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Immigrants and American Values

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An increasing number of newspaper articles are reflecting that Latino immigrants nationwide are suffering from the U.S. economic downturn. For example, an article in Tuesday’s New York Times entitled “A Tenuous Prosperity Lost” stated,

“The economic downturn unfolding across the United States is imposing a particularly punishing toll on Hispanics, a group that was among the primary beneficiaries of the expansion in recent years. What had been a story of broad and steady advances has given way to growing joblessness, diminishing paychecks and lost homes.”

“The boom in American housing generated millions of new jobs for those willing to engage in physically demanding tasks, from factory work churning out floorboards, carpeting and upholstery, to landscaping, roofing and janitorial services, Latinos occupied widening swaths of these trades and filled large numbers of relatively high-paying construction jobs.”

The article states that one of the effects of this phenomenon has been a sharp reduction in the amount of money sent home to family members in Latin America.

The downturn has affected both legal and illegal immigrants. For example, Jose Serrano, an illegal immigrant in Atlanta, used to send most of the money he made at $10 per hour to his wife and children in Mexico. Since last November, he has failed to find steady work, which has prevented him from sending any money to his family. Lately, he has been borrowing money from friends to pay his rent. Serrano said, “Your dreams have disappeared. Your family is counting on you for basic necessities. You feel defeated.”

The article states that other immigrants have decided to simply return home.

Meanwhile, the same issue of the Times reported that federal agents had raided a meat plant in Iowa, arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants, thereby ensuring that no more money is sent to the families of those people.

Wait a minute! What’s going on here? How can this actually be happening? Illegal immigrants losing income in an economic downturn and even returning home? Illegal immigrants being arrested actually working in a private business?

How is this possible? Hasn’t the anti-immigrant crowd told us for years that illegal immigrants come to America just to get on welfare? Hasn’t that been their principal argument for “cracking down” on the illegals?

Well, if the illegals came here just to get on welfare, then why in the world would an economic downturn adversely affect them? In an economic downturn, welfare payments don’t stop. So, why are illegal immigrants returning home to Latin America in the face of the economic downturn? Wouldn’t they instead be rushing to the local welfare office to pick up their welfare checks?

And how come federal gendarmes are raiding private businesses and finding hundreds of illegals to arrest? Shouldn’t they instead be raiding local welfare offices across the nation, where multitudes of illegal immigrants are supposedly lining up to collect their welfare? At the risk of belaboring the obvious, a meat-packing plant is a very unlikely place to be signing up for welfare. Isn’t it a place where people are more likely to be lining up to work?

The fact is that the “they’re coming to America to get on welfare” claim by the anti-immigrant crowd has been a sham the entire time. Immigrants, especially illegal ones, are among the hardest-working people one will ever find. They risk their lives and their fortunes in the hope of bettering their lives financially, mostly to send back to their spouse and children. They are the epitome of not only a strong work ethic but also strong family values, qualities that our American ancestors held dear.

The problem is that unlike our American ancestors, modern-day Americans do love welfare, a phenomenon manifested by their adoption and embrace of the socialistic welfare state. Whether the situation involves retirement, health care, education, food, or whatever, Americans love the fact that the state is there to help out — help with the money that the state has taken from other people, including immigrants, by force.

Since modern-day Americans love welfare, they find it impossible to believe that other people have a deeply seated devotion to a strong work ethic and actually believe in helping out their families on their own, without using the state to plunder the wealth and savings of others.

That’s in fact why so many U.S. officials, including those who teach in the public (i.e., government) schools, denigrate our American ancestors for rejecting such welfare-state schemes as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, food stamps, business subsidies, etc.

Thus, it’s not surprising that American anti-immigrants project their love of welfare onto Latino illegal immigrants. While anti-immigrants can easily understand why a person would risk his life and resources and leave his family for welfare, it is incomprehensible to them that anyone would actually risk his life and resources for the sake of bettering his life through labor, especially to support his family.

It only goes to show how far modern-day Americans, who have come to depend on the state for their sustenance, have strayed from the political and economic philosophy of economic liberty and from the moral values of voluntary charity and family values that guided our American ancestors.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.