Controversy on the Southern Border

On Monday I was in the audience of a keynote session at the New York Public Welfare Association (NYPWA) annual summer conference in Saratoga Springs. One of the presenters stated that in the next year, the U.S. expects 90,000 children from Central American countries to cross the border to the United States to seek asylum. New York State is making foster care slots available in vacant buildings and shelters for about 900 of these children. State officials expect that many of  them will end up on the welfare rolls for childcare, food stamps and various other services and warned the counties to get prepared for the onslaught.

Elsewhere I read that in June, about 350 children a day crossed the border to give themselves up. Multiplying 350 a day for the year somewhat corroborates the 90,000 number independently.

Many politicians blame Obama for “leaving the border open.” I did some research and came up with this chart:

Border Agents
Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

This shows that there were 3,444 border patrol agents stationed along the nation’s southern border in 1993, under Clinton. There were 9,840 agents there in 2003, under Bush. And under Obama, in 2013, there were 18,611 agents.

Claiming that Obama isn’t putting the manpower on the border is simply factually wrong.

Today there were headlines that Texas Governor Rick Perry is going to deploy the National Guard to protect the border. This makes no sense to me. If desperate Central American children run away from their countries,  across Mexico, across the hostile desert, in the summer, and into the United States just to give themselves up as soon as they get here, what are men with guns going to do to keep them away – to “keep our border secure?”

In 1993, an American Marine shot and killed an American 18-year-old boy along the border for reasons not understood.

Our Border Patrol agents are trained to apprehend people, stop drug smugglers and secure the border. The U.S. Military or the National Guard are not. We have enough agents there already. This is not a “crisis” as it is made out to be.

It’s a disaster resulting from terrible conditions primarily in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, partially fomented by errant intervention policies by the U.S. government in those countries decades ago.

If we had more reasonable and workable drug policies in the U.S. and if we consumed less of the stuff, conditions in those countries would not be what they are and there would not be a flood of child refugees.

I believe that a large majority of these children will eventually become productive Americans, grateful to this country for taking them in, and committed to the Constitution of the United States for life. They will be called immigrants in a country of immigrants. Some of them will become American soldiers.

I am an immigrant and I understand what they are and how they feel.

And I am proud to be an American.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

— by American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–87), written in 1883

Murrieta, California has received national attention of the not-so-good kind in the last few days for the immigrant children bus debacle. I live a few miles from Murrieta and I some of my colleagues live there. Murrieta is as mainstream America as it gets. Strip malls, brand new housing developments, government buildings, gleaming medical facilities of glass and concrete – and a lot of desert around – characterize the community. This is not where you’d expect a radical movement to originate.

Yet, say Murrieta to anyone around the country right now and that’s what they are probably thinking.

We have a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions on our hands. The video below, showing a border patrol agent pointing out the obvious at a border bus station, is shocking, but it shows a reality that we would rather not acknowledge exists.

The media is full of “news” about an alleged gag order by the federal government restricting the media from reporting on the border crisis. Sadly, I could not find any evidence of any gag order, only media references without sources stating its existence. Even doesn’t show anything. If any reader has one, please post it in a comment and I will include it here and elaborate.

I generally believe that if a government or a leader needs to prevent others from knowing the truth, you have weak government or leadership. Examples are:

So show me the gag order and I say shame on the federal government.

Many of our most productive Americans are immigrants.

  • Elon Musk is an immigrant. Because of his contribution, we have PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla. He created thousands of jobs so far, billions of value to America, and he has just started.
  • Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, is an immigrant. I need not say more.
  • Vinod Dham is in immigrant from India. He became the father of the “Pentium.”
  • Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, was an immigrant from Hungary who escaped the revolution of 1956.
  • Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp, was born in Ukraine. He arrived in the U.S. when he was just 16 years old, and his family lived on food stamps. He just sold the company to Facebook for $19 billion. Granted, he hasn’t contributed to the economy yet, but he made himself a cool few billion dollars.
  • Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo!, was an immigrant from Taiwan. He moved to California in 1976 at the age of 8, speaking no English. This father died two years later.

If America didn’t welcome immigrants, Google, Yahoo!, Tesla, SpaceX, WhatsApp, PayPal, Intel and thousands of other companies driving our current American economy would not exist.

I am an immigrant. I know what it feels like to start a new life in a new country, learn a new language and culture. I have created hundreds of jobs over the course of my career, and contributed tens of millions of dollars to the U.S. economy.

We need an immigration policy that works, that is human, that makes sense, that has dignity and that provides economic value to the country and to the immigrants.

Building fences and patrolling the border with SUVs and drones has been tried for 50 years and has not worked. It works less today than it ever did. I don’t fault Obama, I don’t fault Bush, I don’t fault any of the administrations before, for trying. However, nothing has worked. We have immigrants, often illegal immigrants, who put themselves into great peril just to do an honest day’s work.

“Your life depends on a random stranger who could kill you, will probably disrespect you, and will most likely pay you much less than you deserve. But even those prospects are better than the ones you used to have. This is the life of los jornaleros – the day laborers.”
― Gustavo Arellano, Ask a Mexican

I agree, sending mothers with children on bus tickets into the country does not solve the problem. We’ll have these children in our schools on free lunches, subsidized childcare, the mothers on welfare and the sons sitting on street corners as day laborers as soon as we open the door of those busses.

We are in this situation because we simply do not have a strategic plan, and we have no stomach to face the reality. So we ignore it.

“AMNESTY, n. The state’s magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary

We need a foreign workers program that gives visas to work to foreign nationals, so they can have jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to the economy like we all do. When they pay taxes, their children can go to school, since the taxes fund the schools.

We need to send all illegal border crossers back to where they came from. Sorry. You can only enter with the proper papers.

We need to deal with drug trafficking across our borders.

We need to do many things that I cannot all list here.

But we cannot start by hating others, who are, after all, just like us, others who want to better their lives by working hard and contributing.

We need real government and real leadership. — I am not holding my breath.