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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Dear Editor:

It is rather disingenuous of Mr. Frecker to suggest that for the sake of giving foreign nationals an opportunity to live a decent life I advocate America sinking to the least common denominator in terms of our standard of living. In fact, my hope for humanity is just the opposite, referencing more here than merely a standard of living. He does, however, more clearly illustrate the point I was trying to make than I was able to do so myself in my original commentary. It is precisely this protectionist attitude - this "Iíve got mine and Iím going to do whatever it takes to keep it, even if that means I must prevent you from getting yours" attitude - that seems to harden us to the plight of those less fortunate than us, and make it somehow easier to justify exclusionary immigration policies.

After all, when youíve heard 99 news reports about 9 year old boys being forced to carry weapons and being indoctrinated into the latest ethnic violence in some foreign country, or 99 news reports about girls reaching puberty being forced to undergo genital mutilation - it becomes easier to ignore that 100th report, doesnít it? Itís all happening "somewhere else", isnít it?

'Call some place Paradise and kiss it good-byeÖí Is that it? We donít want these people coming here in droves and screwing up our way of life, right?

Well, too bad. Like it or not, "these people" are here already, and more are on the way. We were these people yesterday. America may be the promised land today, but tomorrow it could just as easily be some other country, or some planetary outpost our grandchildren will settle. The question I posed (What are we going to do to help the "have nots" of the world?) was perhaps more wishful/wistful thinking than anything else. But, oh - wouldnít it be something to live in a world where no human life is decreed more worthy than another merely on the basis of geographical circumstances of birth?

I donít have a guilty conscience about living in America. I love it here. Iím so glad that I can wake up each morning and worry about whether Iím going to have enough time to get to all the things on my "to-do" list that day, as opposed to worrying about whether Iím going to be able to feed my children that day, or whether I will ever see my husband again after he was "disappeared". I admit it - I would be really, really sorry to see my standard of living go down. And perhaps I should be careful for what I wish. But you know what? There are more important things than my comfort level. If anything, the guilt I feel is when I allow myself to consider how seldom I really think about how horrible some peopleís day-to-day existence really is.

And thatís all I was really trying to say in my original commentary. Just an affirmation that, although I personally feel relatively powerless to do much about it, I can at least acknowledge the simple truth that of course it is legitimate for someone to want a better life - whether you call it following the American Dream, or whatever. We can choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the basic conditions that cause some people to do almost anything for a chance to improve their lives or the lives of their children, or we can rail against the perceived injustice of a lowered standard of living, cite opinion polls and statistics ad nauseum, and shout exclusionary slogans until weíre blue in the face, or we can try to work together to establish meaningful dialogue in an effort to effect meaningful change.

I acknowledge, of course, that many people do not feel the way I do about this issue. And their opinions are no less (and no more) valid than mine. But, in response to Mr. Freckerís challenge to Dr. Baer - if you will, call this my own humble effort to convince him and others who favor restrictionist immigration policies that it would be a mistake to reduce legal immigration and impose uniformly harsh penalties on those who may not have followed all the rules in coming to America without regard for the underlying circumstances that may have caused these "lawbreakers" to act as they did.

Like I said, I donít have the answers - and Iím sure there are a whole lot of people out there who are a whole lot more informed about these things than I am. But I do know that we would be wise to realize - and preferably sooner rather than later - that no matter how stridently we may protest - and no matter how hard we may try to "protect" ourselves/our standard of living/our way of life from being "corrupted" by masses of immigrants, weíd do well to take that first critical step and admit we have a problem that is larger than just whether we should or should not allow certain people to remain here, or to come here in the first place. Why do so many people want to come to America anyway? Why are so many people willing to risk so much to do so? Think about it.

Karmell Bowen


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