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Oh Wait, There Are Other Types of Immigration?


This is a repost of an article I wrote for Red, Brown and Blue.

The latest discussion on immigration has largely focused on the illegal immigration of people crossing over into the United States from Mexico. After taking a backseat into issues regarding our financial crisis, healthcare reform, and political tactics, the passing of immigration law SB1070 in Arizona has rekindled the discussion on immigration and our need to find an effective and just solution. Supporters of the law believe that the law will discourage illegal immigrants from entering the state. Critics believe that the new law will encourage discriminatory actions and encourage racial profiling. I will not focus on the new law enacted in Arizona, but rather take a broader perspective of how immigration affects the United States in a global economy.

Immigration is absolutely critical to the survival of the U.S. economy. The majority of our workplace is comprised of two important groups: immigrants and baby boomers. An article published in the Washington Post states that although immigrants account for 12.5 percent of the population, they make up 15 percent of the workplace. This overrepresentation occurs because immigrants and their children account for 58 percent of the U.S. population growth since 1980. With infertility a concern and the baby boomers reaching retirement age, we stand to have a void in the workplace that we simply cannot fill with native-born Americans. Not only will there be more jobs than people to fill them, but as baby boomers exit the workforce, they will take with them years of experience, knowledge, business relationships and expertise that cannot be easily archived.

This situation poses some very serious questions: How are we to continue progressing at the same level we have experienced over the past sixty years? How do we define progress? How do we pass down the information that cannot be stored outside the minds of our experts? With other countries making tremendous economic gains (I’m looking at India and China), how do we remain a leader, or even a competitor, in an ever increasingly global and competitive marketplace? These questions and several others will require complicated answers, and we need those answers now. How we answer them will help define the course for our future. The United States has historically been a highly desirable place for foreign students to study abroad and we have attracted many of the top intellectuals from all over the planet. Over the past few years we have lost considerable ground to the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Singapore, and China, who have all implemented strategies to make them more attractive to prospective students and professionals. As other destinations become more alluring we stand to lose the rate of innovation that has fueled our development. Madeleine Albright, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel and Albert Einstein are just a few of the notable immigrants who helped shape the United States.

This country was “founded” on immigration. Today, the immigration of Mexican people is the focal point of the media. Although Mexicans do make up the largest number of illegal immigrants in the United States, they also make up the largest number of legal immigrants. According to the 2009 Annual Flow Report, published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security the total amount of legal permanent resident flow into the United States was 1,130,818. Of this number, Mexican immigrants accounted for only 14.6 percent, or 164,000 people. This number is down from 189,989 or 17.2% in 2008. A large number of immigrants are migrating from China, the Philippines, India, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Vietnam Columbia, and South Korea. The top destinations within the U.S. were California, New York, Florida, Texas and New Jersey respectively. Sure Texas and California share a border with Mexico, but who was the last person you knew who walked from Mexico to New York? Immigration is a big deal that needs an appropriate solution, but illegal immigration from Mexico is only part of what should be a larger debate.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Maine.

Michael Maine is dedicated to global communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Originally planning on utilizing his problem solving and strategic strengths in the corporate sector, his eyes were opened and life changed after taking his first Sociology class at Southwestern University, where he graduated with a bachelor in Business and minors in both Sociology and Communications.

Any comments?

I, Too, Have a Dream

This is a repost of an article I wrote for Red, Brown and Blue.

When a colleague recently asked me, as an African American male, what I thought about Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s dream, I told him I couldn’t answer that question without an essay of a response. The significance of that dream is so tremendous, and the effects so wide-ranging, I honestly don’t think it would be fair to respond, “Oh, it’s important.” An answer like that would fail to capture the magnitude of that dream, and how I feel it has affected my life and the lives of so many others. So, with that said, consider this my answer…

What do I think of King’s dream? One thing is for certain: I think it is very worthy of celebration. His dedication to civil rights, his charismatic leadership, and unwavering energy helped ignite one of the largest social movements in human history. However that dream was not his alone, but rather the culmination of many like-minded individuals who wanted to move towards a world free of racial oppression. Dr. King was not the first person to have a dream of Black kids and White kids playing in the same playgrounds together  – learning in the same class rooms together  – experiencing life together. No, there were many people who shared in that dream a sense of hope and the idea that we had transcended the ideology that race was the determinant factor of social mobility, academic attainment, and intellectual ability. In that dream, there was a message that we were ready to step forward – together. That dream was then, and remains today, an inspiration for us to reach our potential as a collective group of people.

With any powerful message there needs to be a powerful messenger. Without a capable person to transmit the message, much of its significance is lost. In this case, King was definitely a worthy and ideal candidate for this challenge. The dream may have not been his alone, but he had the rare ability to deliver an extremely well articulated vision of the future and a thorough knowledge of the trends that would later set the stage for a critical social movement to take place. Rosa Parks was not the first person that refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus. No, that distinction belongs to Irene Morgan. Why then do we tend to give Rosa Parks credit for igniting the Montgomery Boycott?

