Illegal Immigration: A Winning Issue for Democrats?

Thursday, April 29, AD 2010

Some Democrats think that the Arizona law cracking down on illegal aliens will save them from electoral disaster in November.  They think this will rile up the Hispanics, and to fan the flames a few Democrats are making free with their favorite epithet against those who oppose them, Nazi.

I think that these Democrats are pursuing a losing hand on this issue.  Illegal immigration is extremely unpopular in this country and overheated epithets will simply further energize the conservative base.  More to the point, this election is going to be fought on the economy and government spending, and the Democrats are in dire shape on both those issues.  In regard to the immigration issue, I think there is evidence that some Democrats understand that rather than a gift this could be an electoral landmine.  This AP story here indicates that Obama concedes that Congress may not have the political appetite for immigration reform anytime soon, and notes the type of legislation that the Democrats propose eventually may ostensibly put enforcement before amnesty:  “An immigration proposal by three Democratic senators calls for more federal enforcement agents and other border security-tightening benchmarks before illegal immigrants could become legal U.S. residents, according to a draft of the legislation obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. The bill is being developed by Reid of Nevada, Chuck Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.”

In an earlier post this week I quoted my favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson on the issue of illegal immigration.  Here are his current thoughts on immigration as a political issue in the Fall:

A Losing Political Issue

The politics of illegal immigration are a losing proposition for liberals (one can see that in the resort to euphemism), even if they don’t quite see it that way. Here are ten considerations why.
Law?—What Law?

First, there is the simplicity of the argument. One either wishes or does not wish existing law to be enforced. If the answer is no, and citizens can pick and chose which laws they would like to obey, in theory why should we have to pay taxes or respect the speed limit? Note that liberal Democrats do not suggest that we overturn immigration law and de jure open the border — only that we continue to do that de facto. Confusion between legal and illegal immigration is essential for the open borders argument, since  a proper distinction between the two makes the present policy  indefensible—especially since it discriminates against those waiting in line to come to America legally (e.g., somehow our attention is turned to the illegal alien’s plight and not the burdensome paperwork and government obstacles that the dutiful legal immigrant must face).

Why Wave the Flag of the Country I Don’t Wish to Return To?

Second, often the protests against enforcement of immigration law are strangely couched within a general climate of anger at the U.S. government (and/or the American people) for some such illiberal transgression (review the placards, flags, etc. at May Day immigration rallies). Fairly or not, the anger at the U.S. and the nostalgia for Mexico distill into the absurd, something like either “I am furious at the country I insist on staying in, and fond of the country I most certainly do not wish to return to” or “I am angry at you so you better let angry me stay with you!” Such mixed messages confuse the electorate. As in the case with the Palestinians, there is an effort to graft a foreign policy issue (protecting an international border) onto domestic identity politics, to inject an inflammatory race/class element into the debate by creating oppressors, victims, and grievances along racial divides.

Big Brother Mexico?

Third, Mexico is no help. Now it weighs in with all sorts of moral censure for Arizonians — this from a corrupt government whose very policies are predicated on exporting a million indigenous people a year, while it seeks to lure wealthy “gringos” to invest in second-homes in Baja. The absence of millions from Oaxaca or Chiapas ensures billions in remittances, less expenditures for social services, and fewer dissident citizens. But the construct of Mexico as the concerned parent of its own lost children is by now so implausible that even its sympathizers do not take it seriously. Mexico has lost all credibility on these issues, expressing concern for its own citizens only when they seem to have crossed the border — and left Mexico.

It’s Not a Race Issue

Fourth, there really is a new popular groundswell to close the borders. Most against illegal immigration, especially in the case of minorities and Mexican-American citizens, keep rather mum about their feelings. But that silence should not be interpreted as antagonism to enforcing the law. Many minorities realize that the greatest hindrance to a natural rise in wages for entry level jobs has been the option for an employer to hire illegal aliens, who, at least in their 20s and 30s, will work harder for less pay with fewer complaints (when sick, or disabled, or elderly, the worker is directed by the employer to the social services agencies and replaced by someone younger as a new cycle of exploitation begins). In this context, the old race card is less effective. The general population is beginning to see not that Americans (of all races who oppose illegal immigration) are racist, but that the open borders movement has itself a racially chauvinistic theme to it, albeit articulated honestly only on university campuses and in Chicano-Latino departments, as a sort of “payback” for the Mexican War, where redress for “lost” land is finally to be had through demography.

Continue reading...

22 Responses to Illegal Immigration: A Winning Issue for Democrats?

  • I’m not aware of anyone who thinks this will erase the Republican advantage in November. But it’s a long-term blow to the GOP. When Tom Tancredo, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush are running from it, it’s safe to say that this isn’t a political winner.

    Gov. Brewer got a boost among whites which widens her lead against Goddard. But Goddard’s lead among Hispanics just jumped 26 points! Rarely in politics do you ever see such a big swing.

    Whites who are leaning Republican because of this issue can be swayed by other issues like abortion or the economy. The Hispanics who are abandoning the GOP because of this issue aren’t coming back. The GOP is losing a generation of Hispanics and Asians.

  • I don’t think that most Hispanics who are legally here restrainedradical are actually much fonder of illegal aliens being allowed to stay in the country than most other Americans. The Democrats will get majority of the Hispanic votes in the Fall, as they usually do outside of Florida with its Cuban-American population. But I predict a fall off from the percentage received by the Democrats in 2008. Hispanics are primarily economic voters like most other Americans, and a lousy economy is always going to be blamed on the party in power.

