Immigration Monday -- WWJD Edition!
[NOTE: please don’t miss the Letters this week.]


WWJD: WHO WOULD JESUS DEPORT? (Thanks for that, Hope College.)

I was looking through my Pastor Von-era ACROSS THE WIRE annotated Bible, when, suddenly, I cried, “Oh oh! What is this!”

Matthew 25:35-40 (NAS). Is this Jesus, talking about immigration? Refugees? It’s not hard to make that stretch if you listen to what He says. (English teachers will also appreciate the Divine’s grasp of the semi-colon.)

“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You as stranger, and invite You in, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?
“And the King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

Oh my Lord! What’s all this stuff about taking care of strangers and clothing the naked? What’s up with this prisoner thing, and feeding the hungry? This is the USA—we don’t like hungry naked prisoners, and we sic dogs on strangers, especially if they’re thirsty. You can hear them gathering hammers and nails. Jesus is not with the program!

What would Lou Dobbs say to Jesus Christ if he caught him spouting such rhetoric? Tom Tancredo—should Jesus be stopped? I often like to think of Anne Coulter’s smirk, should she see Jesus walking down the street. Why, He thinks he’s Gandhi! He thinks he’s Abraham Lincoln or worse, Benito Juarez!

Jesus did not say this one thing: He did not say, “It’s going to be easy.”

The foolish discount what they see; the wise discount what they think. –Zen Saying

Not to harp too much on scripture, but remember: Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Uh, think. That’s how I take that. I might add a more rebellious footnote: think for yourself! It’s not just “experts” who can extrapolate! Data, man, data! You look at things and you think about them and you draw your own conclusions. You immigration expert, you.

(Do you really think the fat men in the media know more than you?) (Not after you read IMMIGRATION MONDAYS!)

Data is fun. A great source of data is HARPER’S magazine. Liberal bias? Oh yeah. Inconvenient truths, even when they don’t coddle my own liberal leanings? Yes. This month’s issue just arrived (November 2007) You ought to enjoy the Harper’s Index Feature, the monthly data-dump for trivia-heads like me. Info is power! Look (p.11):

Portion of whites and African- Americans, respectively, who say that immigrants take American jobs: ¼, 1/3

Percentage of all race-hate crimes in L.A. in which the victims are Latino and the perpetrators African-American: 18

Percentage that are the reverse: 41

Number of immigration measures introduced into state legislatures so far this year: 1,404

Estimated number introduced during the previous ten years: 1,300

Feet on each side of the U.S.-Canadian border that by law are supposed to be kept clear of brush: 10

Percentage of the border that has not been maintained since 2000: 44

Percentage change in U.S. residential-construction employment since March 2006, if illegal immigrants are counted: -15

Percentage change if illegal immigrants are excluded: -4


Ouch. The racial violence figures are bad. But the whole they’re-stealing-our-jobs mainstay of talk radio? The “especially construction!” cries? Hmm. Maybe not.

(All Harper’s Index materials are sourced and footnoted in each issue and in all compendia. You should always double-check your sources.)

How about some history?



Number of US Census respondents in 1990 who identified their race as “Other”: 9,804,847

Chance that a U.S. adult can’t identify the source of the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”: 7 in 10

Chance that an American cannot name a single right protected by the First Amendment: 1 in 3

Chance that a Mexican lives in a non-metropolitan area: 1 in 4

Amount by which the number of emigrants from the U.S. to Ireland between 1995 and 1998 has exceeded those from Ireland to the U.S.: 4,300

Percentage change since 1992 in the green card application fee charged by the Immigration and Naturalization Service: 100

Chance that a U.S. federal prison inmate kis not a U.S. citizen: 1 in 4

Portion of U.S. citizens whose ancestors came through Ellis Island: 2/5

Estimated percentage change since 1500 in the size of the Native-American population in the territory that became Canada: +22

Estimated percentage change since then in the size of the Native-American population in the territory that became the U.S.: -76

Number of U.S. presidents besides Bill Clinton who have made an official visit to an Indian reservation since 1937: 0

Average percentage change, during NAFTA’s first year, in top executive salaries at the twenty-six largest firms in Mexico: +29

Average percentage of the raw materials processed by Mexican maquiladoras since NAFTA went into effect that came from Mexican suppliers: 2

Average before NAFTA: 1.5

Amount the U.S. government spent between 1994 and 1999 to help U.S. workers laid off as a result of NAFTA: $152,000,000

Ratio of compensation paid AlliedSignal’s CEO the year NAFTA went into effect to total wages the firm paid its 3,810 Mexican maquiladora workers: 3:2

Percentage change between 1965 and 1995 in the number of U.S. households that pay for housecleaning: +53

