One More Reader on ''Rednecks'' and Immigrants, with Reply

Your article [“Night of the Living Redneck,” published by CounterPunch, Dec. 1, 2007] is filled with racist language directed against European Americans. Are you of some other race, or are you a “self-hating” European American?

Mexico has EXTREMELY strict immigration laws, as is their right–and as far as I know they enforce them.

There are many “rednecks,” as you call them, who (if they are fortunate enough to have a job) work extremely hard all day every day to support themselves and their families, but cannot even afford, for example, essential dental work, because 1) their wages are below the necessary level to care adequately for their health, and 2) tax money that might otherwise be spent to provide them with essential health care is being spent on ILLEGAL aliens who come here to be supported by THEIR tax dollars.

Meanwhile an influx of illegal aliens has in many cases changed the entire nature of a previously peaceful European-American habitat in the course of just a few years, making it much less much less safe and comfortable for the original inhabitants.

No species of animal is required to sit passive while its habitat is invaded and its own welfare and/or even existence are threatened. Nor are parents required to sacrifice the future well-being of their children and grandchildren for a policy that they NEVER consented to, nor were consulted about.

Neither is any sovereign nation required to passively accept an invasion of aliens against its laws and against the will of its people.

37 million illegal aliens is a strain on the system any way you cut it. I live in an area of Virgina where there are many Salvadorians–they are friendly and law-abiding, and I have absolutely no problem with them. However, in some other areas, especially the Southwest– including parts of Texas, as you know–there are many ILLEGAL aliens, and there ARE big problems with them, including increased crime and alien-borne disease.

It seems to me that if you wish to help these people you should help them in their own country, where they are legal citizens. If US laws had been enforced to begin with, not only would the “rednecks” not be in this predicament, but the Mexicans would not either.

It’s a matter of RESPECT for your fellow-citizens, and consideration for their situation.

Both the gap between rich and poor and the number of poor families in the US have mushroomed in the past few decades. As the Bible says, take care of the beam in your own eye before criticizing the mote in someone else’s. Or, as they say in airplane safety manuals, put on your own oxygen mask before trying to put on your child’s.

Thanks for reading this, and for making your email address available.


Editor’s Reply:

I always appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues with thoughtful correspondents. And I take the email above to be sincere.

The question about my race seems to presume that when I say “redneck” I am referring to anyone of European American descent, which I am not. In using that term I follow Hubbard in referring to the “kicking hippies asses” variety of folks who practice a certain form of social and political life that tends to be overtly racist and violent. Foxworthy, Jones, Jackson and others use the term a bit more expansively I think to refer to something like “country culture” which is increasingly suburban and urban in scope. If you listen to Don Imus in the morning, you might be a redneck.

I believe that “irregular migrant workers” (here I will choose the United Nations language for people who cross borders without administrative permission) do have an impact on the wages of the lowest skilled jobs, usually those kinds of jobs that require a high school education or less.

However, the impacts of migrant workers appear in contexts of falling wages and disappearing opportunities that they do not create by themselves. These problems have sources as old as the industrial revolution, as technology displaces labor in one area and grows new jobs in another, without anyone being able to direct the overall outcomes. In fact, these very problems, associated with US-led adoption of NAFTA, are the causes of vast migrations we see today.

The Inclusion think tank reports John Schmitt’s findings that one in four American workers have “bad jobs” with low pay, poor benefits, and bad working conditions.

If we apply Schmitt’s 2004 ratio to today’s labor force of 147 million workers, we see that 37 million workers in the USA have bad jobs today. That is a lot of frustration and pain to deal with, and some of the hardship (about 3 percent in lower wages) is caused by massive migrations. But the migrations themselves have been largely caused by the pain and frustration of US-led trade policies. So it’s a dangerous and misleading thing to take the problem of “bad jobs” in America and blame the migrants for that problem, because they have nothing to do with 97 percent of the problem; in fact, they are often driven northward by the impacts of US-led trade policies in the South, and they are abused like the rest of us by a national culture that accepts “bad jobs” as a way of life.

As for the problem with health care, I’m glad you bring that up. “Noncitizens make up about 20% of the 46 million uninsured people in the United States,” says the New England Journal of Medicine. And thanks to US law, hospitals who care for migrants cannot receive compensation from public funds. This problem of “uncompensated care” is a real issue, to be sure.
“Treatment of unauthorized immigrants contributes to uncompensated care costs, but the main reason such costs are increasing is the rise in the number of people who lack health insurance.”

Once again, in health care we have a problem, and migrants are part of the cause. But in the case of health care access, 80 percent of the people causing the problem of “uncompensated care” are not migrants. And you’d have to have Scrooge in your genes not to notice that Congress is the body that refuses to pay back American hospitals for taking care of American people in the first place.

Likewise with crime. Yes, migrants do commit crimes, but one hundred years of research suggests a common pattern. Immigrants commit less crime than the rest of us. If it’s crime rates we’re worried about, there are other places to look besides immigrants for the more persistent causes.

I think I see your point about people having a kind of natural right to protect their own well-being. I only want to point out that this is true for migrants, too. All of us have this right to seek our well-beings. For those of us baby boomers who are now headed into elderly years, we might want to consider the well being produced by young workers in the labor force, especially if these young workers could get full access to education.

You say you experience no difficulties with the immigrants in your area, yet you fear that other areas are different and worse. I’d encourage you to reconsider where those fears of “other people” in “other places” are coming from.

Finally, you claim that “if US laws had been enforced to begin with” then the predicament would be different for everybody. Once we notice that the NAFTA laws have in fact been very carefully enforced, we’ll begin to understand whose interests the actual enforcement of US laws continues to serve.

So let us close on the main point of agreement between us. When it comes to the actual history being made by the actual power of law, the “rednecks” and the “Mexicans” face exactly the same sources of aggravation so long as they don’t let Lou Dobbs trick them into blaming each other.–gm

Sources:

Hanson, Gordon H. The Economic Logic of Illegal Immigration. The Bernard and Irene Schwartz Seri
es
on American Competitiveness. CSR NO. 26, APRIL 2007, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS.

“On The Record: A Conversation with Pia Orrenius: The Economics of Immigration.” Issue 2, March/April 2006 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Boushey, Heather, Shawn Fremstad,
Rachel Gragg, and Margy Waller. “Understanding Low-Wage Work in the United States.” Center for Economic Policy and Research (March 2007). inclusionist.org

“Employment Situation Survey.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dec. 7, 2007.

Okie, Susan, MD. “Immigrants and Health Care — At the Intersection of Two Broken Systems.” The New England Journal of Medicine. Volume 357:525-529. (August 9, 2007) Number 6.

Horowitz, Carl. “An Examination of U.S. Immigration Policy and Serious Crime.” Center for Immigration Studies (April 2001).

PS: Indeed, Mexico has attempted to STRICTLY enforce its immigration laws on certain occasions. Who can forget the valiant efforts of General Santa Anna?

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