Tuesday, July 3, 2018

From The Z To Belle Fourche, An Old Warrior Remembers

     On the Fourth of July I'll be marching proudly with a contingent of Marines in the Belle
Immigrant Milking Cows
Turner County, SD
Fourche parade
.  So many pungent ironies will be running through my mind.  Fifty one years ago on the Fourth I was a radioman near the Demilitarized Zone in Vietnam, about to get airlifted into a desperate fight nearby, the scuttlebutt being that I was replacing one of the many  radiomen in the field that were dead.  I cursed the war.  I cursed Lyndon Johnson.  I cursed the Halls of Montezuma.  Not yet twenty, I knew I was going to die.
     But it wasn't meant to be.  Enough air cover came in to drive the enemy back to their sanctuary in the Z (short for DMZ, aka the Demilitarized Zone), where we couldn't chase them, allowing the hostilities to come to a pause.  I got reprieved.  Though there were plenty of fights before and after (OMG, you should've seen September 3, 1967, at Dong Ha.  OMG.), that particular engagement, where I never even came within shooting range of the action, scared me the most.
     It was a tough way to become a citizen of the United States, but become a bona-fide, card-carrying American, I did.  Having come over from the shambles of post-war Europe in 1950 with my parents and baby sister, I probably was naturalized along with them a few years later.  Just to make sure, though, I enlisted in the Marines to pick up an automatic naturalization via that route.  For all these many years since then I never gave the fact of my naturalized status a second thought.  Then along came Trump.  I just about couldn't believe it when he made a point last February about  wanting an immigration policy that favored educated and skilled emigres.  If that were the policy back when I checked in at Ellis Island, my barely educated family of eastern Mediterranean (Greek and Armenian) "po' folk" would have been locked out.  And that would have been a shame, because, all modesty abandoned, I doubt that a more proudly American family could have been nurtured by this country, native born or not.
     More specifically, I doubt that the state of South Dakota could have turned out a more productive and contributing family.  I often wonder if most South Dakotans know how many immigrants are a part of the modern fabric of this state.  According to the American Immigration Council, twelve percent of our state's manufacturing workers are immigrants.  Ten percent of our state's building maintenance workers are immigrants.  Turkey processors in Huron now employ several hundred ethnic-Karen refugees from Myanmar.  Given the nature of the work, I'm sure many of these people don't have education and skills levels that would conform to an immigration policy that shuns the untutored.  According to the AIC, nearly 60% of South Dakota's immigrant population has a high-school diploma or less, the "or less" faction making up about 35% of the new arrivals.  Keeping these people out of South Dakota's labor pool would make a tight situation even worse for employers who chronically struggle to deal with our labor shortage.
     And, writing as the son of those in the "or less" category, the children of these families stream into the general population with educations and ambitions that have made this country what it is. Sorting out the good from the bad is one thing, a mandatory thing,  but to deny the U.S.A. its historic source of energy by being overly restrictive about who gets to enter this country is a rejection of a success story that is the American experience. 


  1. The Economist (30 June) reports that the Republic of Korea has dropped below 'replacement levels'. Nonetheless, immigration in significant numbers is the 'third rail' of Korean politics. When a society is 'greying out' and fertility is down, immigration is the answer.

  2. First of all John, as always, thank you for your service but more importantly for sharing a part of your life story prior to Viet Nam, with the rest of us. Secondly, let me say that you are fortunate as not being an American born in this country. You don't have to as ashamed of it as those of us who were born here.
    The fact that we have allowed a Republican part that used to stand up for what was correct, to be hijacked by a bunch of money grubbing people whose only interest is cutting taxes, no matter how much it hurts the country, is something that we all should be ashamed of.

    And it shows in our crumbling infrastructure, the indebtedness of our country which is being passed on to future generations, all of which has passed down to our citizenry as no longer taking pride in what their own property looks like. Certainly that is not true for the extremely wealthy or even those who still take pride in themselves, their city, county, state and nation. But the longer we stay in the malaise that has overtaken our state and federal government, the worse that lack of pride becomes.

  3. I can live with this, or at least a version thereof.

    1. Immediate citizenship for all undocumented immigrants who haven’t been convicted of serious, violent crimes. 
    2. End to internal immigration enforcement, addition of new legal ports of entry, hiring of more immigration judges.
    3. Revise asylum rules such that would-be refugees can register claims at American embassies in their home countries, and have their cases seriously investigated and adjudicated there (thereby discouraging migrants from going on dangerous pilgrimages to cross our border).
    4. Drastically expand refugee admissions.
    5. Giant expansion of legal immigration (with priority given to younger families/workers) to resolve the nation’s impending demographic problems.
    6. Ban on guest workers/any other program that creates a class of wage laborers who lack the same protections as American citizens. 

    Original list courtesy of Eric Levitz (NY Magazine). I revised it somewhat.

  4. As an aside to this article, what is our senior Senator doing with that trip of 7 legislators to Russia? Do you think they might be trying to get enough information to impeach the President?

  5. John, as a fellow naturalized citizen, thank you for your service. And also, what are your feelings regarding the fact that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has now opened a denaturalization office? Personally, I find it... worrisome, to put it mildly. Considering what ICE is doing these days, I can see them move from searching for "citizens deemed to have obtained citizenship by illegitimate means" to citizens who are from the "wrong" countries... What do you think?

    1. I didn't know about a "denaturalization" office, Eve. Interesting . . . and potentially troubling. I'll get myself educated on it. Thanks.