Further, a 1994 Urban Institute Study found that, annually, immigrants pay over $70 billion in taxes and receive only $5.7 [billion] in benefits -- a net contribution of nearly $65 billion.

In addition, Pellett ignores how the US has, throughout our history, stolen land and/or resources from indigenous populations around the world. While we have benefited from this, we conveniently ignore that the indigenous populations starve or are brutally oppressed by the dictators we put in power and support. How dare Pellett begrudge what benefits we give immigrants when, in comparison to what we have stolen from third world countries, it is chump change.

Finally, so focused is Pellett on what immigrants at our borders are taking from him that he is blind to the effects of the global economy on immigration flows. Sasha Sasson, a teacher of urban planning at Columbia University, points out in an article entitled "Why Migration?" (Race, Poverty, and the Environment, Summer 1993) that "Measures commonly thought to deter immigration -- foreign investment, or the promotion of export-oriented agriculture and manufacturing in poor countries -- have had precisely the opposite effect (emphasis mine). Such investment contributes to massive displacement of small-scale agricultural and manufacturing enterprises."

More recently, the Progressive Populist ran an article by family farm activist Merle Hanson who made a similar point about the impact of the global economy on immigration flows. In an article entitled "Farm Crisis and the Progressive Community" (4/96 PP), Hanson writes the following regarding the potential impact giant agribusiness may have on family and subsistence farmers the world over: "If we continue to allow this elite group of economic giants to dominate the farm and food sector, we are poised to dump two billion of the 3.1 billion people who still live in the rural areas of the world into the cities."

One wonders if Pellett can take the ideological blinders off long enough to understand and acknowledge that the immigrant he spends his life resenting are victims of these economic policies. Instead of resenting those at the bottom who are the victims of Machiavellian economic policies that have such disastrous impacts on their lives, he should be directing his wrath UP at the people who would construct a global economy that has the potential of destroying the ability of BILLIONS of people to live and survive.

Bedford Hills, N.Y.

Close the Borders

I'm with letter-writer Howard Pellet. Dump your open-border mouth pieces, Gonzales and Rodriguez. Immigration is an income redistribution program that transfers $160 billion/year from workers to employers. Halting immigration will do far more to help low-income taxpayers like me than any puny raise in the minimum wage. Foreign nations should not be allowed to export their overpopulation problem into my country. Ralph Nader did not say a word about immigration, so I will be voting for Pat Buchanan.

Menasha, Wisconsin

I further suggest you rid The Progressive Populist of Gonzales and Rodriguez who hate the USA and find some Mexicans that believe in the USA.

Laguna Woods, California

Editor's Reply: We welcome a variety of viewpoints on immigration, and we believe the United States has the right to regulate immigration, but we think the blame is too often placed on the immigrant rather than the political and economic forces that attract third-world refugees to our bountiful nation. For example, the credibility of a prominent group critical of immigration policy, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, was undermined when it broadcast a TV ad in Iowa before the presidential nominating caucuses with misleading and alarmist statements about the impact of immigrants on Storm Lake, Iowa. Meat packers have recruited men almost literally from the banks of the Rio Grande in Texas and brought them to our hometown to process meat at wages far below the scale of the meatcutters whose union was busted in the '70s, but in our view the fault for this job displacement lies mainly with Congresses, presidents and courts that allow corporations to flout labor organizing laws, thwart organizing drives and bust unions with virtual impunity and then move factories across state lines and national borders if necessary to find more compliant workforces. On the other hand, immigrants not only have helped to maintain Storm Lake's population level and prevented the closing of schools by replacing natives who have moved elsewhere, but they are, in the main, good, hard-working neighbors -- and it is now possible to get good Mexican and Asian food in northwest Iowa, which is not a bad thing. The local schools also now field stellar soccer teams, although the immigrant community probably would be more celebrated locally if their children showed more of a knack for football and basketball.

Our Own Banana Republic

Back around 1935 1 was a junior high student in Mr. Staley's social studies class. We used the Charles Rugg textbook which I understand was later removed from the Watertown (NY) schools, apparently because it emphasized social justice and individual rights over property rights.

