Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Sagehens Sound Off

Debating Immigration

Good for Robin Cartwright '58 (PCM Winter 2007) for spelling out some immigration reform issues. I think the letter was informative and constructive, and I look forward to the responses I'm confident it will generate.

I agree the problem will not go away, and I hope some ideas and opinions from citizens will help push Congress in the direction of "sensible, humane solutions" instead of the partisan rhetoric that seems to be their only product these days.
-Dave Holton '53
Twain Harte, Calif.

Thanks go to Robin Cartwright '58 for bringing the immigration debate to the pages of PCM. I agree that "humane solutions" to this issue are desirable. Surprisingly, one humane solution is almost never voiced by the media, politicians or other citizens, including pro-immigration organizations: ending restriction on immigration to the United States. (Even The New York Times, while based in a city heavily populated with immigrants and while decrying a fixation on "toughness" in recent immigration policy, editorialized that the government should "punish immigrants who enter illegally ... restrict their ability to get work through deceit and false identities.")

Presumably many will quickly dismiss the idea of ending immigration restriction, especially post-9/11, as a fantasy which ignores the economic, national security, environmental and cultural consequences of such a radical policy change. In the limited space available here, I invite those readers to reconsider, keeping in mind that my definition of unrestricted immigration does not neglect the processing of immigrants, in which potential terrorists and dangerous fugitives could be detained and public health issues could be addressed.

On the philosophical level, arguments in favor of unrestricted immigration are persuasive. One, which I call "the historical argument," notes that a huge proportion of Americans today are descendants of the tens of millions of European immigrants who entered the U.S. between Independence (and before) and 1920. These Americans owe their presence in the U.S. to immigration policies for their ancestors which were less restrictive, without the numerical restrictions on European immigration established in the 1920s. So it is unfair to deny current immigrants the same opportunity available to the ancestors of many, if not most, Americans. A second argument emphasizes, in a 1996 article in The International Migration Review, that the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Accords declare a right to emigration and that there is a "fundamental moral contradiction between the notion that emigration is widely regarded as a matter of human rights while immigration is regarded as a matter of national sovereignty." The right to emigrate can be realized only through a concurrent right to immigrate, since "if people are free to leave, where are they to go?" A third argument, formulated by Joseph Carens of the University of Toronto, is based on John Rawls' approach to political theory, in which Rawls "asks what principles people would choose to govern society if they had to choose from behind a 'veil of ignorance,' knowing nothing about their personal situations." Carens argues that people behind the "veil" would not know "their place of birth or whether they were members of one particular society rather than another" and that they would decide to "permit no restrictions on migration." A fourth argument by R. George Wright of Samford University, highlights "the apparent moral arbitrariness of allowing many persons to undeservedly suffer absolute or relative poverty, rather than permit them merely to enter the United States ... where others with the equally undeserved good fortune to have been born in the United States resist ... accommodation of the undeservedly less fortunate."

Moving away from philosophy to the concrete aspects of immigration policy, there are three important considerations. One is that eliminating restrictions on immigration would end the widespread suffering associated with our current policy-from the deaths of hundreds of immigrants who try to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally to the anxiety and exploitation experienced by the millions of immigrants who are illegally in the U.S. Second, there are indications that the effect of unrestricted immigration would not be an influx of epic proportions. These include this observation by the late Julian Simon of the University of Maryland: "Most Puerto Ricans remain in Puerto Rico despite the absence of administrative barriers and the low cost of travel to mainland U.S., though average earnings in Puerto Rico are considerably lower than in the mainland." Third, while the economic, environmental and social impacts of unrestricted immigration would be complex and significant, much of the impact would be positive and policies could be implemented to manage any negative impacts of increased immigration. In response to a question about what changes in immigration policy he would recommend, the late economist and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman stated, "From an economic point of view, unlimited immigration, but limiting access for a decade or so to welfare and similar benefits, would be ideal."

The option of unrestricted immigration should be part of today's immigration debate.

-Joel Newman '89
Vancouver, Wash.

Aliens become criminals once they step across the border or overstay their visas. America's social contract means that we all abide by the "rule of law" and fight any attempt to evade it.

Employers are forbidden from hiring illegal aliens. However, many do so anyway, claiming they can't tell what employment documents are legitimate. Thus, a gigantic international "scab" system has developed with over 15 million illegal aliens.

Fortunately, now there is a free federal online system, "Basic Pilot Program," for verifying the eligibility of persons to work in this country. Any employer can sign up. It's run by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. The Website is https://www.vis-dhs.com/EmployerRegistration.
Thousands of responsible employers have already signed up. These include Dunkin' Brands (Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Togo's) and the West Covina Unified School District. We should urge all employers to sign up as a positive act of siding with the rule of law against the rule of outlaws.
-Carl Olson '66
Woodland Hills, Calif.

Megaphone Memories

I remember I was on the campus watching movie people work, as were many other students. At one point in the early morning taking of pictures, the person with the megaphone called out, to no one in particular, "Who's in charge of all these extras?" when he was trying to get somebody to do what the filming needed. There was a moment of silence, and then Connie Lyon Zetterberg '37 (see obituaries) just blandly said, "I am"-assuming the job so the taping could continue. I laugh when I think of that. That's typical of Connie-quick to be available when action is needed.

-Stephen Zetterberg '38

Claremont, Calif.

