Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Alienated

There's no touchier subject in my city right now than law enforcement's handling of illegal immigrants. The mayor, county sheriff, chief of police, officers, and citizens have widely opinionated and territorial views. A panel of "experts" was recently created to come up with a new policy on how city police officers are to handle the immigration status of those we interact with.

I went to pick up my kids from school today saw a little boy I knew walking out of the school. His name is Ednick and was in my daughter's kindergarten class last year. When I met him he only spoke a few words of English and sat terrified among his classmates. Luckily, a few other students were bilingual and helped translate the teacher's instructions. Ednick was incredibly friendly and had a desire to learn like no other kid in the class. When I came to school in my police uniform a few times, he was mesmerized. When I talked to him, I could see genuine respect and admiration in his eyes. From that day on he always greeted me and would even tell other kids around him proudly, "He's a police!" By the end of that year Ednick was one of the top readers in the class and was well on his way to living the American dream.

As I approached him today, he smiled and opened his arms for the customary hug and knuckle-up greeting. "Hi, Ednick. How are you today?", I asked. "I'm good", he answered. I knew he usually met his grandmother at the school entrance and walked home with her.

"Waiting for your grandma?", I ask.

"No.", he replied sadly. "The police come to my house and take her away to Mexico."

He looked at me sadly and I wondered if he held me accountable in some way. I don't know the circumstances of his gramma's deportation or which law enforcement agency was involved. To a 7 year old, however, all 'police' are the same. I didn't know what to say except, "I'm sorry." How do you explain federal immigration laws to a kid who just saw his gramma hauled away?

It's obviously against the law to enter our country unlawfully (hence the term "Illegal Immigrant") but I have an unsettling feeling when I think about the tougher new deportation standards. I'm not saying it's okay to ignore the laws of this country. In fact, I took an oath to uphold them and have every intention of doing so. But have you ever tried to look at it from their perspective?

What would you do if you were born in an impoverished town with no means of obtaining reliable work, education, or a respectable standard of living? What if you had children, parents, a spouse, siblings, or other family that relied on you for support? Would you risk your life, crossing a desert or paying a human smuggler to transport you to a better place? Although unlawful, I can picture myself doing whatever was necessary to support my family.

One of my fellow officers and personal friend Nick was killed by an illegal immigrant last September. Articles and commentary about his death were sure to relate illegal aliens with soaring crime rates. In my city, illegal alien bashing is a popular bandwagon to jump on. But why didn't the media speak this way about the Officer Cortez murderer. I didn't hear anything in the news about his citizenship (he was a Hispanic U.S. citizen). Why weren't American born Hispanics lambasted for being felons? Why is it certain groups are targeted and vilified when a member of the group commits crime when other times, the perpetrator's background is ignored?

It reminds me of Michael Moore's film 'Bowling for Columbine' about the teenagers that killed fellow high school students in Colorado. The media was quick to blame the rock group Marilyn Manson since this was the music the killers were listening to. Moore points out the killers were also involved in a bowling class in high school. He asked why the media wasn't targeting bowlers for their inclination to become murderers.

The solution to illegal immigration is not an easy one. They're not all bad people. Many times these 'illegals' have rushed to help me push a disabled car out of the roadway in the blazing heat (no 'regular' citizen has ever helped me do this). I've seen generosity, compassion, honesty, and plain old goodness from them.

I don't know what everyone else thinks about when they encounter an illegal immigrant but hre's what I think about:
(7 year-old Ednick) "Mister, tell the other police not to take my gramma away."

15 Comments:

At April 04, 2008 3:11 PM, Blogger whimsical brainpan said...

This is indeed a tough issue.

I know where I live many farmers would never get their crops in if it were not for illegal workers. There has to be a solution. These people deserve to work here but should be able to do it legally.

 
At April 04, 2008 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, they would get their crops in, but they might have to pay more, and that would raise prices a bit.

But I am confused Gary... I am not sure that I get what you are saying.

You say that you feel for the people who come here illegally. Funny thing is, many of them aren't paid under the table in cash, but the majority put something down for a social security number (not theirs) and income is reported against that social security number. So, when the person who really has that social reports what they actually earned to the IRS, and is audited because employers reported far more income than he did, do you feel for the victim of identity theft as a consequence of their actions? This does happen...

Identity theft is a crime on the increase not just because people are trying to rip off credit card numbers.

Or looking at it from their perspective. If that was happening here, in my country... maybe I would do something about changing my corrupt government? And maybe our 'compassion' about not being hard-nosed about their presence here is enabling Mexico to continue to be the corrupt hell-hole that it is? After all, so long as they can send many of their less-educated masses here where they work and send money home, while being supported in the US, they don't have to deal with their problem?

And you comment on how people bash illegal aliens when it comes to crime. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that roughly 1/3rd of violent criminals in the federal prisons are here illegally? The numbers are severely disproportionate.

