There has been a lot of bluster of late on this topic and while I have been going through a bit of writers block I figured it may be helpful for me personally to at least try and articulate why I am opposed and possibly those that are for the wall can explain to me why I should not oppose. At least if I put this down in writing I can be held accountable for my views. I can also clear my mind and block out all the rhetoric that goes on with this subject and maybe more importantly, the emotion. As I started this writing we are in a partial government shutdown all because of this one $5.7 billion subject. We may enter a shutdown again shortly.
It is probably useful to give a back story of where I come from on this subject, part of it is simply growing up and being educated in America. One of the things you learn is what is written on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty, “…Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. The quote is actually a little longer yet that one line is what we remember. Probably because it speaks to the foundation of the American experience dating back to Plymouth Rock. It has been lionized in literature and film, such as “The Godfather Part II”. Immigration has always been part of our history as is the racism that accompanies it – Italians, Poles, and Irish were all stereotyped and ridiculed when they came to the country. I had one line in my middle school play “Westside Story” and it was “Wop” a racist term used to describe Italians. Since my parents had immigrated from Denmark I was part of the American experience and appreciated the opportunities it provided me and related directly to the history I had learned.
Yet today that view has changed. We are in a period where we look inward and look to history to justify a false claim – so what changed? Simply the word “illegal” is now placed in front of immigrants who migrate north to cross the Mexican border into America. A whole economy has been created utilizing the labor provided by “illegal” immigrants. Illegal immigration into the US ha been occurring for quite sometime, it did not start under Obama or Trump. I can remember as far back as Reagan as this being a topic of discussion. One thing I find missing in the current discussion is why they come. The talk of a “caravan” I found reprehensible as it seemed to refer to a group of people as an angry mob with evil intent. even though most were women and children. Many were coming from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Fleeing poverty and violence. Were there some criminals? It would be naive to say there were not. Was ISIS among them, not very likely. The people come from Catholic countries with little or no exposure to Islam. Most American understand this but I worry and am shocked that many still do not. If however it supports a particular political narrative, the things people are willing to believe to support there cause seems endless.
Will they take jobs? Yes they will. Jobs no one wants to do like picking fruit and vegetables. They can also be found at a Home Depot willing to do about any work you want around the house or garden. When we talk jobs to be clear they will not be computer programmers they will be doing blue collar type work, likely under the table as they have no green card. There must be demand for these services because there always seems to be people willing to pay for the work. If you have had landscaping work done, the workers were not white and middle class. In many, if not most, cases they did not speak English. They were, however, willing to work. Some live in low income housing, but given where they come from they have a higher view of those accommodations than the average American does. Never underestimate or under appreciate the importance of having a roof over your head.
Will a wall protect us? To me it is kind of a medieval solution to a modern day problem. Wheel vs wall analogies aside, it will not reduce crime. It will not reduce the flow of narcotics into the United States. Technology will play a key role in rooting out tunnels. Monitoring the skies. Tracking boarder vulnerabilities. Technology is not limited to the good guys. It will play a key role in seeding new violence in the modern world. The ability to use drones to move narcotics has been tried, though most narcotics come through legal points of entry. If a wall is built the process of getting around a wall will swing into full motion and the tide of immigration will continue, it will just choose a new path. When you are desperate and have no options, a wall will be a trivial obstacle. It will be more symbolic than effective.
Why do “illegal” immigrants take the risk? Where you have poverty you have a cry for opportunity. The drug cartels are only too happy to oblige. I am hopefully not naive, We see drugs in our country and we know to well where most of thee drugs come from. We know the names of Pablo Escobar and El Chapo. We have seen it glorified in film such as “Scarface” and treated a little more honesty in films like “Sicario”. There are cities in Mexico right over the Rio Grande where death by violence is a daily occurrence. If we go into Central America the story is not much different. What do desperate mothers do? They flee. They want to provide their children with an education and opportunity. To provide their children their love in a safe environment. In the America’s there is only one game in town to provide that sense of opportunity, that sense of safety.
The United States has always been a caring country when given the chance. We honestly believe we are the best. That is an arrogant statement, but it is also a big reason why we have succeeded on the global stage. Why despite what we see in media we are still admired by many as the place I want to go seek my future. We were the nation that welcomed immigrants into our boarders and many of those immigrants went on to do great things. Now we are in a time where we look to deny immigrants entry and hide behind a wall. We espouse the rule of law in our defense of a wall, which is a pillar of a stable democracy. However if we begin segregating who is entitled to that opportunity, we turn on our back on our history, on our destiny.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann
February 2, 2019