The Immigrant’s Path

If Thoreau was right and the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, it is the “quiet” part I find objectionable. Quiet desperation accepts its lot; noisy desperation wants something else. Quite desperation worries that things will get still worse; noisy desperation worries things won’t improve. Immigrants by temperament are of the noisy desperation variety–unable or unwilling to sit still while economies, governments and cultures sort themselves out. They are risk takers, people willing to bet they can do something to improve their situation, even when the risks are great. They do so not because they are desperate–many people are desperate and do nothing–but because they are courageous.

My favorite instance of historical immigrant courage is that exhibited by the early saints as they were driven from place to place. It gives me pleasure to think of my ancestors, still proximate in time, braving privation in search of their promised land. Occasionally when thinking of people trudging through the wilderness, I picture in my mind’s eye darker complected saints making their own journey through the desert. Each Sunday I worship with people who know something of what it means to gather their meager possessions and move to an unknown, potentially hostile environment and begin the difficult process of hewing a place for their families. Hearing about their experiences gives me a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices of my forbearers. In their quiet determination to do well I see echoes of saints from another time. In testimony meeting I learn that, just as the saints believed divine providence led them to Utah, many believe God brought them to the U.S.–their immigration narratives of forsaking family and friends paralleling conversion narratives delivered alongside them.

My obvious sympathy for immigrants is partially self-interested. I married an immigrant. So did two of my siblings. But for immigration my daughter wouldn’t exist. Neither would four of my nieces and nephews. But the bulk of my sympathy is due to the fact that I see in the act of immigration an affirmation of hope in the face of difficulty. An immigrant seeks to improve his or her lot in life and is willing to exchange the familiar for the foreign just for the chance to do so.

A few days ago my friend told me she prays every night that the immigration bill before Congress passes and is signed into law. We discussed some of the bills problems and what the bill would require of her before she could obtain citizenship. None of the obstacles seemed to bother her; she was interested only that she would have a chance. That seems a very immigrant way of thinking.

Comments

  1. Bring on the noise.

  2. There is compelling evidence in the BOM that Immigrants are led to the US by the hand of God. See 1 Nephi 13-15 for further reading. My gut tells me that SLC thinks so to.

    I am curious how this will play out on BCC…..

  3. I think the immigration bill is imperfect, but much better than the current system. And, it turns out, a solid majority of US citizens agrees. I’m particularly heartened to learn that the would-be fence-builders are a fringe minority; survey data shows that only about 15% of Americans support fences, walls, etc., as a major means for controlling the border.

    Immigration has been one of the reasons the US doesn’t have the problematic age structures of Western Europe, where retirees threaten to outnumber people actually in the workforce. So that’s a good thing. And, hey, we’re mostly immigrants, anyway…

  4. http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/index.cfm/fuseaction/viewItem/itemID/13438

    JNS,

    I have seen multiple polls showing majority support for a border fence. See above

  5. bbell, two points. First, that poll is older. Second, building a fence is one thing; making that the centerpiece of the immigration debate is another. Today’s poll, linked in my comment, shows clear majoritarian rejection of making fence-building a centerpiece of our policy.

  6. “Lies, damned lies and statistics.” Poll questions, especially, are so easily manipulated as to be almost useless in many cases.

    Off of that and to share something that is truly profound to me:

    My wife’s 5th-great-grandfather was the first native Italian convert to join the Church in Italy, baptized by Lorenzo Snow’s companion. I share this only to share the power of his immigrant story.

    His ancestors had been religious dissenters for hundreds of years. They had been killed and driven from their homes by the Catholic Church numerous times, and each time they waited until their ancestral valley was unoccupied and quietly “moved back home”. Due to this intense persecution, their writings are full of sacred oaths to never leave that valley and settle permanently somewhere else.

    When this particular man joined the Church, he had no idea he would not die in that valley. When the call was made to join the Saints in America, he packed his belongings without a word of complaint, said good-bye to his extended family and left his sacred valley for good – simply because a man whom he had never met but whom he believed to be a prophet of God asked him to do so. (“For the Strength of the Hills” was written not only about the Rocky Mountains but also about the hills surrounding his ancestral home – a hope that the hills within which the Saints settled would be for them what the Italian hills had been for his ancestors.)

