Let's chat about those "illegal aliens" or "undocumented workers" who are busily cutting lawns, processing chickens, weaving carpets, opening more Mexican restaurants in Georgia than there are taquerias in Mexico, and, yes, putting good, hard-working American drug dealers out of their jobs corrupting youth.
One of the first conundrums is what to call them. Since we can't decide on that, why do we think we can devise a strategy for either throwing out the welcome mat or throwing out the immigrants? "Undocumented worker" implies a hard-laboring soul who merely has a bureaucratic paper-shuffling problem. "Illegal alien" asserts a criminality that in most cases is drastically exaggerated, not to mention it fosters the often-inaccurate allusion to outlaw One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eaters from Planet X.
So let's just dub these people who litter our landscape "ramaramadingdongs." Walk up to someone and say, "illegal alien" or "undocumented worker," and it's a 50-50 chance you'll get slugged. But if you announce, "let's talk about the influx of ramaramadingdongs," you'll surely get a smile.
What's the worst "fact" we know about ramaramadingdongs? Sit down, take a breath before reading on. On top of everything else, the ramaramadingdongs are bringing leprosy to our fair America.
That's right. Leprosy. As in the biblical disease. The noses-and-ears-falling-off scourge. About 7,000 cases broke out in this nation over three years, a plague propelled by ramaramadingdongs.
I swear it's true, according to an irrefutable font of wisdom. None other than CNN's obersturmfuhrer for ramaramadingdong eradication, Lou Dobbs, and one of his correspondents, Christine Roman, told us so.
Roman reported two years ago: "[T]here were about 900 cases of leprosy [in the United States] for 40 years," and, "There have been 7,000 in the past three years." Dobbs contended the soaring epidemic of leprosy was due to "unscreened" ramaramadingdongs.
Three weeks ago, when challenged by CBS' Lesley Stahl on the numbers, Dobbs retorted: "If we reported it, it's a fact." I wish I could get away with that.
Dobbs' claims provoked a counterattack from Richard Cohen, who runs the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center. That outfit, among other things, defends ramaramadingdongs against racist attacks, both physical and legal. Cohen, in a letter to CNN, pointed out that the Roman-Dobbs source was a "doctor" whose degree is in English, not medicine, and who previously had claimed "most" Latino men "molest girls under 12, although some specialize in boys, some in nuns."
Cohen also noted that the number of leprosy cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control, peaked in 1985 at 361 a year, and has declined ever since.
I have a question for you: How do Dobbs' leprosy accusations factor into the current bill pending in the U.S. Senate that, in 1,000 or so pages, tries to, um, simplify the debate over ramaramadingdongs?
The answer is simple. The nation is falling apart – war, huge disparities in wealth not seen since the Depression, good jobs being shipped overseas, mass corruption in both the public and private sectors, religious fanaticism – so we need a damn good scapegoat. African-Americans can no longer shoulder that responsibility all by themselves.
No dispute: The problem of ramaramadingdongs is real. Also no dispute: The pending legislation couldn't be more bone-headed if monkeys on LSD had drafted it (maybe they did?).
No, the somewhere between 12 million and 20 million ramaramadingdongs are not going to send their family heads back to wherever (mainly Mexico) so they can then apply for citizenship. No, these mostly poor people aren't going to pony up $5,000 each to pay a fine. No, nothing in the bill will really deter future tsunamis of ramaramadingdongs. After all, this is just the latest "amnesty" that is supposed to end the migrations; why do we think this one will work when the others haven't?
The Republicans are split between the corporate wing, which wants cheap foreign labor because such workers also keep all American wages low; and the racist/nativist/xenophobic/religious-nutcase wing, which merely likes to hate. Democrats envision a gargantuan new pool of voters – and forget about those of us already here.
A pox (or leprosy) on both parties.
The truth is – and the challenge is to avoid slipping into Dobbs' racist pandering – that Mexico, which encourages ramaramadingdongs, is more a threat to our national security than Saddam Hussein ever was. Americans are tired of porous borders. They believe Mexico wants to conquer – culturally and economically, and maybe politically – much of the Southwest and even states such as Georgia.
I don't often quote the neo-con Heritage Foundation. But last week it issued a report, "The Fiscal Cost of Low-Income Immigrants to the U.S. Taxpayer," that will, that should, make America angry. The study's research counted about 16 million low-income immigrants, 40 percent (6.4 million) of whom are ramaramadingdongs.
The authors, Robert Rector and Christine Kim, show that the average low-income immigrant family annually pays $10,573 in taxes – but receives public benefits totaling $30,160. For all such families, that's an awesome bill paid by the rest of us – about $90 billion a year, or about $300 for each and every non-ramaramadingdong resident of the United States.
Those numbers do a lot to defeat claims of ramaramadingdong advocates, such as Teodoro Maus, who wrote in the AJC last week that "65 percent of undocumented immigrants pay taxes." Well, maybe, but do they pay their freight in terms of taxes paid versus benefits received? Rector and Kim say not by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.
There are other numbers worth considering: Hate crimes against Latinos rose 23 percent between 2003 and 2005. As I said, ramaramadingdongs are the new scapegoats, and in terms of vitriol spewed at them by folks such as Lou Dobbs, the world hasn't seen anything like this since, say, Germany circa 1929, a badly factionalized nation where civic dialogue had disintegrated and all that remained was hatred.
I don't think America will tolerate 20 million ramaramadingdongs, with millions more swamping our borders each year. That has to end. But we need sensible solutions and rational dialogue, not Frankenstein legislation such as the current bill. Nor do we need the raw, delusional prejudice of Lou Dobbs.
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