Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
March 10, 2017 (posted March 12, 2017)
Mr. President: With all the focus on a wall to (in a way) quarantine Mexico and your
notorious disinclination to read, one wonders if you would be interested in a brief
history of Mexican immigration ...
For years and years there was an informal guest worker program. Farmers and fruit
growers had a need for farm labor -- work that was not much favored by Americans.
Contrariwise, Mexicans needed the work. The informal arrangement with guest
workers was formalized, during wartime in 1942, under the Bracero Program. At its
height it allowed over 400,000 workers matching demand with labor and legitimating
the migrants for their seasonal stay. When the season ended, they would return to
their families. Of course as in situations where all power is centered with employers,
there were abuses -- and much continues to this day with undocumented workers.
In the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy seized on the issue to earn votes.
He said the farmers by paying less and using foreign labor were undermining U.S.
workers. The problem -- for that is what it had now been made into -- gained such
traction that Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, ended the program in 1964.
But a law does not diminish the need for labor, so the business went underground.
The law had not criminalized the hiring of illegal migrants, so Mexicans continued to
come, although without documents. At the end of the season, they could still go back
to their families because it was easy to cross the border.
As might have been expected, next came pressure to tighten border controls which
they did, hiring more border patrol agents, putting up fences at the easiest crossing
points and increasing vigilance. It was no longer easy to go back to Mexico after the
season to stay with family, for the return trip to the U.S. had become hazardous. The
temporary workers became a permanent fixture. They naturally sent for their families,
and communities of illegal migrants sprang up. As is clear, they did not want to come
to the U.S. -- that was not their first choice; they were forced to because of repeated
short-sighted government efforts.
Then came NAFTA which halved the price of corn in Mexico (due to cheap subsidized
American imports) and forced Mexican farmers off their land. Where could they go
but north and families followed. Add U.S. initiated regime changes in Central America
-- persecution of labor leaders, extra judicial killings and general chaos there -- and
waves of people fleeing chaos added to the undocumented immigrant population.
That number is now a little over eleven million, approximately three percent of the
total U.S. population. If Libya, Syria and Iraq had been on this continent, one could
easily have added another million (or two) to the figure.
President Trump, nobody wants to leave their home; they are usually obliged to -- like
your grandfather deported from Bavaria, where he wished to live, for illegally dodging
his required military service. Only psychotherapists can assess the subconscious
influence of this family trauma and your fascination with military generals.
Immigrants are here because of the unintended consequences of American laws and
policies. One caveat then is, be careful what you wish for. That wall we hear so much
about ... we can only hope you and your team have thought through all the
implications and eventualities.
In 2014 aboard Air Force One, your predecessor Barack Obama summarized his
foreign policy in the pithy phrase, 'Don't do stupid shit'. In the first sixty days of the
Trump presidency, it appears to most observers that this president failed to hear the