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The Human Tide is turning

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Set aside for a moment, if you can, issues of Democratic and Republican politics, homeland security, official language and national identity – all the real but ephemeral concerns around which we organize our national debate on immigration reform, and think for a moment about tides.

Humans of every race, religion, skin color, language and political orientation have been migrating, like waves on the sea, across borders, mountains, deserts, oceans and mighty rivers since the beginning of recorded time.

The Roman Empire rearranged the world, Vandals and Goths rearranged the Romans, the Incas subdued much of western South America, the Spanish subdued the Incas, Mexicans kicked out the Spanish and Americans – as Europeans came to be called – tried to kick out the Mexicans.

Meanwhile, ethnic and cultural waves rolled back and forth in the wake of military and political dominions, largely irrespective of formal borders.

Thus we find California, once the domain of indigenous tribes, later controlled by Spain, then by Mexico, then by the United States, a perennially poly-ethnic place where culture and language have always comingled and where names and places richly combine English, Spanish and Native American words.

Culture and language, like weather fronts, migrating birds and organic commerce, are tidal – they respond to external influences more powerful and permanent than political platforms. The flood of Latino immigration is such a tide. It can, to some extent, be guided, directed and overseen. But it can’t be stopped, not with 380 million Spanish speakers below our Southern border.

Many Americans view this tide with fear and anger. So be it. That won’t stop the tide. And sending 12 million Spanish-speaking people back to where they came from is not practically, politically, economically or morally possible.

So, finally last year, a majority of the United States Senate approved a “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” – otherwise known as S. 744 – that, while flawed and inadequate from varying points of view, provides the first real immigration reform, and a long path to citizenship for millions of undocumented residents, since the bracero acts of the 1940s.

That bill, of course, is stuck in the House of Representatives where hardline opponents don’t want it to pass.

Over the weekend, 5th District Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, made rounds in the Sonoma Valley with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, (D-Chicago) who has spearheaded immigration reform in the House for most of his 22-year Congressional career. The diminutive and feisty Gutierrez, who is Puerto Rican-American and known affectionately by some as “El Gallito,” warned a gathering of Latino leaders at Chateau St. Jean Saturday evening that, “Today they deported 1,100 people. We have to think about the tens of thousands of citizens who have been left orphans,” by deportation.

Gutierrez said Latinos are the “fastest growing group in colleges all across the U.S.” and he added that 2,000 Latinos reach voting age every day. “They are angry,” he said, peppering his English with Spanish, and the best way for Republicans to avoid electoral wrath in November, he told a reporter, “would be to schedule a vote on the bipartisan bill that already passed the Senate. We can do it,” he insisted, “we’ve never been closer.”

The tide, as they say, has turned.

  • Dee Test

    We had stability and sanity in California for many, many, many decades. There were laws and enforcement of those laws that kept the steady stream of legal immigrants well incorporated into our population, and welcome by our communities. There were laws that prohibited illegal employment of non-legal residents, and those laws assured our middle class a fair chance at “the American dream”, and opportunities for their children to prosper. There were laws that mandated our farmers and others who needed “seasonal” workers to provide housing, health care, and other necessary services, in addition to monitored wages….and taxes paid on those wages. California had laws that prohibited “the Grapes of Wrath”, and people like Cesar Chavez fought to keep illegal labor at bay, so that unionized workers would have leverage to obtain fair working conditions and wages. What has gone on in California (and the rest of the US) over the last 3-4 decades is nothing short of criminal, and it has resulted in decimation of our middle class. Corporate agribusiness (and other corporate entities) have been allowed to make huge profits by heavy utilization of the massive amounts of cheap labor provided by a steady stream of illegal immigrants. And all those cheap wages have been subsidized by the taxpayers, so that all those illegal residents and their families could be sustained. This editor may want to wax poetic about this subject, but a heavy dose of honesty is required with any discussion of this issue. The American people will not be seduced into accepting further amnesty and further insults to our stability, all under the guise of just flowing “with the tide”.

    • Fred Allebach

      This comment is a perfect example of Nativist sentiment, the same that you would have seen against Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Philippine, Okies, Italians, Jews. Yet these people are all now mainstreamed. The unifying thread is that all problems get blamed on the immigrants while large scale structural issues causing migration are ignored. Bottom line, nativism is a parochial and constricted view of the forces of history.

