Monday, March 01, 2010

it's no fun being an illegal alien (and free will part 2)

One day last week, we went for a hike around some local trails. We live very close to the Mexican border, so it's not unusual that we see Border agents driving around. But as we were hiking, we counted no less than 10 government vehicles and saw agents and search dogs swarming every where.


When I stopped one of the agents to ask what they were doing, he indicated that what they believe were two illegal immigrants ran away from the Border Patrol. So now, they were combing every square inch of the area to find and question them.


There is no question illegal immigration is an issue. Beyond the obvious tax evasion, increased welfare costs, potential spread of diseases, impact to jobs, increased traffic congestion and higher costs of education, our national security is at risk.

Protecting our borders so foreign drug cartels, gangs and terrorists don't encroach and reign supreme is critical. In that sense, whatever it takes to safeguard the infrastructure and citizens of this country is essential.

If people want to come in to this country, there is a process so that they can do so legally.


But then...

That process can be so long and so complicated and there are no guarantees that people who want to get to this country can ever get through. After visiting Mexico this past Christmas, I saw firsthand examples of extreme poverty. And it's so easy to understand why people would want to have a better life for themselves and their family.

Who can blame them for doing whatever it takes to improve their circumstances? Even if that means risking their lives by wading across rivers (when they don't know how to swim), running from dogs and federal agents and entrusting themselves to smugglers that guarantee a ride to the other side?

Can you imagine feeling so desperate?


As Charlie and I walked away from the agent, I whispered, "What would you do if you saw two people hiding in the bushes?" My husband hesitated for only a moment before responding, "I'd call the Border Patrol."

I considered his response for a few minutes before asking, "Yeah but what if it was a mother and her small child?" A pained look crossed my husband's face before he concluded, "I'd probably give them some money and invite them to our house for dinner."

Under that scenario, he felt more like he was turning a Jewish person over to the Nazis than he felt like a concerned citizen acting in the best interest of his nation's welfare.

And well ... I tend to agree with him.


Throughout time, people have migrated from one place to another. Provided you had the resources to get there - you could go pretty much anywhere you wanted. The same is true today because to a degree, you can go anywhere you want - if you have the means to get there.

My great grandparents immigrated to the United States from Ireland along with millions of others who came to this country in search of a better life. Nowadays, the global population is larger than it has ever been in the history of mankind and there are a multitude of reasons why international borders absolutely must be protected.


But I can't help but think about so many of the people who were not fortunate enough to be born in a developed country. Those people who want to give their children a better life, even if it means risking their own. It is estimated that more than 65% of the world lives off less than $2,000 a year and the gap between the rich and poor is widening each day.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about that. I feel extremely lucky that we live where we do at this time in history. I'm also extremely thankful. And while I do support the important mission of our border patrol, I've decided it's easy to do when you're on "this" side.

Those are just my thoughts.

What are yours?


  1. Amanda in NC3/1/10, 4:55 PM

    My thoughts are pretty similar to yours...I don't like illegal immigration and there are really, REALLY good reasons why the borders should be (more) secure and the proper legal channels taken. I do feel for those so desperate that they would risk their lives and their childrens' lives to come here. And poverty is really, truly mind-blowing and eye-opening.

    Still, we can't (the USA can't) be the world's much as I feel for people, it would be utter chaos without law and order and all manner of 'officialness'. I try to support good organizations who might, even in small ways, lighten the load for those much less fortunate, even as small a gesture as that is.

  2. My husband's family crossed the Rio Grande to come from Germany for a better life. My family came from Scottland, Germany and Wales.

    I say, let them in. Document them, and let them become part of our society. Why not? IT's going to happen anyway, just by the fact that they have made it past Border Patrol, found a place to stay, and a job(?).

    I wouldn't turn them in either. I can't stand the fence, and I can't stand people saying they need to go home. These people are crossing for the same reason your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents got on a boat in Europe.

    Living in the deep part of South Texas, most of the people who come over, are kind, quiet, hard working folk who are trying to make a better life.

    What I would like to go away are the wealthy Mexican Nationals who come into San Antonio and think they own the place, drive like maniacs, push their way into restaurants, check-out lines, and overall are just rude, ignorant beings. I wish the fences, river, and border patrol would keep them from coming. It saddens me that they act like this while their is extreme poverty in their own country. With wealthy co-citizens like them, I can see why people will do anything to get here.

  3. I understand the need to protect our country from terrorism, drugs, guns, and other violence. I really do. I don't like war and violence. That being said, our immigration laws are too strict and don't allow people to come here to better themselves and their families if they don't already have lots of money. It costs more than $10,000 to process all the paperwork and such to immigrate here from Mexico. Not many Mexicans have that kind of money - that's why they tunnel under, and swim and run across the border to get here.