    I stand in awe of that type of faith and dedication – and I wonder some times what he would think of some of the conversations we have in the relative security of our modern lives. I try hard to keep that in mind as I communicate, but I’m not always successful.

  7. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/just_26_favor_senate_immigration_plan

    Rassmussen is pretty clear on these issues and recent and non partisan unlike the NY Times

  8. Yeah, but your wife’s 5th-great-grandfather probably spoke perfect English when he arrived and promptly forgot he’d ever lived anywhere else than wherever it was he ended up.

    What we’re talking about here are all those folks who look and talk funny. What’s up with that?

  9. Veritas says:

    I heart chino blanco :):)

  10. John Williams says:

    I feel that we should support open borders in the United States. Letting as many people come here as would like makes the labor market more efficient and improves the quality of life of everyone who lives here.

    I also don’t think there is anything sacred about the English language. People should be able to speak whatever language they want.

  11. Mondo Cool says:

    I just find it hard to accept that those Mormon pioneers were so noble. After all, couldn’t it be argued that they were escaping poor working conditions and headed for free schools, free healthcare, and a lot of other societal perks?
    I think thats the crux of the debate. One side focuses on what dire conditions emigrants are leaving; the other side focuses on the benefits the immigrants are accessing.

  12. It funny to bring this up. I am an immigrant, my family and I immigrated to Utah back in the early eighties. And it’s funny because I found Utah then and especially now to be very hostile to Immigrants. How quickly one forgets being a stranger in a strange land.

    I don’t think the bill has a snowball’s chance of passing congress. I might be wrong, but I just don’t see it passing.

  13. John Williams says:

    Mondo Cool, I also wonder how “noble” the Mormon pioneers were.

    After one exasperating day dealing with the unruly riff-raff at the Salt Lake airport, my dad complained (only somewhat tongue-in-cheek) about how these people were the descendants of the bottom of society of 19th century Britain where all they had to do to get a free piece of land was walk to Utah.

    However, as I stated above, I am major proponent of open immigration, so I think it’s great that the low-class people of Britain converted to Mormonism, moved to Utah, and improved their lives.

    Also, I think it’s interesting to note that in July 1847 Utah was part of Mexico and as far as I know the Mormons never got permission to settle there from the Mexican government, so maybe the Mormons were “illegal” immigrants to Mexico when they first went to Utah.

  14. Mat,

    Count me as another one who prays daily for immigration reform that will brings hundreds of my friends and hundreds of thousands of my fellow saints “out of the shadows.” I disagree with many of provisions of the bill, but, as a whole, it is better than what we’ve got now.

    I was pondering the other day on several of the (many) scriptures (in both the Bible and the BOM) that promote kind treatment of immigrants, foreigners, and strangers. However, as I was reading in Matthew about how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fled persecution in Israel and temporarily resettled in the land of Egypt (Matthew 2:14-15), I was struck with the thought that perhaps Jesus’ childhood experience as an immigrant/refugee in a foreign land informed his great sermon on charity: “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. . . .Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? . . . Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:35-40). Kind of interesting to think about Jesus as a refugee/immigrant, no?

  15. Seriously, if not for early Mormon immigration most of us would probably turn out to be Ronans and that doesn’t seem very good.

  16. You can’t have it both ways, people. You can’t dismiss the early saints as the dregs of European society AND dismiss my wife’s ancestor as a fluent English speaker who fit in perfectly with his new surroundings and never looked back. Both of those are GROSS misrepresentations of the people who joined the Church in its earliest stages and crossed the plains – including my wife’s ancestor.

    “Couldn’t it be argued that they were escaping poor working conditions and headed for free schools, free healthcare, and a lot of other societal perks?” NO; not if you read their journals and study their lives before and after their immigration. Most certainly NOT. That’s not how they viewed it; that wasn’t their motivation; that never crossed most of their minds – if any of them. That surely is true of many, if not most, immigrants, but it didn’t play a role in the decisions of most, if not all, of the early pioneer Saints.

    Finally, be very careful of condescension toward those who give up everything for something in which they believe with all their hearts. Were they perfect? Absolutely not. Were they noble? Almost without exception, IMHO.

