I read some startling news the other day. I am now a minority. Only 40 percent of people in the United States are Caucasian. I really hadn’t noticed; not just because I live in Idaho, but because I have lived overseas and in other parts of the country where it was clear that I wasn’t even 40 percent. In Japan, my blond kids got a bit tired of all the Japanese who wanted to have their picture taken with them or to pat the hair on their head. I am not upset to be a minority.
Here in Idaho, we need agricultural workers. We haven’t been able to educate enough Americans in STEM subjects to fill the demands for people to fill those jobs. If you have gone for dinner at some popular restaurants lately, you may have noticed that they are short of waitstaff and sometimes cooks. I just went to Sunday brunch and wondered if I should get up and help!
Rep. Lance Clow wrote about the H2 visa program in the Nov. 26 Times-News, and that is certainly one answer. It can work well for seasonal jobs for workers who want to maintain their homes elsewhere and don’t mind being away from their families. Even with full-time permanent employment, they have not given up their home to establish another in a new country. However, visas are not the whole solution.
I must bring up immigration reform. “Of course,” you say, “you’re a Democrat.” But actually, with this issue I agree with George W. It was Nancy Pelosi who sank immigration reform when Bush proposed it because she would not let Democrats join with the Republicans who would support it. She was pandering to the voters the Democratic Party who blamed the loss of jobs on immigrants. Still, Democrats lost many of those voters in the last election. Instead, I believe we need comprehensive immigration reform for two reasons: security and demographics.
I want to talk about demographics first. American citizens are aging. There are various reasons, of course, but the fact is that we are no longer replacing ourselves in the population. Many of the (now) illegal immigrants who want to stay are young. They pay Social Security taxes — something people in my age group approve of. They also give their energy and enthusiasm to our communities.
To use security to deny entry to immigrants is a mistake. People who have entered our country with their families want to be here for the long term. They have a personal stake in the community and in their job. They are less likely to condone lawlessness in their community. They are less likely to take proprietary information out of the country. They arrive here with every intention to fit in.
Why do we have any security problems with immigrants? Because we resist their attempts to fit in. Except for individuals who come into our country with the specific intent to terrorize, terrorists are people who for one reason or another have come to hate the rest of society. Terrorists, home-grown or immigrant, are dissatisfied with their social circumstances and are ripe pickings for recruiters touting a heroic cause.
We have a national narrative that we have always welcomed the immigrant, but it is not factual. In early colonial days, there was friction between colonists who chose to immigrate, and those Britain sent to the colonies because they were criminals or vagrants. Women were once named Nina for “no Irish need apply” — rebuffing the prejudice of the time. As various cultures have come to the US, we have added cultural traditions — Octoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo. We don’t require complete “Americanization.” We add on to what it means to be an American.
There is a case to be made for the able and against the lottery system. We don’t want criminals. But why should we throw out people who have shown ability? We need workers, we have and can find immigrant labor. What we need is a common-sense immigration policy.