April 06, 2007

Illegal and Legal Immigrants Strengthen Us

Two days ago Peter (once again) drove me to the beach for one of our walks. The ocean was a deep emerald green, crystal clear and lake-like. As we walked a perky young blond “highschooler” came up to us and asked, “Are you vacationing here?” I responded that we both lived in the area though I was an import from Pennsylvania. She had a slight German accent, so I added – “Actually I’m from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with a huge population of Amish, Mennonite, and other Pennsylvania Dutch 4th to 8th generation German immigrants.”*

“Do you speak German,” she said.

“No, unfortunately I don’t, but some of my family do.”

“I’ve been to Lancaster, and some of the Pennsylvania Dutch speak German that is almost indistinguishable from modern Black Forest German.”

“Amazing, isn’t it.”

We chatted on for a few minutes and I discovered that she was with a group of foreign exchange students who were on their spring/Easter break and visiting Florida in a large group. They had been to Orlando and Disney World. She was enthralled with the warm, sunny, and hot South Florida weather and wondered - “Is it sunny all the time?”

I explained that this was the dry season, and that as spring progressed into summer we would have more rain. I complimented her on her beautiful English, and she told me “everyone in Germany speaks English as well or better than she because it was taught as a second language. I made a statement to the affect that we Americans are so provincial because we don’t bother with a 2nd and / or 3rd language, and so limit ourselves in our intercourse with other peoples. The extremely precocious young lady gave me her thoughts on that subject. “Well, with all the Spanish speaking people immigrating to the United States from Latin and South America you will be forced as a nation to have a second language, Spanish. Perhaps, once you realize that has already happened, you will put more emphasis on learning a 2nd and/or 3rd language.”

That started me to thinking about the supposed illegal alien immigrant problem in a new light. For instance, it is because of legal and illegal immigration that the cities of the Northeast corridor are no longer decreasing in population. Also, we have workers willing to work for less than minimum wages – something absolutely necessary if we are to be competitive with rising third world nations. Additionally, we can take back our outsourced jobs if we are willing to create a new category of wage earners, and to make the financial investment necessary to update our failing infrastructure and factories. Yes, we have a new population of people that the middle class white / protestant and Catholic majority despise because these folks are willing to work two and three unskilled jobs, whatever it takes to be on track to the “American dream.”

The latest influx of Latino population may threaten to become the new majority according to census figures - still another reason for the middle class majority to feel threatened. However, our culture is already changing. Latin rhythms abound in popular music. Spanish is already the second language within our borders. Many second-generation first-wave Mexican Cuban, and Puerto Rican immigrants have moved up and into the middle class. These American families are often bi-lingual, hard working, church going citizens that often vote Republican.

In fact, I have often wondered – Why do so many first and second-generation Latino citizens vote Republican when that party stands against immigration, legal and illegal? Why do they vote Republican when that is the party least likely to approve and take the measures necessary to protect and help them on their journey to the American Dream? Why, indeed, to answer rhetorically, because for some reason they, as do most of us, identify the notion that hard work will automatically lead to success with standard Republican Party ideology. We forget that the Democratic Party is the party most willing to help in circumstances where the dispossessed including the new legal or illegal immigrant is unable to take advantage of upward mobility because he/she has dark skin (yes, prejudice exists!), lacks English language skills, lacks work skills in a technology based economy, has no green card, and no money.

However, this brobdingnagian Latino population has arrived and has already caused our nation to be increasingly Latin including the fact that, as I stated early on, Spanish has become our second language. If you are inclined to question this last, just look at our ubiquitous direction, construction and work signage. “WET FLOOR, PISO MOJADO.” “CLOSED SIDEWALK, LA ACERA ES CERRADA,” “ENTRANCE, ENTRADA.” “EXIST, SALIDA.”

I have one more question. Why can’t we, whatever our national origins and arrival dates, relax and help new arrivals to build constructive lives? To do so will only create new jobs, increase our national productivity, grow the economy, and make the nation stronger. To do otherwise is divisive, counterproductive, and foolish.

*I always think of a generation as 30 years because it takes that long for a person to become financially independent in the Twenty-first Century.

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