    I have known many Mexican immigrants (both legal and undocumented) and all they want to do is work and send their money back home so their families don't starve and to save up so their family members can move here legally. That's why they live 15 persons to a 1 bedroom apartment - so they spend as little as possible and send as much as possible back home.

    Anyway...I don't think that border hoppers should be treated so poorly. There needs to be reform. Lots and lots of reform that benefits both the USA and the immigrants wanting to come here. We need a middle ground to keep everyone happy.

    (By the by, I am only 3rd generation born here on my Mother's side. My great-grandmother was born in Mexico and moved here early in her life. I don't know if it was done legally or not, though, but if she hadn't, I wouldn't exist.)

  4. Agree. 100%.
    COMPASSION. I feel like our country is leaving it out of the equation completely.

  5. I'm not American, so I don't want to speculate too much about the issues surrounding the discussion there.


    One of my big "Argh, rage!" issues is "illegal immigration" in Australia.
    Entering Australia without permission, without a visa, secretly and sneakily... is NOT illegal if you are a refugee. It is your RIGHT to seek protection. And yet people (and friends of mine) will not only miss that fact, but go on to say "You know, I just think, everyone should follow the rules."
    You're supposed to 'follow the rules' (ie things like begging the goverment for your official paperwork to get started, and getting murdered for raising their suspicions... or sitting at some African border because your house burnt down, so you don't have any documentation) when you just saw your entire family raped, tortured, and murdered, and you know you will get the same if you stay? Righto, then. Some compassion and basic empathy would not go too far. (Short: I definitely get what you're saying here.)

  6. Annoyed by immigrants? Tell it to the Indians! ["native americans" didn't fit on the bumpersticker, I guess]

    Delurking to comment on something close to my heart. By the way, I am constantly in awe of how articulate you are, Jen! I don't even have trips (or twins for that matter) but you have such a great way of phrasing things and telling wonderful stories that is universally appealing.

    Anyways, the only border I live near is Canada, but we have a huge immigrant population here (Mpls/St Paul, MN). Most are legal immigrants but there are plenty of illegal immigrants too. They are, in large part, a bolster to our economy. They work hard, pay into the tax system, and don't get much out (since they can't collect social security with fake ss#). They pay rent, shop locally, and the Hmong families contribute hugely to the Farmers Markets in the summer/fall (LOVE them - great organic fruits & veggies).

    I teach English as a Second Language in a public elementary school, so I work with kids who were born here but come from non-English speaking homes, and also kids who've just come in from Burmese refugee camps, East Africa, or any number of Latin American countries. I love each and every one of them - they are all precious, and none of them is more or less worthy than any other kids who live here. They all deserve the opportunities most of us have and take for granted: food, shelter, safety, healthcare, and a great education.

    To me, it doesn't matter where you were born - we're all part of a global community. No one has any say in where they are born. If a family has the courage, strength, and will to bring themselves to a different land, good for them! If they want to work hard to give their family a better life, that should be commended. This is a stereotype, yes, but one that I've seen to be so true: first generation immigrants are the hardest workers, full of pure (and often inspirational) intentions.

    We might have problems with our economy, but we still have plenty. How are we better or more deserving of our great country than any other immigrant? No human being is illegal.

  7. I live in Indonesia - 240 million people where at least 200 million live in extreme poverty, 39 million are "average" (they have running water but live on about USD3-4000 pa) and 1 million are millionaires (or extremely well off). You may see poverty on holidays, but you see a whole lot more when you are living dead smack bang in the middle of it. If I was a local poor person - I would be doing ANYTHING to escape - and that includes trying to marry some ugly fat expat - actually that is one of the easiest ways to escape.

    I come from Australia - 20 million of average people (USD 40,000 pa) and a few hundred millionaires - very little homeless people.

    I believe that Australia (and in like USA) benefit from people immigrating to our country. The people immigrating (especially the refugees) are not the ones who are sitting back wanting a free ride - they are the workers, the thinkers, the ones who are trying to get ahead and usually having a VERY good reason for leaving - they are the ones that make it happen - this benefits the country they go to. There are enough jobs, resources, infrastructure etc in place to take these people into account. Yes, the original citizens may have to reduce their intake - but is that such a bad thing - don't we already have way too much (think obesity rate).

    Yes, this opinion is not widespread in Australia. The negatives get too little press, whereas both our nations grew from immigration - and not all legal.

