We’ve got to try something new and different, even if it takes awhile. The results are bound to be more effective and less costly than what we’ve been doing for the past three decades.
That’s what author/journalist Sonia Nazario told an audience at Mott Community College in Flint on Tuesday.
“Immigration is a wedge issue. It’s not meant to be resolved. It’s meant to be used by either side politically to motivate their bases. No one wants to resolve this issue,” said Nazario, who won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her best-selling book Enrique’s Journey, her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S.
“Concertina wire is not going to work on people who are running for their lives. Walls don’t work — ask the Chinese. They built the biggest wall in history, and it didn’t keep the Mongols out,” argued Nazario. “The guest worker program hasn’t worked. The legalization system we have, including those with temporary visas who overstay, is broken. While asylum seekers are awaiting a decision from immigration authorities, put an ankle monitor on them. If they don’t win their claims, deport them after one or two years. But rounding up and deporting people who have lived here for 20 years? No!”
Nazario contended that “If we took in all the kids from Central America who come to this country alone each year, it wouldn’t even fill up one of the football stadiums at all these colleges I speak at. Let’s not freak out about this, people. As a nation, we can afford that amount of compassion. 100,000 a year is not an unmanageable number. 1.6 million is. We can’t take in everyone in the world, and we need to be a nation of laws. I’ve lived in a country with no laws, Argentina, and we don’t want that. Democrats need to come up with a plan that includes a sensible, practical rule of law, and Republicans need a plan that includes a heart.”
“What we need is a real strategy in Central America. Foreign aid — a Marshall Plan, if you will — to help those governments down there to reduce corruption and violence at its source. Spending money in Honduras and El Salvador would be a lot cheaper than what we’re doing now,” she contended.
The MCC event was the latest in Michigan’s longest-running prestige lecture program, the Ballenger Eminent Persons Lecture Series, now in its 65th year. The Ballenger series has included national and international leaders such as scientists Werner von Braun and Jared Diamond, journalists Alistair Cooke and Peter Jennings, writers Alex Haley and William F. Buckley, musicians Harry Belafonte and Patti Smith, film director Spike Lee, actor Tony Shaloub, entrepreneur Daymond John, and political leaders Lech Walesa and Sir Harold Wilson, to name only a few.
Besides her Pulitzer, Nazario has won the George Polk Award for International Reporting, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and an award for “Overall Excellence” from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She began her career at The Wall Street Journal, where she was the youngest female reporter ever hired by the newspaper, and later segued to The Los Angeles Times, where she has been a journalist for more than two decades. She also writes opinion pieces for The New York Times. She has become a favorite among educators for her coverage of social justice issues such as hunger and drug addiction as well as immigration.
“There are not many opinion pieces like the ones I write,” Nazario told the MCC crowd. “Mine are heavily researched. I don’t start with a premise. My opinion is formed by what my research yields.”
Nazario is on the board of Kids in Need of Defense, a nonprofit launched by Microsoft and actress Angelina Jolie to provide pro-bono attorneys to unaccompanied immigrant children.
“I’m helping a non-profit that works with the American Bar Association in eight cities to recruit top attorneys from the biggest, most prestigious law firms,” Nazario noted. “We have recruited 40,000 lawyers to take one case apiece for free. These are gold-plated law firms that can spend money, and do, on investigators to help them win their cases, which they do at a rate of about 97%. I used to hate lawyers, but now I don’t anymore. And we need to take immigration courts away from the Justice Department, which has become terribly politicized.”
“Some of the fear and loathing of immigrants by the native population in this country is irrational, yes, but some of it is rational,” Nazario added. “There are winners and losers, and there is some work that gringos are willing to do, but the immigrants will work for a third less and they are getting those jobs. We got a great deal in this country for a long time when the immigrants coming were men, but now we’re getting all the women and children and everybody’s hair is on fire. You have to be honest with people about the pluses and minuses of the situation, and then they’ll be willing to listen to the other side of the story.”
Nazario, who grew up in Argentina and Kansas, is a graduate of Williams College. She also has a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of California. She has been awarded two honorary doctorates by Mount St. Mary’s College and Whittier College.
James Conroy says
Yay! Bill this is the best piece I have read in a while. Thanks for publishing it, and for sponsoring her as part of the Ballenger Eminent Persons Lecture Series.
