Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It doesn’t take long for chaos to ensue

with 48 comments

Milkweed seeds are packed quite neatly into their pods. Once a pod opens, however, the fluff attached to the seeds readily yields to the wind and chaos soon sets in. That’s what you see in this antelope horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula) across the street from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on May 26th.

On the same day that these seeds were “migrating” out of their pod, thousands of people were illegally “immigrating” to the United States. With that abrupt turn, let me pause to tell you a little about my background. My father and his brother and parents escaped from the Soviet Union in the 1920s and came to the United States to get away from communism, corruption, and antisemitism. My mother’s father was also an immigrant. One of my nephews is married to an immigrant. I’ve had two brothers-in-law who were immigrants. I have friends who are immigrants. I’m married to an immigrant of a different race from the other side of the earth. Immigration has greatly contributed to the development of this country. I wouldn’t exist without it.

At the same time, I value fairness and order. The United States has set up a system in which people from other countries can apply to move here. Approximately a million people were allowed to do that in 2019. Some say that the number is too low and we should let in two million people a year. That might be okay. As needs change, Americans can decide on an appropriate yearly number that wouldn’t overwhelm the country’s resources.

What many Americans don’t find appropriate is people from other countries circumventing our immigration system and coming here illegally. I’ve heard projections that as many as two million people will have crossed into the United States illegally in 2021 alone. That number is plausible, given a report on National Public Radio that “More than 170,000 migrants were taken into custody at the Southwest border in March, the highest monthly total since at least 2006, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials who have been briefed on the preliminary numbers but are not authorized to speak publicly.” To that must be added the unknown number of people that the overworked Border Patrol didn’t manage to apprehend. Another indication of a huge increase in illegal immigration comes from a June 1st news story in the Epoch Times: “Border Patrol in the Del Rio [Texas] Sector has apprehended 95 sex offenders this fiscal year, compared to six during the same period in fiscal 2020. Apprehension of criminals has topped 813 compared to 161 in the same period in fiscal 2020.”

Those figures are evidence that for the most part our southern border is open. (A cynic would say the way we know the southern border is open is that the current administration tells us it’s closed.) Our government is letting many—perhaps the majority—of the people who enter illegally stay. Whereas applicants for legal immigration are screened in their country of origin to verify who they are, to ensure they’ll have a means of support, and to keep out criminals and people with infectious diseases, we have almost no way to determine the identities of those coming here illegally, what state of health they’re in, or whether they’ve been involved in crime—especially of the many who evade the Border Patrol entirely. During a worldwide pandemic our government is paying large amounts of money to send illegal immigrants into the interior of the country by bus and plane, sometimes without even testing for Covid-19.

People who don’t want any limits on immigration purposely and deceptively use the word immigrant to include those who come here illegally. That’s not fair, just as it wouldn’t be fair to describe someone who broke into your house as a resident. Advocates of unrestricted entry into the country hurl the epithet racist at anyone who distinguishes between legal and illegal immigration. That’s not fair. What’s fair is to establish an orderly immigration policy and to have the government enforce it, not flout it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 3, 2021 at 4:20 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

48 Responses

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  1. So beautifully captured, my friend.

    marina kanavaki

    June 3, 2021 at 4:21 AM

  2. A little out of season, I think. We allow milkweed to grow where it will in the yard, Mary Beth currently allows it in the vegetable garden as well. Monarchs benefit of course and so does my photography.

    Steve Gingold

    June 3, 2021 at 4:37 AM

    • I understand how monarch butterflies and your photography benefit. I don’t think our yard is suitable for milkweed, though I could be wrong because I find it in the wild in our neighborhood.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2021 at 4:46 AM

      • Not knowing your yard, all I can offer is that milkweed is very hardy, the common variety that is, and I have seen it growing in sidewalk cracks. I don’t think ti does well with wet feet but there is swamp milkweed to thrive there.

        Steve Gingold

        June 3, 2021 at 4:52 AM

  3. Right on! I look forward both to your photos and your thought of the day. What you said about illegal entry is something that needs to be said. Open our border to anyone inclined to push their way in regardless of law, and chaos will ensue. Failure to make entry orderly and legal is a big failure to the American people, and we won’t like the results.


    June 3, 2021 at 7:19 AM

  4. Hear, hear. I am beginning to think we have to adapt to a chaotic world, Steve. Order is out of fashion!


    June 3, 2021 at 7:41 AM

    • On the back of an American dollar bill is the Latin motto “Novus ordo seclorum,” “A new order for the ages.” The current disorder is not something I want to adapt to, and so I’ve been speaking out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2021 at 7:50 AM

  5. The milkweed seeds may appear to be chaotic but I think they are very beautiful.

    Peter Klopp

    June 3, 2021 at 8:46 AM

    • There’s even a branch of math called chaos theory. And of course I agree with you about the milkweed seeds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2021 at 10:31 AM

  6. Immigration is one of the topics that it is seemingly impossible for there to a reasonable political discussion about. See also gun control.