  17. John Williams says:

    Ray, one of my favorite cliches: “There’s two reasons someone does something– the reason that sounds good and the real reason.”

    Don’t discount economic incentives in people’s lives. Most early Mormons were at the bottom of society.

  18. John, I am a former Social Studies and Economics teacher. I’m not discounting economic reasons, but I also am not discounting what they wrote as being sincere and the primary motivation for their immigration. Did they move because they believed in a Zion that would be better for them? I will agree with that completely. I’m jut saying that was a secondary reason for almost all of them. I don’t think they said, “Let’s join this church so we can have a better economic life.” I think that was secondary to and followed their primary reason – their spiritual conversion.

    Having said that, I still think they were noble. Deeply flawed just like the rest of us in many ways, but noble. Perhaps we simply have to agree to disagree on that one. If you go back and re-read your and Mondo’s posts, I think you might see condescension in them. If I am wrong, or if it was unintended, then I apologize.

  19. John Williams says:

    Perhaps I am guilty of being condescending to the average descendant of early Mormons. I will admit that I am willing to believe that in general early Mormons felt the Holy Ghost inspire them to become Mormons. But I believe that there were also economic incentives to become Mormons as well.

    I don’t really think early Mormons sacrificed much in leaving Britain and going to Utah– they had a lot to gain. I commend them for making wise economic (and yes, spiritual) decisions, but not for making a noble sacrifice. What were they doing in Britain that was so great?

    We should commend Mexicans for making wise economic decisions in coming to the United States today. It is the best solution for everyone.

  20. John Williams says:

    And it is not a crime to be at the bottom of society.

  21. Amen to the general comments.

    My particular exception was those like my wife’s ancestor who really did give up a LOT to join the Church and immigrate to the States – and those like ancestors on my side who buried wife and children along the way but held onto their faith and their hope. From an economic and from a social standpoint, my wife’s ancestor was MUCH better off in Italy – as were some of my own ancestors in their homelands. I know many of the early Saints were poor and longed for a better life, but, that doesn’t lessen what they endured as a result – and it doesn’t lessen their initial motivation.

    Is immigration in and of itself noble? I wouldn’t characterize it that way. Was the suffering and sacrifice nearly all of the early Saints endured noble? Enduring the persecution and death and disease and privation they did and maintaining their faith and optimism, IMHO, was noble. We probably just define the word differently. That’s cool.

    I have no idea if the next comment applies to you, John, so please don’t take it as a personal comment. I don’t mean it that way. However, I also have heard WAY too many converts who look condescendingly at ancestral members – and vice-versa. That same conflict applies to ancestral Americans and modern immigrants. I don’t like either view, so perhaps that colored my reading a bit.

  22. John Williams says:

    Ray, thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt about not being a convert, because I’m not. I do have 19th-century Mormon ancestors, and I will be the first to admit that they were generally at the bottom of society when they became Mormons.

    It does annoy me how we glorify Mormon pioneer ancestry.

    And I’m glad you don’t like “ancestral Americans” who have a poor view of present-day immigrants.

  23. Mat,

    Count me as another person who prays every night that our legislature can come up with something that will bring hundreds of my friends, as well as hundreds of thousands of my fellow saints, out of the shadows. The proposed legislation is not perfect, but it’s far better than the current laws.

    I was pondering a while ago on a few of the (many) scriptures that teach us to be kind toward immigrants, strangers, and foreigners. As I was reading in Matthew, I was reminded that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fled persecution in Israel and temporarily resettled in the land of Egypt. It made me wonder if perhaps Jesus’ childhood experience as an immigrant/refugee in a foreign country informed his great sermon on charity: “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. . . .Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? . . . Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:35-40).

    Kind of interesting to think of Jesus as an immigrant/refugee, no?

  24. I don’t really think early Mormons sacrificed much in leaving Britain and going to Utah– they had a lot to gain. I commend them for making wise economic (and yes, spiritual) decisions, but not for making a noble sacrifice. What were they doing in Britain that was so great?

