There Goes the Neighborhood-Part 3


Haitian migrants crossing the Rio Grande, wading back to Mexico to avoid being sent back to Haiti.

In this third and final post of the series, I share the email exchange that got me breathing fire and blowing smoke out my ears.

That Email

It started when one of my relatives, a woman my age, sent an email to me and a number of other family members suggesting that we listen to a broadcast by a right-wing ideologue. I replied to the group that I wouldn’t trust a word the guy said: “A couple of generations ago, he would have been railing against those unwashed immigrants from Eastern Europe (especially the Eastern European Jews) who were likely to destroy American and European civilization. You know, like our parents and grandparents.”

A nephew responded with a link to a video on X (formerly Twitter). It shows a group of Mexicans at a tall fence, presumably at the border. One throws a large bag over the fence, then jumps after it, throws it into a car, and takes off. The others, standing by, are smiling and laughing. The person who initially posted this video captioned it, “You are witnessing smugglers openly transporting pounds of drugs from Mexico into the U.S. in broad daylight without encountering any interference.”

My nephew commented, “Our grandparents weren’t hopping the Mexican border wall with 50 pounds of fentanyl strapped to their backs. Take a look…two illegal alien criminals breaching our ‘border’ wall with bales of fentanyl and cocaine strapped to their backs and right into a waiting SUV, illegal aliens standing around videotaping it and laughing.”

Illegal aliens—once again, as I pointed out in Part 1, a term used to dehumanize people, make them sound like invaders from another planet.

I wrote back, hitting reply to all:

“You are right. Your grandparents did not come here with fentanyl strapped to their backs. They were hardworking people and not drug smugglers…

“But that doesn’t mean, as your email implies, that all the Jews who came here were virtuous and all the Mexicans are criminals. Organizations of Jewish mobsters go back to the late 19th Century and continue to the present day. Jewish and Italian mobsters worked together in such organizations as Murder, Inc. They haven’t been known to smuggle fentanyl (it didn’t exist when they got started), but profited greatly in the alcohol business during Prohibition, and have also been involved in murder, terrorism, extortion, and child abduction,. Most recently, an Israeli group has been heavily involved in smuggling ecstasy to the U.S. See this history for details.

“The overwhelming majority [of Mexicans]…like the overwhelming majority of Jews and people everywhere, are basically honest. My late friend Elizabeth Brückman, a German who opposed the Nazi regime and subsequently lived in China, Taiwan, and the U.S., said that in her experience most people just want a roof over their heads, enough food, and a good education for their children. That’s been my experience as well. That’s what the people who risk their lives to come here want.

“IMO, 95% of life is luck, 5% is due to our own efforts. I’ve had the luck–the advantages of standing on the courage and hard work of my parents and grandparents, who left the little towns of their birth and came to a land they did not know. They suffered a great deal during their lives, being denied education, and knowing hunger, unemployment, and pogroms. Their struggles enabled me to grow up in safety, to never know hunger, and to have a good education. That education was made possible when college in NYC was free–even City College costs a lot these days.

“Your advantages were even greater. You grew up the child of well-to-do professionals, who could afford to give you everything you needed and even employ you in the family business. You are not—none of us is—a ‘self-made man.’ Maybe trashing today’s immigrants and passing along that racist email makes you feel more deserving of your good fortune. Frankly, it just makes me angry and upset.”

It’s been over two weeks. So far I haven’t heard back from him, or from any of the other relatives in the group.

The Real Smugglers

After responding to my nephew, I did some additional research. According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, most illicit fentanyl is smuggled into this country by American citizens, not undocumented immigrants. Moreover, it comes in through ports of entry—it is not thrown over border walls, nor is it carried by people trekking through unguarded stretches of desert or wading across the Rio Grande. The reason is simple: drug smuggling organizations “are likely to prefer U.S. citizens as smugglers because they are less likely to raise alarms or undergo additional vetting when re-entering the U.S. through a legal port.”

And, according to the libertarian (not liberal) Cato Institute, U.S. citizens were 86.3% of those convicted for smuggling fentanyl. “Just 0.02 percent of the people arrested by Border Patrol for crossing illegally possessed any fentanyl whatsoever.”

A Suggestion

Meanwhile, given the anti-immigrant sentiment that has infected this country from the beginning, and that seems to have risen to a fever pitch in recent years, I thought perhaps a little more honesty in advertising would be called for. To that end, I propose a revision on the iconic poem greeting visitors in the New York harbor:

Give me the billionaires who buy
the media in every state.
What if their money spreads a billion lies
that teach America to hate the poor?
Give me the other nations’ upper classes,
keep out the huddled masses I abhor.

Let tempests toss them from our border,
let vigilantes slaughter
the wretched refuse trying to wade ashore.
I’ve blown the lamp out
and I’ve locked the golden door.

3 Responses to There Goes the Neighborhood-Part 3

  1. Connie O Byrne March 8, 2024 at 8:12 pm #

    oh Martha, you wrote such a a powerful response to your nephew and I’m glad you shared it with the rest of the clan when you did. Not only were your words powerful, I could almost literally see and smell the smoke streaming from your ears! And thanks for the documentation to go with it. This is a piece I will be sharing with many friends, not just like minded ones from church, but with my wider circles as well. If I could I would have it printed on a banner to be flown across a clear sky for all to read and heed!

  2. Martha Shelley March 8, 2024 at 9:25 pm #

    Thank you, thank you!!!

  3. Aiyana Stern March 27, 2024 at 6:05 pm #

    beautifully said

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