As for why there wasn't an uproar about Officer Cortez, I am not sure what you mean. The media rarely cares when an Officer is killed, sadly enough. Many of them even seem pleased about it. But what does that have to do with illegals, your post doesn't mention that the criminals were, so what is the link?

And then why the comment about American-born Hispanics not being lambasted as felons? Why would they be?

It seems as if you are trying to insinuate some sort of racial component to the anti-illegal issue, and I am not sure why you are doing that.

After all, it is estimated that half of the illegals here are from south of the border (and are thusly Hispanic, or as they say in South America, Mestizo). That is only half, however, and people want ALL of the illegals dealt with (and there are varying proposals for just how to deal with them). It isn't an anti-Hispanic thing, but being 1/2 of the bulk of illegals, they are the common face of the illegal alien. This will happen any time one segment of a certain group is disproportionaly large.

But remember, who are some of the faces of the anti-illegal alien movement? Who is it that people are always trying to raise money for and help assist as they were targeted for arresting illegal aliens? Could they be:
* Gilmer Hernandez
* Gary Brugman
* Ignacio Ramos
* Jose Compean

Not exactly a bunch of white guys...

No, the illegals aren't targeted because they are Hispanic, and while correlation does not necessitate causation, illegals represent a vastly disproportionate percentage of criminals, and the majority of these illegals are Hispanic.

But no... they're not all bad people... hey, some just falsify their identity and put other people through hell clearing up their identity, right?

The only ones that you can just say come here illegally and that is their only crime are the ones that only ever are paid in cash, and that isn't the bulk of the 'honest, hard working immigrants' (who just happen to involve themselves in human smuggling when they come here, but let's not get into that).

But is 7 year old Ednick here illegally? If you have known him for that long I would think that chances are he was born here... maybe not, but there is a decent possibility, so why think of him? If his grandma was, however, then there would be a greater chance that his mom and dad are, and he's the anchor?

Well, the solution isn't complicated. You send them back to wherever they came from, and they can either put him up for adoption if they want him here, or if they really care about their son and aren't just using him as an anchor then they will take him with them. And then, when he turns 18, if he wants to live here then by golly, he's welcome back, because he wouldn't be here illegally.

Maybe, instead of being heart broken over people who are here illegally, we can instead start looking at the families that are getting nailed on a regular basis by INS because someone marries someone from another country. After all, they then decide to do it the right way, the legal way, and bringing your own freaking spouse here is hell.

But oh, I'm sorry... they're doing it the legal way so it's OK to put them through that, the families that we care about are the ones who just flatly disregard our laws in the first place... how silly of me.

And that coming from a law enforcement officer. Gary, I respect you more than that, but I just don't get it.

 
At April 04, 2008 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I think this country has a double standard when it comes to imigration: We hire them because they're cheap labour and at the same time we stigmatize them because they're bad, baaad people.

Well America.. that's what you get for a bargain. You want to save your dollars by hiring the poor of the world? Go ahead, but remember that poverty goes hand in hand with crime.

You can't have your cake and eat it too.

 
At April 04, 2008 8:44 PM, Blogger DirkStar said...

Tough issue, but the law is the law and we are all law abiding citizens.

Aren't we?

 
At April 05, 2008 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

....Yes, but it seems that the first ones to break that law are American business owners (restaurants, factories, delis, farms etc...) by hiring them.

If the goverment decided to deport all (working) illegals prizes would go up and US economy would go down.

Obviously the US goverment has no interest in doing that that so they'll deport a bunch of them to set an example.

 
At April 06, 2008 4:49 PM, Blogger Nobody Of Note said...

I'm glad you touched on this. I've been meaning to give my two cents on the matter as well, since I two of my best friends from high school are from mexico city. One was legal and the other was not.

It's a jagged issue, definitely.

 
At April 06, 2008 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I understood why everyone says prices would go up. It is funny, but this is an argument that only makes sense to people with high concentrations of illegals.

Up north, until recently, we didn't have any. I had never run into anyone that didn't speak English, and when you went out to fast food places or to the orchards, you could easily communicate with everyone.

Guess what. Prices weren't that different at all. In fact, in some ways it is more expensive here (having moved to Houston). But know what? Wages were, typically, a bit higher. Prices were a touch higher, but not much, but it was easily in line with people's wages.

Everyone keeps saying prices will go up... but guess what, there is a good chance that most people's pay will too, because when there isn't such a large group putting downward pressure on wages, that is what tends to happen.

 
At April 06, 2008 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheriff Joe is nothing more than a cheap publicty whore.

His stunts actually put good, hard working officers like Gary in a more difficult spot.

 
At April 07, 2008 8:11 AM, Blogger Aileen said...

