August 21, 2007

Walk The Walk, Talk The Talk

In 1997, a woman named Elvira Arellano arrived in Washington state illegally. She was, eventually, arrested and deported but she returned. She cleaned planes in Chicago. She was again arrested and scheduled to turn herself over to the authorities last August. Instead, she sought refuge at Adalberto United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Arellano spoke yesterday at a rally for immigration reform. She was arrested immediately afterwards and deported to Tijuana.

She was deported. Her eight year old son - born here and, as a result, a legal United States resident - was not.

I realize that Arellano may not be the most sympathetic of characters. She knowingly broke the law several times and falsified social security numbers so she could work. I get that. What I don't get is how we - as a country and as a society - balance and justify these actions against our continuous assertion that family, specifically our children, are the most important priorities. A government that truly values children and the parents charged with their care doesn't deport the sole caregiver of a dependent child. No matter what.

If I were a more cynical person, I'd say that ninety percent of the time we walk a different walk than the talk we talk. We say we value education but we don't fund education. We say we're all about saving the environment but we drive SUVs. We say we want to help the homeless and the world's disadvantaged but we go out to dinner and spend twenty bucks on entrees large enough to feed a small village. I'm not pointing the finger at anyone in particular, except myself. I do these things too.

At some point we have to say what we mean and follow-through. And while I don't have any good solutions to the immigration issue, I know the answer is not deporting single mothers forcing them to leave their kids behind.

Posted by Chris at August 21, 2007 6:25 AM
Comments

I am wondering if we have the whole story. I find it hard to believe that they forced her to leave her child. I am thinking that she wanted him to stay here. Who knows maybe they have family or close friends here?

I am not trying to be unsympathetic I just hate to make a judgment call without all the details. Something has to be done about immigration - for everyone's benefit. And, I also agree we tend to talk out of both sides of our mouths.

Posted by: Debbie at August 21, 2007 6:50 AM

So do we let her stay, simply because she has a child that's a legal resident? Or do we deport the kid with his mama? So many of the illegal aliens come here and have children specifically so they'll be able to stay, and that's wrong. There are legal ways to get into and stay in this country, and if more people would go the honest route we wouldn't have to deport folks.

It's a complicated question, probably one with no right answer. But I'm willing to bet that the kid has family or friends here and she wanted him to stay. I imagine they didn't force her to leave him behind.

Posted by: Alissa at August 21, 2007 7:55 AM

Yes, it's a sad state of affairs for sure. I used to get so upset when I was 15 and I worked at McD's, at all the food we threw out every night. I still get upset when I have wasted produce or other food in my fridge.

We are all more spoiled than we realize.

I believe there will be a change in the future but it's not going to be via governments.

Posted by: August at August 21, 2007 8:02 AM

What if she stole something? What if she committed murder? What if she had so many parking viloations that she would need to go to Jail? All breaking the law and which would leave her 8 year old alone. I don't have any answers but she knew she was breaking the law. And at some point when we point the fingers at ourselves, she also should be pointing the finger at herself.

Posted by: William at August 21, 2007 8:05 AM

yes it's sad that a mother had to leave her family... but like Debbie said - we don't know the other side of the story. who's this boy's father? if she's been here this long they must have friends/family for the child to stay with. she knowingly broke the law and brought a child into the mix. i know it's extreme but close the damn borders! allow the border agents to do their jobs. hell, arm the borders with those things they use at retail stores to stop shoplifting and implant repeat offenders. i don't know...

Posted by: monique at August 21, 2007 8:18 AM

Agreed. But, whom ever came up with the law saying that if you are born here you are an instant American should have had their head examined. It does not happen this way in other countries and it should not be happening here.
Then the children would be with their parents in the country of their parent's birth.

