Saturday, November 26, 2005

"Thanksgiving Is an Opportunity To Reconsider Immigration"

The Jewish Journal (North of Boston)
November 18, 2005

"Thanksgiving Is an Opportunity To Reconsider Immigration"

Dov Burt Levy

How sad it is, approaching Thanksgiving Day, the nation is seriously divided, and fighting about immigration policy. You'd be hearing even more noise about it if issues like 9/11, Iraq, Iran, natural disasters and grand jury indictments did not exist.

What a shame. I love immigration. I love the idea, the efforts and the effects of immigration. I admire those people--of all races, colors and religions-- who came here in a great personal adventure whose major goal was to find better opportunities for their children and grandchildren. If it all works right, immigrants get what they want and the country gets a great infusion of new genes, customs, holidays, food, and spirit.

I think that most Jews feel as I do about immigration. We are grateful that the borders were almost wide open between 1880 and 1918, allowing millions of our ancestors to come here from eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Conversely, we are extremely unhappy that the Roosevelt government did so little to increase immigration for Jews during the Holocaust. And we are not happy that the administration of current laws reflects confusion and uncertainty. This is not where the nation should be.

When I attended college in the 1960s, a big majority of Americans favored and supported immigration. President John Kennedy had written a popular book, "A Nation of Immigrants." Oscar Handlin, Harvard professor and dean of American immigration historians, had a best selling book titled, "The Uprooted".

The Anti-Defamation League was distributing millions of pamphlets called "We are all Americans" in public schools. And immigration opponents were usually found on the fringe right, in the company of other, non-mainstream factions.

Fast forward to today. The idea of "immigration" has become contentious. Some opponents of immigration fear loss of jobs; others fear the costs of government support to indigent immigrants; some say the federal government has not protected the Mexican border.

Some complain that states give benefits to illegals; some complain about the widespread use of Spanish; others insist bi-lingual education is anti-American; some are undisguised racists. And since 9/11, terrorists are believed by many to be sneaking across our open borders.

Just listen to the hyperbole on talk radio. Watch Lou Dobbs on CNN and his segment called "Broken Borders". It makes you feel like hordes of illegals are overrunning our nation.

Some facts: In 1850, the U.S. government started keeping census information about foreign-born and native-born people living in the country. "Foreign–born" includes naturalized citizens, people who are here on various work and visitor visas, and undocumented workers.

Over the years, the number of foreign-born has fluctuated between eight and fifteen percent of our population, depending on the world situation and the state of U.S. laws, which in some periods were restrictive.

Today, about 11 percent (30.1 million people) of the 270 million who live in the United States are foreign-born. In short, the U.S. is far from having its highest percentage of non- or not-yet citizens residing here; we are far from being overrun (whatever that means) by foreign-born people.

Certainly, the absorption of new immigrants costs some government money. But the future benefits of immigrant's work, taxes, consumption and more to the nation give good value for the money spent.

By the way, it would help if the issues of Mexican border and homeland security could be separated from questions of general immigration policies. As things stand, they confuse the issue.

Would-be terrorists and drug smugglers must be apprehended as they attempt to cross into our country. Given enough resources and willpower, this effort can succeed. Law enforcement inadequacies there should not be allowed to skew our entire immigration policy.

If we American Jews cannot view governmental immigration policy with a huge reservoir of good will, kindness and celebration, who can. who will? And if not on Thanksgiving Day, when?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"I Can't Do Anything About It": Will This Be Our Legacy?
November 4- November 17, 2005

copyright 2005 DB Levy
"I Can't Do Anything About It": Will This Be Our Legacy?

Jewish Journal North of Boston

Following my column about Shirley Avenue and Revere last month, a friend wrote from California: "Good piece. Nothing to be done railing about the pimps in D.C. so may as well write pleasant stories about Shirley Avenue…. Your readers will appreciate it."

I am hoping this is my friend's temporary sadness of heart. He was always the greatest political warrior, neither forgetting, nor forgiving, nor failing to fight political transgressions, public vanities and outrages.

But there are millions of others in America who have quietly dropped out of the political fray. Many were once engaged citizens who advocated, marched, worked for and financially supported political candidates.

What pushes people to give up is the enormous disconnect between the deadly seriousness of the issues and the duplicitous sleaze of many politicians in both Congress and the White House — as well as the incredible incompetence of many executive appointees.

What issues?

The possible (many think probable) avian flu pandemic that without an effective vaccine will kill millions here and around the world. The Bush appointee heading the government's effort has been called another Michael Brown.

The continuing and expensive (lives and money) war in Iraq begun with errors or lies or both and now seemingly impossible to end satisfactorily.

Global warming and other environmental degradation resulting in horrific weather today and continuing rapid melting of the polar ice caps. Think of Worcester in 50 or 100 years being our new Revere Beach.

Nuclear war and nuclear terrorism. Will Britain, France, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea — and even Israel and the United States — forever hold back from using their nuclear weapons?

More immediately threatening are terrorists like the present crop of radical Muslims who are determined to get their hands on nuclear material. They — who behead other human beings, face to face, one on one, and kill scores or hundreds or thousands of innocent civilians without remorse in a single attack — will not think twice about using nuclear bombs.

The issues are horrendous?

But the situation is made even worse when you layer it with the criminality, incompetence and hollow pomposity in Washington. The White House implodes with scandal, lies, and bungling unqualified appointees. I mean the politicians, lobbyists and corporate leeches feeding on the budget pie, not the civil servants.

The House of Representatives is an almost unchangeable oligarchy. Unless a member of the House actually kills somebody, is convicted of racketeering, or just plain dies, he or she is unlikely to lose a congressional seat.

There's more: if you can't raise millions, or don't have millions of your own to invest, or if your family name is not Kennedy, Rockefeller, Bush, Clinton, and now Carter, your chance of winning a congressional seat is about as good as my becoming the next Secretary-General of the United Nations.

We ordinary citizens feel impotent when we come up against all this. Yes, we can build a Habitat for Humanity house, but battling avian flu or nuclear terrorism?

It leads to the heart-hardening mantra, "Don't bother me, I can't do anything about it."

Or as my daughter puts it, "Abba, you talk of global warming; I'm just trying to find a parking space in downtown Jerusalem."

I understand and I admit my own guilt, my own dropping out from time to time. Many times I stopped all delivered newspapers because I just couldn't stand the repetitive bad news.

I'm back now and saying, If we drop out, we leave it all to our children and grandchildren to work out, if there is something left to sort out. That shouldn't be our legacy.

I write this a day after the death of Rosa Parks, who in 1955, a then-unknown seamstress riding a bus in Birmingham, forever changed America for the better.

Is there really more to say about giving up?