homepage logo

Cafe Society to discuss the immigration issue

By Staff | Oct 7, 2016

The Cafe Society’s next session on Oct. 11 will be devoted to the intractable immigration issue which defies resolution in state capitols as well as the federal government. While it has emerged as a central area of concern in the Presidential campaign, the focus there is on garnering or losing votes rather than dealing with the very real and increasingly monumental consequences. It is a complicated political, social, economic and legal issue that will require long-term and pragmatic approaches to resolve. The current crisis is exacerbated by fear mongering and self-centered approaches that do not serve the national interests. The situation is made worse by the fact that quality of life in America for many is eroding as they suffer comparative loss of earning power and see new arrivals as competitors in the work place and in the receiving line for government benefits as well.

These informal weekly Cafe Society sessions, part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday in the Rumsey Room of the SU Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Cafe Society facilitator, Mike Austin shared, “Immigration policies have long been a contentious issue and are heightened further when attendant laws and implementing directives are not effectively and consistently enforced. The complexity of the problem is also increased by the fact that our Constitution provides that children born in the United States acquire a birthright to enjoy protection as citizens of our nation. So our failure to face up to this social, economic and political quandary grows exponentially more difficult year by year. To give you an appreciation of the magnitude of the problem (if that is how you view it) U.S. Census data reflects that we have over 42 million immigrants in the U.S. And 23 percent of them are school age children. They are not evenly spread across the nation. In some states such as California and New York they comprise approximately 27 and 23 percent respectively of the population. For West Virginia it is only 1.4 percent. In recent years a preponderance of the increase in immigrants is coming from Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Iraq, Pakistan, India and Ethiopia. So by focusing too much on immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America, we have lost perspective on the wider phenomenon that is occurring.”

Austin went on to say, “To complicate things further, these new arrivals are engaging a portion of our society that is least able to accommodate them where they represent a competitive presence in the work place, in public schools and in housing.

“They present a significant challenge for our economic and social infrastructure to provide health care, education, shelter, and even public safety. Language and other cultural differences retard the assimilation that American pride themselves on as one of our national strengths. The Census report analysis states that 13.3 percent our nation’s population is now comprised of immigrants, the highest in 94 years. Additionally, as our economy continues its relentless transformation from production to service industries, immigrant concentrations also stress the work place environment where new arrivals are vulnerable to exploitation. For example, reportedly 2014 data shows that 49 percent of maids 47 percent of taxi drivers and chauffeurs, 33 percent of butchers and meat processors and 35 percent of construction laborers are foreign-born. When you look at comparative birth rates among different ethnic and social groups, the disparities grow even larger.

“The challenge now is to get our political leaders to focus objectively on long term approaches that will allow us to make this influx of human resources a positive windfall rather than a burden. We are not alone in this dilemma and there is valuable insight to be gained in examining how other nations are dealing with immigration.”