(This is an edited version of an earlier post.)
Maybe it's just me, (Hey I’m a Mexican American conservative, who lives about 15 miles from the Mexican Border, I used to practice a little immigration law, what do I know.) but every time John Derbyshire, over at The Corner, let's loose a rant against illegal immigrants, the image that pops into my head is of Bill "The Butcher" Cutting the leader of the nativist gang in the movie Gangs of New York. I guess I shouldn't be too hard on the Derb as he suffers from a most common affliction; hating that most which you used to be. You see Derb used to be an illegal alien and just like no one hates smoking as much as ex-smokers apparently no one hates illegal immigration as much as former illegal immigrants.
I should know, my dad and the Derb are cut from the same cloth, he also being a former illegal immigrant, and vigorous objectioner to current illegals. My dad was here illegally in the '50s, back in
the day when, as he assures us, the quality of illegal immigrants was much, much higher. I assume he is referring to the influx of illegal Canadians, Irish, and Brits which was virtually nonexistent in his day. ( My dad's favorite story from his illegal alien days revolves around his job as a busboy at Clifton's Cafeteria, a Los Angeles landmark. As he tells it "la migra" raided the restaurant one day while he was in the dinning room busing dishes. As the officers stepped in to the dining room he took off his apron, sat down at a table with some customers and pretended to be having a cup of coffee until they left.)
I don’t have a beef with any of the particular remedies proposed for stopping illegal immigration. I’m not opposed to a border fence. (Great build it to the sky if you want but please build it here in the El Centro Sector we could use the jobs.) I’m not against national identity cards, though I’m certain most people don’t realize that to be effective there will have to be penalties for anyone who doesn’t have their national I.D. on them … at all times. (That they will not be able to buy or sell without them probably won’t go over real big with evangelicals though.) I think another amnesty program would be a mistake as it would be taken as an invitation, by the rest of the world, to enter the U.S. illegally.
The thing is I don’t believe any of the proposed solutions will stop
illegal immigration. Most conservatives don’t like to talk about it
but there are a great many illegal aliens from China, and Africa, in
the United States.
If the oceans can’t keep them out I don’t think a fence along the
border is going to be too effective either. I believe the solution to
illegal immigration lies in Mexico not the U.S.
I once had lunch with a Mexican businessman. He asked why the United States doesn’t help Mexico build infrastructure the way the EU is helping Turkey. I said that the United States was probably disposed to help Mexico but it probably wouldn’t do anything because Mexican government officials would steal all the money. He didn’t say anything. What could he say? That said though, the United States has supported stability in Mexico, stability on it’s southern border, stability during the communist era, at the cost to Mexicans of corrupt regime after corrupt regime. Think about it this way, what if the solution to corruption in Mexico were a communist government which took all the corrupt government officials and hanged them from lamp posts, would this be okay with the U.S.? I mean having a Hugo Chavez running the country on its southern border? So the United States is not completely innocent when it comes to responsibility for the horrible Mexican economy.
My real concern isn’t the various remedies proposed for illegal immigration but that the language, the arguments, the propaganda conservatives are using in order to agitate for immigration reform are confirming the stereotype (Well I hope it’s just a stereotype.) of conservatives/Republicans as the party of bigoted, classists, white, nativists. Conservatives are coming across as the party whose domestic agenda consists of “Keep the Mexicans out!” , “Cut taxes for the rich!” “Save the best schools for white people! ” “Oh and by the way, keep those lazy, dishonest, good for nuthin, welfare cheatin, tax evading, line jumping, job stealin, terrorist aiding, Mexicans out.”
So here’s a brief catalogue of some of the silliness, of some of the
arguments, of some of the conservative rhetoric which I believe comes
across to Mexican Americans as thinly disguised bigotry.
This is the circumspect way for conservatives to say, "Keep
the Mexicans out." Even Hugh Hewitt,
think of as the most reasonable conservative in the blog-o-sphere, has
latched on to it as the correct way of talking about illegal
immigration. While it’s hard to disagree that our border should be
secure this talk ends up coming across as a smokescreen for
anti-Mexican sentiment because the only border that apparently needs to
be secured is the only border through which no terrorists have been
known to enter. The search for terrorists who have entered the U.S.
from Mexico has gotten so bad that it was recently reported in the
conservative blogosphere that the terrorists who planned the attack on
Fort Dix entered the U.S. illegaly from Mexico.