      • Dee Test

        We have never before, in the history of the US, seen such a massive illegal immigration of the magnitude we are currently seeing, of a single demographic group. The successful immigrant groups you site did not represent this type of overwhelming presence, and did not provide such a concerted mechanism to undermine wages and job stability for our entire middle class. My concerns have nothing to do with “nativism”, and you are using this blatant diversion to obscure the economic realities of our current situation. Every recent economic study has confirmed the devastation to our middle class, and particularly in California where we seem destined to evolve into a state where the middle class will soon be almost extinct (with only the very richest and the working poor making up the vast numbers of our population). You may find this an acceptable situation (very similar to the same situation that exists in the nation to the south of our borders), but many of us find this unacceptable. I do not “blame” the immigrants for this situation…..I blame people like yourself. You are so busy shrouding yourself in political correctness that you fail to even acknowledge the devastating effects of this fiasco on our nation. In the end, your pandering to the simplistic concept of “ethnic diversity” acts to provide justification for the ongoing and illegal exploitation of cheap labor, and for the undermining of fairness, decency, and stability in our labor market.

        • Fred Allebach

          Dee, you need to look at globalization and corporate flight as to why the US middle class is going under. To pin this all on Mexico and pointy headed liberals is a shallow analysis. But I do get that you are angry.

          • Dee Test

            Of course this is related to globalization. Clinton – and the other politicos who were determined to enhance GDP – by facilitating American corporate profits – saw fit to push through NAFTA, close the INS, and deliberately open the borders (and the jobs) to draw all that cheap labor. It was no accident. Instead of fair trade and tax law changes, to discourage corporate flight, it was easier to victimize our middle class. They had little concern about the ramifications to our own people, and have used every deception and unscrupulous means to obscure their underhanded maneuvers. Nonetheless…..the end result in terms of human suffering of Americans, and in terms of creating the inequities and chaos that we now face, is nothing to celebrate. Attempting to push through a “comprehensive” immigration law, in the midst of our middle class decimation….will not fly. While you (and Bolling) may want to cheer the influx Latino culture as a grand indication of our positive cultural evolution, you are ignoring the stark reality of America’s growing discontent and the decline of the structure and values that kept a civilized society functioning well for so many decades.

          • Fred Allebach

            Nativism is nativism and you have a bad case of it. Adios

          • Dee Test

            Time to stick your head back in the sand, after that name calling.

          • Chris Scott

            Dee Test;

            Notwithstanding the errors, omissions, lack of facts and waving the banner “Immigrants Are Inferior and Ruin America”, It might be helpful to you to have some more accurate and current data on how the majority of Americans feel about immigration which I’ve included below.

            WSJ, May 6, 2014
            Polling Immigration

            “But does the immigration commentary so often heard in conservative media accurately reflect the sentiments of most Republican voters? Not according to the polls. Here’s the exact wording of a Fox News survey question from January:

            Which of the following comes closest to your view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently in the United States?

            1. Send all illegal immigrants back to their home country?

            2. Have a guest worker program that allows immigrants to remain in the United States to work, but only for a limited amount of time?

            3. Allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship, but only if they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check?

            4. Don’t know.

            Some 68 percent of all respondents, and 60 percent of Republican respondents, chose the citizenship option—i.e., “amnesty.”

            A 2013 Fox poll had a question with similar wording: “Do you favor or oppose allowing the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country to remain in the country and eventually—years down the road—qualify for U.S. citizenship, as long as they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check?”

            Again, 74 percent of all respondents, including two out of three Republicans (67 percent), favored letting illegal immigrants stay. In fact, Fox has been polling this question since at least 2011 without much change in the results. And Fox’s findings have been replicated by other polls over the years, which consistently show that a majority of GOP voters support comprehensive immigration reform.

            The immigration views expressed by Renee Ellmers, Jeb Bush, John Boehner and others on the right may make them pariahs in the blogosphere, but it’s hard to argue that these politicians are out of step with rank-and-file Republican voters.”

          • Dee Test

            Stop with the patronizing and the sighting of inane polls that are designed for simplistic and desired results. We are about to embark on a new series of elections in this country. I would suggest you wait and watch for those results before you spout off about what Americans believe. You have been drinking the local PC Kool-Aid…..and you are out of step with middle America. Even in California, where people are too intimidated to speak out about how they really feel about illegal immigration, there is tremendous ambivalence and many subtle differences in attitudes about how best to resolve this situation. (As the comments here bear witness to.)

    • Phineas Worthington

      The thing is that this problem has been going on for decades. This problem is precisely the feedback mechanism that tells us our government is excessively burdened with so many improper functions that it cannot perform its proper functions.

