Saturday, April 01, 2006

Some Thoughts on "Illegals" from a Legal

I recently received an email from a friend with a headline that read: "from the occupied US where and army of 11M illegal aliens demand the right to be here illegally (in foreign tongues) while waiving foriegn flags."

Apparently, that vicious rhetoric came via a local politician. I'm not saying who specifically because I've yet to find mention of it online. However, the headline rather inflamed me. What follows are some thoughts I've distilled from subsequent email which went back and forth between my friends and me.

I actually think both sides of the immigration issue make some legitimate points, but I hate to see "the illegals" vilified when we as a country have been trying to have our cake and eat it too, as people complain about porous borders, but small businesses and corporations quietly but vigorously insist on the ability to hire such folks. It ain't just orange orchards hiring "migrant workers." I was hearing a story on NPR about a guy who runs a tech plant and was using all illegals a decade ago before he got busted.

I'd be for making the borders less porous, sure, as I suspect many folks on both sides of the political divide would be (and I don't think this has to be a political issue, though both sides may pander to it in some manner or another - I also find that folks on both sides have complex views of this issue), but I also think that kicking out all of "the illegals" (as they're often crudely described) would be an absolutely monstrous human rights issue for all sorts of reasons. People want to make it black and white, but it just ain't. Just one example: Do you send a 6 year old kid who only speaks English back to Mexico with her parents?

So, I think we should take the best points from both sides on this issue - tighten the borders (and not by policing them with white supremicists with itchy trigger fingers), but treat the people who are here humanely - and move forward from there.

Also, "the occupied US"? WTF? We're scared of 11 million peaceful "illegals" - people picking oranges and blowing leaves - when we have hyper-religious terrorists flying into buildings and killing thousands of people?

Consider this: I busted my ass for six years to maintain a legal condition while I was here and still left the country so I wouldn't be "an illegal," so it does bother me a little when folks who haven't cared about the law suddenly get amnesty. Nonetheless, I do think there's far more to the picture than that.

Also, ask yourself: you're born into a dirt poor country neighboring a rich one. Your family needs money. American businesses by the thousands *want you* to come over and work for them. Is it really a FELONY for you to go over to the rich country and try and make money for your family? Gimme a break.

In considering our laws, let's also consider our humanity.

Let the Stereotyping Begin!

It's become popular around here to point out every Mexican who's busted for drunk driving. One particularly malignant local politician, Sue Myrick, has made a big deal about this and is now pushing for an immigration court here in North Carolina. Myrick is also adamantly anti-gay, so she's singling out gays and minorities regularly for her ire. Aren't their better things you could be doing with your time, Sue? I guess hate-monguering is a sure-fire way to rustle up votes in some quarters, though.

Do illegal immigrants break (additional) laws? Of course. But not all Americans are law-abiding either. Hell, if you want to be exact about it, probably *few* are. Not all *humans* are law-abiding. We have *plenty* of drunken redneck drivers around here. Mexicans aren't by nature all drunk drivers or gang members. Myrick pulls in these tangential arguments to build a case that appeals to stereotypes in an effort to scare people into running folks out of the States she doesn't like. Some folks are even scary us with visions of virulent diseases coming into the country via "the illegals."

Immigrants are either illegal or they're not; we either send them back or we don't; we either seal our borders or we don't. But these malicious arguments around crime and disease are just scare tactics, and they've been used against every minority groups that's every come to the United States, including the Irish.

Another example often used is of the mother who comes here pregnant to ensure citizenship through her newborn. But this is just *one* cherry-picked example, too, and it doesn't represent all cases. There are plenty of children who are born here simply because that's where their parents were living at the time.


Corporations actively lobby the government to be able to hire the cheapest labor possible, and they know the law well enough to do whatever slippery paperwork they need to to hire whoever they want, who would not be able to get into the US otherwise. Of course, since those are generally educated people they're hiring, this practice goes largely unnoticed, but those people do come to the United States and legally (technically, though not following the spirit of the law) work for half the amount Americans would. It's a practice called "inshoring" - it's going on all around you right now and we'll probably hear a lot more about it in the future. I know some awfully nice people who are benefiting from it, though it certainly wasn't something I benefited from as a liberal arts graduate back in 1995.

Do I want to see those people sent home? Of course not. They actually acted entirely legally. It's the companies that put a rush on their paperwork that need to be scrutinized. Are they really hiring a foreigner, as the law says, because a qualified American wasn't available? Of course not. (At least not always.) They're hiring the foreigner because he or she's willing to work in the United States for half the amount that a citizen often is.

I'm cool with that. But it's just another example of us as a country wanting to have our cake and eat it, too.

One more thing: all the folks complaining about *so vociferously* about the illegal aliens here. Can we quit pretending this is anything but thinly disguised racism (or xenophobia, if you prefer I be more polite)?

We have a standard of living which rates among the highest on the planet. So, to the most vocal of the "send 'em all home" crowd, I ask, can you please show me how these "illegals" are actually impacting your life?

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