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1 rating: 1.0
A movie

The late 1990s saw a large population of illegal Mexican immigrants desert their home country and take root in the unusual location of Farmingville, New York, in Long Island. Taking menial jobs that were shunned by the local community, the transition … see full wiki

Genre: Documentary
Release Date: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about Farmingville

Immigration is not the simple issue many thought it was

  • Apr 7, 2007
Pros: Spells out most of the immigrant issues plainly

Cons: Not truly balanced, glosses over some important issues

The Bottom Line: A good starting place for a dialog, but not a good way to put a dialog to rest.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

Illegal immigration has become a serious issue lately and the only reason that I can think of for it is that is the people who brought it up believed it to be a safe topic (since deficits, war, entitlements, and stem cell issues are so heated or too complex to get into). As it turns out, so is illegal immigration.

NIMBY. Simple as that. Farmingville in Suffock County on Long Island had a problem starting in 1998 with Mexicans seeking day labor increasing in numbers in their town. Some members of the town became incensed as these men began to move into their neighborhoods (renting houses). There was a low level tension in the town until a drunk undocumented Mexican caused a traffic accident that killed a young woman. Then the sparks began to fly. Two Mexicans were attacked, at least one home was shot up and the town divided.

The solution put forward by the elected officials responsible for the area was a hiring center that would at least centralize the men wanting day work so they would not all be spread out causing alleged problems for the residents of the town. This became a cause celebre for those who wanted the illegal immigrants to return to Mexico. It also became a national issue for them since they either solicited aid or allowed aid from anti-immigrant groups in California and openly white supremacists groups to help them with their cause.

The problem that the film only glances over is the economics of it. If someone waved a magic wand over the town of Farmingville, New York and all the Mexicans there illegally were removed (to where is not important), the local economy would begin to show signs of problems very quickly. People in a community there legal or not buy everything they need just like residents. If they are less likely to go to the doctor when sick because they fear the INS, then they are do not present a burden to the society especially with regards to the amount of sales tax they pay. I don’t say this because I support undocumented workers, just that the issue is far more complex than the ‘send-em-home’ people want to understand.

The work these men do, they do because it is available only to them. Americans who expect health insurance, 401Ks, paid time off, and a 40-hour week wouldn’t do what the immigrants do. The people affected by this are also unskilled laborers, but the film does not mention this class at all—the people up in arms both for and against the hiring center are all middle class. This means that a construction company or lawn care company owned by a man or woman struggling to keep a business up and running can try to turn to Americans, but when they do, they find that the Americans tend to be less efficient and reliable than the Mexicans. This, to a large extent, is natural. Most people in Farmingville are used to having weekends off and at least 2 weeks paid vacation. Mexicans do not expect this because it isn’t part of their national set of priorities. So when they are here, they work as much as they can. This helps them and their families.

Is this good or bad? This issue cannot be summed up in one word. It is good for some, bad for others and for the vast majority it is an unknown. I am still waiting on numbers to prove to me that the people who come here from Mexico and Central America actually cause more harm than good economically. They use two services that they may not pay for directly. If they are seriously injured and have to go to the hospital, it is unlikely they will be able to pay the bill. Also they don’t pay property taxes directly which means their kids may be getting a freer education. Now the question is, given that they pay for everything in cash (which means no defaulting or bad checks), they pay sales tax for everything they buy. Do they use more in these two services than they pay for in sales tax? If the answer is yes, then the problem is something that can literally sink a struggling city or county. However, if the answer is no, then the locality benefits. This is why the problem is so difficult to handle.

It may seem cold to boil it down to an economic issue, but the issue that upsets most people is the economic one. In Alabama, Latinos are in nearly every city that has a large enough population to need day labor. By and large people complain from time to time, but it isn’t something that affects many, so it gets little attention. I know of 4 accidents that have been caused by people without insurance. In only 1 of these cases was the person here illegally—the other three were residents of this state and this country from birth. However when the complaints do occur it is an argument about taxes.

People here without a social security card do not pay state or federal taxes. The question is still the same. Do they use more in services than they pay for with sales taxes. They don’t qualify for federal assistance. In most cases they don’t qualify for state or local assistance. I use the roads where I live; my taxes from my car and taxes at the gas pump pay for these. If an illegal owns a vehicle, if the vehicle is legal, he is paying the same as I—it is the tag renewal that collects the tax, not a tax form itself. They cannot collect Welfare, Medicare or Medicaid (some places allow this but not Alabama) or Social Security. So, are they more a burden on the economy or an aid? Until that question is answered objectively, then the issue will never be a simple one.

One last thing, and this is totally personal and has nothing to do with the way I rate this documentary. “American is a land of immigrants.” This is really no longer true. Once we started putting quotas on who could enter, we stopped being a land of immigrants. Yes, all of us here who are not Native Americans can trace our lineage back to someone who came here by boat or plane (however if they came by plane and did so legally, then they are not part of ‘land of immigrants’ because they came post quota). There comes a point where you have to say that something that was true is no longer true. We were a land of immigrants. The country absorbed two major influxes of legal immigrants in the 20th century—the one prior ot the First World War and the one after the Second World War. But once the quota system was in place, the saying stopped being true in the present tense. America was a land of immigrants; however, once a family has gone 15-20 generations in this nation, they cannot be considered immigrants any longer. My lineage is 100% English (yes English not British, there is nothing of the other lands in my background), but both of my families have been here for more than 12 generations so I can be pretty confident that I’m not an immigrant of any definable kind. If that were the case, most of England would be a land of immigrants. Most of Hungary and several places between Mongolia and Hungary would be lands of immigrants. Go far enough back and there were no such things as borders but we were both immigrants and emigrants and possibly migrants. This is why I make such a point of it. There has to be a time when the US (and the immigrant nations of this entire hemisphere) say, “we are now a sovereign nation whose past is filled with immigration, but we are now stabilized as a culture of [insert name here]. Or globalization may make the world borderless again. At this point it is not possible to say.


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