James Ottavio Castagnera: This Is Not Your Grandpa’s America, So Get Over It

Roundup: Media's Take

Mr. Castagnera, a Philadelphia journalist and attorney, is the Associate Provost at Rider University and author of the weekly newspaper column “Attorney at Large.”

This may sound a little nasty… but the dumbest reason I’ve heard for legalizing the 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S. is “My grandparents got to come here. These people deserve the same chance.” I’ve heard that a lot lately. So let’s follow the logic of this notion and see where it leads us.

My Italian grandparents came here just about a century ago. My grandmother gave birth to 16 kids. Gee, wouldn’t it be great if every illegal-alien family currently in the U.S. had 16 kids? Since the Supreme Court already ruled 20 years ago that the children of illegals are entitled to a K-12 public education, our school districts would experience a spectacular increase in classroom diversity. Since we lack a national “English-only” law, the classroom teachers would no-doubt embrace the challenge of mainstreaming these kids under the “No Child Left Behind” Act. My senior-citizen neighbors --- many of whom already are struggling to pay their school taxes --- will undoubtedly grin and bear the added burden.

Once all these kids are educated and grown, half could stay at home to help their parents on the family farm while the other half could pack up their Conestoga wagons and head west to… whoops, I just remembered: The U.S. Interior Department declared the American frontier officially closed in 1896.

Just four years later in 1900 the U.S. Census counted 76,212,168 inhabitants in the U.S.A. In 2000 the Bureau counted 281,421,906 souls in America. That’s about 3.7 times as many people as a century earlier. This single fact might make a difference in some folks’ thinking.

Professor Marshall McLuhan, the Sixties media guru best remembered for “the media is the message,” also said that we lived (mentally) in “Bonanza-land.” Readers with a touch of gray at their temples will remember the popular weekly Western “Bonanza.” Younger eyes can take a gander at the retro-website http://bonanza1.com. They’re all there: Ben, big daddy and “the soul of Ponderosa,” the family’s mega-ranch; Adam, the wise-beyond-his-years eldest brother; Little Joe, the hot youngest brother, played by teen idol Michael Landon; and, Hoss, the lovable, lumbering family idiot, reminiscent of Lenny in “Of Mice and Men.”

My favorite from among the quotes posted on the “Bonanza” site is this Ben Cartwright profundity: "Well maybe I've never been to Heaven, and maybe I'm never going to get the chance, but Heaven is going to have to go some to beat the thousand square miles of the Ponderosa."

According to McLuhan (a Canadian), we Americans were driving down the road of life, looking into our rearview mirrors, where we saw the four Cartwright men riding side-by-side straight out of our TV screens. If the prophet of pop-culture could come back to 21 st century America, his opinion probably wouldn’t change. Just look at what we’re driving these days: Ford Mustangs, Jeep Cherokees, Dodge Dakotas, Honda Ridgelines (Motor Trend’s 2006 truck of the year, by the way), Hyundai Santa Fe’s and Tucsons.

The trouble is that, when we take our eyes away from that rearview mirror and stare out the front windshield, most of us never see the Ponderosa unrolling in front of us. More likely, we’re looking at the latest housing development, cheek-to-jowl with the newest strip mall, both of which we have plenty of time to ponder, because they’ve entailed the installation of yet another set of traffic lights. Or we may be gazing at yet another inner-city neighborhood, rundown and cluttered with trash.

Warm-hearted souls, who favor an open-door policy, ought to ask which Americans benefit and who loses, when our borders are left wide open and laws against hiring illegals go essentially un-enforced. Businesses wishing to keep their labor cost low are the big winners. Despite all the folklore that illegal aliens take jobs no American citizens want, our poorest citizens --- who, under current welfare rules, must enter the workforce --- suffer from illegal competition.

Bill Fletcher, former education director of the AFL-CIO and currently president of TransAfrica Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, in 2004 told the Pacific News Service, “It's like an urban legend, which sees competition taking place everywhere. If African Americans were moving from lower to higher level jobs, there would be no reason for fear. But that's not the case." Black workers are not the only ones trapped in temporary, low-paying, no-benefit jobs, he added.

No, folks, this is not Bonanza-land. This isn’t your grandpa’s America. Get your eyes off that rearview mirror. Get over it.

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George Vreeland Hill - 5/9/2006

California is a part of the United States of America, and is in no way connected to Mexico.
There is a border between the two, and it is meant to be crossed in a legal manner.
If a person enters the United States with no legal right, then that person is committing a crime.
Those who are committing these crimes, are the very people that California is putting up with.
Better known as illegal aliens, they are the people who are making you wait for long periods of time in hospitals because they over-crowd waiting rooms with no means in which to pay for health care.
They have no legal rights to work, housing, education, and welfare, and yet we give them part, most, or all of those things at your expense.
Illegal means to break the law.
These people are breaking the law by even being in California!
Why are we paying their way?
There is increasing crime in our schools, on the streets, and even on our properties because of illegal aliens who come here with little or no money, and who do not care.
We now have teachers who speak the many languages of these illegal aliens because they do not speak english.
This is America!
We speak english!!
If they can't speak our language, then what are they doing here?
Every time they cross the street they break the law because they are illegals, and that means against the law!
An elderly American woman was given a ticket in Los Angeles because she could not make it from one side of the street to the other on time, due to her age.
Yet we allow every illegal to cross every street.
This is insane.
Where are our leaders?
Why are our borders open while we are at war?
Why are we putting up with this?
While I write this, I must point out that many of my friends over the years have come from other countries.
They are the Latinos and others who came here under legal means.
They are hard working, good, honest people who are proud to call America their home.
I am just as proud to call them my friends!
They are angry at those who come here expecting a free pass.
This should not be happening.
We want answers from Sacramento, Washington, and our town and city leaders.
When you also take into account that illegal immigrants are costing California over nine billion dollars a year, and the biggest reason for the mess the state is in, it is clear that this needs to stop, and fast!
This is an election year, and if we do not get answers from those in office about the questions of why there are illegals here, and why are we paying their way, then we will take it upon ourselves to clean things up, by sweeping those in office, out of office, and replace them with people who put the interests of California first!
I am,
George Vreeland Hill