Unsolicited commentary on immigration

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 6, 2010 in Unsolicited Commentary | Subscribe

Good evening ladies and gentlemen :D

Sorry for yesterday’s absence, I was enjoying some festivities for Cinco de Mayo — or “Cinco de Drinko” as several of my colleagues have called it. Having already written one post while less-than-fully sober, I figured it would be best if I put the laptop down and ensured history did not repeat itself ;)

The holiday did provide an opportunity for political banter, though, as my Facebook mini-feed had more than a few friends with status comments along the lines of “How can you celebrate Cinco de Mayo and Arizona’s racist immigration law at the same time? Hypocrites!” and so on.

Now those of you who are long-time readers here at law:/dev/null know I’ve generally eschewed discussion of non-education political issues here on the blog, leaving the Unsolicited Commentary category with only 2 entries out of my 200ish posts so far. And that’s despite having a fairly successful career in student-run politics, first in the Student Senate at N.C. State and later revitalizing the statewide UNC Association of Student Governments.

The reason is pretty simple: being a student advocate is easy because (with very few exceptions) everyone wants the same 3 basic things — an accessible,1 affordable,2 and quality3 education. Most debates circle around how to achieve those 3 goals.

The “real” world political issues, on the other hand, seem to be a different beast entirely. There’s an entire industry of highly-paid politicians, pundits, and other pontificators whose sole job is to convince you that they want what you want, but also that what you want isn’t what that-guy-over-there ::points:: wants. Making progress on anything remotely significant is almost impossible because folks who make a living in the political industry rake in more $$ by controversy than by consensus.

The caustic predictability of “real” world politics has convinced me that I have a roughly 0.00% chance of successfully getting elected to anything that’s not on a college campus :beatup:

Bringing that tangent back into the main point of this post: the whole immigration issue is an example of both sides of the political class raking in the cash while allowing near-universally acknowledged challenges to go unaddressed. So given the complete dysfunction that seems to characterize the US Congress nowadays, Arizona took widely-publicized steps to address the issue last week. You can read this entry in the New York Times about the immigration law they enacted, or read the actual text of the bill here.

Depending on who you ask, the law is either a sensical move for basic law and order or a racist effort to rile up white folks in an election year. More tellingly, the debate masks the fact that no one seems interested in any serious dialogue — or creating any meaningful consensus — on anything related to immigration.

To my liberal friends: what would your solution have been? Arizona has a huge community of illegal immigrants, a portion of whom seem intent on living a life of crime (just like every other ethnic group). The federal government has taken -0- significant action to address crime resulting from trafficking in drugs and in humans, and the situation has gone unaddressed for so long that it’s now negatively impacting a number of border communities. An Arizona rancher was murdered back in March presumably by a foreign national — should it matter that the foreign national came from Mexico versus, say, Afghanistan or Iraq or Nigeria?

And why the opposition to securing the border? Shouldn’t any serious public safety effort by a country include monitoring who comes in or out of it? Why bother screening airline and ship passengers if we’re not going to do the same for the roadways?4

To my conservative friends: why the hostility to immigrants in the first place? Unless you’re Native American, your family immigrated to this country at some point too5 — and odds are good they were poor when they got here. Illegal immigrants are supposedly taking jobs and suppressing pay rates… but aren’t y’all the same people who support eliminating the minimum wage and who complain about other people feeling entitled to things? If illegal immigrants are supposedly a drain on our social welfare programs, isn’t that more of an indication that those programs are too easily available for everyone?

And if you believe like I do that the United States is the greatest country to ever grace God’s Earth, shouldn’t we be encouraging people to move here? Would you rather have the next Einstein or Sagan or Hawking pledging allegiance to the United States or to Mexico? And is it moral or ethical for us to condemn someone else simply because of the misfortune of where they happened to be born? Or worse, to condemn a child because their parents committed a crime?

I could go on, but you get the point — and this entry’s already getting a bit long anyway :beatup:

I’m a firm believer in American exceptionalism, and believe that exceptionalism is a result of the people who live here now building on the limited-government framework provided by the people who came before us. If you can make it across the border, I say welcome. Our immigration laws should be liberalized so that you can live and work out in the open just like everyone around you. And if you put me out of work in the process, it’s a sign I need to step up my game and improve my skills so I’m more competitive in the marketplace… or, if I refuse to improve, a sign that I need to accept that I’m not entitled to the wage I used to earn and should learn to make do with less.

But I’m also a firm believer that national security necessarily requires border security, anyone who commits a crime while a guest of this country should be punished far beyond mere deportation, and if the federal government refuses to take meaningful action then state laws like the one enacted in Arizona are the inevitable (and de facto acceptable) price paid for federal incompetence.

Like I said: a roughly 0.00% chance of successfully getting elected to anything that’s not on a college campus ;)

That’s enough ranting for one day. Have a great night everybody! :D

  1. My short-hand definition for “accessible”: being able to get in to at least 1 of the 16 public universities in North Carolina. []
  2. My short-hand definition for “affordable”: being able to financially stay in school from when you start until you finish. []
  3. My short-hand definition for “quality”: whether you’ve got something worth anything when you graduate. []
  4. And please don’t use “We don’t secure our border with Canada” as a justification — if I were a terrorist with Al Qaeda, flying into Canada and then crossing the northern border would have been one of my first tactics for sneaking into the United States. I’m not sure why it wasn’t something they exploited, but we dodged a bullet on that one. []
  5. Or were brought here, in the case of slaves and indentured servants. []



Ricky Nelson
May 9, 2010 at 10:15 AM

I actually haven’t really formed an opinion one way or the other on the issue. The potential for the law to legalize racial profiling is concerning, but at the same time I don’t live in Arizona and have to deal with the federal government dragging their feet. Unlike most of my friends, I view this as Arizona’s problem to figure out.

I’ve always thought the best way to help the illegal/undocumented immigrants issue is to help Mexico develop its economy so the relative attractiveness of the US goes down. Easier said than done when the US is probably not willing to give the assistance needed and Mexican politicians may not be acting in the country’s best interest.

May 9, 2010 at 3:45 PM

You’re probably right re improving the Mexican economy as a way of mollifying the immigration problem. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the rate of net immigration to the US has fallen over the past couple years when our economy tanked. I couldn’t find that article again though so I may just be imagining things.

But even if things dramatically improved south of the border, my guess is there will still be a huge chunk of folks wanting to get into the US by any means possible just because of the unique blend of economic opportunity, social mobility, security, “living the American Dream” and all that. It’s going to require some kind of comprehensive solution, and something relatively soon — or we’ll end up with situations similar to Arizona in most of the border states, as well as the non-border states with large undocumented populations (Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, etc)


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