“No matter what other nations may say about the United States, immigration is still the sincerest form of flattery” – Clayton Crammer
I was driving home from a church-league softball game Saturday night and I caught a radio broadcast in which a Republican state representative was decrying a recent vote on some commission titled “The Commission to Study the Impact of Immigrants in Maryland.” His main objection was that the whole thing is a semantical cover story for gaining political points. That is, the commission will study legal immigration, find that it is quite beneficial, and then leave off the “legal” part and claim that all immigration is beneficial in a political play to garner Hispanic votes. I lost interest pretty quickly, but I caught that much of the conversation.
From a political gamesmanship standpoint I suspect he was exactly right. Both parties want to gain Hispanic votes (even illegal ones) and therefore try to find ways to appear “soft” on immigration (at times) hoping to imply sympathy with policy preferences of a rather large voting bloc. In more subtle times, George W. Bush accomplished this by simply throwing out some Spanish at campaign events. It’s no different than any political group hinting at a desire to solve a “problem” and then somehow coming up empty yet maintaining their voting base (see Democrats at the “war on poverty” or Republicans and abortion). Votes are what matters – few politicians care what lie drove the voters to vote a particular way.
Anyway, the whole broadcast – or the few minutes I heard before I changed the channel hoping to stave off the threat of falling asleep behind the wheel from boredom – brought the immigration issue back to the forefront in my mind, and thus induced a post.
I find that I disagree rather vehemently with the “get tough on immigration” crowd and our immigration policy in general. I can do so without following the progressive route of romanticizing that the immigrants are of higher moral character than average Americans. (Left-wingers do this with almost every debate, casting the poor as being of greater mettle and moral justification simply because they are poor. Consider the left and the Palestinian-Israeli conflagration, for example.) I can also do so without following the right-wing route of lambasting illegal immigrants as criminals with “no respect for our laws.” They are people, just like the rest of us. They have their own motivations that are not so different from ours and are trying the best they can to deal with their own needs (and those of their families) given the hand that has been dealt to them (e.g., being born somewhere other than America – but within walking distance).
My contention on the illegal immigration issue is the same as my contention on so many other issues: In a democracy (where laws are decided majority rule, or majority rule plus inertia in the case of a republic) where 80% of the voting population self-identifies as a Christian (that is, a follower of Christ) should our immigration “situation” look like this? I think the answer is quite simply “no.”
Let us consider first the right-wing, anti-immigration group. This one is simple: “And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt” – Deut 10:19. Yes, this is something that God told the Israelites, but it was part of the law going forward, and would some day apply to people who had never set foot in Egypt. One could theorize that the same thought process might apply to white Americans, whose forefathers were immigrants (and depending on which native Americans you talk to, “invaders”). Or how about Malachi 3:5 – “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me.” Eighty percent of Americans self-identify as Christ followers.
I especially like the representation in Malachi that talks about “depriving the aliens of justice.” This is more than simply throwing up a fence (in fact, throwing up a fence might not cross a line at all). No, it speaks more to the creation of a second-class citizenry that exists outside the normal channels of justice. Boy, that sounds an awful lot like our current set up.
I caught an article just now about a 15-year-old Texas kid who was charged with nine counts of murder in the deaths of illegals. He was apparently smuggling them, got pulled over by police, and made a run for it. It’s just one small example of what happens when a group is forced to live outside the confines of the justice system. Unable to rely on justice from the standard rule of law, they find a different way. In this case, their smuggler made a run for it because capture likely meant deportation. In other instances the illegals will be defrauded of wages because they have no legal recourse. Worse yet, females will often be forced into sexual slavery by those who arranged their transport, and have little means to break free. (One would argue that this is true of prostitutes in general, who cannot turn to legal means to enforce contract disputes – but this isn’t a post on prostitution.)
None of this should indicate that I side with the left on the issue, but my disagreement is along a different line. The right has done a relatively poor job of articulating what actually concerns them with illegal immigration. Is it fear of “different” people? (If “yes” then tough.) Is it fear of criminal influx? Possibly, but immigration has some advantages on this front. We get to screen for criminal background at the border, and we certainly get to punish and or deport criminal activity in-country. But if the wave of illegal immigration is swamping the enforcement arm (because well-meaning people can’t get a shot) then screening is much less viable. Is it fear of hard-working people who will drive wages down and force the rest of us to work harder? Again, I say “tough” … and we’d all be better off anyway.
None of these issues carry weight with me. But there is one that goes unarticulated and has some serious weight. In a democracy, where the power of inertia is fading fast and the government is using command rule to force all manner of behaviors out of the populace, those who actually do the work, who actually have some skin in the game, fear (and rightly so) a significant change in the voting dynamic. Who knows what will happen if all of those “illegals” get the right to vote. Perhaps they’ll decide to vote for themselves ownership of our homes and bank accounts? You may protest that this is absurd, but the people who actually do work around here have found that they are told they owe ever greater benefits to everyone else (see Obamacare for one of many examples).
This is a legitimate fear on the part of the right. But it has a fix. Help us tear down the system of “live at the expense of others by right of majority-rule” that has been erected over the years, and reinstate constitutional limits on the spending prospects of the federal government, and we (that’s the royal “we”) would gladly open the borders to broad, legal immigration. We would prefer it, quite frankly.