More Immigration and Less Conflation Please

IMMIGRATION DEBATE - Curious how a subject such as immigration remains such a divisive topic after so many decades—but since the founding of our nation, the definition of “what is an American” has been at the root of so many political and sociological debates.  

This issue helped President GW Bush lose his Republican support (ditto for ex-presidential contender John McCain), and while President Obama might be politically clever with his recent executive order of stopping the deportation of certain foreign-born young illegal immigrants brought here by their parents, his (and others’) pandering is obvious at a time when we must get to the root of what is REALLY going on here, and use both our heads and hearts in an adult manner for an adult issue.

1) Conflating the virtues of immigration (which the entire political spectrum appreciates, contrary to silly left-wing rhetoric) with Latino rights ignores the fact that Asians now make up the majority of today’s immigrants.  This conflation isn’t just divisive and distracting…it’s race-baiting and racist in its own right.

By and large, most Asians do NOT play the race card, blend very well into an American society they are thrilled to be part of, are very pro-education and have extraordinary work ethic, and are probably the greatest thing that can happen to our country at a time when we need a unifying and uplifting force to our society.  Asians have their own history of suffering from racism in our country, but they’re “all-American” and provide a model for the rest of us to follow.

2) The American Dream is the freedom of the PURSUIT of happiness, not the guarantee of it.  Having it handed to you or having some politician scream how you should get something at the expense of others because it’s your “civil right” is NOT the American Dream.  To a large extent, it’s become too much of the European Dream, and that continent’s former economic greatest (and, by extension, its global political relevance) has been dramatically (perhaps irreversibly) diminished.

Self-sufficiency and earning your own achievements will always trump the getting of free goodies, and we’ve got enough of our own native-born entitlement problem to extend it to immigrants as a warped perversion of the American Dream.  Conflating the demands that immigrants prove THEY have something to offer US with racism is both pandering and racist in its own right…most Americans of all political stripes just want immigrants to add to our society, not potentially burden it.

3) If all illegal immigrants brought here as minors were as academically and intellectually awesome as those rising stars the LA. Times keeps trotting out (link), there would be no concerns about illegal immigrants.  Frankly, we’d want more!  

But focusing the spotlight on these brilliant young individuals (who will likely succeed in our nation, or any other nation lucky enough to have them) ignores two groups:  first, it ignores those many illegal immigrants whose parents have refused to integrate, refused to value education to the detriment of their children and their neighbors’ children (do parents of all ethnicities move their kids to private schools out of mere racism?), and those who choose balkanization of our society.

This spotlight also ignores those who strive for years to immigrate and move here legally, and those American-born workers and legal immigrants whose jobs and futures are in jeopardy because no one is advocating for them.  Do they not exist?  Do they not deserve spotlighting as well?  Do we see stories featuring these individuals?

4) It’s great that Mayor Villaraigosa is celebrating President Obama’s executive order and encouraging young students to document their presence and academic existence (link), but is he speaking for others in Los Angeles—particularly in South LA—who feel left out after years of low unemployment?  

And after the recent notorious soccer game incident when the American national anthem was booed, and the American soccer team was booed, and the awards ceremony was conducted in Spanish (despite it being in Pasadena), did not Mayor Villaraigosa lose a golden opportunity to unify us all by telling EVERYONE to behave with dignity and respect?

The story needs to remain told that Proposition 227, which ended the balkanizing, self-defeating and self-serving bilingual education program that was ruining the lives of Latino students throughout the state (both native and foreign-born) was in large part started because of Latino families in Santa Ana (some here illegally) and elsewhere who wanted their children to be American, and not something else. (Link)

5) The best news from President Obama’s executive order (and of Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s own effort to derive a conservative version of the Dream Act that was probably stymied by President Obama’s well-timed order) is that the screaming desire to have a balkanized “diverse” society (da more we have dis, da verse our “diverse” society is!) is being replaced by an American society who is being reintroduced to the once-forgotten American Dream and the great Melting Pot.

Political pandering by either President Obama or by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney  must be replaced by an honest and sincere attempt to encourage the wonderful goal of being an American—which means jobs and getting along with others, and that means fitting in with others.

The huge, gigantic elephant in the room that’s being danced around is that there’s only one country on this planet which produces a very large number of immigrants that choose to not be part of American society, and that adheres to their country of origin:  Mexico.  And as that nation slides into anarchy and economic chaos, those many Mexican immigrants, and Mexican-Americans who cherish their heritage while acknowledging their American loyalties, must make a CHOICE.

6)  The cost of illegal immigration to American taxpayers is staggering, both from an economic standpoint and a sociological standpoint.  With enhanced (but still insufficient) border enforcement, and a worsening economy, the decision of how to fix this problem by UNITING, and not DIVIDING, America for political purposes is increasing becoming urgent and spotlighted.

If the cost of educating and providing health and welfare benefits for an illegal alien child—even if they’ve played by the rules as much as any legal immigrant—costs up to $50,000 - $100,000 or more, then the burden must stop being on the taxpayers and start being on the illegal immigrant children and their law-breaking parents (and the parents’ employers!).  

The option of military or civilian public service is a viable and necessary alternative to squaring away these debts and integrating these young individuals into a more united and strong American society.  Despite the screaming of public unions, there are roads and sidewalks to be fixed, parks to be rebuilt, children to be educated, and communities to be revitalized, and the sweat equity of illegal immigrants who want to make right by their new country should be strongly considered.  

Legitimate immigrants (even illegal immigrants) with the fervent desire to be American (and heck, maybe even native-born Americans with college debts they want to pay off in this lifetime) will gladly pay off these debts, learn what it means to be an American, and integrate with the rest of our society.  Whether it’s a 2-3 year commitment, or some other program to help those willing to be free Americans through their sincerity and sweat equity, the problem is fixable—and not through a pandering, insulting $500 - $1000 slap on the wrist.

It’s time for ALL of us to rediscover America, and to marginalize those who have striven for decades to pursue a divided American society.  We must now lionize those who now strive to add to and strengthen the special nation that is the United States of America.

The phrase “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” is as true today as it has been since the very origin of our nation.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line, which strives to get the Green Line to LAX, at   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

Tags: Ken Alpern, immigration, Dream Act, illegal immigrants

Vol 10 Issue 50
Pub: June 22, 2012