The Same All Over the World
As I mentioned earlier, over the last week or so I was traveling in Costa Rica with my son's Spanish club. We stayed with host families and had great opportunites at cultural exchange. With my host family we had discussions every morning and evening over excellent meals. Sometimes we talked about differences in languages and translations, sometimes sports like soccer and basketball, and sometimes matters of social concern or politics.
Cost Ricans are very proud of their social security system and strong middle class. They are genuinely concerned for each others progress in life and their support systems are designed to ensure that most people can lead a healthy and happy middle class existance. Health care and retirement services are evenly provided to all, as is education through extensive state supported school systems. All of this has developed during the second half of the 20th Century, as Costa Rica has concentrated on social reforms rather than building a military force. It's kind of like a huge no one left behind program!
One small paralell I did notice however, between U.S and Costa Rican attitudes was on illegal immigration. In the U.S. many worry about illegal Mexican workers coming across our border, taking jobs away from U.S. citizens and putting a burden on our health and welfare systems. In Cost Rica many complain about these same probelms from illegal Nicaraguan immigrants. Seems that Nicaraguan workers come across the border for jobs and services. They are willing to work for lower wages and apparently also draw from the social security system.
I'm not sure how much truth lies in either set of public opinions, as many Mexican workers are doing jobs that most U.S. citizens would never accept and I don't fully understand how an illegal Nicaraguan immigrant can tap into the Costa Rican social security system without citizenship, but public opinion does have weight and things are being persued to curb these problems.
In the U.S our government has chosen to build a fence across the U.S.- Mexican border to assit our security forces in hampering illegal immigration. Keep in mind however that the job of building a massive fence in that arid territory is unpleasant work. Many U.S. workers might not want to do this type of work for the kind of wages some fence companies may be paying. Case in point is the Golden State Fence Company of California, which worked on part of the fence between San Diego and Mexico. A 1999 immigration check turned up lots of undocumented workers at Golden State and follow ups in 2004 and 2005 indicated that this problem had not been solved, so in December 2006 Golden State agreed to pay about $5 million in fines for hiring illegal immigrant workers to build fences. The irony would be much funnier if our governments choices were not so misguided.
Perhaps in coming years, observation of the eventual Costa Rican solution for illegal immigration troubles may give us some better ideas.