Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Short Film by Hilman Curtis: Soldiers

Yesterday, was Constitution Day day in which American commemorate the U.S. Constitution which on September 17, 1787 was signed by thirty-nine visionary men.
Constitution Day is supposed to be a time when "continue the legacy and develop habits of citizenship in the new generation of Americans".  But, what will the face of the "new generation of American's" look like?

A Short Story

In 1980 as a 19 year old I joined the U.S. Marine Corps.  I joined because, I did not want to go directly to college, I wanted to get away from home and wanted to serve his country, all in that order.  I joined much to my parents initial dismay which would later turn into pride albeit with reasonable fears for my safety.
A few months later, after being processed at some building in Los Angeles, I boarded a bus bound for Union Station and boarded an Amtrak train which left Los Angeles and headed to San Diego for 13-weeks of basic training.
I was accompanied on the train a few other recruits, we had been delayed while being processed and missed the chartered bus, so special transportation arrangements where made for our group of what I remember being five Marine recruits.
Anyway, while heading to the Marine Corp Recruit Depot (MCRD) for what would turn out to be some very  long, mentally and physically challenging training, I had time to contemplate what lay ahead.  However, while on the train I had no idea of what actually awaited me, no idea of what to expect while in basic training.  I was just thinking, wishfully thinking about the possibilities as I embarked on this new path.  I was thinking about how best I could serve my country.

Remember, when I joined the military, I was still just a Permanent U.S. Resident and had not yet decided to become a U.S. Citizen, as a 19 year old I had not really given that much thought on what it meant to be a U.S. Citizen, much less pondered it's value and significance.

What's in a title?

When you join the Marines you don't automatically become a "Marine".  You don't earn the privilege of being called Marine until you actually graduate from basic training.  While in basic training Drill Instructors may refer to you as "private", if they are feeling generous, most likely they will less desirable names, such a maggot, scum bucket, shit-for-brains, etc., all meant to remind you that you have not yet earned the title of Marine, you've yet to earn the title of Private, so dig deep and train hard.
At about the 11th week, the Drill Instructors will begin to call you "Private" and one begins to see them more as mentors rather than, well hard-asses hell bent on destroying you.  The fact that a Drill Instructor would address with the title of "Private" is enough to fill up any recruit who has just left behind him or her some 10 weeks of intense physical training of what is the most demanding basic military training program in the U.S. Armed Forces will fill them with immense pride.  The title of Private tell you that the forthcoming title is that of United States Marine.  The light becomes visible at the end of the tunnel.
What does it mean to be a Citizen?

So, once again yesterday was Constitution Day, which made me ponder what it means to be a Citizen.  It made me think about the sacrifices that citizens and our US Military makes on our behalf everyday.  It reminded me of the sacrifices that thousands of soldiers what are foreign born immigrants, the sacrifices that those immigrants who have yet to become U.S. citizens also make for their adopted country.
I could not help but think what those thirty-nine courages and visionary men, those who wrote the U.S. Constitution could possible think about how our current legislative leaders and our commander in chief have interpreted the articles of the constitution?
Is it possible that new immigrants have a different concept of what Citizenship means, one that is different from what our founding fathers envisioned?  Certainly our founding fathers would never have envisioned a nation with a racial make up such is our nation is today.
It goes without saying that the founding fathers could never have envisioned a United States of America in 2008.  But our current leaders know what to expected our nation to look like in 2050.   The US Census has widely reported on how Asian, Black and Latino/Hispanics will become the majority in the United States by 2050.
So once again, what does it mean to be a Citizen of the United States today?  Is there broad consensus amongst us on what that means?
The Pew Hispanic Center just released study cites that:
Half (50%) of all Latinos say that the situation of Latinos in this country is worse now than it was a year ago, according to a new nationwide survey of 2,015 Hispanic adults conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center.

How can this country and it's citizens become more unified if most factors point to a continued fragmentation. The failure of our government to fix our immigration crisis has only added to the fragmentation, something that a souring economy only makes worse.
We can vigorously debate the issue of illegal immigration and whether or not such immigrants contribute positively or negatively to the United States, both in an economic and social sense, but the fact remains that they are here, some have been here for over 20 years and despite Draconian efforts most will remain in this country.
The immigration crisis as an issue has been largely absent from the Presidential Elections of 2008, perhaps the upcoming debates will be reason for it to resurface and allow the candidates to spell out their plans for a solution.

The current issue is that of the economy, but immigration, even illegal immigration has become an integral part of such economy.  The fixing of our immigration crisis is like the elephant in the room which nobody wants to acknowledge.  Both presidential candidates fears what that fix will look like and they fear alienating their base with the hard and difficult choices that will accompany such "fix".
The McCain and Obama camps seem to be comfortable in the notion that it's best to address the immigration crisis once they are elected into office.  It's strategically a better place from which to deal with the messy clean-up, since in office their election is not longer at stake, but it's a cop out.
Citizens vs. Immigrants

How will our legislature deal with the Millions of undocumented workers currently in the United States and will they be provided with an eventual path to Citizenship?
How will the next Presidential administration deal with the billions of dollars that undocumented immigrants have paid into the social security system?  A dirty little secret is that those funds have been paid by immigrants to fund the benefits that U.S. Citizens receive from the Social Security Administration.  It's simply how the SSA operates, current generation of workers pay the Social Security benefits of past working generations.  

Will an immigration reform measure allow the SSA to credit the account of millions of undocumented immigrants with the money they have contributed via payroll deductions?  More importantly will they be allowed to receive Social Security benefits when they become eligible and how will those benefits be funded?

McCain and Obama have very hard work ahead.  The next President will be required to lead our legilators and have them decide whether millions of undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the United States will be provided with a path towards U.S. Citizenship.
The stakes are immensely high and even our founding fathers would be hard pressed for an easy decision.  The choices made by the next administration on comprehensive immigration reform will greatly impact the future of the United States in profound ways that are yet to be determined.

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