    That’s a rather strange generalization. There were some, no doubt, who went because they weighed the available options and concluded that making a trip with a high mortality rate and the likelihood of having to farm a plot of dirt (I won’t call it soil) in today’s Millard County looked pretty good. But if they were in that dire of straits to start with, things must have been pretty bad. So maybe they didn’t give up much to start with, but they underwent a lot to get what they did.

    For all of those, however, there were those who gave up family, reasonable comfort, and a life they knew, to head out and get a piece of free dirt with a build-your-house card on it… (this describes some of my ancestors). In a purely material sense, many of them did give up a lot. Maybe they got more in return in the long run (their descendents are probably more wealthy than they would be if they’d stayed in Europe), but the economic gain from that ROI was often pretty low in the short run. Just because they gained a lot doesn’t also mean they didn’t sacrifice a lot.

    Think of it being like medical school. If I go to medical school and burn the candle at both ends and in the middle for four years, but in the end I have an MD certificate and make a ton of money, does that mean that the time spent in getting that paper isn’t a sacrifice? It may be rational, but it’s still a sacrifice over the options that would have me doing other things instead.

  25. John:

    It does annoy me how we glorify Mormon pioneer ancestry

    I can agree with this statement, as we often do treat pioneer ancestry as a badge of honor. However, I wonder if you haven’t gone to the other extreme in your desire to avoid glorification of it: it seems like you may be ignoring that it was a sacrifice, that there were noble elements to it. To uniquely attribute those attributes to LDS pioneers is wrong, but to ignore them or denigrate them seems to be equally biased.

  26. John Williams says:

    Fenevad, it’s important not to impose our 2007 standards of living on someone living in 1857 in Millard County. To us being a farmer there during that era might have seemed harsh, but to early Mormons it would have just been basically a job. I think I’m safe in presuming that a lot of 19th -century European converts to Mormonism has better “jobs” in Utah than they did in Europe.

    I salute the early Mormons for becoming Mormons and for coming to Utah. I believe that it was the right decision for them economically and spiritually. However, I do think present-day Mormons are guilty of some hagiography when they describe Mormon pioneers.

  27. I agree about the hagiography, and the (now declining) tendency to see pioneer heritage as a marker of true Mormon identity. I don’t think, however, that I am guilty of presentism in my assessment. Farming would have been basically a job, ’tis true, but for at least some it was a step down from what their prospects had been in Europe, and period diaries are full of people assessing what they gave up for the Gospel. Many gave up families (either those who disowned them or those whom they lost along the way). Economic hardship is not the only sacrifice.

    Of course any pioneers, for religious reasons or other, could see similar loss, but it was still some sort of sacrifice to come to Utah. Does that make them uniquely good? No. But they still gave up something for coming.

    In any event, I picked Millard County for a reason: if you were a yeoman farmer from the green hills of Wales, getting sent to the flat, parched dirt of Millard County would have been a real test of faith. There were those who turned around and left when faced with it. But there were others who rose to the challenge and made a go of it…

  28. velikye kniaz says:

    What Mr. Williams et al fail to recognise is that the easiest thing for pioneer Mormons to do would have been to renounce “Mormonism” and stay where they were. Anyone who has ever driven from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City couldn’t help but observe that to the eyes of agrarians the landscape becomes progressively bleak. Reaching the Salt Lake Valley and calling it “Zion” must of been for them quite a stretch since they had already left behind lands that were a virtual ‘Eden’ by comparison. If early Mormons were the ‘dregs of society’ as you imply it is likely the consequence of becoming faithful Latter-day Saints. Many gave up profitable farms to ‘gather’ with the Saints only to be repeatedly driven out of Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. With each of these episodes they became more impoverished. As to the converts from Great Britain and Europe, Charles Dickens also believed that the Mormons attracted the dregs of British society and decided to visit a Mormon emigrant ship to confirm his suspicions. After his visit he wrote that the country was losing the “pick and flower of England”. You do a profound dis-service
    to Mormon pioneers, although I will make to attempt to justify what some of their descendants have made of themselves.
    As to the illegal immigration, I would be very unhappy if someone broke into my home, spit in my face, demanded that I pay their utilities, medical bills, educate their children and demand to have an equal share of all that my children will inherit in return for doing menial labor. Perhaps our new immigration policy should be if you can walk here, sneak over our borders you’re in for free, but if you are separated from us by an ocean too bad, you’re out of luck. Amnestry for 12 million illegals is patently unfair to all of the other peoples of the world who would like to be considered for immigration. How ironic that when 20 or so Cubans welded an old taxi and made it into a crude boat and attempted to sail to Key West they were intercepted by the Coast Guard and returned to Cuba, but if they had been Mexican they would have been allowed to stay! Look around you and enjoy the lifestyle you now live because if illegal immigration continues unabated your children, grandchildren and their descendants will never have the standard of living you have and will be citizens in what we call a ‘second world’ nation. Of course, you will have gotten yours, enjoyed your life, so I suppose that it wouldn’t matter to you.
    Ramon Villareal’s great grandson

