Separate but unequal

There’s a new version of apartheid, and it’s not on the African continent—it’s in the United States and is especially prominent in California. In Africa, the word means “the state of being separate,” and it was used to describe a system in which blacks were removed from white areas and were discriminated against.

In California, it can be applied to illegal aliens from Mexico who once would travel across borders on a seasonal basis but now, for various reasons, are staying here and putting up with conditions that many citizens wouldn’t. The communities here that are dominated by recent immigrants are overflowing yet unassimilated.

In an ironic way, conservatives who have insisted on clamping down on the border to keep immigrants out have had the opposite effect. Tens of thousands of illegal aliens who flowed into the Central Valley to work in agriculture are not flowing back into Mexico on a yearly basis, because of tighter security after 9/11. Instead of simply walking through the porous border with California, the illegals are now forced into an annual death march across the Sonoran Desert into Arizona. Rather than chance the increased security or the searing heat, the immigrants are setting up in rural communities in California and establishing a more permanent underclass of workers.

It doesn’t appear as if this emerging group of people is interested in a cultural immersion into the finer points of this country, and instead the immigrants are bringing their own culture into towns in the Central Valley (see “Migrants no more”). They also are struggling to break out of a life of stooping and pruning in the fields, generally jobs that Americans on the other side of apartheid don’t want.