Posted by: Maribeth at August 21, 2007 9:22 AM

Chris,
You are right in your cynical belief that we only talk the talk when it comes to kids and families. I am a social worker that works in my state's social services agency. We have a legislative body that has cut and cut and cut funding for children's services til it is to the point that if you have a child that needs psychiatric services, the only way the child can access hospitalization is either to become adjudicated as a delinquent (criminalizing mental illness) or to claim that you are an unfit parent and your child is placed in foster care. Due to those cuts, there are no publically funded psychiatric beds left in this state outside of those 2 choices. This should be a concern to even the upper middle class because insurance usually only pays for 3 days or so for "medication stabilization" before discharge, with no help, right back into the home. Even upper middle class families would have a hard time paying the per diem of well over $300/day if you had a child with serious mental illness that needed a more long-term hospitalization. Forget the working poor! I won't "hog" up your space with my rant but I congratulate you on writing about this and taking it on the chin from some of your other commentors. It is very easy to look down your nose when you are feeling untouched and holier than thou -- but people need to learn that one day they will likely be in the position to ask for mercy, too. If you don't believe it, look in the under-funded nursing homes.

Posted by: JamesMommy at August 21, 2007 9:38 AM

I don't believe for one second that she was made to leave her child behind. I am sure she left him behind on purpose because she no doubt plans to come back across illegally herself. It will be easier/cheaper if the child is left here. He is probably staying with relatives? Friends? What is the rest of the story?

My father was an illegal alien. My husband was an illegal alien. So I don't lack compassion for these people but I really believe it comes down to the law being the law. My father and husband both finally went through the legal process (my father became a citizen and my husband is a permanent resident) But what they did before that was wrong.

My father owns a business that employs a lot of seasonal workers (Mexicans) I used to work as his secretary. I remember calling the immigration trying to check out workers that I absolutely knew were illegal. They asked me if they had documentation, if the papers were filled out properly, and I said yes. So they said I absolutely could not discriminate against them. But I said I personally knew these people and that they were illegal and they said it didn't matter. Something is just not working in the system here..they could have at least came out to check on these people. I guess they must just lack the man power?

I get very angry at the ones who come here and claim 10 dependents and/or claim exemption so they dont have to pay any taxes. They make just enough to party it up in Mexico through the Winter, spending all their money there, then sneak back across the border when they run out of money. I don't know what the solution to this is. Maybe making it legal for everyone to work, but making them at least pay the proper taxes and making even an extra tax for giving them the right to work? That might be fair, I don't know. But I want to make them at least pay the same taxes we have to. I wonder how much money that would come out to? Think of all the illegal aliens who don't pay taxes...I bet its in the billions and billions.

We have a long way to go in working out this problem. Really, I don't see it working itself even in the next 50-100 years.

Posted by: Leilani at August 21, 2007 9:40 AM

I don't believe for one second that she was made to leave her child behind. I am sure she left him behind on purpose because she no doubt plans to come back across illegally herself. It will be easier/cheaper if the child is left here. He is probably staying with relatives? Friends? What is the rest of the story?

My father was an illegal alien. My husband was an illegal alien. So I don't lack compassion for these people but I really believe it comes down to the law being the law. My father and husband both finally went through the legal process (my father became a citizen and my husband is a permanent resident) But what they did before that was wrong.

My father owns a business that employs a lot of seasonal workers (Mexicans) I used to work as his secretary. I remember calling the immigration trying to check out workers that I absolutely knew were illegal. They asked me if they had documentation, if the papers were filled out properly, and I said yes. So they said I absolutely could not discriminate against them. But I said I personally knew these people and that they were illegal and they said it didn't matter. Something is just not working in the system here..they could have at least came out to check on these people. I guess they must just lack the man power?

I get very angry at the ones who come here and claim 10 dependents and/or claim exemption so they dont have to pay any taxes. They make just enough to party it up in Mexico through the Winter, spending all their money there, then sneak back across the border when they run out of money. I don't know what the solution to this is. Maybe making it legal for everyone to work, but making them at least pay the proper taxes and making even an extra tax for giving them the right to work? That might be fair, I don't know. But I want to make them at least pay the same taxes we have to. I wonder how much money that would come out to? Think of all the illegal aliens who don't pay taxes...I bet its in the billions and billions.

We have a long way to go in working out this problem. Really, I don't see it working itself even in the next 50-100 years.

Posted by: Leilani at August 21, 2007 9:40 AM

The real answer to the problem is to prevent them from coming here at all, but that's a whole 'nuther discussion.

