Friday, August 7, 2009

Crossing Over

The other night I watched a movie called "Crossing Over" with Harrison Ford, and I found it disturbing. The movie was obviously meant to be an editorial comment in favor of people who immigrate illegally to countries such as the US and Canada. There were key scenes that were supposed to elicit the viewer's sympathy, but instead it just ended up feeling like another piece of smug Hollywood propaganda. The movie reminded me of "Crash", and "Babel", and it felt manipulative. At the end of the movie, they hadn't sold me whatever it was they were selling.

From the time we are children in kindergarten, we are told to "line up, be polite, wait your turn". We all have to line up for things on a daily basis -- bank lineups, grocery store check outs, movie theatres, even for entrance to Kitsilano Pool. The other day in the sweltering heat I had been waiting 20 minutes for the bus to take me home. I was hot, cranky and tired. Just as the bus pulled up, a young man jumped in front of me in the lineup, got on the bus and took the last seat. For me, it was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. When I got on the bus I stood beside him and said, "I have been waiting 20 minutes in the heat for this bus, after working all day... And you jumped in front of me at the last minute and took the last seat. What entitles you to do that? Didn't your parents teach you any manners?" I didn't speak in a loud voice, but I spoke clearly enough so everyone could hear. He stood up to give me his seat, and I said "No, thank you..." and went to the back of the bus.

Queue jumping is queue jumping ... It doesn't matter whether it is in a bank lineup, a bus lineup or the wait to immigrate to another country. Unless an individual is a genuine refugee, which is a whole other matter, I believe people should wait their turn. Their are thousands of courteous, polite folks in the lineup, waiting their turns as well. Someone should just say to these people who jump the queue, "What entitles you to do that?" I must be missing something, because I just don't get it. It may be an over-simplicification of it, but to me it's a non-issue -- just line up, be polite and wait your turn.


Russell said...

You may have heard of the infamous raid of a meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. That happened in May of 2008. The feds - complete with helicopters down to dogs - pulled in 389 illegals.

The plant is now bankrupt and the town has been eviscerated.

I do not know what the answer is -- if I did, well, I wouldn't be sitting in Iowa teaching in a community college. It just seems there is a more humane, more just way to deal with the illegal immigrant problem.

One source estimates we have about 38 million immigrants in the U.S. and that about 1/3 are illegal. Children born to illegals are U.S. citizens -- and perhaps that law needs to be changed.

Today about 1 in 8 people in the states are immigrants (2/3 are legally in this country). In 1979 it was 1 out of 21 (according to the Center for Immigration Studies).

I guess my only wish is that the law would be enforced on a consistent basis so everyone knows how the rules will be enforced - or not enforced...

Land of shimp said...

Whenever I think of immigration, and the problem of people illegal crossing borders, I am very aware that my perspective is that of a very fortunate individual. An accident of birth determined that I was born in a country where my access to things like safe drinking water, personal safety, education and the like was easy.

But when I ask myself this: If I had been born in country with poverty the likes of which I had never experienced, violence as a matter of course, and curtailed opportunity due to that same accident of birth, would I be the same person? Follow the same rules? Even expect myself to? Basically, would I be willing to break all known rule to escape my lot in life?

I think I might, but here's the thing, I can't know that for certain.

Legal immigration is made difficult, and is a slow process. When waiting in that line entails things like being exposed to a violence, lack of education, and in some instances not enough money to eat, I find it difficult to judge what people do to get out of that line.

The young man who cut in front of you is another fortunate soul, born in a country of plenty and safety. What he was displaying was rudeness, plain and simple. Acting on a sense of entitlement.

I feel that when I try to decide my feelings on immigration, I view it from my very safe, secure position in life. Again, I didn't do something to deserve this, I was merely more fortunate in where I was born.

I don't know what it would feel like to be queuing up for a better life. I think we need to put time and yes, money into trying to solve this situation so that it is closer to be equatable for both sides.

The line looks a lot different from the perspective of someone on the other side of it. I don't know what the solution is, but I feel very grateful to view things from my very fortunate circumstances.

I understand your point, Jo. All I'm saying is that I feel that I cannot fully understand the perspective of people who will cross illegally. In this, I am truly blessed.

So much of who I am, the rules I follow, the things I believe to be moral and right were determined by where I was born. Weirdly, my sense of outrage at something like that young man cutting in line is born of the incredibly privileged background that I have.

Which brings me to the one point I am willing to make, many of these people are coming from backgrounds so poor that they are illiterate. They have no formal schooling. It's very easy for me to say, "Fill out the forms!" because I am taking it as a given that people will have had the opportunity to learn how to read. It's not always the case. I try to keep that in mind.

