Sagehens Sound Off
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
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.")
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
-Joel Newman '89
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
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
-Carl Olson '66
Woodland Hills, Calif.
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
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.
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
-Silvana Carrasco Miller '87
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.
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.