There’s a fruit vendor in my border hometown in Texas who sells fresh fruit from his truck. He’s a popular figure because he’s good with the “pilon,” the baker’s dozen giving, let’s say, 15 oranges for the price of a dozen. His wife was a coveted seamstress until an immigration patrol picked her up and sent her back to Mexico. She was gone a few months, probably took the time to visit relatives, and now she’s back again to her routine, probably still illegal.
An immigration officer lives in the neighborhood teeming with illegal aliens, but they’re OK by him.
“I’m off duty when I come home,” he said, knowing it can be careerending if his challenges are too aggressive. Read pro immigration reform protests like those in Arizona, California and Washington. And so explains the unending, contradictory war against illegal immigrants that the Obama administration says it is winning because of an increasing number of deportations and dwindling border crossings. The system, admittedly, is still broken.
The latest figures reveal 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S., 60 percent of them Mexican and another 20 percent from Latin America, dropping from a peak of 12 million in 2007. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says it deported 389,000 illegal residents in 2010, a record number of people, many of them thieves or ne’erdo- wells. The majority were Latinos, and the majority of Latinos were Mexicans.
So who’s winning? Call it a stalemate, but give the edge to the illegals, particularly Mexicans who cross the porous border at will, like my hometown seamstress, and easily blend into the community because, I guess, we all look alike. It’s true they are getting more heat from the beefed-up U.S. immigration forces, new state-of-the-art border detection system and the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops to help patrol key sections of the U.S.-Mexican border. Mexicans and Central Americans are not crossing the U.S.-Mexican border at will as they were a few years ago, but it’s also because many have been scared off by drug gangs and common criminals who prey on them at the crossings and because of a diminishing and unsteady job market in the U.S.
For what it’s worth, metaphorically and financially, the U.S. has stepped up its enforcement efforts – but some of them have already gone kaput.
The U.S. not long ago introduced sophisticated detection systems like the “Virtual Fence” across the border, tested in Arizona, that cauldron of immigration issues, but scrapped because it provided meager results for the billions it cost to build and operate.
The system used a single technology, to be eventually installed across the entire 2,000-mile border, using mobile surveillance systems and unmanned drones. The project, developed by the Boeing Corporation, would install, among other gadgetry, sensors and cameras mounted on towers that would lead border patrolmen to the exact location of the miscreants. The illegal crossers would have no chance. Ha!
Even Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano once famously said, when she was Arizona’s governor, about another woebegone project to build a wall at strategic crossings along the border to stymie illegal aliens: “You show me a 50-foot wall at the border, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder. That’s the way the border works.”
Now as secretary, Napolitano is still not convinced that such detection methods work, and she has canceled the “virtual fence” project across the Southwest border that has already spent $1 billion and was estimated to cost $7 billion to cover the entire border.
There don’t seem to be any better ideas on how to contain the Diaspora of illegal aliens, except through the legislative system that would punish with fines and restrictions on U.S. enterprises that use them.
So it looks like we’re back to the eyeball system in the field and, once again, looking toward Washington for some viable solution and policies – which, regardless of who’s doing the talking, do not look promising.
There has been a lot of rhetoric from all sides but no meaningful discourse. And with the Republicans in control of the lower chamber, immigration reform doesn’t look good in this biennial.
It’s certain to be a campaign issue with the Latino vote in play – but no matter how much demagoguery is employed, not many are convinced it would be a death knell for politicians in 2012 who stand against it or refuse to compromise a solution.
The reality is that it doesn’t appear to be a summons for retaliation by Latino voters, as lobby organizations like the National Council of La Raza would want you to believe with “we won’t forget” threats.
An exception, and probably the best bet for a Latino wedge issue, is the DREAM Act, recently passed by the House but killed by the Senate, which would have recognized the college and military industriousness of Latino youth who are burdened by illegal parents.
One of the latest polls by the Pew Hispanic Center showed the immigration issue is not a top concern for Latinos for or against President Obama and Democrats or Republicans. Latinos, the poll shows, place education, jobs and health care at their top three planks.
One of the indefatigable workers for immigration reform has to be Chicago Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, who has traversed the country speaking at every opportunity and even taking on his fellow Chicagoan, President Obama, for being all about enforcement but little about a remedy.
A Pew Hispanic Center survey ranked him the second-most important Latino leader in the country after Supreme Court Justice and fellow Puerto Rican Sonia Sotomayor.
His passion is commendable, but like John the Baptist, he is “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” as far as meaningful immigration reform any time soon is concerned.