Tuesday, October 21

a dangerous question

I don't usually post things here that are political, but this is a topic I wonder about from time to time and just read/heard some interesting perspectives on it the past few days.

From Wendell Berry (an amazing writer/thinker who was way before his time on sustainable agriculture and all related things):
Mexicans cross the border because our way of life is extravagant; because our way of life is extravagant, we have no place for them - or won't have for very long. A generous immigration policy would be contradicted by our fundamentally ungenerous way of life.
- "A Few Words in Favor of Edward Abbey," in the book What Are People For?

Just after I read this, I happened to hear the same line of thinking in this YouTube video. (I found the video after searching for something by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who wrote a great book about working to erase the division between black and white churches that I just read.) The woman at the end of the panel describes America as hoarding all the resources in the world then drawing a line around them and not letting other people come in.

I realize that immigration is a touchy subject, but how do we reconcile what we are as America with how we're called to treat the poor, the aliens, the oppressed?


Elaine said...

ooh, i agree, a touchy subject with lots of grey areas. I'm curious what sort of reactions others will have.

I've lived on the other side of that border (albeit, not in poverty) and I know people who are here illegally working in the US (not just from Mexico either) - so that is my starting point. I don't think many of us realize how our lives would be changed if the US successfully kicked out and kept out all illegal immigrants. See the mocumentary "A Day Without A Mexican". On the other hand, not all of them come here to do honest work.

It seems like the US not only draws a line, but builds fences and allows citizens to act like military by patroling the border with guns. This approach clearly isn't working. I'm not an expert on these policies, but it seems to me that if we put more effort into developing a sustainable guest worker program, and worked with our border country's governments to the best of our/their ability, we might come up with a better solution. Thats not to say that Mexico doesn't have a whole bunch of issues they need to work out on that side... but maybe instead of blowing money in the middle east we could invest it into helping Latin America become more developed and deal with their guerillas and drug problems. I'm that much of a glass half full kind of thinker...

One Woman said...

What an indicting comment from W. Berry - and, yes, what a dangerous (but good!!) question. I don't think I've ever really heard a good answer to immigration policies (either current or reform-minded).

I do hope others comment as well!


Bonnie Prince Charlie said...

It's funny that Wendell Berry mentioned Edward Abbey. Abbey, still to a certain extent a hero of mine, was at best an old-fashioned thinker and at worst pretty much a racist when it came to Hispanic people. His solution was to catch all illegal immigrants from Mexico, give them all guns and bullets, and send them back home. "They'll know what to do," he said. Of course, he was quite a romantic too. If only it were that easy.

Before I became a Christian, my thinking was mostly governed by environmental concerns. So on this subject, I was decidedly illiberal and for sending everyone back, simply because I felt that we already had too many people here, and in America we use up more resources than anyone else, so more people here meant more resources used up.

Christianity has very much liberalized my opinion -- these are people too, after all, looking for a better life for themselves and their families. So I can no longer be in favor of removing anyone, unless they're lawbreakers. If that means more hardship on us (which I doubt it does), then so be it. Where else can a Christian stand on such an issue?

But, in the long run, the answer has to be encouraging conditions south of the border to be such that people no longer need to risk their lives and relationships to come up here. That means fighting against corruption, for workers, in Mexico and other countries as well as here.

lela said...

A short article I saw this morning:

Rachael said...

I don't necessarily think we need to "send them all back," but I do wish they would attempt to come here legally. We wouldn't think of sneaking into another country and just setting up house without the proper documents and things.
I definitely think we shouldn't keep out Mexican immigrants - their culture adds much to Texas, obviously! I just think they should do it honestly.