Illegal immigration poses serious problems for America, on many levels and for many different reasons.
It must be dealt with if we wish to preserve our heritage and culture and “establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, [and] provide for the common defence…”
But to enact long-term solutions we must raise the level, temper the tone, and deepen the wisdom of the current discussion.
We’ve all witnessed or taken part in furious debates about illegal immigration, and undoubtedly received intense mass emails about it. The issue is definitely a turbulent fire raging across America.
My immediate concerns have less to do with illegal immigration as a fact, and more with the virulence surrounding the issue.
It’s imperative that we extinguish the flames of fear and enmity and find solutions initiated by love and kindness, infused with human dignity and respect, and based in justice and principle.
Specifically, there are three destructive tendencies that must be eliminated from the anti-illegal immigration stance in order to raise the level of the debate and find real and lasting solutions.
- that much of it is promoted through lies and propaganda
- it seems to be largely based in fear and distrust
- many aspects of it are hypocritical.
Until we steer the debate away from these pernicious proclivities, we will never arrive at comprehensive, humane, and long-term solutions.
Lies & Propaganda
I’ve received dozens of anti-illegal immigration mass emails. The more I sort through them, the more disheartened I become because of the blatant falsehoods perpetuated by such thoughtless messages.
For example, one detailed Robin Williams’ “plan” to deal with immigration.
Other than the fact that the proposed “solutions” are unfeasible to say the least, the other slight problem with the email is that it is entirely false.
Other reports, such as former Colorado governor Richard Lamm’s speech on the perils of multiculturalism may be true, yet when forwarded to the masses take on a perverse sensationalism that does little more than stir up hatred and fear.
According to the anonymous author of the forwarded email, after Mr. Lamm’s speech,
“Profound silence followed…A chilling fear quietly rose like an ominous cloud above every attendee at the conference…If we don’t get this immigration monster stopped within three years, it will rage like a California wildfire and destroy everything in its path, especially The American Dream.”
I wasn’t at the conference, but I’m dismayed by the melodramatic portrayal of its conclusion which is obviously intended to evoke strong emotions, as opposed to initiate thoughtful and rational discussion.
A Foundation of Fear
While there are undoubtedly many opposed to illegal immigration who are not steeped in fear, my observations of the fear driving the debate disturb me.
“We’re losing jobs!” How many of the individuals who make this claim have actually lost their job to an immigrant?
Furthermore, is this how economics really works? The same logic was used to prevent the production of the printing press. In The Reformation, Historian Will Durant wrote that when the printing press was introduced,
“…not all welcomed it. Copyists protested that printing would destroy their means of livelihood; aristocrats opposed it as a mechanical vulgarization, and feared that it would lower the value of their manuscript libraries; statesmen and clergy distrusted it as a possible vehicle of subversive ideas.”
Although it was “disruptive,” the printing press created far more jobs than were lost because of it.
We’ve learned throughout history that often the most disruptive forces are those that create the most innovation and therefore the most benefits to mankind.
What possibilities open up to Americans by having more labor available?
Am I saying that illegal immigrants are not taking jobs from Americans? No.
What I am saying is that the claim that we’re losing jobs seems a rather tenuous reason to “round them up and ship them out.”
Am I saying that there are not real and significant problems to illegal immigration? Of course not.
Yet how wise is it to fashion our solutions in an atmosphere of anger and fear?
As a Whill much wiser than I once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hatred. And hatred leads to the dark side.”
Fear-based “solutions” to illegal immigration will plunge us into a dark side of America that we never would have imagined possible.
(And for further evidence of the fear I speak of, look up every time on the Internet where the deceitful Robin Williams’ plan is posted and read all of the comments beneath each post.)
I would do exactly the same thing if I were in their (the illegals) shoes.
If you were working for pennies a day, suffering from a corrupt and incompetent government, oppressed by thugs and officials alike, and living in filth and abject poverty, would you not seek a better life, no matter what it took?
How can we condemn people as common criminals who are doing the same thing that any one of us would do if we were in their situation?
And this is not even to mention the glaring fact that our nation was founded by immigrants, oppressed in their homeland and seeking refuge in a better land.
Our history tells us that every single American today owes their privileges to brave immigrants willing to suffer unimaginable hardship to eke out a self-determined life in a new land.
Granted, there is a difference in that many of those ancestors I speak of came legally.
My point isn’t that showing disrespect for the rule of law is justified–it’s that we must look at illegal aliens with a more human perspective if we are to truly solve the issue. And this view is enabled when we put ourselves in their shoes.
“But coming to America without proper documentation is illegal! They’re all criminals!”
Yes, and so are those who speed, fudge on their taxes, and drive without a seat belt. Are our daily crimes somehow better and more permissible than those of illegal aliens just because we were privileged to have been born here?
“But illegal immigrants cost taxpayers millions!”
Yes, and so do all of the government entitlement programs and frivolous lawsuits perpetuated by legal citizens.
Why is illegal immigration singled out as the impending crisis?
“They should stay in their own country and make it better!”
Right, with all the power that a poor, uneducated, poverty-ridden person has against insurmountable forces?
Is this really the best we have to offer these individuals, these human beings with every bit as much right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness as we have–a knee-jerk, off-the-cuff, self-righteous comeback?
We can do better. We must do better.
I’m not advocating illegal immigration; I’m advocating humanity, respect, thoughtfulness, and decency. These are human beings we’re talking about, and the issue must be discussed in that context.
While many aspects of the illegal immigration issue do, indeed, pose imminent dangers to America, accompanying and equally destructive dangers are fear, hypocrisy, and deceit.
There are serious problems to be solved. Yet we will never arrive at the right solutions as long as our debate is based on fear and propaganda.
Elevating the level of the debate is the first step toward humane, just, and principled solutions to the problems posed by illegal immigration.
Charles Bowden wrote a fascinating piece on illegal immigration in Mother Jones entitled Exodus: Border-Crossers Forge a New America. It definitely made me rethink my views and expanded my understanding of how big the problem really is.