Monday, May 15, 2006

Immigration: Part II-A Foreign Policy

In a land that insists on the falsehood of “Innocent Till Proven Guilty”, prejudice has once again filled this nation’s atmosphere. Collective fingerpointing at all illegal immigrants regardless. But to fairly look at immigration, we must first look at from where these people are emigrating.

The New York Times 1/14/06 headline reads, “Wealth Grows, but Health Care Withers in China”. After the collapse of ‘evil’ communism, where everyone had free healthcare, “China’s economic reforms have turned an almost uniformly poor nation into an increasingly prosperous one.” But the collapse of socialized medicine has left rural areas without sufficient resources. The former system of free clinics has disappeared and coverage in these areas is 79% UNINSURED. “The failure of the government to provide decent health care for peasants has reinforced the idea of China as two separate nations: one urban and increasingly comfortable, the other rural and increasingly miserable.” Democratic leaders cheered when communism was overthrown in China. Our companies have infiltrated their economy and our government allows a $202 billion trade deficit with China in 2005 alone. Yet we turn our backs.

For poor Nigerian villages, a battleground has ensued after the oil milling below the ground. “Conflict has left dozens dead and wounded, sent hundreds feeling their homes. It has laid bare the desperate struggle of impoverished communities to reap crumbs from the lavish banquet the oil boom has laid in this…poor corner of the globe.” (Lydia Polgreen, New York Times) Government has removed itself and the oil companies have taken over as dictators. “They see the oil companies as being the nearest government to them,” said Don S. Bonham, a spokesman for Shell. Africa is expected to provide the United States with a quarter of its oil supply in the next decade. (Lydia Polgreen, New York Times) The communities are fighting over the oil fields which has an annual budget of more than half a billion dollars to spend on its 3 million people. “But most of it goes to white elephants like a new mansion for the governor.” (Lydia Polgreen, New York Times) Yet we turn our backs.

Complaining about service jobs being outsourced to India, each year, about 200,000 (40,000 below the age of 16) Nepalese women are trafficked across the Indian border and sold there into slave-like conditions. Victims end up as sweatshop workers, domestic servants and even prostitutes in the exploding sex trade. (“Sold to the Circus for $13.42”, Marie Claire, Feb 2006) This article discussed the experiences of Gita Lama, who at 13, was sold to the circus for 1000 rupees ($13.42). Gita came from a village that had no electricity and the entire village pumps its water from a single well. Her situation worsened after being sold and others like her. Abused and beaten, one girl recalls, “I existed like the living dead. I didn’t have choice. I just shut my mind to everything and dealt with it, but I wasn’t really alive.” Yet we turn our backs.

Since most immigration is believed to be from Mexico…

In Yolanda’s hometown, a tiny coastal village near Zihuatanejo, Mexico, dusty plots of land barely yield enough corn to feed the families who harvest it. Death by starvation is an ever-present reality. Growing up, Yolanda remembers eating iguanas, armadillos, and pigeons when the harvest failed and her father became desperate to feed his 10 children. During the rainy season, the children huddled under a dripping cardboard roof in a one-room wooden hut with no stove, refrigerator, or running water. Despite all this, she dreamed of a high school education. But at 14, she was on her way home from class when an older man from her village pushed her off her bicycle and raped her. Because she was no longer a virgin, she was forced, by shame, into marrying the man who stole her innocence. Pregnant, her new husband beat her. Finding the strength, she left him. For what many might seem like an obvious choice, being young, with no money, no education, and no where to go, a neighbor offered Yolanda a chance for employment in the United States.

“It was a moment of desperation. I wanted to make money to give my daughter a better life, so what had happened to me wouldn’t happen to her,” recalls Yolanda, who believed she was signing up for a job as a waitress. Leaving her daughter with her mother, she packed a single bag and headed for the U.S. Shortly after arriving, the true nature of her job was revealed and a reality made clear. Yolanda was sold into sex trafficking. We hear about these incidents overseas, but the truth is, they happen right here in this great land. Knowing that if she left, she would be reported to immigration, she had nowhere to turn. She couldn’t go back to Mexico…“In Mexico, if you don’t have money, you don’t have anything. I stayed because I was afraid for my family.”

The Department of Justice estimates that every year, 17,500 people in the U.S are victims of “human trafficking”-foreigners brought into the country by coercion, threats, or physical violence and sold to a trafficker for forced labor. And yet we turn our backs?

Note: This Administration’s only foreign policy has been that of warfare. Now on the domestic front, giving amnesty to all illegal immigrants does not solve what plagues us. We must look at each individual case and allow people like Yolanda the chance for a better life…and maybe one day soon, obtain her dream.

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