Patty said...

Amen to that. I know if someone is behind me in line at the grocery and only has one item and I haven't started to unload my basket yet, I will let them go ahead. But one day, after this happened about three times and another person had come up, I politely told them, to go to the office desk counter, they would ring up small items as long as there wasn't any produce involved. Because if I kept it up, I would never have gotten out of the store. This particular store doesn't have an express lane.

Have a great week-end.

The Bug said...

Jo - I agree with Shimp. It's just not as simple as waiting your turn for a lot of people. The church I attend is a place of refuge for illegal immigrants & their circumstances in their home countries are pretty difficult. One family is here to get medical help for their Downs Syndrome daughter. What I would like to see is a way to help make these folks legal.

I also second what Russell said - there should be a humane way to deal with the problem. One of our members was detained, had no access to legal counsel & his wife could visit twice per week. That's maybe not so outrageous - but he was kept in that detention center for a month before they sent him to Mexico, not his home country.

Jo said...

Russell, "I guess my only wish is that the law would be enforced on a consistent basis so everyone knows how the rules will be enforced - or not enforced." Yes, yes, yes! It's the inconsistency that is unfair -- to everyone.

Land of Shimp, the fellow who barged in front of me was not Canadian-born, but that is not the point. He jumped the queue. I agree that people have the right to come here to better themselves. Usually they are from poor and illiterate backgrounds. Canada and the US too was founded by just such people. As Russell says, I believe the rules should be consistent. There will always be people who will try to circumvent the rules, but there really is no excuse. Refugee applicants are a whole different matter, I believe, and they validly should be given refuge. Otherwise, I think people should get in line. We are indeed fortunate here in North America, and that's why people want to live here. We should all count our blessings -- every day. :-)

Patty, yes, I often let people go ahead of me too, if they have little kids with them and they just have a couple of items -- or whatever. But for the most part, I think the rules should apply to everyone, with very few exceptions. Refugees are a different kettle of fish altogether, and based on humanitarian principles, they should be given priority.

The Bug, but you know, the folks who are trying to enter Canada and the US legally have the same stories to tell. That's what bothers me. It's not a matter of whose need is greater. They all have a greater need. Canadian Immigration laws account for humanitarian needs, and it's all part of the process. In Canada, our Immigration Board is made up of people who have immigrated from other countries, so they are very understanding.

DUTA said...

Immigration, especially the illegal part ,is going to destroy completely the western countries in the long run. No doubt about that.

People who could not create a decent place in the country they come from, are turning our place into something similar to their country of origin.

Jo said...

DUTA, I believe we now live in a global society, and in many ways that is good -- but it does have its problems too, no doubt about that. However, I think any movement from one country to another should be done according to the rules and regulations, with very few exceptions.

Land of shimp said...

It's always extremely difficult for me to offer a strong opinion on something when I don't really have a firm solution. I wish that there was someplace safe for people coming from troubled lands to wait their turn. Part of the problem is that -- and I'm speaking of the US here -- our standards for refugee status are pretty extreme. Conditions that I would not consider livable often don't qualify.

I am talking about adequate (or even existing) access to safe drinking water, the basics of food and shelter.

I don't know. I wish I had a brilliant solution, but I simply don't. The picture that forms in my mind is of some safe haven where people await processing, but I know how easily that could turn into an interment camp with its own set of nightmares.

Now clearly, not everyone immigrating is coming from nightmarish circumstances. I was born in the U.S. but my brother was not, and remains a citizen of the U.K. to this day. My mother emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland after marrying my father (who was a citizen). There aren't any horror stories about Scotland, that's for sure. Well, depending on your views on Haggis, I suppose.

In Colorado we have a lot illegal immigrants from Mexico, and other Hispanic countries. Every week I see a new story about the escalating drug wars along the borders.

You know, if I had neighborhood beheadings going on? I truly think I might wade across a river, too.

I do take your point. I do think that our current process is too long, and complicated. Particularly given that access to education in the poor Hispanic countries is often rare. At least in the US, I'm sorry, I don't know much about the Canadian process.

In the U.S. I feel that we need a better process. People are crossing the border in droves and a friend mine is an immigration lawyer here. One of the biggest problems with immigration to the U.S. is that the process starts in the country of that person's origin. So a person from Mexico starts the process within Mexico, where part of what slows that process down is the corruption of government. Often times people don't have the necessary bribes to pay off their own government officials to start the process legally.