  29. Mondo Cool says:

    Ray (#17):
    Sorry you did not see my buccal bulge. My point is I find that the only valid comparison between Mormon pioneers and the majority of immigrants “we” talk about today is that they both walked. (Seems like I read somewhere – maybe my Jr. High Texas History class – that the Mormons were not “illegal aliens” because Mexico wanted settlers to come.) “If the Mormons walked and were noble then those walkers today must be noble also.” I don’t think so.
    Yes, the motivations of the two are vastly different. It is commendable that people want to better themselves by leaving undesireable circumstances. But, I find no commendation for doing so at the expense of others. Something the early Mormons pioneers definitely did NOT do. They left persecutions for practically nothing – in the economic sense. It can reasonably be argued that the immigrants of today are leaving dire circumstances to benefit (in many ways) from the largesse of their target counties. (Having worked in healthcare, I’ve seen it firsthand.)

    For full disclosure – I am a convert of over 40 years. Some of my ancestors made the trek of the Mormons across the plains possible. However, I feel more akin to the Mormon pioneers than my own great-great uncle. Even so, the “Utah pioneer attitude” is sometimes wearying.

  30. John Williams says:

    Velikye,

    I’m not convinced that being a farmer in 1847 in Illinois was any easier than being a farmer in Utah. Plus, in Utah, the Mormons got free land, which is an economic incentive.

    The early Mormons obviously believed that Brigham Young was a prophet, so there was a spiritual incentive to not renounce Mormonism. So sure, that was another reason they emigrated to what was then Mexican territory.

    I have heard the Dickens quote, but it doesn’t convince me that early British Mormons were not by-and-large at the bottom of British society. So maybe Dickens met a Mormon who had shaved and had his shirt tucked in.

    I support Mexicans coming to the United States because they make our lives better. They reduce the cost of living by their willingness to work for lower wages. Their presence destroys inefficiences in the labor market. I support completely open borders in the United States for Cubans, Mexicans, and anyone else who comes here.

    If illegal immigration into the United States continues unabated, future generations will have a higher standard of living than current Americans.

  31. velikye kniaz says:

    Sorry, John,
    Illinois topsoil beats the best topsoil in Utah, not to mention a better Ph balnce and better rain.
    They do not reduce your cost of living because you pay higher insurance rates to cover their gratis medical care, you subsidize their non-payment of utilities because the lost utility revenue is added to your rate increases (here in Utah that is running at $10 million plus a year for just one of the public utilities so multiply that by 4), you pay increased property taxes to pay to educate their numerous children and you pay higher taxes for increased police protection due to the criminal element that moves freely over the same unprotected borders the uncriminal illegals traverse. Less than two weeks ago the results of an economic study were announced stating that illegals are lowering the wages for an increasing number of Americans. (This has come as no surprise to me since my industry is already feeling the effects of this policy.) So unless you plan on making the illegals the equal of Russian serfs, the average American’s life will not be better. Based on current trends the middle class will continue to shrink and the working poor will continue to increase. Their (the illegals) children and grand-children will have obviously improved their lives, but your children will not be so fortunate. Here in Utah, where once a man was able to support a wife and children by working in the construction industry he now can no longer do so. All those jobs are now taken by illegals. Not every young man possesses the desire or the capability to pursue higher education but is happy working with his hands. Well, now he can’t. And if that same young man just came back from 2 or 3 tours of duty in Iraq and wants to work in the construction industry he is out of luck. He can’t make a living on what is paid to illegals, much less try to support a wife and a family.
    The only people making the real money are the general contractors and subcontractors who charge as if they were paying a living wage. Many of them are now millionaires. So in that sense, yes, they are prospering indeed. But that prosperity is balanced on the backs of illegals who will live 16 to a 3 bedroom apartment and pinch very centavo to send back to their family across the border. See this for what it truly is; this is Greed, the exploitation of the less fortunate to enrich themselves. That is why you won’t see this liberal policy applied to Eastern Europeans who want to emigrate to America. They would not stand for the living or working conditions tolerated by Latin illegals.

