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Remember when Gov. Brown didn’t favor immigrants?

Remember when Gov. Brown didn’t favor immigrants?

Dennis Wyatt


POSTED April 4, 2018 9:59 a.m.
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"There is something a little strange about saying, ‘Let's bring in 500,000 more people,' when we can't take care of the one million out of work."

That sounds like someone siding with President Trump to cap incoming immigrants, doesn't it? Guess again.
Those were the words of Gov. Jerry Brown. He spoke them in 1975 when another Republican by the name of Gerald Ford was in the White House.

Brown and other leaders at the time - Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware among others - did not want hundreds of thousands of refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam entering the United States.

People in the first Brown administration formed a commission for the purpose of possibly suing the federal government for opening the door to refugees.

Brown went as far as to try and block Air Force planes carrying refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.

California's leadership argued in 1975 that a large share of the state's population was already foreign born, there were too many Californians unemployed, and the state's welfare rolls were already overburdened.

Fast forward to today. There are 880,000 Californians out of work. We have the most foreign born residents among all 50 states at 27 percent. And California has 34 percent of the nation's welfare recipients.

So what has changed? Politics.

This is not a slam on Brown, Biden, and others for their current immigration views. It is, however, a slam on their piousness on the issue.

Brown and Biden circa 1975 are in alignment with Trump 2018.

And if immigrant policy is a pure political party issue, which it isn't, you could make a case that the Democratic Party in 1975 was acting like the Republican Party today. Such a broad brush is completely unfair. Yet political hacks of both the red and blue persuasions do that painting with mega broad brushes today. An example close to home is the hatchet job being done on Congressman Jeff Denham who happens to be a Republican from Turlock. His positions on immigration are neither beast nor fowl. There are fairly pragmatic given he's a farmer by trade and a Californian. He would strike you if you are a big pro-immigrant advocate as a Republican you'd want in office to work to convince elected Republicans from other states that are as likely to go Democratic in the next congressional elections as San Francisco is likely to go Republican.

In this age of scorched earth politics such strategies have no place as it isn't about finding a way everyone can win together as it is being self-righteously smug to the nth degree.

The irony of California in Brown's last term of governor suing the federal government for allowing more immigrants into the country is rich.

In fairness to the governor, he isn't the only politician - Democrat or Republican - that say they are pure as fresh snow when it comes to their stance on immigration when in truth they practice what might best be described as situational ethics.

This nation's immigration policies and politics have always been messy although the last 40 years have been extremely dysfunctional.

Not that anyone can say with great certainty what is behind's Trump's various Tweets and proclamations, his mixed signals on the Dreamers - undocumented youths that this nation has invested heavily in and have grown up as Americans that were brought to this country by their undocumented parents - may be perplexing but his initial point wasn't.

The Dreamers were not given citizenship by President Obama who issued an executive order to given them protection to a degree. Only Congress can make citizenship an option for them.

Trump's first move on the Dreamers pointed that out and gave Congress a deadline to act, which if didn't. But while Republicans now control Congress when Obama acted out of frustration the Democrats were in control of Congress.

Nothing is gained by either courting or using rhetoric for flamethrowers against people of either the political affiliations when it comes to Dreamers.

The only way for anything to happen is for a true bi-partisan or non-partisan effort to be launched.

That doesn't mean suing in response to every Trump Tweet. Nor does it mean blaming immigrants, legal or undocumented, for everything under the sun from high unemployment to crime.

What it means is being realistic, pragmatic, and not acting on political impulse.

For example, if you are going to argue the Dreamers are burdens on the taxpayers, stop and think for a second.

We spend roughly $10,000 a year, as an example, in California to educate a student per year in kindergarten through 12th grade. That's $130,000 over 13 years per student. If there are 1 million Dreamers - the mid-range of the estimated number of undocumented immigrants that were brought into this country before their 16th birthday - do the math.

If all one million were educated in public schools over 13 years the bill would come to $13 billion. A more reasonable number would put the tab at $5.2 billion on the assumption the average a typical Dreamer has been or was in public schools is four years. That assumes some arrived at age 15, aren't in school year or enrolled as a kindergartner and are only primary are students at the moment.

That's $5.2 billion in tax dollars we as a nation have invested in education alone of Dreamers.

Why would we want to kick them out when they have been educated to be productive citizens especially those that have secured post-secondary education?

Questions like those never get asked if all we do is scream at each other.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

 

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