It's such a complex issue. In a perfect world we would have so many people trying to escape dire circumstances in their own countries. Unfortunately, there are dire circumstances for many.

There aren't any easy answers, I don't think. I think we need to really need to start rethinking our process.

Jo said...

Land of Shimp, oh, yes, I would definitely be a refugee from haggis. :-)

A few years ago we had about 600 Chinese illegal migrants land on British Columbia's shore, on some old rusty boats. They were taken into custody by the RCMP, and they were all given complete medical examinations, and were all given new, clean clothing. They were detained, and eventually sent back to China. The problem was, all of these people had paid $$thousands of dollars to Chinese illegal immigration enforcers. Illegal immigrants pay a much higher price to come to our country, and they spend years working in sweat shop jobs to pay off their debts. I used to work in the Department of Justice in the Immigration Section, and I saw first hand what a price (monetary and otherwise) illegal immigrants pay, and what a huge cost it is to the country to which they migrate.

I firmly believe in the Geneva Refugee Convention, and the rights and protection of refugees ... "A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.." Everyone else should be polite and wait their turn. When I saw "Crossing Over", I could not sympathize with any of the illegal immigrants portrayed in it, unfortunately.

robert said...

Good morning Jo,
situation here in Athens with regard to immigrants is a daily soap-opera. They stand at nearly each crossing either cleaning car windows, selling fruits or flowers. They do clean dishes in restaurants, sleep in the kitchen and send 3/4 of their earning home. Police and politicians alike don't see anything and build one camp after the other to 'take care of them' upon Greek islands, without running water, elect. etc.
Two years left for me to re-new my permission...standing in line with all the others, making it hard to know that 'my line' ends up in a nice home.
Congratulation upon your courage saying what you said and than not taking the seat.

The Panorama said...

Hey Jo, am NOT an illegal immigrant here. I am legal and have been a model citizen, Been waiting for my turn at good jobs queue for almost 16 years. Am not so sure everyone has such patience. I was taught to be polite and be patient and wait for my turn.
I was advised by my Norwegian friends to sharpen my elbows and edge my way out as it is not easy being an immigrant here.
It has been one hell of a struggle and believe me, it has drained me emotionally and psychologically.

For many illegal immigrants, it is a dsperate situation.
It is not always so easy for everyone. In a perfect world, yes it should be as you say. But the world is far from perfect and most of all, it is unfair too.
I was gald to read all the comments that show that people do understand.

Jo said...

Robert, yes, now there you go. You are a good example of someone who has immigrated honestly. It can be done. You haven't barged to the front of the queue. I am not sympathetic to people who jump the queue -- under any circumstances.

The Panorama, I am opposed to people cutting in front of others, under any circumstances. I'm never sure what type of citizens people are going to be if they feel it is okay to elbow their way past other people. I think any country has the right to set rules and regulations -- and yes laws -- and expect people to respect those rules. But, again, that is just my opinion.

Land of shimp said...

One big problem with illegal immigration is that it does make the process even more arduous for people trying to legally enter. Particularly with concerns about national safety in almost all countries, having the system bogged down by the challenge of trying to deal with undocumented individuals on top of people who have makes the system even more sluggish.

That's just an observation, unfortunately I still don't have any tremendously bright answers.

yes, I would definitely be a refugee from haggis.

Hahaha! A new category is born! Thank you for the laugh! I'd love to say that Haggis sounds much worse than it is, and that would be true, but Haggis sounds like a punishment cooked up for people who have robbed the elderly as it is!

On a much lighter note, when I went to visit Vancouver, I was told that the B.C. customs agents would positively grill me about what we were doing there. That if I was meeting friends there (and I was) I had better be prepared to give a full history of how I knew these people, and exactly what I planned to do.

Having been warned, I came prepared! I had an itinerary mapped out that would account for all of our time in Vancouver. The people ahead of me in line at customs seemed to be getting the third degree, and I girded up my loins, ready to justify myself, my husband, and my son. We had been invited to visit the set of a TV show filming in Vancouver, that was the reason for our visit.

"What is the reason for your visit?" the agent asked, giving me a head to toe examination as she spoke, she turned and looked at my husband and son in the same way.

"We were invited to visit the set of Battlestar Galactica. That's on Tuesday." Our visit was for four days.

The agent stared at me for about ten seconds. Stared at my husband, and at my son.

"Oh. Have a pleasant stay."

Evidently if you give a weird enough answer? They might just decide they don't want to know any more about you!

Jo said...

