Friday, November 4, 2016

What would happen if they deported 11 million people

Not to the people deported.  To the ones left behind to try to survive without the thriving economy the deportees built.

D.W. Gibson at The Nation:

“All I do is work. I get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and I go to work. And I come back at 7 o’clock at night. That’s every day, except for Sunday. On Sundays I play baseball.”

What could possibly be more American than baseball and too much work? Except in this case, it is not the voice of an American, legally speaking, but a 29-year-old Mexican man named Bernabe who, for the past 12 years, has built a home in tiny Middletown, New York. He has done almost everything that the American government asks of a model citizen: He pays taxes, he doesn’t break the law, he works hard. But Bernabe is not a citizen; he’s one of the estimated 11 million people who came to the country illegally and whom Donald Trump says he will deport if the real-estate mogul and reality-TV star wins the presidential election.

“If he gets to be president,” says Bernabe, “probably he’ll send me back to Mexico. But I don’t know how you catch all the people. I don’t think the taxpayers here want to pay for that.”

He raises a good point. Setting aside questions about the morality of Trump’s deportation agenda for a moment, there are, of course, the practical issues. Among them: 

Undocumented immigrants are both the economic and cultural lifeblood of places like Middletown all over the country. Even if you could deport mass numbers of people—an expensive and legally challenging task by itself—doing so would erase years’ worth of slow, steady revitalization that immigrants have brought to America’s postmanufacturing towns. “You don’t have to look any farther than places like Dayton, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan,” says Kamal Essaheb of the National Immigration Law Center. “Rust Belt cities, great American cities that have undergone economic depression—these are the places that immigrants are reviving. And these are the places that will suffer if mass deportations take place.”


While we’re talking, there’s a loud picnic across the street from his house. The music swells and the smell from the barbecue pit comes in through the open window. “Basically, all the streets are Mexicans. So if you empty this whole thing,” he says, motioning out the window, “there would be no one here. You don’t see white people or black people around here, only Spanish people. All the houses would be empty. All the people who own houses here, they would have trouble. Who’s going to pay the rent?”
It’s a good question, not only for Middletown and Liberty, but also for places like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and Peoria, Illinois—cities and towns that have undergone economic depression and are now seeing migrants and refugees help to revitalize the local economy. The endless influx of immigrants has always been the identifying characteristic of the American project: “The United States is a receiving country,” says the ACLU’s Wang. As for Bernabe and Dulce, they stand ready to enter whatever system will enable them to continue contributing to their communities and their local economies, this time with a lawful immigration status.
It's been a while since I wrote this reminder, so here you go:  If your ancestors arrived in this country more than a hundred years ago, like mine, all they had to do to become citizens is get a sliver of their physical selves across the border.

There was and remains no such thing as an "illegal" immigrant.  You're here, you work, you pay taxes, you vote.

That's America. 

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