The Overlooked Aspect Of The Latino Immigration Wave

04/10/2006 05:33 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Noting the immigrant protests today, I reaffirm my advocacy of immigrant rights. Maybe it is because I am the grandson of immigrants myself.

Still, there is a side to this immigration phenomena that I believe is being downplayed here.

Granted, people immigrate for lots of reasons -- political persecution, religious intolerance, ethnic unrest, a professional opportunity, political disgust, their soul's questing, "grass is always greener" wanderlust.

But at least in terms of the mostly Latino immigrant demographic that has been demonstrating today, I perceive that economic opportunity has been the key driver. The urge has been so strong that many of these immigrants have risked their liberty and life to come here.

Now let me frame this topic for discussion:

When you are impoverished, and are desperate to leave the land of your birth, it tells me that you are not only going to a place that you perceive holds far better opportunity for you and your family, but you are leaving a place that does not hold that promise for you.

My overarching question then, is, "why did Mexico -- and the other nations the immigrants who demonstrated today came from -- not hold that promise? What socioeconomic pathologies are so dominant in these nations that have forced so many of their native sons and daughters go give up on the land of their birth?"

The list is long -- but it seems to me the overriding phenomenon here is the lack of an aspirational culture. Upward economic mobility and opportunity are difficult enough in the U.S., but in those nations that have spawned most of the immigrants we saw on the streets today, the middle class is small and not particularly accessible.

Internal and external economic and political exploitation have to be on the list of causal factors. So must the unholy alliance between the ruling classes and the religious hierarchy in these nations -- a religious hierarchy that has suppressed family planning. Now, with the ascendancy of defiant, populist regimes such as that of Hugo Chavez, we see the oppressed kicking back.

Looking toward the future, I see three competing waves for the future of many of these same nations whose native sons and daughters marched in U.S. cities today: efforts at substantial political and economic reform; a "things won't ever change"- fueled, continued immigration to these more promising shores; and efforts by some Evangelical forces to de-emphasize the economic causes of unrest, and underscore the view that the only happiness will be along the spiritual path they espouse.

But granted, these are the conclusions of an observer. I welcome the opportunity to read Comments by those with a more direct stake in the controversies so fervently expressed on the streets of the U.S. today.