  • Fred Allebach

    David is sounding like Larry Barnett! Nice essay. I’m proud to say that the Sonoma City council honored Mexican-American culture and teens in the meeting last night.

  • Robert Piazza

    I’m not sure I accept the annology of the Roman Legions conquering Europe equating to Mexicans illegally crossing our boarder. One is an organized army, the other individuals looking for a better life.
    The article fails to mention the the illegal crossings also transporting illegal drugs by, in many cases, innocent individuals just looking for a better life!

    Open boarders, intentional or otherwise, is not a good idea. They must be secured to extent they can be. The alternative is to remove to incentive to migrate, that being jobs. California is broke! We cannot afford to support illegal immigration with our welfare and Medicaid systems.
    First we need to enforce the current immigration and labor laws on every
    employer, including landscapers and individuals.Secondly, we need a
    guest worker program similar to the one Reagan started when he was
    governor.

    I also find Congressman Gutierrez’s last statement blackmail and threatening. What’s he doing in California stirring up hate and discontent?

    • Phineas Worthington

      Its immoral to put employers in the untenable legal dilemma where the free exchange of labor for money is a crime. Our legislators need to amend or repeal the laws that criminalize a free exchange.

      It is a shame that group-think is the default position of both sides of the conflict rather than establishing a system of law that simply protects individual rights.

      • Robert Piazza

        You’re too late Phineas. The government exposed employers to criminal law when they started the department of labor and OSHA!

        • Phineas Worthington

          If only more people understood the burdens placed upon business, they might understand why job creation is so weak.

        • Tom Sokolowski

          Robert, thank God employers are exposed to criminal law when they expose their workers to unsafe working conditions; anything to put a dent into the thousands of on-the-job injuries and fatalities that occur in our workplaces.
          Employees have a right to a safe workplace.

          • Robert Piazza

            Again I take issue with your liberal point of view and beliefs, Tom!
            It’s a privilege to to have a job, not a right. It’s a moral obligation for an employer to provide safe working conditions.

            Government gets involved when an employer fails to meet his obligations or when liberal opportunists can take advantage of an employer to further their own agenda!

            I can’t wait to read your reply to this one. :)

          • Tom Sokolowski

            Robert, you said “It’s a privilege to have a job, not a right.” We agree.
            You said “It’s a moral obligation for an employer to provide safe working conditions.” We agree (it’s also a legal obligation).

            We seem to be in agreement on your points, not sure what you are taking issue with me on.

          • Robert Piazza

            Tom, I disagree with you saying “employees have a right to a safe workplace”! That is not a right, it is also a privilege. I believe it’s a privilege to work for an employer who cares enough about their employees to provide a safe and pleasant workplace without having to do so because of government mandates, rules and regulations!

            Government interference, such as, regulating overtime work rules, mandating break times, imposing living wages to mention a few, cause business not to be competitive in the market place. Government does this to encourage organized labor not to protect the worker.
            The net result is loss of the business to foreign locations and the jobs and taxes they provided!
            It’s a losing proposition all around!

          • Tom Sokolowski

            Sorry Robert, but providing a safe work environment to employees is a legal requirement of employers, punishable by fines, restrictions, shutdowns, and sometimes, but rarely, even jail if you are not in compliance; it’s the law. Here in America workers have a legal “right” to a safe workplace, not being dependent on the benevolence level of their employer on any particular day.

            And btw, we don’t lose jobs to China and Vietnam because of our safety rules; we lose jobs to them because workers there work for a dollar a day for corporations that have no rules at all, other than making as much money as possible.

          • Robert Piazza

            Again Tom, it’s not a “legal right” to a safe workplace, it’s a legal requirement mandated by government in the form of a “code”. It’s not mandated by God or the constitution!

            Movement of a business or production to a lower “labor cost” area is only part of the reason for businesses. A lower cost of being in business as well as a lower cost of doing business are to motivations for offshoring!
            Some cost savings in addition to direct labor cost, are benefit costs and environmental costs just to mention a couple.

            It’s not as simplistic as you describe or as I try to explain.

          • Phineas Worthington

            Workers have individual rights. Employers have individual rights. It is good that there are laws protecting people from basic harm and death in the workplace. That is a proper function of law and government.

            Where the ideas of worker rights go awry is when the freedom to negotiate the nuances of free exchange are taken away by law that mandates benefits at the involuntary expense of employers.

          • Phineas Worthington

            Safety does add to the cost of production. As does every other tax and regulation whether proper or improper whether reasonable or not.

