Sandy Nathan Sandy Nathan, award winning author of Numenon & Stepping Off the EdgeSomeone sent me the following bit of wisdom:


This is TOO good! In 2007, millions of our older Americans had not signed up their Medicare, Part D, drug programs within the time allotted. They are old and confused.


However, the 12 million illegal aliens in our country were allowed to stay, protest, procreate, receive support monies, attend schools, and avoid paying income taxes. Our teachers were required to take as many as 300 hours of English as a second language and training at our expense, etc.



Let us see how the government will handle the program for our senior citizens in 2008.

If it ticks you off, pass it on!! OH! Don’t forget to pay your taxes. 12 million illegal aliens are depending on you!

Oh, this ticks me off all right, but not for the reasons whoever wrote that email had in mind.

Yeah, Medicare is a mess. The donut drug plan is stupid. My husband had to work for months trying to get his drug program and our daughter’s rationalized in the face of that deadline. (They get Medicare because he’s old and our daughter has a disability.) He’s a very smart guy with lots of education. He toiled away, calling different “service providers” trying to get help understanding what the program was and we should do.

After watching him working for days, I said, “Can you imagine doing this if you were really old, or like your dad?” (My father-in-law suffered from dementia during his last few years.) It would be impossible.

So, yes, the current Medicare plan needs help. We aren’t taking care of our old people––which includes my husband and daughter and will soon include me.

How this relates to illegal immigration, only the writer of that email knows. The immigration situation is a little trickier than the common knee-jerk reaction would paint it.

As a native Californian, I’ve known illegal immigrants most of my life. Most of them were invisible faces working around me. I’ve known some who have been in the United States for more than thirty years. They are hard-working people who came to this country for the same reason all of our ancestors did: In hopes of a better life.

They do not come here to avoid taxes. Illegals don’t pay taxes because they CAN’T pay taxes. They’d love to pay taxes, but aren’t allowed to by our government because they aren’t citizens. (Which is one thing the ranters forget. Why don’t we admit them to the country legally in some way, and TAX them?) The illegal immigrants I know work harder and longer than most US citizens. They have no benefits, no insurance, no union protection, and no legal recourse if they’re harmed. Yet they’re labeled lazy bums by those who see through prejudiced eyes.

Racism runs rampant through the arguments against illegal immigrants. Do you think these people would be hated so much if they looked like Swedes? Would they be accused of “procreating,” rather than having kids like the rest of us?

The illegal immigrants I know do jobs that no American citizen will do. Shoveling manure, for one. Bathing horses, trimming hooves. Training and handling dangerous animals. Go to any fancy horse show and watch the millionaires with their prize bloodstock and (most likely) illegal barn help. That’s an eye opener about social class in America.

Illegal immigrants do our yard work and slave away in the heat or cold tending crops. They give us affordable landscaping and allow us to put our names on the prized wines we grow in our vineyards. Their women clean houses and the men work for building contractors doing the dirty work. Illegal aliens work in restaurants. And they do all of this for substandard wages and no benefits.

Why? Because they can’t get them in the current system. I know someone who attempted to get health insurance for an illegal employee who had a wife and two kids and a very dangerous job. His insurance agent finally told him, “You’d better give this up. You can really get in trouble.” So he gave up.

Now a family man who deserves to be an American citizen works without medical coverage. (By the way, his wife works, too.)

Illegal immigrants live “together” in crowded conditions because they’re paid so little they can’t afford decent housing. My husband became involved with one case where the children were sick all the time and neither the family’s appliances nor furnace worked. He called in the County Housing Authority.

The official who visited the house said he’d never seen anything like it. Kids living on moldy filthy carpet, not because their mother was negligent, but the because the carpet was beyond help. It was a good thing the furnace wasn’t working: It was dangerous. The slum owner didn’t care about the family or his property. He does now. Providing substandard housing is illegal.

But being a slumlord can be very profitable––pack ’em in and make a bundle. If they complain, tell them you’ll call immigration. Why do the people who criticize immigrants’ living arrangements fail to notice the unethical landlords who own it?

