Illegal immigration an issue in unlikely places

So you think it’s only the border areas that have to worry about illegal aliens, right? Guess again.

While places like California, Texas, and Florida have been watching (or not) who goes in for years, some of the interior states are now getting a little nervous. Including North and South Carolina.

Not long ago I saw an article on the influx of Latinos in Iowa, of all places. Iowa? Good ol’ white-bread Iowa, breadbasket to the nation?

And in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Residents are wondering where all those Latinos are coming from.

Mind you, Latinos and illegal aliens are two different things. Certainly a vast majority of the Latin Americans in the United States are here legally. And not all illegal aliens hail from places where they speak Spanish. Some years ago, I met an ex-girlfriend’s uncle who had quite a story. When he was a young man he fell for a woman from the United States and followed here from his native Canada – without bothering to go through all the immigration hoops of the day. Technically, he was an illegal alien – that is, until he married her, legitimizing his residence in the States and winning a good woman in the bargain. A great story, and a good thing. What do Canadians call La Migra anyway?

But let’s get to Hendersonville. A town of slightly more than 10,000 souls, up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a duck snort down the road from Asheville. God’s country. Also, apple country. Comes time to pick these apples, who do you call? Someone who will do it for low wages, and he may or may not have his papers on him.

I lived in Hendersonville a few years ago, and was stunned at the number of Latinos in town. And the good folks there are mostly hill people, where even someone from California is considered highly suspect, probably dangerous, and slightly exotic. And Hendersonville’s Latino population had jumped about tenfold over the preceding decade. You couldn’t go into WalMart without running into a group of imported apple pickers on a shopping trip. Definitely a little too much for the folks there; you could hear them mumbling something about there goes the neighborhood.

Here in Charleston County, I’ve seen previously all-black neighborhoods going Latino during the past five years. Get right down to it, illegal aliens built the Arthur Ravenel Bridge linking Charleston to Mount Pleasant. The bridge was completed a year ahead of schedule and under budget. Hiring a bunch of guys who will work their asses off for little bit of nothing will do that. So what if the foreman had to be bilingual?

South Carolina State Senator Glenn Mcconnell, a good and true Southerner, is calling for provisions allowing each state to set its own rules in dealing with illegal immigration, effectively nullifying federal laws in the process.

Which, by the way, is a good idea. The situation is not the same in South Carolina as it is in, say, California. The situation is different, so the rules should also be different. Plus, in a group of 50 states, it is mathematically possible that there may be an enlightened government among them. Not too likely, but it is possible. However, any traces of such enlightenment will totally disappear when you’re talking about a group of 50 entities under one-size-fits-all laws. Just naturally, these laws will be designed to fit the worst case, the lowest common denominator.

But as I read about McConnell’s pitch, I kept hearing spinning noises from John C. Calhoun’s grave. Calhoun, if you remember your history, pitched a similar nullification idea in the 1820s and was vilified for it – that’s where the seeds were sown for the War Between The States.

(But then, Calhoun wasn’t exactly being original here. Another early proponent of nullification in some form or other was Thomas Jefferson. But while Jefferson’s profile adorns our five-cent piece, all Calhoun gets is a statue in Charleston’s Marion Square, with a million pigeons bombarding his head.)

As far as illegal immigration, there are no easy answers. The same folks who bitch the loudest about all these illegals coming in, taking jobs, and draining tax coffers are the ones who like their cheap Hendersonville apples, the inexpensive California lettuce, and cheap tomatoes from John’s Island. And cheap bridge construction costs. Face it. As long as there’s someone around to outbid the native-born workers, we will continue to see this accelerate, law or no law.
Suppose we magically deported all of the illegal aliens and made our borders lock-tight. This would put a lot of builders and growers in the lurch because no self-respecting American would pour concrete or pick apples at those same wages. And to make up the difference on paying the help, you’ll see some brand-new prices in the produce bin of your neighborhood grocery store.

America’s policy toward illegal immigration is a classic example of talking out of both sides of one’s mouth. Fix the problem as long as their financial self-interest is not compromised.

It’s not going to happen. Not anytime soon, anyway.

Author: Eric Pulsifer

Eric Pulsifer is a veteran wordsmith with experience as a journalist, editor, musician, and freelance writer.

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