For example, with Mr. Staley's coaching, we understood that Rugg hinted that maybe the Indians had legitimate grievances when they circled the wagons. And maybe the in-effect theft of Manhattan for 24 bucks was really nothing to boast about as favored textbooks were prone to do.

To move on -- one day the topic discussed was South and Central American countries and the nature of their ever-changing governments. The class consensus was that the governments were corrupt, bribery was condoned, and the main concern of the politicians was to stay in power rather than benefiting the citizens.

Next, we all agreed, despite Mr. Staley's caution, that Americans were too smart, our politicians were too honest, and our Supreme Court was too objective for our democracy ever to be in jeopardy.

So 65 years later it appears that our opinion of everlasting democracy was dead wrong. We're no better than the so-called Banana Republics as corporate wealth has influenced our politicians to the extent that we'll never see meaningful campaign finance reform because the Democrats and Republicans will never let it come to a vote. Our politicians have proven that their main goal is getting elected by catering to corporate priorities and corporate "contributions" rather than public interest. And the Supreme Court is generally in the pocket of the party lucky enough to control the appointments.

So let's be honest; aren't most politicians just an homogenized bunch of suits seeking financial support from bottomless corporate cash reserves and aren't we all a bunch of boobs if we keep tolerating our false democracy?

Guffin Bay, N.Y.

Free Miami and Leave Cuba Alone

The negotiations and events leading to the reuniting of Elian Gonzalez with his father also questions the behavior of Miami's Cuban Americans and their mayor. It appears they consider themselves a government in exile!

To disabuse them of this attitude, we should lift the 40-year mean-spirited embargo against this small island! None of our allies in the Free World support this senseless trade embargo.

To enforce the embargo, Cuban Americans have funneled mucho dinero to politicians who support their aims.

Preceding the Castro-led revolution, the Battista dictatorship enjoyed the support of US mobsters who controlled gambling, prostitution and drugs.

I'm sure José Martí, the heroic Cuban patriot executed for leading a revolt against Spanish rule, would approve Fidel Castro's ousting of all the unsavory elements that undermined Cuba's freedom.

Tallahassee, Florida

Spook Secrecy is Unconstitutional

Your easy reference to the secrecy of the "intelligence" agency budgets [in the editorial reply to "Too Many Spooks," Letters, 4/15/00 PP] does not begin to express the outrage that these unconstitutional (Art. I, Sec. 9, para. 7, US Constitution) expenditures represent. I have addressed this topic to many members of Congress and been (almost) totally ignored. ...

Josh Gumina ["Don't Worry About Eavesdropping," Letters, 5/1/00 PP] doesn't know how dangerous a fellow he is. The more sweeping government access to and control of personal information becomes, the greater the ease of fabrication of cases against dissidents becomes.

Anyone who hasn't understood how out of control prosecutors have become, how unscrupulous ambitious, corrupted, is a dangerous dummy.

And for David Whiteis ["Computers Not Evil," Letters, 5/1/00 PP]: Computers are instruments of control, not freedom.

New York, N.Y.

Bribery Library Offered

When I retired from engineering I studied bribery, especially in politics. Apologists for campaign money say it is merely supporting the candidates who agree with the giver, but I learned that only 9 percent of campaign money is given ideologically. Other apologists say that campaign funds are a small burden on the economy, but my research revealed that the social cost of bribery was vastly greater than the amount of the bribes. That is because of the waste in public looting and political "pork".

These results startled me. Bribery was not merely unethical, it also was destructive to the economy and it stopped the growth of real income for the middle class.

During my research I accumulated a small library of a few hundred books and several hundred photocopies. Old age has now halted my activities, but I hate to see such exciting results forgotten. I hope that someone will be interested in continuing this research, and I will donate and ship my "library" to anyone who seems sincerely interested in keeping the materials together.

Individually, my books would have little appeal for the average librarian: half are paperbacks, I highlighted some and tabbed a few of them. They are valuable only in a special collection. Not only that, many libraries depend on public funding, and some of the books actually criticize Congress! Horrors!

11039 N. 105 Ave.
Sun City, AZ 85351
e-mail herbbrks@aztec.asu.edu

Write: Letters to the Editor
Progressive Populist
PO Box 150517
Austin TX 78715-0517
Email populist@usa.net
Please keep them brief

Home Page

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2000 The Progressive Populist