Habakkuk has a complaint. There is violence. There is wrongdoing and trouble. Ruin and strife and contention are in his face. He cries out for help, but God doesn’t seem to be listening. He sounds the alarm, but God does not show up to make things right. As a result, the institutions of law are paralyzed and justice is intermittent.
The collapse of immigration reform legislation is best understood not as a failure of short-term political leadership, but rather as an inevitable long-term consequence of NAFTA. NAFTA’s architects believed that as goods and services began to flow in unprecedented volume throughout the world’s largest free market, low-wage labor would remain largely fixed.Unfortunately, the unleashed forces of the free market uprooted longstanding social and economic arrangements in Mexico and caused the already meager economic opportunities, especially in the rural parts of the country, to evaporate. Millions of Mexican people—the bearers of cheap labor—were compelled to seek out their most rational reallocation.
Recently deported Elvira Arellano, whose yearlong sanctuary in a Chicago Methodist church symbolized for some activists unjust U.S. immigrant laws, said that she envisions little possibility of returning to the United States. “The only thing I can do is stay in Mexico,” she said to the Chicago Tribune in a telephone interview from Tijuana.
I have a recurring nightmare about the final exam on which my college graduation depends. Thinking I am prepared, I open a blue booklet only to discover that I am being tested in a language I do not know. I try to explain that there has been a terrible mistake, but the proctor is unforgiving. I am sent back to my chair to take a test that I have no hope of understanding, let alone passing.
North Americans are fond of saying, almost reverentially, that the United States is an immigrant nation. And indeed it is. But therein is a long and complicated tale, fraught with ambiguity, heated debates and major shifts.
One of the lesser-known calamities of the Iraq war is the flood of refugees it has produced. According to United Nations officials, about 2 million Iraqis have fled the country since the start of the war—mostly to Jordan and Syria—and almost as many Iraqis have been displaced inside their own country.
As I write this, the kitchen table is shaking. If our table is shaking, I worry that the church’s beautiful stained-glass windows, desperately in need of repair, are also shaking. The parsonage is attached to the church and shares the same foundation. Seven feet away all hell is breaking loose. Several blocks of businesses that have served this neighborhood are being knocked down by giant backhoes and inflated real estate prices to make way for towering apartments.
A few years ago, after government officials decided to return some unearthed Indian artifacts to the present-day descendants of their original owners rather than ship them to a museum, a Saturday Night Live spoof put this act of generosity in perspective: “As for the rest of North America, we’ll be keeping that.”
In 1994, things began to look up for Milan, Missouri, a remote, rural community of 2,000 that had been struggling for years with a declining farm economy and weak job market. Premium Standard Farms (PSF), the second-largest pork production company in the U.S., opened a state-of-the-art packing plant in Milan’s rural enterprise zone.