March 26, 2005

The Right and Immigration

What is the obsession of some people with immigration? It's weird, because people who otherwise seem at least somewhat clear-headed and focused on reasonable goals, achievable objectives and long-term solvency are incapable of seeing the irrelevance, futility and counter-productivity of focusing on Hispanic immigration. It goes beyond reasonable objections and extends into basic fear - fear of the uncontrolled and the dissimilar.

Your basic Hispanic immigrant isn't a terrorist. Is anyone making the argument that Hispanics represent a heightened terrorist threat than, say, Germans or Spanish? The truth is, though, this has nothing to do with terrorism. The campaign to keep out Mexicans predates 9/11 by leaps and bounds. It's just that the uncertainty and anger over 9/11 are being manipulated to turn anger at Islamists into hatred or rejection of millions of other foreigners. It's not working, however.

This isn't about security; it's about culture, religion, race, language and change in general. If you are concerned about the impact of immigration policy on security, then there's on obvious reform: legalize almost all of it, so that practically every Mexican crossing the border illegally will go through the checkpoints - to be processed, licensed and screened. Although it would take a lot of administrative funding to process them all, this policy would let us know who has a criminal record and let us screen people for being on various watchlists. The result would be that the remaining border agents could patrol for criminals and terrorists trying to cross illegally - and there would be a much improved ratio of agents to crossers.

Instead of the sane approach of regulation over prohibition, you've got various groups, such as Project Minuteman, that are essentially immigration vigilantes. This is nothing new, but it's the idea of a private citizen reporting an illegal alien to the INS for pick-up and deportation. President Bush called them vigilantes, but I think I'd demote them to something more like "tattle-tales." Sure, maybe it's legal, but we have to ask a few questions - is it helpful and productive for the rest of us (as they will no doubt claim, martyrs' crosses hoisted on their backs).

I believe they do it for cultural reasons. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt and believe they're not racists. But is this really helping our security? Not really. If they want to stop street crime then they could join and organize a neighborhood watch. If they want to make sure English is the primary language of America then they could volunteer to teach English as a second language at community centers and junior colleges. If they are just trying to point out law-breakers, as they often claim, why don't they sit on lawn chairs at a busy stoplight and write down all the license plates of speeders?

Maybe some of them genuinely think they're doing something about terrorism. Any honest assessment of the question will show this is not a expeditious way to stop terrorism, or to help your community. More likely, they're keeping America safe from would-be janitors, maids and day workers - simply for speaking a different Indo-European language and believing in Jesus in a slightly different way. It just strikes me as incredibly petty and misguided.

Want to stop terrorists from crossing the borders? Get rid of thousands of Mexicans that are acting as cover. A few terrorists could hide in a border full of illegal crossers, because the agents are busy. A few terrorists have a lot more trouble hiding when all the peaceful immigrants are going through the checkpoints, and the agents have a lot fewer people taking their attention.

Want to help the country or your community? Don't waste time following the border or staring at immigrants' houses through binoculars. Volunteer for a hospital or a civic center or a neighborhood watch. There are plenty of ways to provide real help to others. This is, I would suggest, not one of them.

America, meanwhile, is better served letting peaceful immigrants work instead of hiding in the shadows and letting border agents focus on terrorists instead of migrant workers.

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