Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Imagine being asked to prove your citizenship. "Identification papers, please." Sounds like something out of Nazi Germany. Deine Papieren!. But that's frighteningly close to what will be happening in Arizona, home to some disturbing developments in the never-ending immigration debate.
I'm as white as a bleached snowflake, I'm bio-luminescent, the Sun puts on SPF 45 keep from being burnt by me. So if I were to vacation in Arizona, I doubt my citizenship would ever be questioned. Then again, I could be British or something. Then again, how many cops in Arizona will be patrolling for illegals from Liverpool?
The new legislation in Arizona "requires police to make a reasonable attempt, when practical, to determine immigration status if there is cause to suspect they are illegal immigrants." Now cops can't just walk up to someone on the street and ask for their license. The person has to be previously engaged with the police for some other reason (e.g. traffic stop). At least that's how it seems to be laid out.
But this law just screws everybody: Citizens, illegals, and cops alike. Citizens will get unnecessarily hassled, particularly those of Latino descent. This widens a gap that should instead be shallowing as our so-called melting pot does its work. Obviously illegals will be punished. And the cops who have to enforce these laws will have every single traffic stop scrutinized. "Why did you ask this guy named Rolando to prove his citizenship? How come you didn't ask his buddy Steve?" And we all know how unhesitant people are to accuse cops of profiling:
You can understand where Arizona lawmakers are coming from. The bloody spill over from Mexico's drug wars, and incidents such as the unsolved murder of rancher Robert Krentz (who lived several miles from the border. Investigators tracked a set of footprints from where he was killed back to the border) have scared people down there.
Some illegal aliens are criminals. Liberals won't want to admit that, but it's true. Unfortunately, many Conservatives fail to realize that the best way to obstruct these criminals from entering the country is to open up the border's proverbial doors, and make it easy for honest, hardworking, non-criminal immigrants to legally become Americans. Build an Ellis Island in the desert. Stop illegal immigration by making it legal immigration.
But wait a minute...
It's funny how the same typically Conservative multitudes who fear Mexicans taking their jobs, also hate Barack for fomenting a socialist "Nanny-State." These jerks love capitalism when it puts them on top, hate it when it threatens to put them asunder. But buy the ticket, take the ride.
An equally skilled new-American truck driver might be willing to drive a rig across country for half of what a born-American driver would demand. If you owned a truck company, who would you hire?
Now it sucks for that born-American truck driver, but capitalism has winners for every loser. The owner of the trucking company could expand and hire more workers. Plus the goods shipped would be cheaper at the store. There's no moral right or wrong with capitalism, just profit and loss.
Does being born inside America's borders mean that we're superior to people born in Mexico, or any other country? What does it even mean to be "American?" It's not genetic, or ethnic, or even cultural. I have much more ethnically and culturally in common with Germans and British than I do with most Americans. What does an American look like or sound like? What religion are they? What do they believe in?
To be American is to be free. And freedom is one of the inalienable rights of a human being (to be human is to deserve to be free, to be American is to be free). Yet we restrict people from coming to this country to be free. Does that sound like freedom? No, it sounds like an exclusive club with admission based solely on location of birth. A country club if you will.
Now some people obviously don't belong in America. True criminals. Drug dealers. Smugglers. Murderers; people who have violated the freedoms and rights of others. But with modern technology, isn't it easier to weed these people out and disallow their entry? Then let them tangle with The Minutemen in the middle of the desert, no holds barred.
But there is a massive stumbling block to the idea of open-but-regulated immigration that I've laid out above: Entitlement programs.
It's one thing to let new-Americans compete with born-Americans for jobs. There's a capitalistic and competitive spirit to that. There's a sense of justice when the better worker gets the job. There's also a sense of fiscal reality that the most favorable market value (cheaper worker) wins out.
But when you have so many cumbersome entitlement programs, as we already have now and as we are acquiring more and more, every new-American would enter the country with a price-tag on their heads. A 60 year old woman with arthritis, for example, would become an American at the potential cost of millions of dollars.
Of course, a 25 year old man who can fix cars and is good with computers enters the country with a negative number for a price-tag (meaning he'll put into the system more than he withdraws). This is a guy who will be productive, make money, participate in the economy, start a family, buy a house, et cetera.
But there's a horrid sort of calculus at work here. Do you allow all non-criminal applicants to enter the country, or do you construct a selection process to allow the productive in, and keep the unproductive out? Or perhaps calculate that X number of productive immigrants can support the entitlements of Y number of unproductives.
After all, you don't want to allow in so many unproductive people that the vast apparatus of the entitlement programs are threatened with bankruptcy. Especially as citizens become more and more dependent on these programs.
This is one of the many unfortunate aspects of entitlement programs. Their viability depends on demographic sizes, specifically the size of the paying group relative to the size of the receiving group.
And this is where the Anti-Immigration people hold an unassailable position on very high ground. This is where the Immigration Argument stops. Because it's one thing to convince Americans to allow outsiders into "their" arena. It's quite another to ask them to pay for the outsiders' tickets.
And to the Liberals, you can't have your cake and stay on a diet too. You simply cannot create a socialized state AND open up immigration. It's politically unfeasible. If you don't have open immigration, then it's illegal for some people to be in this country. If it's illegal for them to be here, and they are here, then they're criminals. If they're criminals, they need to be deported. It's stupid to criminalize something like "existing within a set of lines drawn by the Gadsden Purchase of 1853."
But that's essentially what an illegal immigrant is guilty of doing. And that's one of the stresses with socialism.
But back to Arizona, their programs won't work to curb immigration, let alone crimes committed by illegal immigrants. While it's understandable for people to fight their fear with force, it's often not the wisest thing to do.
Moreover, there's a detestable racialist element to Arizona's new law. We should welcome new citizens and old citizens of Latino descent. This legislation will alienate non-aliens. People need to be ingratiated into American society. Their culture should be mixed with "our" own, becoming a distinct yet integral part of that melting pot, or that tapestry, or whatever figurative image you want to use.
The people hurt and alienated by this legislation are Americans. And they have the right to not fear their police. They have the right to walk around their block without their license or government ID on them without fear of being arrested. Even if 100% of those asked for ID by the police turn out to be illegal immigrants, and even if 100% of those cases have copious amounts of just cause, what's relevant is the feeling this law will create and the divisions it will carve.
ALL Americans have the right to feel American.