            China’s miracle growth is ending though because it is a structurally unsound economic system.

  • Phineas Worthington

    Immigration-yes. Wealth transfers and welfare-no.

  • Phineas Worthington

    You ever worked overseas Tom?

    • Tom Sokolowski

      Higher standard of living for the few you mean. Half a billion Chinese live on less than $2 a day, and 200 million Chinese workers suffer from occupational ailments, thanks to no environmental safety or health regulations; a real Libertarian paradise. Have you seen the pictures of China’s cites? 16 of the world’s top 20 cities with the worst air pollution are in China. Only 1% of the 560 million Chinese urbanites breathe air considered safe by U.S. standards.

      At the same time, China has more billionaires than all the countries in
      the world except for us. Is that what you mean by the consequence of wealth production and higher standards of living?

      Regarding your concern about China being an international threat, you have in this forum promoted the Keystone XL pipeline; Canadian crude shipping to China with us taking all the environmental risks associated with it. Explain that one to me.

      • Phineas Worthington

        Would you prefer China remain in the backward, depraved state of mass murder and mass starvation as in the Cultural Revolution? It is good that they are growing wealth and improving their standard of living.

        And the link of Keystone with international aggression is tenuous at best.

        The state owned/controlled oil companies and state owned resources all over the world (over 90% of global oil resources are state owned and controlled) are the real enablers of oil tyranny and environmental degradation, not the freer producers of energy.

  • Robert Piazza

    Well Tom, I went to the OSHA site as you suggested, and this is what I found:

    Workers are entitled to working conditions that do not
    pose a risk of serious harm. To help assure a safe and healthful workplace,
    OSHA also provides workers with the right to:

    Ask OSHA to inspect their workplace;

    Use their rights under the law without retaliation and
    discrimination;

    Receive information and training about hazards, methods
    to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace. The
    training must be in a language you can understand;

    Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the
    workplace;

    Review records of work-related injuries
    and illnesses;

    Get copies of their medical records;

    It says workers are ENTITLED to which is a bit different than a right to a safe work place. The laws and regulations deal with the entitlements and mandates but not rights. The use of the word RIGHTS in OSHA is not a legal requirement but merely a descriptive term. Note above, that one of the RIGHTS do not include a safe workplace.

    My interpretation of a RIGHT, in this context, is as defined or interpreted by the constitution which says nothing about WORKERS RIGHTS! It deals with INDIVIDUAL rights.

    Make no mistake, I comply with OSHA for two reasons, most of their mandates are just common sense and I do want to protect my employees from harm for a lot of reasons.

    • Tom Sokolowski

      Robert, glad you went to the OSHA site, but you forgot to include the title of the document you cited: “Workers’ rights under the OSH Act.” Please notice the word “RIGHTS” in the title, completely undercutting your argument.

      Robert, you said: “My interpretation of a RIGHT, in this context, is as defined or interpreted by the constitution which says nothing about WORKERS RIGHTS! It deals with INDIVIDUAL rights.” Aren’t workers and individuals pretty much the same thing?

      Robert, you said: “Make no mistake, I comply with OSHA for two reasons, most of their mandates are just common sense and I do want to protect my employees from harm for a lot of reasons.” Three reasons Robert; if you don’t comply you’ll be cited, fined, shutdown, and in a very few cases jailed. It’s the law!

      • Robert Piazza

        Tom, show me where OSHA explicitly says workers have a “RIGHT TO A SAFE WORK PLACE”!
        It says they are “entitled” to a safe work environment. Now we may be mincing words but it’s this kind of wording that gets misinterpreted by workers, unions and management and ends up in the courts for a final determination of the meaning. I say your interpretation is wrong and mine is correct! A RIGHT is constitutional where as an ENTITLEMENT is codified.

        Want to go to the supreme court for a decision?

        Here’s exactly what OSHA says in your referred section.

        Workers’ rights under the OSH Act.
        Workers are entitled to working conditions
        that do not pose a risk of serious harm. To help assure a safe and
        healthful workplace, OSHA also provides workers with the right to:

        Ask OSHA to inspect their workplace;

        Use their rights under the law without retaliation and discrimination;

        Receive information and training about hazards,
        methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their
        workplace. The training must be in a language you can understand;

        Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace;

        Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses;

        Get copies of their medical records;

        All the remedies cited by you are punitive and some result in closure of the business and the subsequent loss of jobs. Noting is said about correcting the problem and preserving the jobs!
        I’ll stand by my two reasons, as they are common sense and not government “jack boot” solutions.