Looking at immigration, with the help of facts

Looking at immigration, with the help of facts


Let’s look at the current crisis of immigration across the Rio Grande, but for a change, with the help of facts. First, if you used government figures to total up the undocumented migrants living anywhere in the U.S. — and we really should call them refugees since they risk life itself to escape drug violence and hunger — they would amount to 10.9 million. A lot, you say? That is down in 2014, its lowest number since 2003. Scared U.S. voters imagine that the number is rising if not soaring, with hordes rushing in. But the traffic across the border is going south, not north. Unbelievable as it sounds, Latinos are leaving the U.S. rather than entering it. A January report cites that the size of the undocumented Mexican-born population has fallen every year since 2008, having dropped more than 600,000 since 2010. According to America magazine, the Pew Research Center reported that “more Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico from the U.S. than have migrated here since the end of the Great Recession.”

What are we going to do to replenish our supply of underpaid and legally unprotected lawn workers and dish washers and farmhands? Now we will have to pay more to legal citizens. By law, even undocumented workers have to be issued an identity number when it comes to paying them. Some of their pay is funneled into Social Security, but they will never see a dime of it. After all, they are illegal. Yet the fear mongers will not tell you this, as our national pension fund grows from their unwilling gift. Their pain, our gain. How just is that? Social justice condemns this.

What explains this reverse traffic that so few U.S. citizens realize? The success of the harsh Obama forced-return push, the tighter border security and the improving Mexican economy tell why desperate people head back south. Concerning this, it is of great if selfish advantage for us to aid Mexico to better its economy and to help reduce drug violence, for it is no mystery that people abandon home and property to escape likely death. Why were we not amazed when tens of thousands of desperate families were putting their unescorted children on trains — or rather, train roofs — to give them a chance to find a better life north of the border? Would we like it if our legal children were drowning while Mexican life boats would not take them aboard, worrying that these U.S. refugees might get their boats wet entering Mexico illegally? At some long-past tipping point, we the affluent decided that fellow human beings were not worth rescue even when they faced death.

Such immigration has been going on as long as we have been worshipping property at the expense of sisters and brothers of a different language or origin. I have mentioned here before how my Italian grandparents came from Abruzzi, Calabria and Basilicata to escape poverty, hating to leave such beautiful lands but needing above all to feed their children. Yet unlike most Italian immigrants of that 1880-1924 wave, they stayed here. More than half of the 4.5 million immigrants returned to Italy since their plan all along was that of most economic refugees: return home after making enough money in this land of opportunity. They did not go back because they disliked America, even if they were sometimes made unwelcome by those afraid that they would dry up the supply of menial jobs. And even more would have returned except for the objection of the older children. It’s always been this way with most immigrants.

So what kind of Christians are we if we sacrifice migrants for more money? By now we should know that capitalism is an economic system with advantages for some but with great need to be policed, to make it less unfair for the less advantaged. It comes as a shock to some Americans that capitalism is found neither in the Bible nor in our U.S. Constitution. And it came as a shock when Saint Pope John Paul II’s encyclical 24 years ago condemned the excesses of both capitalism and Marxism. Should it shock us that we have never had the right to economically crush people anywhere?