This came as welcome news to those conservatives who are looking for a
terrorist under every sombrero until it turned out that the terrorists were toddlers at the time they entered the U.S.
If the issue is really security against terrorism I suggest we focus on entry from the United Kingdom which seems to have become the Mecca for jihadi formation. How hard is it for one of those radical English moslems to enter the U.S. anyway? Not very, I would guess, a visa probably isn’t even required.
The Mexican border isn’t all that insecure anyway. First there's a big mean desert out there guarding our border. And, contrary to conservative opinion, a lot of big mean Border Patrol agents looking for people crossing that border. Hey I live in El Centro, California (Still a part of the United States despite the name.), and I have to go through two border checkpoints to take my kids to Disneyland and one more to get back home. I bet the 9/11 hijackers didn't go through that many checkpoints on their way to Boston and D.C. It’s also much easier to enter the U.S. with a tourist visa, or student visa, or no visa, or a false passport just like the 9/11 hijackers did. There’s also much less probability of dying in the desert that way. People who have nothing to lose cross the desert in hopes of getting a job busing dishes for rich white people. People who have nothing to lose don't mind risking arrest by the border patrol. Terrorists probably aren't in that category.
It's The Economy Stupid:
Conservatives kinda, sorta seem to argue that illegal immigration is bad for the economy. National Review Online once published a blurb from a Harvard economist demonstrating that the employment of illegal aliens results in lower wages for certain American workers. (Wow, who’d have guessed it? You increase the supply of labor and the price of labor goes down? Next month a Harvard physicist will discover that imported water runs down hill.) It’s a little hard to take this seriously especially since in the past 40 years there are only a handful of years where unemployment has been as low as it is now. (Click here then click on the dinosaur and then choose your range of years.) Maybe illegal immigration is good for the economy.
I think it’s pretty much a given that the employment of illegal aliens lowers the wages of some Americans, but so what? Is this bad for the economy? Imagine if some enterprising Mexicans began driving four wheel drive semi trucks pulling fuel tankers filled with cheap Mexican gasoline across the desert. They somehow manage to make it by all the Border Patrol checkpoints to Los Angeles where they set up shop on some west L.A. street corner and begin selling gasoline for $1.50 a gallon. Sure some guys who work pumping gas would probably lose their jobs but would it be bad for the economy? I don’t think so. And I don’t think that any serious economist would say that it was.
There is no economic difference between sending jobs to Mexico to be
done by lower wage Mexicans and Mexicans coming to the U.S. to do the
work. You can’t be in favor of free trade and at the same time argue
that there is some deleterious economic impact from the employment of
illegal aliens. That same Harvard professor might want to investigate
the impact of free trade on the wages of American furniture workers …
if he can find any. The reason we conservatives support free trade is
because we believe that in the long run a free market is the path to
prosperity for the greatest number of people over the greatest period
Illegal immigration is the free market at work. Immigration restrictions are, economically speaking, artificial barriers to competition. Hey if you don’t like the free market just say so but don’t just kick the Mexicans out of the market .
They Don't Pay Taxes:
How could anyone know this? And since when did conservatives complain about people not paying taxes? I think some conservatives have been living on the upper east side so long they don’t realize that the vast majority of employees have taxes deducted from their pay by their employers. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the law. If employers are failing to deduct taxes from their illegal alien employees then they are the ones violating the law not the illegal aliens. My guess is that the vast majority of illegal aliens pay taxes for the simple reason that their employers are much more concerned with taking on the IRS than the INS.
They Come Over Here Just To Get On Welfare:
Is there actually some evidence of this? My experience is that most of these guys want to steer well clear of any type of government office. It cost them a lot of money, time, and effort to get here and they for the most part don’t want to risk getting sent back. It’s true that they use public services like schools and hospitals but there’re a lot of people out there who don’t work as hard or pay as many taxes who use those services too. (I have a millionaire relative who’s health care is paid for by the U.S. Government. I don’t know about you but it seems to me that money is better spent providing health care for some busboy’s sick kid.)
Update: Here's a nice article from the Wall Street Journal which discusses the illegal aliens on welfare canard.
It’s Mexifornia Moron:
Some conservatives argue that the influx of illegal aliens is diluting if not destroying American culture. I think that conservatives have been laboring under a little bit of misinformation where this subject is concerned.
