Sometimes, I just don't know whether to laugh or cry. Our collective goal of bringing common sense to the U.S. immigration policy is totally serious. But the absurdity of what goes on can often be laugh-out-loud funny.
A recent New York Times article titled "Fried Chicken Takes Flight, Happily Nesting in the U.S." made me wonder if there is anything that makes sense regarding immigration policy circa 2002.
According to Times reporter David Gonzales, Guatemalans living in the U.S. expect their returning friends and relatives to bring them dozens of boxes of Pollo Campero, the local, spiced-up equivalent of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Thousands of pieces of fried chicken make quite a stench in a closed-in airline cabin. The Guatemalan national airline, TACA, has begged the chicken executives to create an aroma-proof box. But to no avail.
Unimpeded, travelers load up boxes of chicken on top of their suitcases. One woman en route from Guatemala to Los Angeles filled hundreds of drumsticks and breasts into duffle bags for resale at $3 a pop. The proceeds covered her airfare and generated a tidy profit.
According to Gonzales, "customs poses no problem to the chicken curriers."
That's interesting because according to the U.S. Customs website's FAQ: "Why Did U.S. Customs Take My Food?" the law states:
"Failure to declare all food products can result in civil penalties. Meats, livestock, poultry, and their by-products are either prohibited or restricted from entering the United States, depending on the animal disease condition in the country of origin. Fresh meat is generally prohibited from most countries."
That's the way it is. If I cross the California-Nevada border returning to Lodi from Lake Tahoe, I have to surrender apples and bananas from my lunch box. But if I were landing at LAX with a few dozen cartons of half-day-old Pollo Campero, I'd be waved right through.
The illegal transport of Third World fried chicken is not a major issue in the immigration debate. But it did set me to wondering what long-term goals proponents of mass immigration aspire to.
And although I can laugh about a secondary market in Guatemalan fried chicken, the answer to "What's the endgame?" is not funny.
To answer my own question, I have only to look around my classroom. This week a new student from Yemen enrolled. Weleya is in the U.S. legally via chain migration. An 18-year-old fourth grade drop out, she cannot read or write.
Realistically, I cannot help her. Weleya's sixth grade Yemeni niece, an American citizen, comes to class with her to translate. And while that helps, the harsh reality is that assimilation for my new student, assuming she is even interested, is only the remotest possibility.
During her first day, I caught Weleya staring at me. I realized she had probably never in her lifetime seen anyone who looks like me.
Bibi, a Pakistani student, cannot read or write either. She left her village to marry a Pakistani national in America three times her age. Two other young Pakistani women are engaged to their cousins back home. They will return home early next year to marry. Soon after, their husbands will join them in America.
I have two Chinese students, Gin and Wu, each with four U.S. born children. Neither the children nor their mothers speak English.
Maria, Consuela and Isabela are in the U.S. illegally. All three have two or more children attending primary school. No one in the family speaks English.
Sok, an 18-year-old pregnant Cambodian, reports that her boyfriend is working in either Oregon or Washington. She's not sure which.
And so it goes. Multiply my classroom experiences thousands of times over in California and tens of thousands of times across the country to get the grim picture.
She recently resigned her position because she could no longer tolerate the incessant abuses of our immigration laws. Sham marriages, bogus refugee status and constant America-bashing became too much.
Finally, she wrote,
"I could no longer endure the outrage of teaching people who wanted to know what other free services were available but whose eyes glazed over when I taught the required lessons about American history and the constitution."
And that is the bottom line on immigration in America. Nothing has focus; everyone is playing the angles. The theme song is "What's in it for me?"
To President Bush, the House of Representative and the governors of all 50 states, please tell me what long-term benefits Americans can expect given the current federal immigration policy.
Maybe if that question ever popped into anyone's mind, we might be able to have a dialogue.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.