Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lunch and some more on Immigration

This is part V of a series:

part I of the adventure is at:  dorucak na granici
part II is at: booooom
part III is: at White the House

The Lunch Break was perfectly timed as far as I was concerned. I was hungry and I needed time to cool down.  The guys helped me down to the hallway near the "Indian Treaty Room" where cardboard lunch pails were lined up on the tables.  There was a choice of  whatever was on this table versus whatever was on that table.  It all looked like turkey from where I was so I took one labeled "Turkey" and saluted the Anglo-Americans who seemed not to be represented at all in our Ethnic Day gathering of various hyphenated-Americans even though the Irish-Americans were.    

For a beverage to accompany our feast we had a choice of lukewarm  bottled water or lukewarm bottled  water which I took with me into the "Indian Treaty Room" all the better to remind me of that fabled early American Turkey feast long ago.  Our small group scattered through the room so that we could interact with a broader range of people.  I noticed that for the most part the other groups were also scattering among the crowd and meeting new people.

I was wondering how "Indigenous-American Treaty Room" would look on the Brass door plaque instead of "Indian Treaty Room" when a delightfully blonde young lady approached and asked to join me.  Having been the proverbial dirty old man since I had seven years upon me of course I smiled and agreed.  As she introduced herself I learned quickly that she was Polish-American and she was there beside this old grey haired man with an agenda of her own. What did I think about the first session of the briefing?  Were others in my group feeling the same way?  She shared her feelings with me. Clearly we were on the same page.
Among other things we were both disappointed that we did not hear more from the fellow who had brought the strongest argument to the table for more open immigration. He had given us some statistics about how new immigrants were more likely to be entrepreneurs than people whose families had been here several generations. What was the source of those statistics?  He hadn't said.  Both of us had wanted to know more about this, but alas that fellow had disappeared from the discussion on the podium much too soon.

The young woman excused herself.  As I finished my lunch, I thought about how useful those statistics would be if they were from a reputable source.  Back in '98, the Mid-South District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod had sent me to Concordia University in Irvine, California to the Mission Training Institute.  Among the things we learned in that Institute was that new converts beget more new converts at a much higher rate than people who have been members in a congregation for a long time.  We also learned that new congregations grow and start other new congregations faster than old established congregations do. Obviously there are all kinds of human elements at play in this.  Among those are enthusiasm, excitement, adventure and more.

Musing back over previous life experiences, I remembered that when I could place a new application for a product in the hands of new customer my sales blossomed.  It all made sense to me.  Very different circumstances but very similar human dynamics seem to be involved.  

The facts concerning new immigrants matched what I know as well.  The first generations of my own ancestors in America had been entrepreneurs. Jakob had his gun powder mill.  They had migrated within the United States and built roads.  It even worked when they migrated back out of the United States into New Spain.  They built roads and way stations to outfit and repair vehicles. On Mother's side, her father had left the United States proper and engaged in business.  He got burned out and left the United States all together and again was unsuccessful, but he had engaged in the process.  When he returned, he bought up the cheapest scrubbiest hillside land you could imagine and planted strawberries whereupon he engaged in marketing strawberries from Missouri to New York - a thing which had never been done before but he had invented a way to make it happen. It seems that immigrants, which ever way they are migrating, are caught up in the dynamics of a new place, new opportunities, new ways of doing things, and they bring enthusiasm and will to succeed with them.  

So, what did I know about more recent immigrants?  Louis Navratil in Wharton, Texas came to mind. Louis made shoes.  Boots really.  His boots sold for two hundred fifty dollars back when two hundred fifty dollars was worth two thousand dollars in today's money. He understood where the market was going to go twenty years before fancified "Western Boots" had become all the rage. He had wanted me to work in his shop and learn the skills of his business. Maybe I should have done that.  I could have done worse.

I thought of the Flek family over by Dancigar. For those of you who don't know,  that is pronounced Dan-singer but don't blame yourselves for not knowing that, you have to have known where the town used to be over in Brazoria County to be able to tell when you are there today. Around the corner from where Dancigar used to be across from where the sawmill used to be, the Fleks had had a watermelon farm on the worst piece of scrub sand land you could imagine.  That piece of land had been so worn out before the civil war that when the slaves had been freed, the plantation owners breathed a sigh of relief and abandoned the place.  The former slaves refused that land when the government offered it to them and moved on down in the forest a ways onto some land that yielded much better crops even if it was hard land to work. The Fleks came from "Austria," like it said on everyone's passport, and they had bought the old plantation for a nickel on the dollar because no one else ever wanted it. In my youth I noticed they certainly had fine trucks to haul those watermelons in to market and they could dress fine when they wanted to. 