Land of Shimp, omigawd, what a great story!! How did you get invited to visit that set? It's amazing just how many TV shows and movies are filmed here. The "Twilight" movies are filmed here, and they are filming the third one right now. "Night at the Museum" was filmed here, believe it or not, even though it was supposed to be set in the Museum of Natural History in New York. :-)

Land of shimp said...

Thank you :-) We were very fortunate, I was a big supporter of the writer's strike and because of some work I did in that, my family and one of my friends were allowed to tour the set during the final weeks of filming. It was a true treat.

In a funny aside, a writer of whom I'd been highly critical (thankfully, not in any personal respect), Michael Angeli, was our guide. He spent about four hours just being the soul of graciousness to us. I assumed he didn't know that I'd been one of his critics.

I found out much later, in an interview he did, that he was aware the entire time. It was a very funny footnote to our trip. Thankfully, he was a true pro, and even more thankfully he decided he liked us and made it a lovely experience.

I later thanked him for not simply kicking me in the shins upon introduction.

Land of shimp said...

And I can see why so many things film there, it's a stunning place!

I think the movies for Twilight also film in Vancouver, which may actually prove enough of a lure to watch one, some day!

Jo said...

Land of Shimp, wow! I'm impressed. I would love to go on a tour of one of those sets. And yes, Vancouver is beautiful, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

One question comes to mind about the illegal immigrant issue. Most of the countries that people are emigrating from are as old or much older than the United States. So, why is this country more desirable for them than their own? What did our forefathers know or do that made this country the great place it is today? And what did their ancestors do or not do that created the problems they experience today? The U.S. didn't always have safe water, good sanitation, abundant food sources, adequate infrastructure. They had to be developed. Our fathers, grandfathers, lets not forget mothers and grandmothers, for generations worked hard to provide for posterity what we enjoy here today. Now others who's ancestors never put anything into this country want to enjoy the benefits of those who did. They not only want, but demand equality with those who've worked hard their whole lives to reap the rewards for their hard work.

the walking man said...

if there are ever two words that belong in the same sentence they are "Hollywood propaganda"

C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson said...

Come on, now, take a look around our great county (the U.S.). There are legals living in the depth of poverty on our streets, not just drunkards and druggies, but entire families who have lost everything. Children are growing up here never having known a 'home', never tasting a home cooked meal, never sleeping a night without fear. We choose to turn a blind eye to these citizens who need and deserve our sympathy and support. Instead we rage our bleeding hearts against the ills around the globe and feel sorry for all these other peoples. Well, I can tell you having lived in Tucson, AZ for a time that the illegals who cross our borders are costing this country in ways that will never be recouped. The local hospitals who are made to treat these people free (while our citizens can be turned away if they don't have insurance) are losing millions every year. It's not just me saying this, it's printed in the Tucson papers in hard dollar amounts as to what treating the illegals cost them and (you guessed it) costs us, the American taxpayer!

Show me a day when we can care for our homeless, sick, aging and orphaned adequately and I will gladly extend my hand to help the illegals. Until that time, I say they need to remain in their own countries.

Land of shimp said...

And yes, Vancouver is beautiful, isn't it?

I'm one of those people who loves my home. Even when I travel, there's a part of me that looks forward to getting home. When it comes time to leave a place, no matter how wonderful, I'm happy to be heading back to my own space.

Vancouver was so fabulous that I didn't want to leave. If I could have sad, "Pack the house and send it to us, we live here now." I would have.

I'm now going to gush for a moment: I've actually been in a fair number of cities NYC, Philly, Chicago, London, Glasgow, Edinburgh (Edinburgh is wonderful, by the way) but Vancouver was the best city I've been in.

It doesn't feel crowded, it isn't swamped with traffic, although it's bustling. Plenty to do and see, incredibly diverse scenery and culture. Plus the food, oh my goodness gracious!

Sorry to go off on a "Yay! Vancouver!" tangent, particularly when we are talking about something as serious as illegal immigration, and the impact to societies that can present a tremendous drain.

I'm just a huge fan of your city. What was really hilarious was nearly every Canadian we met apologized to us for the weather, it rained on and off the whole time, and it was still the most wonderful city I've visited.

I imagine that if it had been sunny it might have taken a crow bar to pry me away.

Brenda said...

Sometimes all it takes is a few people like yourself to stand up and put the person in their place. It will make that person.. and others who heard you.. think twice the next time.
Common courtesy goes a long way in life.
My pet peeve is people who run over me with their shopping carts in grocery store lines. That is really rude!!!
As far as the illegal immigrants your other commenters have said some great things.

lovelyprism said...

I couldn't agree more.

Jem said...

amen and amen to C Hummel's comments. Could not have said it better!!!

Jem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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