Average by which white Americans over-estimate the Latino, Asian-, and African-American populations: 100

Average percentage by which members of these groups over-estimate their own populations: 100

Points by which the percentage of Mexican adults who are registered to vote exceeds the percentage of Americans who are: 30

Number of the eight Zapatista demands to which the Mexican government agreed in 1996 that have been met: 0

Percentage of the U.S. retail price of a pair of Pocahontas pajamas in 1996 that was paid to the Haitian who sewed them: 0.06

Portion of California’s revenue between 1852 and 1870 that came from taxes paid by Chinese laborers: ½

Estimated percentage return on investment that can be expected on the sale of cocaine smuggled into Miami: 300

Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government: 36,000

Average amount Americans have spent on lottery tickets each year since 1995: $94,552,000

Average amount Americans have contributed to the U.S. Treasury each day since then to help reduce the national debt: $8,096

Portion of U.S. stock owned by the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans: 9/10

Rank of the U.S. among the seventeen leading industrial nations with the largest percentage of their populations in poverty: 1

Chances that a human being alive today has never made a telephone call: 2 in 3

Estimated number of people today who live on less than $31 per month: 1,300,000,000

Estimated number who are enslaved: 27,000,000

Estimated cost of sealing the U.S.-Mexican border with a replica of the Great Wall of China: $45,000,000,000


TWO LETTERS. Astonishing and moving—I approach both with awe.

Dear Luis Alberto,
I happen to read recently your book "Devil's highway" and enjoyed it quite a lot.
In my view it presents a fairly balanced picture of the Yuma 2001 tragedy which, sadly, was not the last to occur in the Mexico-US border.
I take the liberty to comment a couple of [minor] details I found in your book. First, "Sr. Reymundo Barreda and son" were actually named "Raymundo" both of them. Secondly, his mother was not exactly indigenous, but mestizo as well.
Indeed, Sr. Raymundo's mother was a primary school teacher, whom happened to be my father's sister. They are mestizos, descendants from immigrants from the Basque country which came to work in the minesin the mountains of Veracruz in late XIX century.
Interestingly enough, my father turned to be an "immigrant" as well, when as a 13 year old boy he escaped from his parent's house, not far from Equimite. My father's escape and the nearly medieval style of living in Veracruz' mountains in the 1940's could well be the subject of a novel.
My father settled in Mexico City and keeps in occasional touch with his family in Veracruz. He went to the sad funeral of his nephew in 2001. Sadly, Sr. Raymundo's mother passed away in 2006.
I have only met my father's family in Equimite on two occasions: in 1985, when I met my cousin (Sr. Raymundo) [his son wasn't even born then-I never met him] and in 2003 [two years after the tragedy].
Understandably enough, the magnitude of the tragedy was such that it will take a long time to heal for the family in Equimite. It's sad how people from such a place with abundance of natural resources [specially water] find themselves in a situation for which the only way out seems to be emigrating.
I recently finished a PhD in the United Kingdom and I'm currently working as a Post-doc in London School of Economics. I cannot but often wonder that, if that 13 year old boy hadn't escaped his family house in the 1940's, quite possibly I would've been one of the Wellton 26.
Best regards,
Hugo Maruri Aguilar

Dear Luis Alberto Urrea,

I am a regular reader of your blog (have read your books too!) and was recently moved by your iMonday: Literary Edition post on September 24th. That week I was busy finishing up work on a project that is now on exhibition in New York at the Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology. It was a stressful time and reading your post ("I hate to say it, but religion has so far failed to work. All the hate and fear have failed. So what’s left? I’ll tell you what’s left. Art is left. And love.")helped me to push forward and complete the installation. I also was motivated to purchase the VQR spring issue.

The project, Casa Segura, focuses on an alternate means of engaging with migrants crossing private land in souther Arizona. As opposed to fence-building, gun toting or militia joining, the project proposes housing a small structure on one's border property and allowing it to be a type of "public space" for anyone who encounters it to get water, basic medical supplies such as band aids and antibiotic cream, nutrition bars, and some clean clothes. In addition, the structure contains a touch screen interface that invites migrants to share something with the larger populous via the internet. It's an invitation to leave a trace in the form of traveler graffiti or assembling a pictogram from a set of ready-made icons (designed in collaboration with Alberto Merackis and Guadelupe Serrano of Nogales, Mexico.)

I am so consistently moved and inspired by your work, it is humbling to write to you about my project. However, I think you might find it of interest and would love to discuss it with your further.

You can visit the Casa Segura website and read all about the project and much more here:

Kind regards,
Robert Ransick


Until we meet again, adios amigos!
WWJD indeed,

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