  32. John Williams says:

    Velikye,

    The fair wage for a job is wherever supply crosses demand. If illegal immigrants from Mexico are willing to work in construction for $5 an hour, then that’s the fair wage for construction work. Sorry, but in this case, someone who won’t work for $5 an hour in construction is a wasteful and inefficient worker. That’s why illegal immigrants are good for the economy– they cut waste out of it.

    In a competitive market, the general contractors you speak of will compete with each other by lowering the price of houses. Eventually, the savings from the illegal Mexican laborers will be passed onto American home buyers. Yes, non-Mexican laborers who want $15 an hour might be out of work, but that’s fine because they are inefficient workers.

  33. velikye kniaz says:

    Then we need to import more Vietnamese because they will work for $3 dollars and hour and you and your kind can sit up on your pillared verandas and watch the money roll into your pockets! I can take you to former estates in Russia and show you the bullet holes in the walls that brought about the end of those who shared your ideas of the obscene exploitation of the working man.(Some in my family were among those who died in their palatial homes.) Moral: Ignore labor at your own peril.
    This country has an obligation to it’s citizens to protect not only its borders but also to see that its citizens have sufficient opportunity to earn a living wage. Their rights take precedence over any illegal, especially if they have put their life on the line for this country.
    From your expressed views it is evident that the wording of the Gettysburg Address should be modified to read, “…so that the government for the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations shall not perish from the earth.”
    Unbridled capitalism is anti-Christ because it breeds unbridled greed and arrogance. The first manifestation of the is the lack of consideration for your fellows, followed by an indifference and contempt for the average man. It is also ultimately counter-productive; lowered wages in this nation means substantially less buying power of the citizenry. That means fewer goods and services can be bought and sold. The net result is that local profits go down. Of course, corporations don’t care, they are counting on world profits to pick up the slack. Now that more and more of them are moving offshore they won’t need to pay taxes either. Leave that to the chumps who work for the substandard wages, pay their taxes and shed their blood so that the rich can continue their lifestyle without interruption.
    Children come with no guarantees, and even those who see themselves as the best and brightest can have a child who doesn’t possess the acumen or desire to make his/her way through a university education and the corporate jungle. Evidently, such human beings should be marginalized and considered negligible. (Or, in their largesse, the wealthy can leave those lesser stars amongst their progeny a hefty trust fund so that they will never be obligated to perform and real or constructive labor.)
    Either way, all these developments point to the fact that these are indeed the “end times” and the wrath of God will be poured out first upon this nation and then all other nations. I will likely be in my grave but you of the younger generations will be around to watch the show. Enjoy!

  34. John Williams says:

    OK, Velikye, so you’re from Russia? Russia is what I’m trying to avoid by promoting a free market. The USSR was communist, there was no free market, it was centralized planning. That’s why it didn’t work. There was no competition.

    Unbridled competition is the motivating force that makes people innovate, create, and compete.

    And yes, if Vietnamese people would work for $3 an hour, then they would be even better for the economy.

    People deserve the economically optimal solution. That means we should not artificially restrict the labor market by closing national borders.

    The free flow of goods and services across national borders allows everyone to end up doing the work at which they are most efficient, which raises the world GDP and net social welfare.

  35. John and velikye, Now that we’ve beaten this political horse 38 feet under, how about we take a few breaths and move on to some other discussion? It’s obvious that neither of you is going to change the other’s opinion, so how about we call a truce?

  36. I absolutely love this post, Mathew, this is one I will print off for my files and take to church and let everyone read. Just so cool.

