(His)panic Attacks

The question on everyone’s mind lately is: What are we going to do with all the Mexicans?

Well, not all of them, of course. The ones who are still in Mexico are fine. And the ones who are in the United States legally, we don’t technically have any problem with them (though we’re keeping an eye on them just in case). But there is currently a great deal of debate over the illegal immigrants in this country, 70 percent of whom are from Mexico. What, if anything, should be done to stop the flow of immigration? And what about the ones who are already here?

Personally, I am unconcerned. I don’t work in the places where one normally encounters the problems associated with illegal aliens. Nor do I listen to talk radio, where all problems, no matter how minor, start to sound huge after a while, and you find yourself inexplicably worked up about tax-deduction statutes or something.

I’m aware of illegal aliens, and I occasionally see people who might be such, but since they don’t impact me directly, I sort of ignore the situation. Yes, I realize that some of my tax dollars are spent on supporting them, but that connection isn’t direct enough for me to become interested in solving the problem. The illegal aliens would have to actually come to my house and physically take my money for use on their education and health care before I would become as enraged as some people are.

And some people are indeed very frothy about the whole thing. They write impassioned letters to the editor and practically spit fire when they are interviewed by reporters. Others, meanwhile, favor letting everyone stay here indefinitely and act like anyone who seeks immigration reform is a racist.

I can see both sides of it, really. On the one hand, we want our country to be a beacon of hope for the world’s tired, poor and afflicted. But on the other hand, Mexicans are darker than us and speak a different language. So you can see our dilemma.

There are people, unfortunately, who use the immigration crisis as an excuse for their own racism. They get so venomous and crass about it, and speak with such disgust for the immigrants, that you can just tell if it were a huge influx of clean, blond Norwegians we were talking about, they wouldn’t care. Hispanics are just so … OTHER.

You can see the xenophobia sometimes when they cite statistics. For example, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, 17 percent of people in federal prisons are illegal aliens. But much higher figures are often cited in anti-immigration articles. Generally speaking, the more exclamation points the writers use, the higher the percentages they claim. And it often turns out that the percentage they’re citing is actually the number of ALL foreign-born prisoners — including the ones who are here legally. They’ve lumped all foreigners in as “illegal aliens,” in other words.

Do you know people who do that? Who assume every Mexican they see is an illegal alien? I do. Generally speaking, they’re the same ones who instinctively lock their car doors when they see a black person approaching. (This is awkward when the black person is a police officer and he’s approaching because he pulled you over for speeding.)

Myself, I love Mexicans. I think they’re mexcellent! They add zest to the American melting pot, bringing with them from South of the Border a love for life, a devotion to family, and a keen knowledge of modern gardening and landscaping practices. I find the world’s cultures fascinating, truly, and yet it’s comforting to see that people are essentially the same. “Flipping the bird” might mean nothing to a man in Zimbabwe or Shanghai. But you sleep with his wife and he’ll get angry, no matter where he’s from! It really is a small world after all, especially when you’re sleeping with foreigners’ wives.

But back to the original question: What to do about illegal immigration? By realistic counts there are about 11 million in the country now (15 million!!!!!!!!! according to some commentators), and the number has grown dramatically in the last decade. Though they contribute to the economy by making purchases, paying rent and taxes, and taking low-paying jobs that Americans, no matter how out-of-work they are, simply WON’T do for $5.15 an hour, illegal immigrants also burden the system by using American hospitals, schools, prisons, welfare and other resources. Of course, lots of American citizens are nothing but dead weight, too. (Entire state of Mississippi, I’m looking at you.) But maybe that’s their right as Americans.

The way I see it, there are two problems here. One is that the immigrants’ home countries suck. The other is that America is too awesome. If Mexico or Guatemala or Hawaii or wherever were wealthier, with greater chances for their citizens to live happy, healthy lives, they wouldn’t feel compelled to go elsewhere. And if America weren’t so awesome — with its XL-sized pizzas and numerous football franchises and 50, count ’em 50, states — we wouldn’t be so darned tempting. You hate to blame the victim, but honestly, America, weren’t you kind of asking for it, going out looking like that, flaunting your goods to all the world? No wonder so many people have tried to take advantage of you, you wanton hussy.

Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the other countries. We can’t just barge in, depose their leaders and take over. That’s only allowed if their president tried to kill our president’s dad, and there’s no evidence of that with Mexico so far. (SO FAR.) The only real solution, then, is to make America less appealing. Making people not WANT to come here will be far more effective than any law or wall ever could be.

So I propose we subtly introduce the following rumors into general circulation in Mexico and South America as a means of discouraging people from coming here.

– The streets of America are paved not with gold but with asbestos.

– The state of New Mexico is actually just like the old Mexico, complete with corrupt police and a sub-par water supply.

– California’s governor was born in the same country as Hitler. We’re just sayin’.

– The only jobs available in America are ones that involve a lot of math.

– The way welfare works is, you get a check for $800 every month, but you have to pay a fee of $900 to get it.

– Due to an over-reliance on foreign oil reserves and an infrastructure dependent on fossil fuels, the American economy will soon collapse into a crippling depression. Oh, and the winters are cold.

– Those Mexican soap operas you love so much? Americans MAKE FUN of them.

There are many more aspects of the current immigration debate that I could have gotten into but didn't, including the May 1 protest rallies, and the holier-than-thou "my ancestors were immigrants, but they came here LEGALLY" argument. I wasn't concerned about the word-count of the column, just the scope of it. Besides, maybe I'll come back to the other stuff another time. I'm sure the debate will be going on for a while.

Quite a few portions of this column never would have seen the light of day if I'd still been writing for a daily newspaper. Even as a mockery of how some people view the issue, I doubt I could have said "Mexicans are darker than us and speak a different language." The crack about knowing modern landscaping and gardening practices probably wouldn't have flown, either. Honestly, without editors, I'm surprised I haven't started including porn in the column every week.