Postmodern classic?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The convenience of immigration

Ran into this one at the Horses mouth. Since immigration is a big topic these days, we should think about it from the other side to understand it better. Which side is that? The American immigrants into Mexico, of course!

David M. Bresnahan
April 1, 2006

Dear President Bush:

I'm about to plan a little trip with my family and extended family, and I would like to ask you to assist me. I'm going to walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico, and I need to make a few arrangements. I know you can help with this.

I plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration quotas and laws. I'm sure they handle those things the same way you do here.

So, would you mind telling your buddy, President Vicente Fox, that I'm on my way over? Please let him know that I will be expecting the following:

1. Free medical care for my entire family.
2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not.
3. All government forms need to be printed in English.
4. I want my kids to be taught by English-speaking teachers.
5. Schools need to include classes on American culture and history.
6. I want my kids to see the American flag flying on the top of the flag pole at their school with the Mexican flag flying lower down.
7. Please plan to feed my kids at school for both breakfast and lunch.
8. I will need a local Mexican driver's license so I can get easy access to government services.
9. I do not plan to have any car insurance, and I won't make any effort to learn local traffic laws.
10. In case one of the Mexican police officers does not get the memo from Pres. Fox to leave me alone, please be sure that all police officers speak English.
11. I plan to fly the U.S. flag from my house top, put flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic celebration on July 4th. I do not want any complaints or negative comments from the locals.
12. I would also like to have a nice job without paying any taxes, and don’t enforce any labor laws or tax laws.
13. Please tell all the people in the country to be extremely nice and never say a critical word about me, or about the strain I might place on the economy.

I know this is an easy request because you already do all these things for all the people who come to the U.S. from Mexico. I am sure that Pres. Fox won't mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely.

However, if he gives you any trouble, just invite him to go quail hunting with your V.P.

Thank you so much for your kind help.


David M. Bresnahan

© 2006 David M. Bresnahan - All Rights Reserved


  • Surely this is one of those "freedoms" Al-Qaeda and the insurgents are so eager to take away from us: the freedom to be selfish, ignorant and short-sighted. I know many people believe this crap; they're simply too lazy to learn anything beyond their narrow and parochial world-views. However, I can guarantee their view will not prevail.

    By Anonymous el gringo viejo, at 7:10 PM  

  • Well if you can 'guarantee it', exactly which point would you disagree with?

    Does being an 'immigrant society' mean that those who come and enjoy the benefits of our society should change the means by which we citizens enjoy them?

    Freedom doesn't mean freedom from responsibility for your actions. This applies to those who want to become part of our society as well as those in it. Some people will have to learn that the hard way.

    By Blogger sunguh5307, at 10:13 PM  

  • Besides the more complex ethical and societal issues that el gringo viejo brings up, even a focus on the narrower issue of the economics of immigration will tell you that our country's wealth increases as a result of immigration. This is net of the costs to our social service programs, etc.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:34 PM  

  • I will add that the estimates of the national income gains from immigration aren't that big. But then again, estimates of the impact on wages of the unskilled workers in the U.S. are also pretty tiny. So I'm not sure what the "strain" on the U.S. economy means...


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:45 AM  

  • The plight of immigrants is a constant reminder that nothing happens in a vacuum. Given the opportunity people will seek to improve their life as many do today. Many people have made the decision to come to the US as a result of this simple calculus applied to the complexities of their particular life.

    A nation must have some sort of standard for those who are citizens and those who wish to become- and reasonable control of those who might not, especially in this age of international terrorism. This is not a standard based on ethnicity, race, religion or even economics- but in the social compact between the government and it's citizens.

    We don't need a police state to control and monitor everything, militarize the borders, etc... but we also can't let millions come in who don't share the same compact of citizenship. I have no doubt that most people- specifically the immigrants in this situation, given the chance, would be law-abiding citizens, productive and helpful to the nation of the US. But they have to choose- there can be no 'other US' as we've tried to maintain over the years. Where democratically produced laws are ignored (even if just due to incomprehension) and immigration laws flouted. Even if this is on a small scale it's unacceptable in America, although I suspect otherwise. Can we afford to just hope it'll all turn out alright?

    Hope is not a method. We can address this in a humane method, such as a guest worker program, maybe even a partial (if discriminating) amnesty program. Like most reasonable people, I think immigrants do bring a lot to our country. But they have to acknowledge they are in *our* country, and therefore must conform to *our* laws.

    The more this is ignored the bigger the problem it gets.

    By Blogger sunguh5307, at 8:33 PM  

  • Here it is- more eloquent than I could put it.

    I don't envy the illegal immigrants their position of ambiguity, and as an American I acknowledge our complicity in this situation. So we must address this properly, which can and must be done.

    By Blogger sunguh5307, at 9:21 PM  

  • A major problem when we talk about “flouting immigration laws” is that various authorities in the U.S. in fact collude in such flouting. As you know, many activities in Taiwan (e.g. night-market vendors, fire exit doors that lead to nowhere, no scooters on the sidewalk) are illegal, yet accepted to a degree. Immigration is in a similar category, in that it is simultaneously encouraged and prosecuted. We have whole industries that rely on immigrant labor. Why aren’t law enforcement officers, for example, putting an end to illegal worker-hiring in fruit-picking companies, or the laborers that congregate on street corners in southern CA? We have powerful interests that want a good deal more immigration than we legally allow, including industry and political leaders. But over the past century at least, the public has consistently been less pro-immigration than our leaders, so we end up with laws that are much less pro-immigration than our unwritten policies. If we want a rational immigration policy, we need to align our interests and laws. Until then, the legal quagmire that we are in is largely our own doing. As a country, it is hypocritical to incorporate illegal immigrants into our economy, benefit from their low-wage labor, and then be outraged at them for not, e.g., paying taxes. Fixing this problem in our “compact of citizenship” starts with us.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:28 PM  

  • Ok, so I didn't see your link before my post, which generally says the same thing. One thing I would caution against, though, is romanticizing the rate of assimilation of past immigrant groups. My grandmother, for example, went to a German elementary school even though she was 2nd generation. Ethnic enclaves are not exactly a new phenomenon, but assimilation eventually takes place regardless. Children assimilate even if their parents don't want them to.

    Also, it is unreasonable to expect large groups of immigrants not to change our society. This will happen organically. It is also not very pragmatic to resist printing certain documents or signs in spanish, chinese, etc. It is not a vice to make things easier for people. I certainly didn't complain when I could get english versions of documents in Taiwan, did you?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:51 PM  

  • You're right- I did appreciate the English signs in Taiwan. They are a nice thing. But do you think the Taiwanese would have liked it if we demanded signs in English?

    You're definitely right about immigrants changing society- and I think that's a good thing. I think the US will change for the better by becoming a bit more Asian and Hispanic. The difference though, is that the people enacting this change should do this as American citizens, invested in the national wellbeing of the American future. I feel a little agitation (a minor mirror of others in our country) when illegal aliens, of frankly unproven loyalty, are the ones who push for change in our country.

    Assimilation of immigrants (in my mind) doesn't mean mindless conformity and standardization, but eventually this organic progress. Shouldn't be romanticized, true- look at the buxiban or other (mostly Asian) after-school schools. Much less similar things for my grandparents.

    As in most things we mostly agree with each other, but our disagreements... that's the fun part, eh? Haha-

    By Blogger sunguh5307, at 8:36 PM  

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