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  • In Defense of Ditch Diggers

       November 09, 2005

    John Hawkins at Right Wing News has a post about about what Americans can learn from the Paris riots. While I agree with some of the items on the list (assimilate & speak English), I wholeheartedly disagree with this:

    Our immigration policy needs to be updated for the 21st century. The United States is the strongest and most prosperous nation (of any size) in the world. Because of that, each year, there are far more people who want to come into this country than we can accept.

    So, what's wrong with being choosy about whom we allow to become a citizen of the United States? For example, why shouldn't a computer programmer from India be given preference over a ditch digger from Mexico? Why couldn't we take in a scientist from Jamaica instead of a lawyer from Germany? What's the point of allowing a day laborer from Brazil into the United States when we could have a nuclear physicist from New Zealand instead?

    My question is what the hell is wrong with ditch diggers? Does America no longer need hard working men to dig our ditches? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe that under the Statue of Liberty it says, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free". It doesn't say "Give me your affluent, your accomplished, Your upper middle class yearning for a lower tax rate."

    Isn't America that one place in the world where even a ditch digger can work hard and build a good life for himself and a better life for his children? The day that America rejects hard working individuals is the day the American dream dies. Do some of you really want to turn your back on that dream? Shame on you.

    Do you think it was the great grandsons and great great grandsons of the European chattering classes that stormed the beaches of Normandy or climbed up the stairwells into the World Trade Center? Hell no. It was the descendents of farmers, and laborers and yes, even lowly ditch diggers who answered the call in the greatest numbers when America needed them.

    Hawkins also says:

    Our goal with immigration shouldn't be to bring in more day laborers, it should be to bring in the best and the brightest applicants from all over the world.

    Is America the Ivy League now? We're only going to accept those who have connections, or who already have impressive accomplishments or are disadvantaged and have a great story to tell. God, I hope not.

    I think America should be State U. If you meet some minimum admission requirements you're in. Some of you won't make it. Some of you will need some tutoring and other help. Some of you will go on to accomplish great things. But the vast majority of you are going to end up somewhere in the middle. And that's fine. There's nothing wrong with the middle. We throw great parties.

    Ronald Reagan famously described America as a:

    tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

    I shudder to think of what the Gipper would think of those who would turn that city on a hill into a gated community.

    Posted by at November 9, 2005 09:32 PM

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    #  November 10th, 2005 1:31 AM      Laura
    "I think America should be State U. If you meet some minimum admission requirements you're in."

    I know I've developed a rep for being anti-immigration, but that's not true at all. I think you're right, America *should* be State U.

    Students should qualify, fill out an application, be properly admitted, have to maintain their GPA for x number of years (i.e. learn the language and assimilate), and then, and ONLY then, get their citizenship diploma.  
    #  November 10th, 2005 8:01 AM      JohnTant
    I think the point is that we have a surplus of ditch diggers, but not very many nuclear physicists.  
    #  November 10th, 2005 8:04 AM      kris
    Do we? I don't think so. I think ditch diggers are still in demand. Men that want to work hard are still in demand.  
    #  November 10th, 2005 8:23 AM      JohnTant
    But a nuclear physicist is in greater demand than a ditch digger...witness the salary differential.

    And it seems there's a casual sort of populism in your remark that "Men that want to work hard are still in demand." What, ditch diggers work hard but nuclear physicists don't?  
    #  November 10th, 2005 8:33 AM      JohnTant
    I also want to put Reagan's quote into context:

    And that's about all I have to say tonight, except for one thing. The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the `shining city upon a hill.' The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

    And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was 8 years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

    We've done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for 8 years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.

    I think Reagan was speaking metaphorically when he said "the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here." I really don't think he was arguing in favor of an unrestricted immigration policy. After all, part of the shining city means the person with the will and heart to get here is going to hold true to America's ideals and standards and will integrate. That's part of that whole "heart" imagery. Plus, the shining city serves as a metaphor...the idea of freedom being the city, not the physical location of the United States.

    Such is the genius of Reagan that many disparate factions of conservatism still consider him their exclusive standard-bearer.  
    #  November 10th, 2005 4:06 PM      BVBigBro
    Well, the physicist might be more in demand from an employment standpoint, but who would you rather party with, a house full of ditch diggers or a house full of physicists?  
    #  November 10th, 2005 5:43 PM      KVBigSis
    As someone who spent the summer before college digging a giant pit, thank for the defense of ditch diggers, Kris.

    I very much agree with your post, and object to valuing an immigrant solely on the basis of the salary he or she would command in this country. US immigration policy already gives preference to more highly-skilled applicants, but there should always be room for immigrants like our greatgrandparents, who came with little more than the desire for a better life and the willingness to work for it.  
    #  November 10th, 2005 6:16 PM      Daddy
    A lot of these pretty-boy candy-ass c@cks0ckers NEED to pick up a shovel a dig a ditch!

    You don't need to change immigration standards. You just need to give some people a nice warm cup of GET UP OFF YOUR ASS AND DO IT YOURSELF!  
    #  November 10th, 2005 8:40 PM      JohnTant
    So all else equal, a nuclear physicist shouldn't be preferred because to do so would smack of elitism?!? And reversing that isn't cause for "objection?!?"

    I find that attitude incredible, especially from a quarter who turns a blind eye to illegal immigration on the grounds that illegals do jobs no one else wants to do.

    Quite frankly, every society will always have ditch diggers. Very few will have people who know how to make nuclear reactors.

    #  November 13th, 2005 1:19 AM      bamapachyderm
    How about "no thanks" to nuclear physicists because of the threat of nuclear terrorism? Remember AQ Khan? (Not a nuke physicist, but close enough.)

    And honestly, bringing in more day laborers is exactly what the worker pass program is about, because mostly immigrants are the ones who do that work. Cut all the labor pool out, and who's going to do it? You don't really think most unemployed Americans will do it, do you?

    Think about this, too: bring in only the "smartest" immigrants, and imagine the competition for scholarships and jobs, considering their minority/immigrant status. Sooner or later, it WILL be only American-born citizens doing the less prestigious jobs and going to local/state colleges, if they can afford it.

    JohnTant - I see nothing contradictory or ironic about "the grounds that illegals do jobs no one else wants to do" AND saying that highly educated professionals aren't the only desirable immigrants. In fact, it seems quite consistent.

    I'd much rather have a working ditch-digger around than an unemployed slacker on welfare who refuses to dig ditches, anyway--and there ARE a lot of them.  



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