I was listening to NPR this morning on the way to work. They were doing a story on the "out-migration" of illegal immigrants from the U.S. due to our country's current economic crisis. It seems many of the jobs that once lured Hispanics to enter the U.S. illegally have dried up. Now, many of those who are being deported are not trying to return, and many more are leaving voluntarily.
This will no doubt please those who see illegal immigration as the principal scourge on the country. In a weird way, this development could almost be seen as a validation of the much-vaunted free-enterprise system: Our lousy economy is producing results that could never be attained by such follies as building a wall along the Mexican border. (Now, we just have to keep an eye out for those pesky Icelanders whose economy is totally in the tank. As if Bjork weren't bad enough.)
But I digress. As with most big issues — like immigration and the economy — nothing is simple. Contradictions abound. Exceptions rule. The NPR reporter interviewed a 45-year-old man living across the border in Reynosa, Mexico, who'd just been deported from Miami. He had been brought into the U.S. illegally at age 5 by his parents. After 40 years in the U.S., his luck failed. He was arrested and deported, leaving an American wife and five American kids behind. Two of his sons were serving in Iraq. He was waiting for an opportunity to slip back into the U.S. — and who could blame him? Not me. Buena suerte, amigo.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, our li'l recession celebrated its first birthday this month. But again, nothing is simple. The sky isn't falling. Adjustments are being made. Money is being force-fed into the economy; interest rates, gas prices, and home prices are going down. Most of us are tightening our purse-strings, figuring out ways to cope. We have our families, our lives, our blessings, such as they are. This country has survived times that make these days look sweet.
One of the worst things we can do is to use Wall Street's gyrations as a barometer for the health of the economy. The stock values of recent years were a shell game, and that game is over. My retirement account has deflated, but I think (or at least, pray) it will recover at some point. And my 401(k) money is still buying stocks and bonds or securities of some kind with every paycheck — like yours probably is. Where else are we going to put it?
Times are tough, but at least we're not sitting across the border, wondering if we'll ever see our families again. We'll get through this and probably be better for it in the long run. (Note: John Branston doesn't agree. See page 12.)
The rain is coming down, slow and persistent from a low gray sky. It soaks the grass, fills the gutters, and falls hard on the flowers left on the Beale Street sidewalk outside of B.B. King's club ...