Sunday, December 17, 2006

Immigration and Family Values: "All They Will Call You Will Be 'Deportee""

Our friend Dennis alerts us to the week's news about the large immigration raids that netted about 1300 undocumented workers. The raids, part of Operation Wagon Train, raised another fear around immigration: identity theft. Many workers use fake IDs with old Social Security numbers. There is a booming underground business in these IDs (called mica chuecas). What was left out of the reports by Homeland Security this week is that these fake IDs held by undocumented workers are generating billions of dollars in Social Secuity taxes. Most of this money, taken out by employers in the form of payroll taxes, will never been seen by the workers themselves, but goes into the general SSA fund.

What many people found hard to deal with in these raids was how they separated families. Hundreds of children around the country had their parents arrested and husbands and wives were separated from their spouses.

This separation of families is not something new to Mexicans in the United States or to immigrant families now. In 1931, the United States mounted a massive repatriation program that sent almost half a million Mexicans and Mexican Americans back to Mexico. Many people were arrested and not allowed to contact their families. Many were actually American citizens, and not undocumented aliens. The plight of this group was captured in song by Woody Guthrie's song "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos".

A wonderful documentary that captures the displacement and loss of family unity because of immigration is "Letters from the Other Side". I really recommend it for anyone who wants to see how trade policies such as NAFTA have affected rural Mexican families and put pressure on so many young men to cross the border looking for work. The result over the last 12 years is many communities in Mexico in which there is nothing but women and children trying to scrape by economically, dealing with the emotional loss and an indifferent Mexican government.

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