Ms. Morgan, albeit a courageous and strong woman, was not the proper image for the movement. At the time she refused her seat she was an unmarried mother of two children, resisted with physical force, and did not have most pristine reputation among the people in her community. Ms. Parks, on the other hand, was older, more respected, and the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP.  Also, Parks’ resistance was orchestrated as part of a tactical strategy. Given the sensitive state of affairs regarding civil issues and the legal strategy the NAACP was employing to resist oppression, they couldn’t afford to feed the media with any more fodder to battle the movement than already existed. Although Irene Morgan won a court case with her defiance, the NAACP chose Parks because opponents would be less able to undermine the movement based on character flaws.

It is my opinion, however, that, in addition to honoring King’s legacy and the dream of the Civil Rights movement, we need to continue pressing forward by forging our own dreams. I think that if he could, Dr. King would encourage us to keep dreaming, adapting them for the challenges that are relevant to the present conditions. Many of the dreams of his time have yet to come to fruition, but great progress has been made in several areas. The problem, I feel, is that the dream and its effects were so monumental, that we have lost some of our own desire and willingness to develop our own dreams. King’s dream was a dream for the ages; one that encompassed the struggle that transcended race, ethnicity, age and other differences to be embraced by so many.

So, what do I think about King’s dream? I think that dream was important then, and remains important today. I think he was definitely the right person to deliver the message. However, I don’t think it exempts us from having our own dreams. In the wake of issues such as diminishing energy reserves to support global demands and a flawed education system that is not preparing our children for the future of highly skilled labor demands, along with acknowledging the old issues such as immigration and terrorism, I think we have plenty to dream about. Martin Luther King, Junior had a great dream, one that has stood the test of time, but I too have a dream. Do you?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Maine.

Michael Maine is dedicated to global communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Originally planning on utilizing his problem solving and strategic strengths in the corporate sector, his eyes were opened and life changed after taking his first Sociology class at Southwestern University, where he graduated with a bachelor in Business and minors in both Sociology and Communications.

So, what do you think? What other issues are we facing today? How far have we come? What solutions do you suggest?

Why The Word "Boycott" in the National Marriage Boycott is Important




This is an article I wrote for the multicultural blog, Red, Brown and Blue.

I just signed the “National Marriage Boycott” pledge. A group of students at Stanford University began this movement with the simple idea that until everybody has the right to marry whomever they chose, the students will choose to not get married. I too, feel that equal rights should be just that – equal rights. At the National Marriage Boycott website, you can offer your support by signing the petition, creating a profile, and ordering their “equality ring”. I spoke with the president of the organization and she told me one of the biggest obstacles they are running into is getting people to sign the petition not because people don’t want equality for the LGBT community and everyone, but because the petition has the term “boycott” in the title. She asked me what significance I thought the word boycott might have in people’s unwillingness to sign the pledge. Her question really made me stop and think about the word boycott and people’s association with it. Many people have issue with the marriage boycott because they have issues with same-sex marriage, whether they be personal or religious. Others are on the fence on whether they want to support, resist, or take no part in change. But what is it about boycott stopping those who otherwise would be supporters of the cause?

I think the first issue we, those who would like to support the movement, have with participating is not the word boycott but the circumstances surrounding the boycott. Although the word may not necessarily evoke a negative connotation, we are typically asked to boycott institutions we deem negative. We boycott work when we feel work conditions are unsafe, workers are underpaid, or otherwise treated unfairly. We boycott stores, businesses, and brands when we feel they are involved in unethical practices. With the marriage boycott, we are being asked to abandon an institution not because we see it as unlawful, unethical, or unfair but because the environment surrounding that institution deprives a right to a specific group of people. Marriage itself does not grant one partner more rights or controls than the other. Although culture and customs play a major role in the how the marriage is run, it’s largely up to the couple to determine how to run their marriage. In American culture, marriage is often taught as one of life’s major goals. Tax breaks, the ability to share medical benefits, and other rewards that are often reserved for married couples further emphasize the importance we place on the right to marry. Why should these rights be available to some couples and not to others? While legislature and practices are slowly changing, until everybody is granted the same set of rights, we are not all created equal.

Another major issue is the archetype of the member of the majority who wants change, but doesn’t want to sacrifice the advantages they currently enjoy in order to realize that change. In order to be an agent of change, one must be willing to make sacrifices in order to identify with and help the oppressed. Many people don’t want to give up the opportunity to marry for an undetermined amount of time while the fight is fought to grant marriage rights to all. As mentioned earlier the right to marry is not only important for those who want to legally signify their love and commitment to one another, but also to enjoy the rights often designated only to married couples. Denying oneself the opportunity to marry is a sacrifice that many are either not willing or ready to make. It may be much easier for somebody who is very young, single, or doesn’t want to get married to sign and participate in the petition than somebody who is deeply in love and planning to take that step. Those that are already married may want to support the cause, but because they are married, feel they can’t. Fortunately, the National Marriage Boycott has come up with solutions for those that want to show their support but  can’t check the “single” box.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? If so, do you remember the feeling that person gave you? Do you remember the first time your heart fluttered when you came in contact with that person, how you looked at them and everything else disappeared? How would you feel if it wasn’t legal for you to enter into the institution of marriage solely because of their gender? What if the “norm” was flipped, and it straight people didn’t have equal rights. Until we all work together to correct this injustice we will not be allowed to live as true equals.

