Immigration, The Devil’s Highway and an American Underclass

I highly recommend “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea, an excellent & comprehensive account of one group of men crossing the border. It tells you why they went, what they intended to do, who they went with and why they died (some survived). Emotionally hard to read at times, but an excellently written account.

  • “Today, we are protecting ourselves as we were in 1924, against being flooded by immigrants from Eastern Europe. This is fantastic…We do not need to be protected against immigrants from these countries on the contrary we want to stretch out a helping hand, to save those who have managed to flee into Western Europe, to succor those who are brave enough to escape from barbarism, to welcome and restore them against the day when their countries will, as we hope, be free again…these are only a few examples of the absurdity, the cruelty of carrying over into this year of 1952 the isolationist limitations of our 1924 law. In no other realm of our national life are we so hampered and stultified by the dead hand of the past, as we are in this field of immigration.” -President Harry Truman‘s veto message.
  • “I believe that this nation is the last hope of Western civilization and if this oasis of the world shall be overrun, perverted, contaminated or destroyed, then the last flickering light of humanity will be extinguished. I take no issue with those who would praise the contributions which have been made to our society by people of many races, of varied creeds and colors. America is indeed a joining together of many streams which go to form a mighty river which we call the American way. However, we have in the United States today hard-core, indigestible blocs which have not become integrated into the American way of life, but which, on the contrary are its deadly enemies. Today, as never before, untold millions are storming our gates for admission and those gates are cracking under the strain. The solution of the problems of Europe and Asia will not come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the United States…. I do not intend to become prophetic, but if the enemies of this legislation succeed in riddling it to pieces, or in amending it beyond recognition, they will have contributed more to promote this nation’s downfall than any other group since we achieved our independence as a nation.” (Senator Pat McCarran, Cong. Rec., March 2, 1953, p. 1518.)

The immigration issue has been on the table for a long time. And it has been a touchy issue for as long. The issues of racism have been a part of it for as long as we have grasped the concept. The issue of security is newer. The tension between law and practicality has been magnified immensely in the new landscape.

Border security is essential to the War on Drugs, and the War on Terror, not to mention international trade. The immigration laws we have in place weaken the border. We do not keep migrants out, instead we create an industry that specializes in taking people illegally across the border. We need to have more information on who is crossing the border and we need to make sure everyone in America is in the same system.  Minimum wages, taxes, and capitalism itself all work when everyone is in the system.  If you’ve got an underclass who is routinely paid under-the-table it disrupts the very idea of regulated capitalism.  It’s bad for laborers, it’s bad for the people who pay taxes, it’s bad for the businesses trying to do the right thing, all for the benefit of a businessman who puts profit before country, laws and workers.

Society can’t afford an uneducated underclass

“I don’t have any well-developed philosophy about journalism. Ultimately it is important in a society like this, so people can know about everything that goes wrong.”

“It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals. ”

“Since my retirement, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to help the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina. A society like this just can’t afford an uneducated underclass of citizens. ”

-Charles Kuralt

I believe all of these ideas are important when we think about the media. A democratic society does need journalists, and not simply entertainers, to tell the country what is going on, which means more than the spectacular. We need to know what is going wrong, and we need education as part of that.

Education & Journalism are key parts of a democratic society. Journalism does not need to be confined to print, and education does not need to be confined to schools. In our televised society the flames and celebrities attract our attention, the politician shout their importance, and the issues behind the flames and politicians are so often forgotten. The people that are affected are presented as victims of unexpected tragedies, but so often the only thing unexpected is which person is affected. We know there will be floods in California’s Central Valley, mudslides & fires through the Southern part of the states, fishermen will lose their jobs as stocks are depleted, and crops will fail as the droughts continue. Diseases will spread further & faster as insects find their viable lifespans and territories increase. These issues are so rarely dealt with in television journalism. How do we encourage the change?