A fine piece, Bill. Thanks. Now for the details which are always the hardest.
Eric Petersen says
If she really thinks “Immigration is a wedge issue. It’s not meant to be resolved. It’s meant to be used by either side politically to motivate their bases. No one wants to resolve this issue,” she obviously hasn’t been paying close enough attention to Donald Trump.
And if she really thinks that concertina wire and walls don’t work then she needs to have a conversation with the border patrol agents who can SEE them working !
This woman needs a lot more than a cursory knowledge of the illegal alien invasion of our country.
I think she is NUTS !
Ed Haynor says
Eric the Red baiter is quite over the top. If anyone is NUTS, it isn’t Ms. Nazario.
William S. Bishop says
Very nice piece, Bill, and thanks for sending……finally, a voice of reason speaks to an easily solvable problem.
Damon Lieurance says
“Leave them alone, give them a break, give them some money and let them stay” is nothing new. Start deporting them. Stop catch and release. Secure the border. Now THOSE ideas are something we should try. Amnesty hasn’t worked before and won’t work now!
Margaret Currie says
Of course this is a political problem and made so by our politicians and the citizens of the U. S. We, the citizens, keep letting the politicians go on and on with their rantings and do not hold them accountable and insist that they sit down with a mediator and work this out ASAP. No campaigning, no vacations, no perks for Congress until what is morally correct for all is decided and implemented.
I agree that we monetarily help the Central American countries rid themselves of their corruption and abuse of their citizens. We have people here who are intelligent enough to work out a plan of action that would keep those from fleeing in their homes, OUT WITH POLITICS.
Personally, I am in favor of closing our borders to everyone, except genuine tourists. I also favor the ceasing of naturalizing anymore people who want to become U. S. citizens UNTIL we make sure that our country, which has worked so diligently to remain free and not be overthrown by insiders, will not taken over by those who want to destroy us.
Lynne Hurand says
Seems to me most people would prefer to live in their homes, with their families and friends, in their communities with their common language, customs and history. We ought to expend on efforts on making living conditions in Central America safe and economically viable so women & children wouldn’t have to flee.
Furthermore Flint’s populatiion is half the size it used to be with an abundance of empty homes, empty schools, unfilled entry level jobs. Maybe we should open doors for some of these folks
Stephanie Whitbeck says
Eye roll. Bring Sonia Nazario back for a debate with Victor Davis Hanson or Dinesh D’Souza or Michelle Malkin and at least have a debate between Left and Right to compare the viewpoints and the facts on illegal immigration. Just because she asserts that she might be an unbiased voice singing a different song does not make it so.
Nazario starts out by saying that her different solution to the problem of our porous southern border is throwing money at Central American countries. But, foreign aid is nothing new, different or successful. Although the entrance is at our south, this does not mean that those coming are only from Central America: many sneak in and we have no certain clue of their origin and many who enter through check points are undocumented and unverifiable. Information from current and former border control officials indicate that the humanity poring in come from as many as 150 countries
including Asia and the Middle East. It’s the ability to enter that draws those who wish to enter illegally to our southern border not just the location of their homeland.
Estimates of illegal immigration soar between 11 million and 20 million. We need to know, not guess. With the census approaching, the only way to actually try to know is by including one or more questions on citizenship and/or status. Organizing pro bono lawyers to help those who entered illegally does not help define or solve the matter from the perspective of what the country needs or doesn’t need, it facilitates it’s growth.
Her assertion that her research does not begin with a premise ignores her associations and what she says. Looking to academia, Hollywood and the ABA is looking to the Left for answers, not to both the Left and Right. Wanting to take immigration courts away from the Justice Department ignores the American system of government and is an assault against multiple aspects of our Constitution including the three branches of government and the rule of law and how our system deals with legal issues including immigration. Her work arranging for lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to assist those who illegally cross our border more than likely puts her hearts desire in line with the Left who also want to eliminate ICE and border control personnel. While they never fully tell us exactly how they would reconstitute the work concerning illegal immigration, the things they say make it sound like they would prefer to create something like the nice ladies of the Welcome Wagon.
While it is important to have a heart when dealing with people who wish to come here, it is also essential to have a head to consider the needs of a nation, it’s citizens, laws, culture and resources. Whoever can put all of that together has a tough task to handle. Let’s have a real debate which involves two sides, not just one.