By Garen Yegparian
Unless you’re living in Africa and have for hundreds of millennia–you’re an immigrant- that according to the current scientific understanding of where our species arose. Then we spread from that continent to others–a phenomenon now described by the words emigration and immigration.
It seems that extremist elemen’s in American society want to "put immigran’s back in their place." How else do you explain the radical/ridiculous bills floating around both houses of Congress? It’s just like trying to shove gays back in the closet. Both of these along with numerous other issues such as teaching evolution or gun ownership serve only to rive the body politic. They serve as so called "wedge issues" to "activate the base" of some political faction.
Let’s face it–human population shifts are a force of nature. You might as well try to stop a hurricane–earthquake–tsunami–or glacial motion. Think of the Huns–Turks–or Europeans as economic forces drove them to leave their native lands seeking hoped-for (not always fulfilled)–greener pastures. Or–for that matter–consider our distant ancestors’ departures from Africa. So the whole "Mexicans are coming" fear-mongering used by the likes of the (new) Minutemen (what an insult these scum are to the originals in Lexington and Concord) and some members of the House and Senate is really nothing but the vilest of pandering to the basest of human inclinations.
Of course this foolishness is given a patina of respectability by cloaking it in the language of "respect for the law." Wasn’t this addressed during the French Revolution or thereabouts? You know–the whole notion of the law–in its magnanimous majesty equally forbidding a pauper and rich man from sleeping under a bridge? To argue that a simple–possibly barely literate peasant–who needs to feed his family–must to jump through the hoops of American immigration procedure–to get a minimum wage job–is to argue that living in destitution is a good and acceptable thing. Where were these minutemen’s law-loving ancestors when the natives of the Americas were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands to allow those same ancestors to farm and fish those stolen lands and waters? Where were they when small-pox laden blankets were distributed in an early example of biological warfare? Where were they when the bison were driven to near extinction through slaughter–just to eliminate the food source of the Plains Indians as another means of Genocide?
This whole issue ought not exist. It’s plain ridiculous. But since it is being driven by the United States’ ascendant reactionary forces–we’re all stuck with it. So consider the effect this has on our Armenian community–at various levels–all quite insidious. When people’s fear of "darkies" is activated–we suffer. When "immigran’s" become a target–we take a hit. When "legality" is an issue–a significant chunk of our community is at risk.
So many of us–just like Central Americans and others–are in the US not just to support themselves–but also families in the home country. Our "bantoukhd"-s of yore are back. This time–instead of saving the ancestral hearth–home–and farm from corrupt Turkish tax officials–it’s to save Armenia from depopulation as a consequence of the neo-liberal economic policies being foisted on the developing world by Washington through the World Bank–IMF–and other agencies and policies. I see precious little difference between the motivations of these two people: the guy from the Mayan high country working in California’s agricultural sector at poverty wages because his farming cannot compete with the mega-agribusiness concerns that sell corn at incredibly cheap–government subsidized–rates; the guy from Coomayree (Giumri) working in Los Angeles’ jewelry district–off the books–again a at pathetically low pay rate.
All I know is–on Tuesday–the day after the big immigrant marches–I had a conversation with a compatriot on the bus to work. He asked if I’d worked the day before–which I had. He’d thought everything in downtown LA was closed–it wasn’t. The conversation went on. He asked about the proposed laws being discussed in Congress. When I pointed out that anything passed would apply to and impact us just as much as any Mexican–you should have seen the worried look that settled on his face.
What our hateful–petty–and clueless electeds are advocating is–quite simply–making it a felony to work to feed yourself and your family. Why? Because somebody decided to draw a line on a map called a "border" that in today’s world is meaningless. Air and water (polluted on one side) along with all kinds of goods travel across this border unhindered (think NAFTA). Only when it comes to human beings do our Washington vermin and their yahoo supporters want to act–arguing that "illegal" immigration costs the country hundreds of millions of dollars. Note: These are the same people who sit idly by as invasive species–along with pollution–moved around the world as a by-product of commerce–cause untold billions of dollars in economic damage. Invasive shellfish clog water supply lines in the Great Lakes. Water-hogging plants brought for ornamentation cause huge damage in arid parts of the country. Pythons in Florida spread unchecked. Hawaii’s unique animals are endangered. These are non-issues–evidently–but decent people–following economic incentives are to be criminalized.
I sure hope some of us participated in the immigrant demonstrations somewhere. It’s outright shameful that we didn’t do so intentionally–organizedly–and in large numbers. These massive expressions of popular sentiment and the attendant business closures and boycotts are also instructive. Those who argue that closing down businesses on April 24 is pointless should heed the lessons of the last few days. Unless they’re oblivious–they cannot have missed the discussions of how immigrant economic prowess was manifested.
Let’s smarten up and engage. It’s not too late.