I know Mexico very well. I lived and worked there for six years. The people are wonderful, but the problems facing their country are very complex. The controversies regarding immigration reform illuminate a very intense and dangerous problem.
There is serious need for reform, and to be real it must address the root of the problem. Having traveled extensively through most of Mexico, I have something to contribute to the national debate. Here are four things that I believe need immediate attention.
• The present immigration laws forbid “unskilled” labor from entering our country legally. Had such laws been in place for previous generations, my Sicilian grandfather, my Sicilian great-grandparents, and my Polish great-grandparents would never have been able to come to America, nor would other millions that entered the country through Ellis Island. My relatives were all peasants who came to America with the shirts on their backs. Of course they all had skills, but our current laws would consider them unskilled. Today, Mexicans who wish to work the farms, mow lawns, clean pools and serve tacos in local restaurants are all considered to be unskilled. The laws must be changed to allow all types of labor to enter the country legally. Our government could establish a yearly quota and allow a certain number of “unskilled” immigrants to enter the country legally. If the laws were to change, these unskilled immigrants could become a productive part of our society and pay taxes like everyone else.
• Our government needs to pressure Mexico to bring about reforms in that country. The high level of corruption in Mexico stifles economic initiative and we must demand immediate change. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Lack of opportunity and hope are among the reasons why people are leaving Mexico. Even making only six or seven dollars an hour, illegal immigrants are getting two or three times what the same work would earn them in Mexico, and yet the cost of living in Mexico is not that much less than ours. Let’s face it, our neighbor’s biggest problem is that the money is not getting down to the people. There is plenty of work, and Mexico’s economic potential is tremendous. They have oil, fertile land, and many natural resources. The problem lies with their political and economic systems.
• We need to reform our work force. Let’s be honest. College- educated Americans, whether “Anglos” or any other ethnicity, do not want to pump gas, stuff grocery bags, mow lawns, clean pools, or work in restaurants. But many Americans are not as well-educated and could benefit from these low-skill jobs. It is not merely that no Americans will do them. Many poor Anglo, African-American, and Hispanic American citizens are incapable of holding regular jobs because of sex- drug- and alcohol-related problems. The reason why we have so many jobs for illegal Mexicans is because a large segment of our society can no longer work, nor do they even desire to work. This is due to a combination of factors, among which even the welfare system is implicated. There should be greater incentives to work, especially among those who receive any kind of government assistance.
• Those Mexicans that are here, legally or illegally, should love the country that has given them so many opportunities. Can you imagine the Italians of New York or the Irish of Boston demonstrating against the country that saved them from destitution? If Mexican-Americans want to demonstrate, let them demonstrate very clear and vocal rejection of the demagogues that say that the land belongs to them anyway.
I know of many that are making a positive difference and love America. As for those who are here for a free ride or with territorial ambitions, they need to know that we still remember the Alamo.
© Copyright 2006 Catholic Exchange
Father James Farfaglia is Pastor of St. Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. Originally from Ridgefield, CT, Father has founded and developed apostolates for the Catholic Church in Spain, Italy, Mexico, Canada and throughout the United States. He may be reached by e-mail at Icthus@GoCCN.org.