The letter below was sent by my friend Jim Blandy to the governor of Oregon, Jim’s state. In it, Jim asks what Oregon can do to avoid a disaster like the recent group deportation of immigrants in Massachusetts that resulted in children being abandoned, as described on National Public Radio and in the Boston Globe.
Before I say more, please read Jim’s letter:
From: Jim Blandy Subject: Abandoned children To: [a mailing list we're on] Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2007 21:53:37 -0800 Folks, I'd never use [this mailing list] for campaigning, but I think this goes far beyond politics, and well into the territory of national disgrace. I've sent the following letter to Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski; please read the articles I've linked to, and think of *something* you can do. If abandoning 7-month old children doesn't move us to more than a sophisticated sigh about how far things have gone, we don't deserve a decent country. --- Dear Governor Kulongoski, NPR's March 8th Morning edition and the March 9th Boston Globe reported on an egregious and shameful dereliction of our responsibility to the most helpless in our country: a Massachusetts factory was raided on March 6th, and scores of workers accused of being in the United States illegally were flown to a Texas detention center before state authorities could determine whether there was anyone able to take care of their children. According to the Globe: Two young children were hospitalized yesterday for dehydration after their nursing mothers were taken away, state officials said. Another 7-year-old girl called a state hot line seeking her detained mother. It was unclear last night where their mothers were. I can't express how angry and ashamed this news makes me. Let us assume all of the people transported to Texas were indeed in the U.S. illegally; there is no imaginable justification for abandoning their children in this way. When we imprison a murderer who is a sole caregiver, we take better care of their dependents than this. There is simply no legitimate law enforcement need that could justify such negligence. I have three questions: - Oregon has its share of illegal immigrants. I am firmly in favor of enforcing the laws that our state and national legislative bodies have agreed on. What assurance can you give me that a disgrace of the sort occurring now in Massachusetts will not happen in Oregon? - Who is responsible for ensuring, when a sole caregiver is found to be residing in Oregon illegally, that the children they care for will be taken care of appropriately? - What is that responsible party's position on the Massachusetts raid? Do they feel it was properly conducted? If so, would they do the same here? If not, what steps have they taken to ensure this will not happen again? I understand that the Department of Homeland Security conducts immigration raids, and that the DHS is a federal department, not controlled by the state of Oregon. But if a debacle like this were to occur here, Oregonians would hardly be satisfied to hear that there was nothing to be done, and from what I have read of you, I do not believe you would offer such an explanation. Sincerely, Jim Blandy [URLs given here]
Bravo for Jim — we should all ask the questions he’s asking. What Governor Kulongoski probably won’t say in reply is that this is how our immigration system is supposed to work. The whole point is to have a large number of people around willing to labor at low wages, but unable to be involved in civic affairs. Solution: make them officially illegal, but unofficially tolerated, as long as they don’t raise too much of a fuss — and brutally deport a few now and then to make sure they stay in line.
I’ll bet African Americans recognize this pattern pretty well.
Am I too cynical? Ask yourself this question: why don’t we simply crack down on businesses that employ illegal workers? After all, if we wanted to end illegal immigration in this country, we could do it in two seconds. Illegal immigrants aren’t exactly hard to find. Just go to every restaurant, farm, landscaping company, etc, in your precinct, and start fining the employers. That would end the “problem” pretty quickly, wouldn’t it?
But no, instead we harass and hound the immigrants. We talk, incredibly, of building a seven-hundred mile fence along our border to keep them out, as though they’re not right here next to us the whole time, busing our tables, picking our fruit, cutting our lawns. This is just the American way, apparently: bully the weak, before doing anything that might annoy businesses or put upward pressure on wages.
I don’t think what happened in Massachusetts was some sort of one-time exception. Perhaps it was unusually cruel… but more likely it was just unusually publicized. Here’s another raid that made it into the press: Lockdown in Greeley, excellently reported on by Marc Cooper in The Nation.
How many times must this happen before we admit what we’re doing?