Most Mexicans no longer speak Azteci, Mexican American Studies majors not withstanding. They actually use the same numerical system and same alphabet as Americans, (Okay they have couple extra weird letters with those funny punctuation thingys on them, but who’s counting.) In fact, amazingly enough, much of their language has the same roots as ours. The same is true of their history. Even their religion is pretty similar (Hey I wish they were a little more protestant than Catholic too and I’m doing my part to make that happen. Please send you tax deductible contributions to Imperial Valley Christian Center.) So what’s your point Big Dan? My point is that having our culture diluted by Mexicans is no different than having it diluted by Italians or Swedes and a lot better than having it diluted by people from wholly alien cultures.
We’re not talking people with a completely different alphabet like the Chinese. Or people who speak a language whose roots are very different from English such as Hindi or Arabic. Or people who have a completely different religious history. Mexicans are as essentially European as Americans. And yet one gets the feeling that conservatives feel much better about Chinese (There are an estimated 1 million illegal alien asians living in the United States.) or Indian immigration than Mexican immigration. After all Indians and Chinese are naturally good engineers and scientists and mathematicians and doctors but how many more bus boys or lawn guys do we need?
(Just on a personal note . A couple of years ago I travelled to Professor Victor “Mexifornia” Hanson’s hometown of Fresno, California. ( I know he lives in Selma but that’s only 17 miles down the highway and he taught for years at Fresno State.) Becky and I were on our way to Yosemite for a couple day pastors conference. We had dinner that night at an In-N-Out on the Southern edge of Fresno. We spent the night at some chain motel, I can’t recall the name. We ate breakfast at a really nice family owned restaurant just off the highway and up the street from Fresno State. We then spent a couple nights in a really nice Lodge on the outskirts of Yosemite. The whole time we were there, not once did I run into a Mexican employee. Not at the In-N-Out not at the Motel, not at the Restaurant, not at the Lodge. My thought at the the time was, “I don’t know what Professor Hanson is talking about, this place is Whiteyfornia.”)
They Come Over Here To Have Babies Just So They Can Immigrate:
First off a U.S. Citizen child cannot immigrate his parents until he is aged 21, so if people are doing this to immigrate they’ve got a long wait. Secondly, and this may come as a shock to some of those conservatives who see Mexicans as not much different from cattle, but there aren’t a lot of full term moms crossing the desert to get to the land of free medical care. Most of the people who do this are entering the United States legally. No border fence, or group of vigilantes is going to stop that.
Talk about a bugaboo. National Review’s cover once featured a photo of the immigration protests with the caption Hasta La Vista, Reconquista. I’m sure every MECHA chapter in the country went out and got a copy of that cover … framed. “ See, we’re sticking it to the man even National Review is acknowledging our existence.” Thanks for breathing life into a dying organization. Coming soon covers on the Nation of Islam’s plans for an all Black state and the Aryan Nation’s plan to establish an Aryan homeland.
They’re jumping to the front of the Line
There is no line.
Unless by line you mean something other than a queue which people enter and exit on a first come, first served basis. The so called “line” is really a system of preferences and quotas which congress changes from time to time. So, for example, under the “Diversity” category of immigrant visas 8,300 visas are set aside yearly, exclusively for Europeans. (Never have conservatives so liked diversity and affirmative action.) See here for the latest numbers and quotas.
As an example of how the so called “line” works, if you were a United States Citizen and you applied to immigrate your unmarried child from Mexico in 1995, i.e. 12 years ago, your application is now getting to the front of the line. But in the meantime that guy from England who filed the same application in 1995 has already had his petition granted. As has the Saudi guy who filed in 1996, or 1997 or 1998 or 1999 or even 2000. So if there is a line, those guys all jumped in line in front of the Mexican guy. Are conservatives upset by this kind of “line jumping” too?
If it was just a question of first come, first served the first few million people in line would all be from Mexico. The reason they are not is because the congress has developed these quotas and preferences based on some criteria other than when someone got in line. In fact you could justly say that the “line” discriminates against Mexicans. So how is it wrong for congress to do the same thing now for illegal aliens. It’s not jumping the line it’s just another preference category.
Finally this is a Christian blog, in fact a church blog, so let me leave you with what the Bible says on the subject:
Deuteronomy 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.
Deuteronomy 24:17 Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.
Deuteronomy 27:19 "Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
I know that somewhere some conservative is thinking, “Yeah but who’s my neighbor?” Which, of course, is the subject of another Bible story.