Tuesday, May 04, 2010

An open letter to President Obama on immigration and SB1070

This actually is a blog post, written in the form of a letter, but since I consider the "open letter" format to be lazy and pretentious unless it is sent to the titular recipient, it will be submitted to the White House via their website's online contact form.

Where it probably won't go any further than one of the interns or volunteers tasked with reading the thousands of emails that the White House receives every day, but at least I can say that I sent it. :)

By the way, while this will be a blog post, with the usual informality associated with such things, since it will also be sent to the White House, the snark will be kept to a minimum. Though anything in italics is added commentary from me and won't be included in the final letter to the WH. :)

Anyway, on to the letter...

Dear Mr. President,

My name is [cpmaz] and I am an Arizonan, and no, all of us are *not* insane.

As you are no doubt aware, recently Arizona
enacted the nation's harshest anti-immigration law. While its supporters deny it, most observers view the law as one that specifically targets people of Hispanic ancestry and appearance, regardless of their immigration status.

The furor that has risen across the state, country, and the world over the passage and signing of SB1070 threatens to overwhelm and derail any plans you and your staff may have had set for your legislative agenda for the rest 2010.

The furor has overshadowed the discussion of financial regulation reforms and has pushed the discussion of measures to address climate change completely off the radar.

So be it.

It's time to prove that you're not just a good politician, but a great one.

In baseball, every "good" hitter can hit a pitch that they expect the pitcher to throw at them; the 'great' hitters overcome their own expectations and hit whatever the pitcher gives them.

Anybody major leaguer can hit a 3-0 fastball over the middle of the plate for a home run; the great ones can sit on that fastball but then see a hanging curve over the outside corner and take it the other way for a solid double.

Any politician can deal effectively with issues they they plan for; the great ones deal effectively with the ones that come across their plate, no matter their previous plans.

While climate change and financial regulation reform are important issues that need to be addressed, they may have to wait for the new Congress.

The rest of this Congress' time will be focused on the issue that the nativists in the Arizona legislature have heaved into their laps - addressing the issue of the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S., and the issue of how to handle the millions that are already in the U.S.

While many, and not just the nativists, advocate "solutions" that only address the immigrants themselves, almost no one advocates for measures that address the underlying cause of almost any non-warfare/natural disaster-inspired migration -


Or more specifically, the soul-numbing poverty that afflicts a huge percentage of Mexicans and Central Americans. It's the kind of poverty that motivates men and women to abandon all that they have known, risk death by avaricious smugglers or unrelenting desert conditions, face the constant threat of arrest and deportation by American authorities, all for the dubious privilege of mowing American lawns, cleaning American houses, and picking American foodstuffs at incredibly low wages.

Any plan to address immigration and border issues, such as the
latest "plan to end all plans", that address only the effects of immigration with enhanced walls and technology (security measures) and guarantees for businesses and workers (payoffs) but doesn't do anything to affect the underlying causes of immigration is doomed to fail or even to have any real impact.

However, any plan that doesn't include a lock 'em/deport 'em all main plank will incur the wrath and opposition of the Republicans in Congress, and any plan that doesn't protect the bottom lines of Big Business will garner the same wrath and opposition from both the Republicans and the conservative Democrats in Congress. In other words, such a plan would be doomed to fail in Congress.

It is time to push a plan that addresses the underlying causes behind immigration, yet does so in a way that can appeal to enough conservative Democrats (and maybe even a few Republicans) to make it through Congress.

Some multi-tasking is in order.

For example, a program similar to the old
Civilian Conservation Corps could be implemented. However, instead of out-of-work Americans building roads in national parks, out-of-work Mexicans could build wind-power or solar power farms and the infrastructure necessary to distribute the power generated across impoverished northern Mexico and southern Arizona, or perhaps on a water desalination plant on the Baja coast that would send much-needed water to the southwestern U.S.

In addition to putting to work the very folks who would be most likely to consider crossing the border, reducing illegal immigration, it would strengthen the infrastructure needed for permanent economic development in one of the U.S.' primary trading partners. That combination would appeal to both the people who are advocating for migrants and the businesses that may object to a diminished supply of cheap labor - their payroll expenses may rise, but so will their revenue as their sales to Mexico and Mexicans rise.

Combine that with an increased military presence on the southern border with Mexico, from El Paso to Yuma. If officially deploying units to the border is politically or diplomatically unfeasible, perhaps the establishment of a "desert operations training center" or something similar. The desert along the border could become the training grounds for divisions about to deploy to the Middle East. They could practice patrolling with local terrain experts as guides, much as they would be doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, the "local terrain experts" in the southern U.S. would be Border Patrol officers.

Such a move would both serve to quiet the nativists in AZ (and elsewhere) and the "secure the border first" Congressional critics of comprehensive immigration reform and to actually secure the border (most human and drug smugglers would think twice before crossing paths with a division of Marines or soldiers. Some would still try, but that number would probably be significantly reduced from the number of smugglers willing to attempt a desert crossing.)

The government of Mexico would surely object to some of this, but to be blunt, the government of Mexico is one of the few in the Western Hemisphere that the government of the United States can criticize for being too corrupt and inattentive to the needs of its people.

In other words, let them complain.

Now, I understand that one or more aspects of this idea may not be practicable, and this is surely an incomplete proposal, but Mr. President, you are a smart man who is surrounded by dozens of smart men and women.

You can work this out.

Mr. President, thank you for your time, and good luck.



Update: I actually tried to submit the letter, but it is too long for the White House's contact form. So it is only a blog post, not a letter to the President.

Lucky interns. :)

1 comment:

terry tarara said...

Good thinking there! Please get this to Pres. Obama fast--send it certified or snail mail or get Harry Mitchell or Kyrsten Sinema to place this letter into the hands of DC/Whitehouse higher ups so that it can get to the Pres. Thanks so much for thinking of solutions--we need this so badly right.