    I always say I’m living a life of LOUD desperation. I say it sort of deprecatingly, though, because I wish I could suffer serenely. So, as usual, missing the point entirely, I simply feel better about myself.

    I’ve had Mexicans (don’t know who’s legal or not) at my house all week working on a re-model and I’m disgusted at their slobbery and disregard for my neighborhood. I’ve been on their side all along, too. I think I need some Mexican woman to slap them up the side of the head and tell them to get their car off my lawn.

    If my ancestors, eschewing the life of quiet desperation, decided instead to come to America–and they did, they did it LEGALLY. I think that’s the difference between heroic life changes and wanting to mooch.

    Is it really that hard to come to America from Mexico legally?

  37. John Williams says:

    Annegb,

    I think it should be legal to have the borders wide open. Let’s focus on making what is “legal” the best solution.

  38. We tried amnesty back in the 80′s (during the Reagan years). The result of it was a huge increase in illegal immigration from Mexico.

    If you reward something, you get more of it.

  39. John Williams says:

    Anon,

    I think immigration should not be “illegal.”

    You should be grateful that we have “illegal” immigrants in this country because they allow you to afford a better lifestyle. You have enjoyed more goods and services than you would have if illegal immigrants had not been here.

    Illegal immigrants are good for this country.

  40. This article in Monday’s (today’s) Washington Post paints a pretty bleak picture of the agency (the successor to INS) that’s supposed to be handling our legal immigration …

    Immigration Agency Mired In Inefficiency

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/27/AR2007052701118.html

    Last June, U.S. immigration officials were presented a plan that supporters said could help slash waiting times for green cards from nearly three years to three months and save 1 million applicants more than a third of the 45 hours they could expect to spend in government lines.

    It would also save about $350 million.

    The response? No thanks.

    Leaders of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services rejected key changes because ending huge immigration backlogs nationwide would rob the agency of application and renewal fees that cover 20 percent of its $1.8 billion budget, according to the plan’s author, agency ombudsman Prakash Khatri.

    Can’t.Run.Anything.Right.

  41. Mark B. says:

    Yes, annegb, it is that difficult to immigrate legally from Mexico or any of 175 other countries.

    First, you need a close relative–think immediate relative only–who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to sponsor you. Or you need an employer to sponsor you.

    But, if you don’t have that family member or employer to sponsor you, forget it. You’ll never make it.

    Second, be prepared to wait. If you’re an unskilled worker, plan to wait for six or seven years from the time the process starts until you can apply for your immigrant visa at the US embassy. If you’re an adult, and your mama in Miami, who has a green card, wants to sponsor you, sit down and start waiting–because it’ll be 15 years before you can make that trip to the embassy. And don’t think about getting married while you wait–that ends the process and you’re out of luck. Or, maybe it’s your big brother, who is now a citizen. Let him start the process now, and, if you’re a Filipino, start waiting and waiting and then wait some more, because the waiting period is 22 years. And that’s a long time to wait while you’re hungry and hopeless–except for that dream of el Norte.

    Third, plan to spend all your life savings and then some on the process. An employment based case can cost from $5,000 to $10,000 for legal fees, advertising costs, government filing fees, etc. Good luck scaping that money together if you’re living on a below subsistence wage in Chiapas.

  42. I’m not convinced that being a farmer in 1847 in Illinois was any easier than being a farmer in Utah.

    If you’re not convinced of that, then there’s really nothing to discuss because you’ll not be convinced of anything. Anyone who knows even a modicum about farming knows you’re simply wrong here, if nothing else because in Illinois you don’t need to irrigate.

  43. John Williams says:

    Except that whole part about draining Nauvoo.

  44. John Williams says:

    And the humidity and those disease-carrying mosquitoes from the Mississippi River.

  45. The city itself was drained, but the uplands where most of the farming took place then and now was not drained…

  46. John Williams says:

    OK, I’ll admit that if you took soil samples of land near Nauvoo and land near Salt Lake City and had them examined by a chemist, the chemist might find that the soil from Nauvoo was less chalky or had more nitrates in it or whatever.

