Friday, January 2, 2009

Immigration and the Working Class Non-Immigrant

Affluent people generally say things about immigration that show they don't know much about the situation (I keep getting told by very educated types that undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes). But working class people (non-immigrants) and lower middle class people are usually the most angry.

Since I work on this blog, and am writing a book on DREAMers, I often talk to colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and students about immigration. Those adults who did not attend college seem to be the most angry. I hear stories about how people who just got here cheat on welfare, use up all our resources and generally make life miserable for everyone else.

When I first started having conversations with my father about immigration, he said that current immigrants didn't have have to work as hard as he did to make it (he immigrated with his parents when he was six months old). As time went on and we talked more and more, he began to understand the plight of the DREAMers. But his initial idea was the immigrants took advantage. It seems that he was thinking of a close friend of my mother that came a couple of decades ago was able to work enough quarters to get social security now that she is over 65, has Medicaid, lives in subsidized housing and has a caretaker (paid for by the government). She still hasn't learned English well. But then, you have to know the whole story. Her daughter and grandchildren are American citizens. Her son-in-law is extremely successful (a South American immigrant) and they pay enough taxes for many many people who just got here.

Why are people so angry? Because they think they are being shafted. They think something they deserve is going to someone less American - One of my friends who is most angry was a single Mom for years, really struggled but raised her daughter well and has worked for the same company for over 20 years. She is respected at her job and has made a good life for herself (she is second generation Texan). But those years that she was on her own make it hard for her to have sympathy for someone else.

A student of mine told me once that my success was due to my father's success. He had a good business and had clout in our community. The student said this gave me a big head start - making it easier to go to college, get a PhD, become a college professor, write books and have a successful blog. I can't say that life was that easy. I was a single Mom too, for eighteen years. I started my graduate program as a single Mom, with a kid in high school and a kid in college. But then, I had my parents who backed me up when they could...  Maybe there is no way I can truly empathize with my friend. Her parent's couldn't help her. Her father was a custodian, and her mother was a homemaker.

It is worth the time and trouble to find out why people are so angry at things.

White working class feels ignored over immigration, says Hazel Blears
Communities secretary says politicians need to reconnect with this group, as study shows resentment over impact of migration

* Deborah Summers, politics editor
*, Friday 2 January 2009 13.42 GMT

Many white working-class people across the country feel their concerns about the impact of immigration are being ignored, according to the communities and local government secretary, Hazel Blears.

Politicians need to start reconnecting with this group of people, Blears said today, as a study of attitudes to immigration was published finding a widespread sense of resentment, unfairness and disempowerment among white working-class communities in England.

"White working-class people living on estates sometimes just don't feel anyone is listening or speaking up for them," Blears said.

"Whilst they might not be experiencing the direct impact of migration, their fear of it is acute." It was the responsibility of politicians to challenge the myths about immigration spread by the far right, she said.

A report for the Department for Communities and Local Government based on interviews with people living on estates in Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Thetford, Runcorn and Widnes, found that some people believed that the same rules were not applied to everyone equally..

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am an ESL teacher for a middle and high school and I try to keep a finger on issues that affect my students, mainly the DREAM Act. I have been doing this for five years and have, over time, learned much about immigration and the stories and plights of my students, their families, and others as well. I advocate for these people and it never ceases to amaze me how ignorant the general public is about the realities of this situation. Some of it is so senseless, I can't believe one could even utter it. Other things are so filled with hatred, it is frightening. Racism is a direct result of ignorance and fear. This is what we have here. As a fifteen year veteran educator, I have always explained to my students who have complained about someone saying "bad things about them" that the reason they do that is because they feel bad about themselves and, by saying bad things about someone else, it makes them feel better. This is another problem we have at work here.