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April 11, 2006

Amnesty for European Settlers

For some reason historians appear to be ignoring the partial amnesty granted to European settlers of North America in the mid 1600s by the United Tribes of America (UTA).  Very few of these settlers had properly issued visas for the areas they were settling.  In fact, those who landed at Plymouth Rock had only paperwork for a colony in Virginia!

Opponents of amnesty among the tribes were apoplectic.  Chief Lou the Dawber of the Conestoga NoNos was said to be so angry that his usual smoke signals were sent without benefit of any fire other than his own rage.  Representatives of the Mighty Hunter’s Union (MHU) pointed out that the wages for hunters were being depressed by the settlers’ unfair labor practice of keeping food animals in pens from which they could be harvested without the benefit of any hunt at all.  Similarly, the Eagle-Eyed Gatherers Guild (EEGG) testified that their unemployment rate was soaring because the settlers stubbornly planted foodstuffs near their kitchen doors rather than seeking food where ever it chose to grow.

Many brought up the sad results of the amnesty earlier granted to New England settlers by the Patuxet Tribe.  Without authorization a member of that tribe – Squanto – even showed the settlers better methods for living off the land.  The immediate result was OK: the settlers invited Squanto to dinner.  But afterwards the results were terrible: more settlers.  The missionary efforts of the Powhatan Pocahontas had similar bad results.

The new immigrants (with the possible exception of John Smith) refused to learn the native languages of their new home.  They insisted on education in their own language.  They put up signage in barbarian English where natives easily could read nature’s own trail markers.

There’s no question that the newcomers were bad for the environment.  And no question that they’ve overrun the place.

By the time my ancestors came over on the lowest decks of ships from Russia one-step ahead of pogroms The Mayflower was ancient history.  I’m not sure what kind of visas my great-grandparents had or how they got all their young children through Ellis Island but I’m glad they did.  I’m sure they depressed the prevailing wage for a while.  It was their children – not them – who became fluent in English.  They certainly dressed funny and they probably smelled funny, too.  But I’m glad they came and glad they got to stay.

So I’m not outraged by a bunch of immigrants – legal and illegal – waving American flags and trying to claim a place in the sun and an opportunity to work.  The fact is that we do need their labor; that’s why they keep finding jobs.  The fact is that we do need them demographically to keep Social Security and Medicare alive as we native-born get statistically older and older.  The fact is that we benefit from the energy of those who risk so much to work for so little.

But, some say, they’re illegal.

Do you have a copy of your ancestor’s paperwork?  Only if they came over recently.  We have so many illegal “guest workers” because we’ve been too hypocritical to deal with the fact that we needed them.  We “let” the most persistent of them in; we eagerly hired them at low wages and often in bad working conditions.  Some of us exploited them.  Being illegal has hurt them more than it hurt us since it left them with so little recourse.  The time has come to legalize those who want to be American citizens AND to change the law so needed immigrants can arrive legally.

But, some say, they are depressing working conditions and not paying their fair share of taxes. 

If they are legal, they will have legal protection for their working conditions.  They won’t provide an endrun for unscrupulous employers around safe working conditions.  If they are legal they will be able to pay income and social security as well as sales tax, which, of course, they already pay.

But, some say, we will be rewarding illegal behavior.

Well, I agree that those who applied for a visa ought to be in line before those who didn’t.  But those who’ve been working for a long time deserve consideration as well.  They have worked without most of the social safety net that most Americans take for granted. They have been good citizens even though they’re not citizens.  Obviously, those who have been convicted of crimes other than illegal immigration should be deported.

But rewarding illegal behavior is a bad precedent.

The bad precedent was our hypocritical behavior in allowing a mass “illegal” immigration and hiring the immigrants.  The precedent won’t matter if we change the immigration laws so that the workers we need (and their families) can get in legally.

What about homeland security?  Don’t we have to defend our borders?

Hmm… Let’s see.  How many Hispanic terrorists have we seen?  Didn’t the 9/11 hijackers have visas?  In fact, we may need better border control  We’ll have that  as soon as we legalize the employment line that stretches South of our border and end the inducement for a mad dash across the desert.  We also get better security by increasing the population of energetic young people who want to be in the United States for all the right reasons.  Recent immigrants have always been a large percentage of both our armed forces and police forces.

Apparently politicians of both parties would like to avoid making a decision – especially in an election year.  But NO decision IS a decision.  It preserves the status quo.  It is not an acceptable status quo.

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