For more information visit: National Marriage Boycott Website. 

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Maine.

Michael Maine is dedicated to global communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Originally planning on utilizing his problem solving and strategic strengths in the corporate sector, his eyes were opened and life changed after taking his first Sociology class at Southwestern University, where he graduated with a bachelor in Business and minors in both Sociology and Communications.

Empathy, Vital to Helping Ourselves and Others

This is a respost of an article I wrote for the multicultural blog Red, Brown and Blue.

How many times has somebody genuinely wanted to help you with a situation, but because they weren’t members of the same social class you dismissed them by saying something along the lines of, “How can you truly care? You don’t understand what it’s like to be (insert identity here)?” Or maybe you said, “You’ve never had to (insert struggle here).” I too am guilty of misinterpreting a person’s willingness to help as a showcase of condescendence in my past.  And, I too, was wrong.

Yes it’s true that unless you have experienced the exact same events, exact same reactions, and exact same outcomes, you can’t truly understand exactly how somebody feels. However, one of human beings’ greatest accomplishments is the ability to empathize. It doesn’t take the exact same experiences to empathize with someone. Not everybody has genial intentions all the time, but simply having a different background does not necessarily make a person insensitive to others’ concerns.

During times of social change, it takes the compassion, empathy, and effort of people of the majority to help promote change for those in the minority. Regardless of their motives, whether they are for the greater good or self-serving, without the support of those in power, change would occur much more slowly, if at all. Martin Luther King, Jr. was partly successful because he did not only propagate social equality to the disenfranchised, but to all. I realize that, had it not been for the spilled blood and lives of many White people during the 1860’s I might not have the ability to lead a free life today.

I have participated in various movements, volunteered for years with youth, and tried to help them develop skills to cope with poverty, abuse, and other forms of injustice so that they might have a better chance to develop and obtain goals they might not otherwise have. Recently, I signed the marriage boycott to show my support of equal rights for the LGBT community. Although I don’t know what it feels like to have the exact same struggles, but I can empathize.

Last week a coworker and friend invited me out before I returned to America after several months working in Chile. We went to a small restaurant and discussed differences between the USA and Chile covering everything from governmental and work-related politics to geographical and cultural differences. We talked about how difficult it can be to manage the cost of living in Chile, specifically Santiago, where the cost of living is inflated. The typical workday starts at 9:00 AM, ends at 7:00 PM, and the wages are rarely sufficient to support oneself.  At that part of the conversation she said something that truly resonated with me. “Now you can forget about here.”

I asked her what she meant and why she said that. I explained that although the days were long and the wages were low, I didn’t regret going there. These kinds of experiences have their ups and downs, pros and cons, but ultimately have a major impact on our lives and paths. She replied, “You can go on and do big things. For me, this is it. I can’t move up anywhere from here.”

My friend is a secretary and has been working at the firm for three years. Because she was not given the option to go to school, her chances for advancement have been severely limited, and she sits by and watches as the very apparent class system dictates how far one can go in their career. She may know more about the legal processes than most of the new lawyers, but she’ll never have the chance to work in any other capacity as long as she is here. I’ve watched time and time again as people walk past her and other secretaries without acknowledging their presence yet treat me with the utmost respect.

Even after the volunteering, special interest groups, and reading texts about social mobility and class constructs, last week was the first time I truly identified with a privileged class—and that bothered me very much. Back home in the States I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as such, but traveling abroad literally brings a different world into focus.

When dealing with youth, it is much easier to see their situation as temporary—something that can be changed with a little intervention. To look into the dismayed eyes of an intelligent and driven adult who does not have access to upward mobility because of class restraints is completely different. Growing up, due to my socio-economic background, I always felt I was at a disadvantage and had to work twice as hard to gain access to the institutions and facilities that others felt entitled, but I never felt hopeless. I knew that if I put in 200% where others put in 100%, I could be successful.

I can’t honestly say I know what hopelessness feels like, but I can definitely empathize. Our backgrounds and identities should not be ignored, nor should they prohibit us from learning from one another. As we open ourselves up to that learning we may find ourselves not only better equipped for helping others, but also helping ourselves become more fulfilled in life. In America, the very fact that we have these opportunities is freedom we should never take for granted.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Maine.

Michael Maine is dedicated to global communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Originally planning on utilizing his problem solving and strategic strengths in the corporate sector, his eyes were opened and life changed after taking his first Sociology class at Southwestern University, where he graduated with a bachelor in Business and minors in both Sociology and Communications.