The descendants of the former slaves?  Some of them are still around there.  We hunted together and haunted the woods together when we were younger.  One of my buddies from "Cedar Breaks" (another 'town' you have to know where is to find it) became a county official about twenty-five years ago.  

As I scratched through my mental notebook, I could see as many failures as successes, maybe more, but I could dig out a lot of examples from people that I had known which suggested strongly that there was a lot of merit in what the man had said. I wish he had said more.  He had the beginning for a good presentation. This could be a key argument in favor of opening the doors a little wider to legal  immigration into the United States.  

Of course, there is another aspect of all this that should be noted.  My African friends, my European friends, my South American friends, and my Asian friends of all sorts, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Philippines, you name the country, and the Iranians and others I personally know, have all come  in the front door, legally, documented, with paperwork.  Nearly all of them are now in some professional career or they are in business for themselves.  The other side of the picture comes mostly perhaps from those who have arrived overland through the deserts or across the river without documentation.  Many of the later group arrive with only the skills of a seventeen year old or less and very little education.  They wind up cutting grass and in other trades where they are paid in cash.  These too are entrepreneurs but because not only of their undocumented status, but also because they are ill prepared to succeed, they work hard all their lives with little advancement in their situation. Others arrive and become farm workers or laborers in a shadow labor market.  The "American Dream" seems always beyond their grasp. Still, they are usually better off here than where they were and so they come, and remain.  

I saw nearly the same situation with domestic immigration back in the 1960s.  The USDA had ridiculed "subsistence" farming and in time many Black families from Louisiana migrated to Houston because supposedly they could make a "good" life working in all the industry there.  Alas, most came with so few employable skills that it took a whole generation to begin to untangle the welter of poverty that created. In the meantime the tiny farms they left behind were seized for unpaid taxes and sold behind the courthouses for a few cents on the dollar to real estate barons who had waited patiently to line their pockets.  Yes, I can testify to this.  I got around in my career and I read the De Ridder newspapers enough to see what was happening in the late seventies and early eighties. 

Other immigrants to these shores arrive legally and are entrapped in a scam here in America.  The persons who brought them over demand that they repay the costs of the visa and transportation to America. The immigrant is caught in a  trap. If he doesn't agree to pay the costs plus whatever his sponsor adds on to the bill, then the sponsor reports him as non compliant to the Immigration Service.  The result is often slavery.  

One case like this that I know about happened in Tennessee while I was serving as a pastor.  The owner of the "night club" which used to be where the Lutheran Church is now in Paris, Tennessee "sponsored" a young woman and her boyfriend from Mexico.  When they agreed to immigrate, the couple didn't understand that "waitress" meant dancing naked and "servicing" the desires of certain patrons.  When the owner threatened the young lady with "La Migra" (the Immigration Service), the young man stabbed him to death.  The dispatcher called me at the same time she called the Sheriff.  When we arrived, the young man was sitting on the curb with his hands on top of his head.  By the way, he was not convicted of murder, but you see the situation in which the young couple was placed - the opportunity they were being offered was sex slavery.  Others are not so strong and they succumb.  This is a detestable practice which must be ended in this country.

These visas fuel an enormous legal trade in the United States.  First there is the cost of the visa and then there is the cost of the lawyers to work through the vulgar tangle of laws and regulations.   If these immigrants are so valuable to the American economy perhaps the government could find its way clear to eliminate or lower the fees and simplify the laws so any one can understand them.

This was part of the discussion I wanted to hear at the briefing but which was sorely lacking.  Immigration is not so simple that a pep rally to entice us to promote the administration's policy and proposed legislation can address the real issues.  "Mantras," "political sloganeering," and "talking points" won't get the job done.  I agree that the system is broken, but a simple "fix" won't fix anything. We hyphenated-Americans need to be chest deep in the process of crafting and devising laws that will serve the needs of the United States and be workable and humane, sensible instruments of immigration into the country.  More than anyone else, more than all the lawyers and all the politicians, we hyphenated-folks can bring more expertise to the table that will serve everyone's legitimate interests.  Hear us! We can help and we want to help!!!

I must apologize.  I promised some people that this section would concern  the White House Foreign Policy Agenda but we didn't get to that.  We will next time.

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
19. veljače 2014

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