    Jason Frels

    June 3, 2021 at 3:26 PM

  7. Beautiful photo of a milkweed! I love milkweed pod season.

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 3, 2021 at 5:09 PM

    • For whatever reason, it was the first open milkweed pod I’d seen this year. No way was I going to pass it up without taking a bunch of photographs, including some with immature Oncopeltus fasciatus on the milkweed. You may well be aware of them from your work.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2021 at 6:55 PM

  8. My great grandparents escaped from the Ukraine in 1917 to Germany. Not sure what they were running from. They then had to leave Germany during the 1st war to Brazil with my grandfather, who was a young boy at the time. My grandmother’s family had to run away from Bavaria to Brazil during the 1st war with her parents. Brazil also is a country of immigrants.

    I am an immigrant here. I never broke any immigration law and paid my share of fees on my path to citizenship. I sometimes wonder about going back home, because it is hard to immigrate and leave family, culture, language behind. Maybe one day I will. I didn’t have to move here, but my husband is American and we decided that it would be easier for us and the kids to settle here.

    People have different reasons why they immigrate to other countries. It’s complicated and needs to be discussed in context. However, I don’t feel comfortable talking about illegal immigration to the USA with anyone. As with many other subjects, name calling, illogical reasoning and religious partisan affiliations get the most out of people. I am afraid of being misinterpreted. But I will say one thing: many countries don’t tolerate illegal immigration as well as the USA. Brazil is one of them. Being accepted into another country, even as a tourist, is not a right, it is a privilege that needs to be negotiated.

    “My father and his brother and parents escaped from the Soviet Union in the 1920s and came to the United States to get away from communism, corruption, and antisemitism. “

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 3, 2021 at 5:54 PM

    • We have some history in common. My father’s family escaped from an area that is now Ukraine, though at the time Russia controlled it, which is why my father’s native language was Russian.

      I know someone who spends half the year in the United States and half the year in New Zealand, where his kids have settled. Maybe you’ll end up in some similar “time sharing” between Brazil and the United States.

      You commented that many countries don’t tolerate illegal immigration, and that being accepted into another country, even as a tourist, is not a right. That reminds me of our visits to New Zealand in 2015 and 2017. When we arrived at the airport in Auckland, we were photographed, and when we left we were photographed again, so that the New Zealand government had a record that we’d left the country. In contrast, in the United States there are millions of people—no one knows how many millions—who live here illegally.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2021 at 7:53 PM

      • Yes, my great grandparents spoke Russian also. I do wish to spend more time back home when I retire. Although it’s not my place to defend or attack current immigration policies, I find it somewhat disconcerting that there is public encouragement and a final legal reward for breaking immigration laws in this country.

        Alessandra Chaves

        June 3, 2021 at 9:34 PM

  9. Thank you for sharing your perspective along with the personal background.

    Ms. Liz

    June 3, 2021 at 7:12 PM

    • You’re welcome. In replying to the previous comment, I noted that when Eve and I arrived at the airport in Auckland in 2015 and 2017, we were photographed before being allowed out of the airport. When we came back to the airport to fly home, we were photographed again so that the New Zealand government would have a record that we’d left the country. If any American proposed doing the same thing in the United States, a legion of activists would start a jihad calling that person xenophobic and a racist.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2021 at 8:04 PM

      • Interesting to have this insight into how our system works!

        Ms. Liz

        June 3, 2021 at 8:14 PM

        • I hadn’t thought about the fact that as a New Zealand citizen you wouldn’t know that. In the international terminal at the airport New Zealand citizens have their own lines to be processed separately from foreigners.

          If I understand correctly, people applying to immigrate to New Zealand must prove that they’ll be able to support themselves, because they won’t be eligible for social services. In contrast, in the United States during the 2020 Democrat Party primaries, all the candidates said they are in favor of giving free health care to the millions of people who are in the country illegally.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 3, 2021 at 10:07 PM

          • I have no knowledge of this but a quick look at the Ministry of Health website appears to show that health care is publicly funded for people who have ‘permanent resident’ or ‘resident’ visas, and for refugees whether they’re already approved or have applied but are still waiting on a decision.

            Ms. Liz

            June 3, 2021 at 10:41 PM

            • I may have been misinformed about services for would-be immigrants. At least the categories you singled out don’t include people in the country illegally.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 3, 2021 at 10:52 PM

  10. I saw a blooming whorled milkweed on Sunday with exactly one fluffy seed caught on it; I’m fairly sure it was from a green milkweed.. That was the first fluff I’ve seen this year, although there were hundreds of blooming milkweed plants. Finding such a nice collection of seeds always is a treat; it’s great that you managed to get a hint of pod in your photo, too.