I imagine that she wanted her son to stay too, since we are the 'land of opportunity' and all. Heaven forbid she take him with her to live in poverty in Mexico. He's probably already misrepresenting his age and working at a taco stand or something anyway.

Seriously though, I think the immigration laws are terrible. There isn't enough punishment for those that break the law and come over here illegally. We allow them many of the same rights as legal citizens. No wonder we have terrorists!

--Mary

Posted by: ProudMary at August 21, 2007 9:44 AM

Not an easy answer.

This happened in our state, too. A meat-packing plant was raided and several illegals were deported, but their children that were born here were left here.

Someone smarter than I am needs to figure this out.

Posted by: sue at August 21, 2007 11:10 AM

It certainly is a complicated issue and I agree we do need to walk the walk if we're going to talk the talk. I did hear on NPR this weekend that it was Elvira's decision what to do with her child and it was she that opted to leave without him.

Posted by: susan at August 21, 2007 12:24 PM

Dear Commenters: Whaaat?! Terrorists? Don't pay taxes? Having babies on purpose? Partying in Mexico? I am sure there are undocumented immigrants doing that, but did you know American-born people do too? Gasp! It's true. In greater numbers than you may realize.

Plenty of illegal aliens do pay taxes and their bills and their medical expenses. Plenty of them have contributed a lot to our community and society. I know people here illegally who are far more respectful, appreciative and responsible than their American-born counterparts. If you don't like Mexicans working here and sending money back to Mexico, write to your bank and tell them to stop marketing free or cheap wire transfers to Latin America to them. Write to any and all businesses you know that employ them. Express your outrage where it might actually count. Corporations are the biggest contributing factor to this "problem" and we support those corporations. Don't like illegals? Don't buy stuff that pays their wages. Don't stay in any hotels where they serve you. Don't eat in restaurants where they cook, bus tables and wash dishes. Don't get your car washed or hire a gardener. It's really OUR responsibility. Money talks, so think before you spend. Are YOU contributing to the problem that you're so outraged by.

Dear Rude Cactus: Right on, man! We don't know the whole story (and never do), but I think your bigger point has gotten overlooked. Immigration reform is such a small part of the larger picture. We say we value family and education and combating hunger, etc, but we really don't do anything to demonstrate that, in general. And, I am guilty of it, too.

August said it well: we are all more spoiled than we realize. And I certainly don't believe change is going to come from the government.

Great post. Very thought-provoking (obviously)!

Posted by: Trix at August 21, 2007 12:45 PM

Great post, Cactus. It certainly makes one think.

Posted by: GreenCanary at August 21, 2007 1:32 PM

Yeah. Just like most people claim to be Christians and yet the whole "whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me" part of it.
A single mother, Mexican, illegal immigrant has got to be the person with pretty much the least amount of power in the whole US AND Mexico and yet the outrage against her and her "crimes" is amazing. Does anyone even remember the 80s S&L brokers who played so fast and loose that the whole country had to pay billions in taxes for their shady deals? No. Cause rich white guys who steal billions walk away while we complain about hard-working single mom aliens who, if they stole all they could from the system couldnt get more than Ken Lay spends on suits.
What has been missing from our country for a long time is a leader.

Posted by: That Girl at August 21, 2007 1:36 PM

I'm genuinely disgusted with most of the first half of your commentors. Do you all KNOW why people had falsified papers and "stole" Social Security Numbers? So they could PAY taxes to fly under the radar. Illegals pay taxes into our broken Social Security system, money into accounts they'll never see. Do you know how the majority of Americans came into this country? Illegally, that's how.

Check out the very shady history of the U.S. government and how it has used Mexicans and other Latin Americans to fill the positions "real" Americans don't want to fill, and decide to enforce border laws when unemployment is down. Wonder why they don't teach that in history class too often? Gee, I wonder.

And to the woman who didn't like the idea that migrant workers spend all winter busting their asses so they can go back home to Mexico to enjoy themselves, I say I hope she never goes on a European vacation or to the Bahamas. Because how COULD she spend her money someplace besides the U.S.! That's so unamerican.