I appreciate your heartfelt honestly on this subject. I used to work with a number of illegals when I lived in Chicago. They were all hard working , never missed work , tried hard to master English and sent most of their money back to their parent's in Mexico.
I had the opportunity to visit one of the villages one of them came from. There was no indoor plumbing (the sons were sending money home in hopes that the city would get enough money to provide it) , no electricity in the majority of the village and there was one phone in town at the local general store. There was a huge chalkboard set up there to leave messages for family to let them know when their family had called and when they would call back so the family could be there to receive the call. Meat for dinner was catch of the day. the homes had mud floors and there were make shift walls that could be put up for privacy when needed. It was absolutely heartbreaking.
How can we be allies with a country that allows the majority of it's citizens to live in 3rd world conditions? If we stopped kissing their governments behind and started cracking down maybe they'ld start taking care of their citizens instead of being perfectly ok with them coming here so we can take care of them.
I'm with you on the thought that if I lived like that I'ld do whatever I could to give my family a better life. The criminal shouldn't be the one crossing the border but the government officials who keep them in such a desperate state.

 
At April 07, 2008 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary,
I am so sorry the your daughter'friend has to go through this. It is the hardest on the children and family members left here.
Maybe if our American companies in Mexico paid a better wage we wouldn't have to worry about them coming over here illegaly.

Kim & Fernando

 
At April 09, 2008 3:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are cheap labor for business and the tax payer makes up the difference. They buy a social security number and go to work somewhere making minimum wage. Doing work that the average American would not do for that price. Their kids get free school lunches, they all get free medical care, housing assistance and food assistance. They pay minimal taxes and use maximum services. They drive without driver's licenses and most that I stop are uninsured. If all that wasn't bad enough everytime I make a friggin' phone call I have to press 1 for English.

The business' that hire them should be held accountable as well.

As far as feeling bad for their situation I think that is BS. Entering this country without the proper documentation is a felony. If you did it in Mexico the consequences would be severe. Justifying the act because they are impoverished where they come from is equivalent to saying it would be acceptable for someone from poverty in this country to commit a felony to ease their situation. If they want to come to America let them do it like our ancestors did, legally. The other's need to be sent back to where they came from the first time. If they are deported and are caught here a second time they should be executed. This would put an end to the problem.

 
At April 09, 2008 1:35 PM, Blogger Aileen said...

Executed??? Really??!!! I think someone needs to switch to decaf!
Here's food for thought. There are illegals from all over the world living and working in the US. In Chicago there were a number of Irishman that I met who stayed after their visa expired. Asians , Europeans , Africans , Arabs , no country is without someone here illegally.If illegal immigration were the true issue here the world wouldn't be focusing on the Mexicans.

 
At April 09, 2008 5:16 PM, Blogger makeumdothechicken said...

aileen,

Don't worry your peace loving, tie die wearing head. I would support execution of repeat offenders of immigration violations regardless of their ethnicity or country of origin.

It's not a race thing, it's a national soveriegnty thing.

 
At April 09, 2008 5:20 PM, Blogger makeumdothechicken said...

"Maybe if our American companies in Mexico paid a better wage we wouldn't have to worry about them coming over here illegaly.

Kim & Fernando"

Maybe if the political system in Mexico wasn't the most corrupt on the planet they would make the quality of life acceptable for their own nation.

 
At April 09, 2008 11:49 PM, Blogger Officer Gary said...

This must be a touchy subject; Why else would one of the comments be longer than my actual post?

My post was intended to be a personal expression of what I felt about a good kid's gramma being deported for no good reason. I wasn't looking to have my every word scrutinized, criticized, questioned, and insulted.

I don't have the solution to the immigration problem nor did I express my opinion on immigration as a policy. I'm just a regular person interacting with people in an "official" capacity.

I was surprised, and disappointed by the degree of hatred expressed in some of the comments.

There's an obvious difference between the 'spirit of the law' versus the 'letter of the law' and sometimes the true intent of a law is not accurately depicted in how it was written.

I'm not using this as an excuse to encourage crime but sometimes the circumstances allow an officer to make a judgement call on what action to take (or not take).

It's a felony to possess Marijuana but would you feel okay executing your teenage kid if you caught him or her smoking a joint?

And, did our ancestors really "legally" come here? What we did to the indiginous tribes and the original inhabitants of the Southwest (Mexicans) is only "legal" because we said so after we did it. If the Mexican army invaded the U.S. and recaptured all the land we took during the Mexican-American war would you call that legal? Why not, it's what we did to them.

The point of my entry was there are good people out there regardless of their immigration status. When we start calling them "they" and talk about how "they" do this or that we're merely stereotyping. I don't appreciate being the target of stereotyping ("all cops are assholes", "cops are corrupt", "cops get away with whatever they want 'cause they look out for one another", "cops don't give a shit about people, they just want to beat 'em up, drive fast, shoot their guns, ignore the laws, etc. etc.") so I avoid it best I can.

I know not everyone agrees with the things I say or the way I do things. In fact, my opinions tend to differ from those of my fellow officers more than they congrue. I'm okay with that. If you're not, maybe this isn't the blog for you.

It's easy to speak opinions whey you're "anonymous". Everyone has a right to voice their opinion and that's why I didn't delete all the negative comments. It's time to move on, however, so I'm closing comments for this blog entry.

 

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