Believe it or not, I am trying to figure out where I stand on the whole immigration brouhaha spotlighted by Arizona's recent legislative efforts. While researching the many facts of this issue, I was exposed to something called "Godwin's Law",http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law, which states that "The first person in a debate to associate the opposite position to (Nazi/Hitler/Fascism) automatically loses the debate".
I thought, and still think, this is both funny and a good rule of thumb, albeit one I break from time to time.
Here are some facts of the Immigration/Arizona debate:
1. Arizona's law mimics Federal law, and the conditions by which law enforcement can "ask for papers" are in the case of a "legitimate arrest, questioning, or detainment" for the enforcement of laws other than immigration laws. Opponents say that the law gives law enforcement authorities the capability of questioning people for "walking around while brown", as our President so eloquently stated last week. Proponents state that this KEEPS law enforcement from improperly questioning for "walking around while brown". Thus, diametrically opposite conclusions from the same fact set. Clearly, the intent of the wording was to prevent questioning of people merely because of their ethnicity, otherwise it wouldn't have been addressed at all in the law, so apparently the difference between the two conclusions merely reflect ones opinion on how well the existing language protects against illegitimate questioning of Hispanic-looking individuals.
2. The Arizona law, in substance, only mimics the Federal law already on the books. If one is legitimately opposed to the substance of the Arizona law, then one must be opposed to the Federal law. The potential hippocrites, then, are the Senators and congress people that voted FOR the Federal law and protest AGAINST the Arizona law.
3. The Feds have said they are not obligated to prosecute people under turned over to them by state officials for violations of Federal law in Immigration cases. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/05/21/official-says-feds-process-illegals-referred-arizona/. Also, the Feds are apparently not obligated to prosecute or repatriate undocumented aliens, even if detained by Federal officials. This allows the Feds to do, essentially, whatever they want, ie the law as written allows the Feds to either detain, arrest, and deport undocumented immigrants or NOT detain, arrest, and deport undocumented immigrants, depending upon how they feel that day, week, month, or administration. This means the law was intentionally written in a way to NOT be law. The concept of "Rule of Law" is meaningless if laws are written in a way that they are entirely subjective and arbitrary. I don't think this concept of law can be supported by any left or right ideology, can it? Was the passage of this Federal law nothing more than venal political theater? If so, who is responsible for that?
4. Undocumented immigrants presumably come here for jobs. We are told that the jobs they take are low wage jobs that no US citizen would want. The obvious benefit of this is that these workers keep our society's cost of living low, and, depending on industry, without them, these costs would rise up to 30% or more. The benefits are primarily in construction, maintenance, and hospitality. In other words, by taking low wage jobs (perhaps lower than minimum wage in many cases), they keep our cost of living down, which serves exactly the same effect as increasing income for the rest of us.
5. Another benefit is that they pay money into dummy social security accounts from which they they will not recover benefits, thus enabling our currently unstable social security system to be further supported from the "fruits of labor" of our undocumented brethren.
6. If these are the primary cases for non-enforcement, what reason would we have to want to "legalize" these jobs? Would "legalizing" these folks entail mandatory minimum wage? Union representation? If that is the result, don't the "benefits" disappear?
7. Or is the defining argument a Human Rights argument due to our current constitutional interpretation that if you are born in the US, you are automatically a US citizen. Thus, when an undocumented parent is deported, the family can be potentially split. Of course, the splitting of the family is only one of two potential outcomes, the other being the family going back with the deported member. Although I think I understand why a US citizen or legal worker would not want to return with their undocumented spouse or parent, the individual choices made typically appear to support that being in the USA is more important to them than family cohesion.
8. Undocumented immigrants are apparently very much over-represented in our prisons as violent criminals. Why is that? What does that mean for those that fit the stereotype of "looking for a better future"? What is the relative percentage of each end-member demographic? What can we do to reduce the criminal component? This is a hard issue to dismiss, if true.
9. Clearly the US CAN protect its borders and sovereignty. The question is cost and will. Given that we are adequately terrified of Islamic terrorists, and we guard our airports and immigration stations at airports to a degree considered ridiculous by many (including me), what is the logic behind making an entirely physical border porous otherwise? Is the fear of Islamic terrorism hugely overstated and propagandized? Alternatively, what is the logic behind the kabuki theatre of airport security? The reality is that illegal immigration has evolved from the story book families looking for a better tomorrow to a very well organized international system of undocumented human transport into the US from all over the world, and where Mexicans are no longer the overwhelming majority of those transported (see these previous posts for a 1st and 2nd hand perspective on this....)
Does this image concern you at all? Should we ignore this and the attendant crime?
10. Another conservative bogeyman is the Reconquista Movement. Is there merit to this concern? Who, exactly, constitutes this movement and how many are there? Are they merely a radical fringe element in numbers like the KuKluxKlan or is this a real movement? If it is, have any of these folks actually LIVED in Mexico?
11. Given the very tough immigration laws that Mexico "enjoys", what reason, other than economic ($21 billion per year of US dollars wired to families in Mexico, the second largest legally recognized industry in Mexico next to petroleum and the third biggest real industry next to drugs and petroleum and bigger than tourism... interesting really, that Mexico depends on illegal immigrants and illegal drugs as the 1st and 3rd largest industries), could Calderon have for making the speech he did to the US Congress? How can he claim Human Rights when Mexico's immigration and work laws are far more draconian to non-citizens than the US's? It would be nice to have someone admit that yes, it is primarily an economic issue between the two countries rather than a clearly ludicrous Human Rights issue.
12. Do legal residents and citizens of Hispanic heritage, many of which predated Anglos, and, indeed US and Mexico, in Texas, NM, Arizona, and California, relate more strongly to the plight of the illegal immigrants or to sovereignty and benefits of US citizenship? For either answer, why?
If I have left anything out, please let me know. Let's get a discussion going on this to help me decide what I think is the best solution....