Lately it feels really uncomfortable when people talk to me about illegal immigration. I am an immigrant myself, yet legal. Whenever someone starts talking to me about illegal immigration they sound angry, as if all their problems are caused by the poor sods who clean their houses and workplaces, and pick up strawberries. I get defensive, as it feels like there’s a question lurking in the background “Are you legal? Let me see you green card” or something similar. I am a very opinionated person, and I am never short of arguments when there’s a political discussion, but in this case I feel like it’s personal. I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to be arguing about it, but I reluctantly do anyway.
In a couple of instances I have asked the other person: “Why are you talking to me about immigration? I am an immigrant myself, in case you haven’t noticed.” “Yes, but you are different” comes the reply. Yes, you know, I am different because I am legal, European, an educated engineer, who is professionally & legally employed. The other day a woman was telling me that her health insurance company called her to remind her that she was one month late in a payment, and she got angry and told them: “How do you dare calling me about it? All these illegals that come in and get healthcare for free, and I have to pay for them and you don’t do anything about it, and you’re calling me about being one month late?” Yes, the argument is weak, and it is a case of apples and oranges, but there is a deeper problem right there. It’s the notion that illegal immigration is the source of all our problems, and if we get rid of them we’ll be able to pay our bills on time and this country will turn into Eden.
I don’t exactly know the logistics, but I do know that if a human goes to a hospital, the doctors can not deny them care, and certainly not because of their immigration status. And I do know that even illegals pay taxes, because the system allows them somehow to get jobs and pay taxes, and all of a sudden the same system goes hysterical when the word illegal is uttered, as if they didn’t know. Maybe they should have checked that out before they gave these people Social Security Numbers and allowed them to work here.
There’s always a back story: “My great great grandfather came here from Poland/Italy/etc and they did everything right and they learned the language, got jobs and built a life. And these people, they come here and they don’t even speak the language and we have to translate everything to Spanish, that is ridiculous.” And when I tell them yes, it’d be better for them to know the language for their own good, but they don’t have to, since the US does not have an official language, they get all flustered: “What do you mean? English is our official language!!!” No, it’s not. I’m not saying whether this is a good or a bad thing, but this country has NO official language whether you like it or not. English is the language the majority speaks, and that’s it.
I want to say to these people portraying illegal immigrants as free riders: Open your eyes and look around, people take advantage of the system all the time, regardless of their immigration status. Look at some of the people who are on welfare and live in public housing. Just drive outside a public housing complex and look at some of the cars parked in the parking lot: Mercedes, BMWs. I am not making this up, I know because I have seen it with my own eyes in Boston and Cambridge. So how legitimate is it that someone cannot afford housing, yet they drive a BMW? Your outrage is selective, there are more than one groups of people exploiting the system. A deadbeat lowlife living in the ghetto of public housing is a bigger problem than the hard-working illegal immigrant who works 10 hours a day cleaning your shit and pays his taxes that pay for the lowlife’s housing. So open your eyes, see what’s really happening and judge for yourself. But don’t let the fear and anger mongering brainwash you.
This country thrives on diversity and this is what makes it great. I, an immigrant, found this country to be very welcoming, but now I don’t know anymore, this misdirected outrage and anger is wearing me out. Times like these when I have to deal with bigots, I’d like to show them that New Yorker cartoon that shows the Pilgrims on the Mayflower approaching America’s coast, where a couple of Native Americans stand and one says to the other: “Well, they look pretty undocumented to me.”