    However, I don’t think it was a cakewalk to farm near Nauvoo in the 1840s. And from the way they’ve reconstructed Nauvoo today at least, all of the houses, the “Cultural Hall,” the gunshop, and the farms etc. are down below the temple hill on what looks to me like the floodplain.

  47. Ugly Mahana says:

    Of course that means that the farms would have been somewhere else… Presumably not on the flood plain. (just waiting for someone who really knows Nauvoo history to tell me I’m wrong.)

  48. Costanza says:

    John,
    In fairness, Fenevad never said it was a “cake walk” to farm in Nauvoo. He only said it was easier than farming in Utah, which is not nearly the same thing.

  49. John Williams says:

    Ugly Mahana,

    When I was at Nauvoo what I found most striking about it was that it was nothing but a bunch of farm fields with a random house or building here or there. So I guess what I should have wrote is that it appears that a lot of the farmland was on the floodplain (along with the town). Granted, the Mormons may have had some farms up where the temple was being built.

  50. I shouldn’t bother arguing the point about whether it is easier to farm in Illinois or Utah because John’s mind is made up, regardless of the actual facts about farming, but here is one last stab at the point.

    According to the USDA, 68% of Illinois is cropland, compared to 4% of Utah. In other words, Illinois, for its size, has 17 times as much cropland. In addition, 37% of Utah cropland is irrigated, vs. 1.6% of Illinois cropland.

    There are reasons for the disparity and they have not changed in the last thousand years. Illinois is not a desert (as witness the irrigation rates): its prarie lands and forests (once cleared) were suitable for farming in a way that the high desert of Utah was not and still is not.

    No doubt John will argue that it was different back then in some way that makes it just as hard to farm in either place. I agree that it was different: the difference was that back then you did not have mechanized irrigation, making it even harder to farm in Utah.

    Enough of this. John will conclude I am wrong and assert that I think it was super easy to farm in Illinois and super hard to farm in Utah in the 1800s. In the face of his conviction, none of what I have to say will matter.

  51. John Williams says:

    Fenevad,

    A better analysis would compare yield per acre farmed in Utah vs. yield per acre farmed in Illinois. Utah is covered with vast natural wonders that take up a lot of area (Wasatch Mountain range, salt flats, Bryce Canyon, etc.)

    I think it would also be fair to compare humidity levels since in the 1840s there was no refridgerated air.

  52. I think it would also be fair to compare humidity levels since in the 1840s there was no refridgerated air.

    What the h***? Are you just trying to yank my chain with stupid comments now? Learn about farming before you talk about it. You rather obviously know nothing about it…

  53. John Williams says:

    Sorry, Fenevad, I was referring to air conditioning. As in air-conditioned houses and air-conditioned tractors.

  54. Let’s put this silly argument to bed. I’m not an authority on much, but I’m an authority enough on this topic – having been raised in rural Utah farmland and having worked amid the farms of Southern Ohio. I’d rather farm in the Midwest 10 days out of 10 – and it’s not a difficult decision. Sorry, John, but you are dead wrong on this one.

  55. John Williams says:

    Ray, I wouldn’t care if you next told me that you participated in the 1997 Pioneer Trek re-enactment and walked the whole way from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City without once riding in an automobile. Maybe if we ran some agriculture numbers between Utah and Illinois there might be some surprising results.

  56. Mark IV says:

    John,

    The average corn yield in Illinois is 145 bushels/acre, unirrigated. In Utah, it’s 125 bushels/acre and the crop requires irrigation.

    For wheat, unirrigated Illinois cropland yields about 55 bushels/acre compared to Utah’s 22 bushels/acre unirrigated.

  57. Mark IV says:

    Correction. I was looking at old data.

    The most recent figures put unirrigated Illinois corn at 163 bushels/acre, with Utah irrigated corn closing the gap with 155 bushels/acre.

    Illinois wheat is 60 bushels/acre and Utah is 44 bushels/acre.

  58. John Williams says:

    Thanks, Mark IV. Those are some pretty interesting numbers. Illinois has higher yields but it doesn’t exactly crush Utah.

  59. John Williams says:

    Now mix in the humidity of Illinois summers with the mining resources of Utah, and I’m not so sure that Illinois was a better place in 1847.

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