  8. Well. As you know I wouldn't be so blessed if my husband and his family didn't come from Germany. Although he's been here for well over 20 years - Believe it or not Reiner still cries anytime he hears our National Anthem. Just go to a baseball game with him! ;-)

    He is always telling our boys how lucky they are to be born into this great country and how it's the greatest place in the world to live. In fact he's made sure that they know the anthem by heart! ;-)
    Love, Marg

  9. Jen, just read this article last week. Wonderfully written, IMO.

  10. Ah, Jen, inviting my thoughts is a dangerous, dangerous thing.

    I'm a legal alien in the US. I hold dual citizenship in Bangladesh and the UK. The most "hardship" I've ever suffered was:
    1. Being a (poor, by US standards) college student on scholarship.
    2. Being the young child of (poor, by UK standards) graduate students.
    3. Being the privileged daughter of the director of an orphanage in rural Bangladesh.

    As a permanent resident (and prior to that, on a student visa), I pay taxes, but cannot vote. Taxation without representation, anyone? Didn't we Brits do that to you? I recall that it wasn't popular.

    My thoughts are that yes, there are reasons to have limitations at border-crossings. Many, many excellent reasons. However, the system is too expensive and cumbersome, and continues to get more so. The restrictions clearly don't work, if people are still crossing. I am terrified of the day that something goes wrong with my immigration status and the authorities still me and my children up; they and my husband are US citizens by birth.

    The fact that many ignore is that, with the exception of Native Americans, most Americans' ancestors arrived here illegally. The diversity of this nation is what makes it so great.

    I don't have a coherent argument, or a solution. However, the system as it exists is too complex, and isn't really preventing people from entering the country.

  11. I think we should stop persecuting people who come here to work. If was a poor and starving Mexican, you better damn believe I would crawl across the desert in the blazing sun to get here.

    My kids are going to school now with a bunch of children of illegals. I love those kids. I would gnaw your arm off if you tried to send them back. :)

  12. The naiveté of the cementers who have posted here is mind-boggling. The world population today is 6.8 billion people, and over 5 billion of those people have a standard of living far below ours. More than half of the world's 6.8 billion people live in abject poverty, far, far worse than the poorest people living in Mexico. In fact by world standards Mexico is a wealthy country quite capable of taking care of its own citizens. The US population today 308.8 million and is projected to be 450 million in 2050; that is 141 million more people in our country in just 40 years. The US population is growing at an exponential rate, and that growth is driven almost exclusively by immigration, legal (1.5 million annually) and illegal (approximately 1 million annually). Our country simply cannot absorb these numbers without irreversible degradation of our natural environment. Demographers tell us that a sustainable population for the US, which maintains our current standard of living, is 200 million people. Our current population is unsustainable without resources from other countries.

    Our Immigration policies are political decisions specifically designed to provide cheap labor for corporations and businesses. Those who made and/or support those policies willingly accept(ed) the inevitable consequences those policies produce, i.e., lower incomes and lower standards of living for American citizens. No matter how hard or long one searches they will find virtually nothing good that comes from exponential population growth; but there is a very long list of negative consequences Americans will suffer.

    The 21st Century will be one of far too many people chasing far too few resources. The question you have to ask yourself is do you want to compete with another 100 or 200 or 300 million immigrants, legal and illegal, for a diminishing pool of resources that will be available to the US. If you do, then you should support amnesty for illegal aliens and our current policy toward legal immigration because that is exactly what will happen. If you don't, then you should make it clear to all your elected officials that if they are not working to remove illegal aliens for our country, fighting to impose a moratorium on all but a very few essential legal immigrants you will not vote for them. Make it clear that these two policies are litmus tests you will impose for your vote. You should also join and work to defeat every amnesty proposal put forward by the open borders pro-amnesty crowd. It's your choice!

  13. I grew up along the Texas/Mexican border until I was ten. Most of my family crossed over the border illegally at one time or another. Some are still here illegally, but most have been able to eventually get through the system to live here legally. The process is long and expensive.

    My mother waded the Rio Grande 9 months pregnant because her documentation was taken away on orders from my grandmother who had connections with the border patrol and who thought my father could marry better. My mom wanted to insure my brother was born in the U.S. regardless. She was successful, and so will many others despite the efforts of border patrol.

    So I guess I'm biased. I would probably have just looked the other way.

  14. If I found an illegal alien, I would try to help them. Everybody has a right to be wherever they wanna bee, I feel.

    If it was a mother and small kids, I would take them in! :O

    Illegal aliens are good for this country - they do jobs that americans don't wanna do, and they do them WELL! You can always depend on ailens from other countries to be willing to WORK, and work HARD; something than many americans are not willing to do, or that they do poorly.

    ~Cindy! :)

  15. WOW! This says it all:

    ~Cindy! :)

  16. Cindy,
    That is a great link. Thanks for sharing it!

    Fear-mongering is seriously uncool. Nameless, faceless fear-mongering is usually trolling.