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May. 5 2010 - 6:41 pm | 247 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

An ignored side of illegal immigration: second generation success

The current immigration insanity in Arizona has polarized the public along the predictable lines of seperation. Some people believe that Mexicans desperately fleeing paralyzing poverty in their own country to feed their children should be treated with respect, decency, and compassion. They should be given a fair opportunity to work in the United States and gain legal status. Other people blend paranoia and xenophobia to spread hated of hispanics, especially in Arizona where they will now be subject to racial profiling in the form of demands to see their “papers,” as if they were pedigrees in an elite dog show.

Throughout the debate, the typically impotent left fails to articulate itself persuasively, even with sanity and morality on its side, while the non-libertarian right screams about terrorism, illegal drugs, and how Latino immigrants are to blame for nearly everything that is wrong with the economy, pausing only to wipe the foam from their mouths. Unfortunately, arbitrators of opinion on all sides in the media and most political officials miss an essential social fact when discussing this important issue: second generation upward mobility or, at least, the potential for it.

When I was in college I met two fellow students whose fathers crossed the American-Mexican border illegally, worked unimaginably hard to build stable and secure lives, gained legal status after many years of labor and bureaucratic games, had families, and raised their children to value education, determination and diligence. Their children then had opportunities they never had, obtained an education they never could, and enjoyed greater success than they ever did–one as an accountant and the other as a public relations consultant for a liberal arts college. The generational improvement in these families represents what people worshipfully call the “American dream.” Stories like this, while they may become increasingly rare given the oligarchic changes in the economy that have steadily corroded chances for upward mobility over the past three decades, offer hope to not only newly arrived immigrants, but all Americans who hope against hope that their children will have better lives than them.

At what point in the lives of the two once illegal fathers would treating them as criminal dangers with stop-and-search demands for identification and legal threats of deportation have helped them, their families, or their newly adopted home country? If anything, they should have been an easier path to citizenship. The approximate 50,000 green cards that are issued each year are not even close to filling demand, especially considering that immigrants from countries with low US immigrant rates are given higher priority.

Social mobility and cultural assimilation are flip sides to the same coin. The Latino students I met in college, like most children of immigrants–illegal or legal–were proud of their ethnic heritage and enjoyed its cultural trappings, but were identifiably American–linguistically, politically, and socially. They should be treasured as not only precious human beings, but also important symbols, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find, of America’s greatness.

The wealth of this country–financial, cultural, and spiritual–is a direct result of the physical, intellectual, and spiritual labor of immigrants. The immigrant story is the best part of the American story. No one should allow crackpot Sheriffs, cowardly politicians, and ice covered pundits blowing hot air to write its next chapter.


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  1. collapse expand

    I quote you as follows: “The wealth of this country–financial, cultural, and spiritual–is a direct result of the physical, intellectual, and spiritual labor of immigrants.” Yep, Mr. Masciotra, but most came here LEGALLY. You’ve heard of Ellis Island?

    The only thing missing from your piece is violins playing in the background. Very touching, but it’s intellectualy unsophisticated to present an argument calling for open borders without even acknowledging (never mind debating) the real rise in crimes committed by illegals in Arizona and other states. It’s more convenient for you to ignore the REASON for Arizona’s new law because then you don’t have to look at pesky statistics or address unpleasant facts.

    Let me remind you of a couple of things you blithely choose to ignore: There are drug smugglers running our southern borders who are willing and able to kill Border Patrol. There are coyotes making lots of money off the backs of the very people they smuggle across the border—some of whom are convicted criminals in their own country! You think those criminals suddenly change their lifestyles when they get here?

    Open-Border folks like to paint ALL immigrants as people just coming here to make more money to feed their families, seeking a better life, etc. etc. etc. That’s only true in a perfect world. Fact is, even those who come here to work often wind up with all the government aid our citizens are entitled to. So how deep into the 50% of actual taxpayers’ pockets would you like to reach in order to feed and provide for the world, Mr. Masciotra?

    You can call me a “paranoid xenophobe” or anything you want, sir, but yelling “racist” or “racial profiling” in the face of common sense causes those who do the labeling to lose their credibility, not the other way around.

    And, by the way, you might want to call Mexico’s president and tell him that MEXICO’S HARSH, NO-NONSENSE IMMIGRATION LAWS are not ‘politically correct.’ A quick look at those laws will tell you they just don’t have that welcome-however-you-got-here vibe down there.


  2. collapse expand

    American overconsumption is the scourge of the planet. But we need more of us? Silly stuff.

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    I am a writer, a cultural critic and the author of Working On a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen (Continuum Books). I graduated from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois in 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, and am currently a graduate student in English Studies and Communication at Valparaiso University. Throughout 2007 and 2008, I wrote a weekly political column for the Herald News in Joliet, Illinois. My work has also appeared in several other Chicago area newspapers, and Z Magazine. On the web, I have written features for PopMatters, and occasional or single columns for Daily Yonder, Common Dreams New Center, Pop and Politics, and PopPolitics. I pride myself on the following unverifiable claim; I am the only writer to have been published in both the Catholic Worker and the Humanist. My first book, Working On a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen, is published by Continuum Books and available now. I believe in love, service, subtle subversion, and rock ‘n’ roll. I do not trust people who don’t like the Rolling Stones, and refuse to buy an I-Pod.

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