Voices So Lovely

The most wonderful thing happened during Family Weekend. As I walked past the cloisters behind Little Bridges on my way to an a cappella concert, I heard voices, wonderful voices, lilting, percussive, penetrating as if the ensemble made up a single musical organism, some exotic beast captured in a tropical forest and perhaps the last of its kind. I saw a dozen or so students facing a wall. Their voices simulated instruments in an intricate minimalist pattern so reminiscent of Philip Glass I thought I was hearing one of his chamber pieces.

But then a soloist began, in a high piercing voice, singing against the texture of the others, singing haunting words about a child, about love, about caring. The tone was wan and lonely yet so intensely transforming that the space I inhabited detached itself from any particular place and became nowhere or everywhere and tears came to my eyes and I could not move. And one of the girls in her joy began leaping up and down dancing, dancing in place, smiling, smiling, singing, transported by her singing, pure in her happiness, unaware of her beauty, being intensely alive in that very moment. And because it was a rehearsal and they were simply preparing for a concert, not actually performing, they ran through the piece again and again each time renewing the joy, unaware of me slouched on the wall like a moth dazzled by light.

Soon, too soon, they finished and filed off into the performance hall which I also entered but in an altered state of mind, having been waylaid, shocked and ravished by an intimacy such as only music can provoke and this in full view of the public eye.

Later I spoke with Alec the leader of the a cappella group Shades and learned he was a chemistry major, not even studying music officially, yet responsible for transcribing popular songs into voiced versions. The song I had heard was "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses. Guns N' Roses? A standard brand rock group? Could such as they ever in the history of the Earth have sung a song so lovely? No chemist can explain such transmutation. It's magic.

-Laszlo Bencze
Pomona College Parent

Racist Theme Parties

College theme parties have been causing serious controversy. Students at Clemson University in South Carolina offended many by holding a party over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend where white students dressed up as "black" people, some even wearing blackface. Reports of similar parties have been surfacing from around the country, including Macalaster College in Minnesota, where at a "politically incorrect" party, one white student wore blackface and a noose around his neck.

While apologies will inevitably ensue in the wake of this party controversy, I wonder if colleges and universities, who presumably produce graduates that are well versed in many other disciplines, will take responsibility for their students demonstrating such extreme insensitivity about race and U.S. history. One would hope that this would prompt these and other colleges to embark on serious self-examination. These incidents may be shocking, but they are only extreme examples of behavior that has become quite normalized. "Pimps and Hoes," "40-ounce" and various other "ghetto" theme parties are not uncommon occurrences at colleges. Many of the students who participate would never describe what they are doing as racist or offensive. The fact that there are few, if any, black people at these parties might be considered ironic but overall harmless.

As a student at Pomona College, I was definitely familiar with these parties. Being a student of color, attending them was a strange experience. However, I suppose that I took it with a grain of salt, and I even found a sort of comical surrealism about them. In retrospect, I wonder if they were much more hurtful than I had imagined. There were also obviously offensive stunts, including a white Claremont College student dressing up as a "black" person for Halloween.

These students are not just bad apples. Rather than focusing on them, we should question why racist theme parties are common among the college educated. Are failures in higher education at the root of this problem? Are schools failing to guarantee a truly diverse student body, more tenured black professors and curriculum standards that challenge racial and historical ignorance? Although some may argue that these parties might inadvertently serve a
purpose in exposing "politically correct" hypocrisy on campuses, if we need students wearing blackface to start a dialogue, there is evidently something substantially absent from the classroom.

-Sharda Sekaran '98
New York, N.Y.

Food of the Dogs

I just got my Winter 2007 PCM and read your editorial. It's quite timely! My husband and I have been having a raging debate on what to feed our dog. I insist it must be deli cuts (turkey or chicken) mixed with grated cheese from the supermarket (Trader Joe's, Wild Oats or Rincon Market even!) He, on the other hand, has been gathering advice from "friends" that the diet I insist on is not healthy for our Pomeranian-mix. I've gone to extreme lengths to inform as many people as I can that dog food is made from the remains of euthanized cats and dogs. Call me crazy, but I bet dollars-to-doughnuts that is exactly what I smell when I open a packet of Whiskas for the cats.

In your research, can you confirm the euthanized-animals-in-the-pet-food-supply story? Or is that still in folklore world? I called our vet's office and asked them about that story and I think they snickered, then advised me to get a "good quality" brand of canned dog food from one of the pet chain stores. Riiiiiiiiiiight. The last time I did that the dog got the runs.

I just wanted to say thanks for your editorial piece-I will be flaunting it to my non-Sagehen spouse. Until he can come up with a better source, my doggy is staying on deli cuts. But I might change the cheese to potatoes.

-Silvana Carrasco Miller '87
Tucson, Ariz.

Prometheus Still Turning Heads

What a clever and interesting issue is that of Winter 2007.

The photo in Frary Dining Hall reminds me of how shocked my mother (Lilian Norman '12) was when the Orozco mural was first shown.

-Sid Gally
Caltech '41
47 Sighting

It comes as no surprise that one wine that's now popular among Sagehens for gifts and gatherings has a 47 emblazoned on the label. Rex Goliath Giant 47-Pound Rooster is a Central Coast California wine, available in Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. Please share your 47 sightings. You can send us your letter at the address on page 2 or e-mail us at the link at www.pomona.edu/magazine. We welcome letters from alumni and friends. Letters may be edited for length, style and clarity.

©Copyright 2007
by Pomona College
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