    At work today, I heard another astonishing statistic, quoted from the NY Times: persons from 160 countries have crossed the southern border illegally. Many fly to Mexico from places as far-flung as Iran and India, and then come across. There will be unhappy consequences.

    Still, I occasionally read a piece I saved that contains this hopeful paragraph:

    “Whether under the tyranny of the Tsar or the dictatorship of the Commissar, the voice of liberty will, nevertheless, always be heard. In camps, in prisons, in hovels, in trenches, in palaces, in hospitals, in offices, in mansions, in fields, in towns, in “contraband” carriages, and in all the Siberias of the world – the song of freedom can never be silenced; the spark of hope can never be extinguished.”


    June 3, 2021 at 8:24 PM

    • Your first sentence reminded me of the bumper stickers I used to see in Austin saying “Visualize whirled peas.” And just the other day on the internet I noticed someone had written whirl for whorl.

      In a few of my photos that morning I focused on an unopened pod tip by a firewheel.

      Your second paragraph accords with the advice I’ve heard that anyone who’s having to wait years to get into the United States should fly to Mexico (there are airports in various border cities) and then just walk right in.

      I hope the paragraph you quoted at the end is true. Maybe eventually, but for now we’re moving into totalitarianism, not out of it

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2021 at 10:19 PM

  11. I should know better than to stop and read.
    As a descendant of people who came to the Santa Clara Valley from Italy many generations ago, I am aware that there was a time when immigration from Italy as well as Ireland was limited because of concern that too many Italians and Irish would be detrimental to American culture, society and economy. (Conversely, Brent’s ancestors did not want to immigrate when they were sold at auction as slaves.)


    June 4, 2021 at 12:21 AM

    • When I was growing up on Long Island our next-door neighbors on one side were of Italian heritage, as was one of the families on the other side of the street. A few doors down from us was the Cisternino family, where the adults spoke with heavy accents. The guy ran an Italian grocery store at the corner of the block, where I remember seeing huge wax-coated Italian cheeses hanging from hooks in the ceiling. We also had many families of Irish heritage. Between the Italians and the Irish the local Catholic church, St. Catherine of Sienna, was a busy place. In contrast, one of my two close friends was a direct descendant of Daniel Webster. That was the only generations-old American family I knew.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2021 at 7:26 AM

      • The misconception that all Italians arrived after other Europeans can be annoying. I am sometimes asked about relatives and acquaintances in the Old Country (which I suppose should be less awkward than being asked what part of Mexico I am from). I remind those who ask such questions that my ancestors have been here so long that Sunnyvale (near San Jose) is the Old Country.


        June 5, 2021 at 3:26 PM

        • I don’t know who thinks that all Italians arrived after other Europeans, though history is so poorly taught in out schools that many young Americans don’t know much of anything about our history. Columbus, after, all, was an Italian, even if he sailed for Spain. It’s true that the big Italian migration here came after the main waves of English and German immigrants.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 5, 2021 at 6:02 PM

          • In California, much of the history is too inappropriate to teach. We just create new history that is more appealing. It is no wonder that there is so much confusion.


            June 5, 2021 at 6:21 PM

  12. Your image – beautiful chaos. The chaos I’m seeing in our country is anything but beautiful.


    June 4, 2021 at 5:10 PM

  13. Chaos in nature isn’t really chaos at all and it works well…chaos in society is another thing altogether!

    Ann Mackay

    June 5, 2021 at 3:57 PM

  14. In these polarized times this issue, like so many others, seems to easily devolve into black and white. Your story is very interesting and well-told. I’m with you, Steve, and I hope some objectivity can enter the picture in Washington (DC!) one of these days.


    June 13, 2021 at 8:56 PM

    • After I married Eve in the Philippines in 1987, our government made me come home alone and file a slew of papers here so she could come to the United States. That took over four months. I gather that in recent years American citizens in the same circumstance have had to wait a year. Compare that to the way anybody from anywhere can just come wading across the Rio Grande now and be allowed to stay—it’s so unfair! If we could float the Philippines east across the Pacific and anchor it off the coast of California, that state’s population would go up by tens of millions in a few months from all the Filipinos rafting ashore.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2021 at 9:58 PM

  15. Oh – and what a beautiful image!


    June 13, 2021 at 8:56 PM

    • I wrote this post’s title in reference to the milkweed, which was all that originally appeared in the draft of this post. Later, after I came back and added all the rest, I realized that the title worked for that, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2021 at 9:47 PM

  16. […] are white supremacists and anti-Semites. Take me, for example. As I revealed in greater detail in a commentary a year ago, I happen to be Jewish, the son of someone who fled the Soviet Union with his family in the 1920s […]

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