Usually, I am more tolerant of different opinions, really. But you know why it's illegal to discriminate against illegals? Because they are an oppressed class of people that we constantly take advantage of.

But don't worry, folks. NAFTA let a lot of U.S. jobs go across the border, and soon enough, there will be actual opportunities there. We won't have to worry about "those" people anymore, and just wonder what to do about our own employment problems while the few become richer.

Makes you want to move to another country where there are better opportunities, doesn't it?

Posted by: alektra at August 21, 2007 2:44 PM

Her child couldn't go to Mexico with her because he'd be - wait for it - there illegally. She had no choice but to leave him behind. I don't want to soapbox in the comments, so I won't say much more and not to get all Utopia on everyone, but how can we destroy economies and not expect to gain some of those economies' burdens?

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at August 21, 2007 3:32 PM

This is why I so rarely leave comments....because they are taken and twisted,and twisted. Mostly because, I imagine, things are misunderstood, not because someone is intentionally twisting things..I hope. And that is why I will not reply here to others comments, because I am probably not reading others comments and understanding the exact intent of those writers either...

Posted by: Leilani at August 21, 2007 4:34 PM

I couldn't agree more, Chris. This story took my breath away. I couldn't even imagine.

Posted by: Peggy at August 21, 2007 5:12 PM

The whole idea of leaving a child behind, for whatever reason and no matter the level of care he may get from friends and family just totally couds my judgement regardless of the facts. It makes my heart hurt.

Posted by: SleepyNita at August 21, 2007 7:18 PM

Forgive me if I'm repeating myself, but...

While I don't have a solution to the immigration issue, I have difficulty seeing this woman as any sort of spokesperson for immigration rights. After holing herself up in a church for a year (generating quite a bit of publicity that way), she leaves it and makes a PUBLIC APPEARANCE where she is certain to get nabbed by INS, and therefore deported. Which is all fine and dandy if she didn't have a son to care for. Leaving the church secretly and moving somewhere with her son would be very understandable, but leaving publicly and ensuring that she would not be able to raise her son? Selfish.

BUT, that said, there is something wrong with our immigration policy. Not that I think that allowing all single mothers to stay is the answer, but this story does highlight some of the unintended victims in this case.

Posted by: Angela at August 21, 2007 7:34 PM

You know what Rude, I don't have the answers either but kudos to you for not finger pointing. I agree with you on all counts.

Ozzfest should have been much more fun.

Cheers,
JJ

Posted by: JJ at August 21, 2007 7:50 PM

Our little one was made in the US.. surely that gives us some rights :)

Posted by: Nadine at August 22, 2007 6:44 AM

I don't know where my head is when people start the immigration debate. I see facets of the issue on all sides. But I loved your post, and how it pointed out the hypocrisy that goes on every day... and I definitely agree with you, that separating a single mom and her son is NOT the answer.

And I skimmed the comments because I have a feeling my tummy would go bung.

Posted by: aimee/greeblemonkey at August 22, 2007 4:52 PM

Very thought provoking post! We are so quick to stand on our soap boxes in this country and use our free speech to support or show dissention for a cause, and yet actions rarely follow. Seems that we all need to think a little harder about what we do and not just voice our opinions for the sake of simply taking a side.

Posted by: Tara at August 22, 2007 11:06 PM

Great Post Chris. Obviously this topic is very loaded with controversy and emotions. But I completely agree with your point...Which I think was intended to be much deeper then our country's immigration problems themselves. Our Values need to be re-evaluated and followed up if we are going to stand around and beat our chests about how we support them.

You're right many people say they support the schools, our children, crime issues and so one but then do absolutely nothing to backup that claim. It's almost as if many, myself included at times, think a magical force will handle it all for us. We don't have to worry because..."someone else" will worry about... "someone else" will fix it. We're all so busy in our daily lives that we tend to forget that "WE" need to worry and "WE" need to fix it. Otherwise it'll just sit there collecting dust until "WE" as a group decide to act on our claims.

Posted by: Tammy at August 24, 2007 8:39 AM


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