Those of you who send emails like the one I received, please do some actual reading about the issue before passing on your prejudices. Read TC Boyle’s award-winning book, The Tortilla Curtain. You can get it on Amazon or anywhere. Use the link above. This book gives a far more complicated and realistic picture of the illegal immigration problem than what is being bandied about. It’s a good read. I live in Southern California and can vouch for the accuracy of what Boyle portrays, from yuppies to real estate speculators to environmental activists to illegal immigrants.

The knee-jerk segments of our society seem to be believe that illegal aliens come to the US expecting to be bountifully fed, clothed, and educated by our society. Or by them, personally. Those holding this view imagine aliens swarming in and signing up for welfare at the border. The imagery brings to mind an invasion of insects or vermin.

This is not good thinking. In my national award winning book, Stepping Off the Edge, I spend several chapters discussing evil and how to deal with evil. Many of us have been hurt by racism and discrimination. Some of us have been abused. The question always arises: Why did they do it? What creates evil? How is it perpetuated?

The easiest answer is: The sense of Us vs. Them is behind every act of racism or evil. They are different than us. We are good, they are bad. If they are bad, then we can do whatever we want to them. That is the root of evil.

Fergus Bordewich wrote a great book a few years back, Killing the White Man’s Indian. This brilliantly researched book quotes the early settlers telling what they thought about Indians. He goes back to source documents to get it in their own words. The settlers thought, and said, that the Indians were the lowest life form, subhuman. As such, wiping them out and taking what they had––the country––was doing the world a service.

“I am good, they are bad.” This is no different from the tribal mentality that fosters genocide and ethnic massacres we see all over the world. Now, in Africa and Asia.

I’m good and you’re bad. I live and raise a family; you procreate and suck off of society. These words and thoughts could create a massacre.

What if we woke up one day, and they were all gone? To get an idea of what California would be like if every person of Latin descent disappeared, check out A Day without a Mexican, Sergio Arau’s very thought provoking film. In Arau’s film, one third of the California population, all the Latinos, disappear. Folks learn what it’s like to shovel their own manure (or their horse’s), wait tables, clean toilets and mow their own lawns. The film depicts the economic, political and social implications of this disaster which threaten California’s way of life.

Some Latinos are here legally, by the way. I’ve met people all over the southwest whose families have been in the USA longer than mine has. And some immigrants are here at the invitation of our government.

A woman I knew came here from her native Guatemala, granted political asylum by the US government. Her brother was killed in her home country. Her family’s lives were in danger there. She worked every moment, with three kids. never asking for a handout. When she told me what some of my good white neighbors said to her, I was ashamed of my own kind. They assumed she was on welfare and here illegally and said rude and cruel things to her, knowing nothing about what really happened. These were the nice people who are so kind to me at parties. Show them a brown face, and they’re ready to kill.

The fuss that some people make about educating the immigrant’s children really frosts me. Many of the immigrants’ kids are US citizens; they were born here, just like you and me. Shouldn’t they be educated? Do we want an uneducated populace?

I’m sick of racism and hatred. Let’s look at reality, not our prejudices. Just as our old people deserve a better deal, so do our immigrants, illegal or not. Our old folks at least can vote and have basic rights. Illegals have NO representation and no rights.

We need to create a realistic plan for dealing with immigration, not to slam people who occupy the lowest rungs of society. But then we’ve always done that, haven’t we?

The group forming the lowest levels of society changes over time––the American Indians were the first to feel the brunt of racism on this continent. They were slaughtered in the “settlement” of the west. African slaves and their descendants were reviled, denied rights and killed, as were the waves of European immigrants––white people who ended up being called Kikes and Micks and Spicks and Wops and herded into ghettos.

And now Hispanic immigrants are on the bottom rung, reaping the hatred of the majority culture. Doesn’t make me feel too good about our species.

Here’s my gift to those with concerns about this issue:

A person can develop a great deal of compassion by using one of these. It makes you grateful that you have help around the barn. And you get very clear as to which side of the “apple picker” you’d rather be on.

Let’s handle the illegal immigration problem with a bit of intelligence, acknowledging that the immigrants give to our society, as well as take. Create some kind of amnesty so we can tax them. We need to quit bitching and start using our heads––and hearts.

Sandy Nathan

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