    As for Marco Rubio, a man who I expect will eventually be the GOP standard bearer for Presidency some day, here is his position on the Arizona law:

    “Our legal immigration system must continue to welcome those who seek to embrace America’s blessings and abide by the legal and orderly system that is in place. The American people have every right to expect the federal government to secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. It has become all too easy for some in Washington to ignore the desperation and urgency of those like the citizens of Arizona who are disproportionately wrestling with this problem as well as the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that spills over from across the border.

    “States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona’s policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don’t believe Arizona’s policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with ‘reasonable suspicion,’ are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.

    “I hope Congress and the Obama Administration will use the Arizona legislation not as an excuse to try and jam through amnesty legislation, but to finally act on border states’ requests for help with security and fix the things about our immigration system that can be fixed right now – securing the border, reforming the visa and entry process, and cracking down on employers who exploit illegal immigrants.”

    http://www.marcorubio.com/marco-on-arizona-immigration-legislation/

    The Arizona law is not going to spur a movement to support amnesty, but rather the reverse.

  • I wonder how the average Arizona policeman feels about this new law- by that I mean he/she may be hung out to dry if what they consider to be ‘reasonable suspicion’ is put to countless legal challenges- I’m just trying to put myself in their shoes- and it could be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario where they will constantly be asking themselves- “am I racially profiling?” Police are no different from us in that they will have certain stereotypes and even inadvertant prejudices which could lead them into trouble in Federal Courts and so forth- is there something built into the law that would protect the police from lawsuits that will inevitably occur – except in egregious cases of obvious harrassment or abusive treatment?

  • Cops will feel cautious Tim as they do with any law until it has been through the court mill a few times. The first arrests under the law, assuming that enforcement will not be blocked, will probably be cases so obvious that the cops can’t ignore them. Of course a lot of this also depends upon their instructions from their superiors and the attitude of the local district attorney to enforcing the new law.

  • I don’t think that most Hispanics who are legally here restrainedradical are actually much fonder of illegal aliens being allowed to stay in the country than most other Americans.

    Simply not true. Goddard jumped 26 points against Brewer among Arizona’s registered Hispanic voters after this bill was signed. He’s still trailing but has a 46 point advantage among registered Hispanic voters. The Arizona Hispanic Republicans have come out against the law. Arizona had one of the most Republican Hispanic populations before the bill was signed. Overnight Arizona’s Hispanics became as Republican as California’s.

    If I had to guess, less than 20% of Hispanics here legally, are in favor of this law. Probably less than half that among 1st and 2nd generation legal immigrants. There’s an enormous racial divide on this issue.

  • The polls in Arizona are in conflict restrainedradical. Rasmussen is showing Brewer way up after signing the bill with an eight point advantage over Goddard.

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections2/election_2010/election_2010_governor_elections/arizona/election_2010_arizona_governor

  • I would imagine that to the extent this has a long term political effect, it will probably be against the GOP. However, I doubt that (despite the tendency to assume that whatever occupies the news waves at a given moment is the pivotal event in some trend) there will actually be much movement one way or the other in the long term as a result of this particular dust-up.

    However, despite consistent Democratic hopes to the contrary, I can’t see that the Hispanic vote will ever become the uniform and overwhelming Democratic voting bloc that the Black vote has become. Despite the efforts of Latino activists, it’s not an absolutely defining label for most 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics, and many of us simply stop idenfiying as members of the group consistently after a couple generations anyway. The fact that in the coming decades majorities of the Southwestern states will be Hispanic in origin does not mean that they’ll all act like the self-identified Hispanic voters on polls now.

  • I don’t see the conflict Don. Brewer benefited from this but the bump came entirely from whites.

  • Rasmussen doesn’t break it down by ethnicity restrainedradical. The difference in the polls is that PPP shows Goddard plus three while Rasmussen shows Brewer plus eight.

  • I wonder how the average Arizona policeman feels about this new law

    Well, the Sheriff of Pima County had this to say:

    The state’s sweeping immigration law is a “national embarrassment” that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he’ll enforce only if he’s forced to.
    “This law is unwise. This law is stupid, and it’s racist,” Dupnik said Wednesday. “It’s a national embarrassment….”

    It’s probably safe to say he’s not a fan of the law.

  • Last year Dubnik wanted to ask school kids about whether they were in the country illegally. Goodness knows why he was willing to do that and finds this law “stupid and racist”.

    http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/138491

    Oh, I understand now. As Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican points out, Dubnik is a Democrat. I am shocked, shocked!

    http://hotairpundit.blogspot.com/2010/04/sheriff-joe-arpaio-responds-to-fellow.html

  • If Dubnik was willing to have teachers ask students to prove they are here legally, I don’t think you can explain his opposition to the current law just based on his being a Democrat. Maybe the fact that this law has to do with the police (and thus affects him personally while the education thing does not) has something to do with it?

  • Btw, if Joe Arpaio is any indication of how the Arizona law is going to be enforced, then I’d say the criticism is justified.

  • A man who was willing to have students turn informer on their parents could not possibly have an objection to this mild by comparison law except for partisan purposes.

  • I’ll take Joe Arpaio any day BA over a sheriff who apparently believes that his badge gives him a right not to enforce a law of his state.

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/crime/arpaio.asp

  • Don, the problem is that Arpaio isn’t enforcing the law either. By focusing on illegal immigration he has neglected traditional law enforcement, with the result that, to quote the East Valley Tribune, “[r]esponse times, arrest rates, investigations and other routine police work throughout Maricopa County have suffered.”

  • The East Valley Tribune ran the series in the summer of 2008 BA when Arpaio was running for his fifth term as sheriff. He won re-election 55-42. Apparently a majority of the voters in his county are satisfied with how he is doing his job.

  • Pingback: Snipers and Riot Police Confront Tea Party Protesters in Quincy « The American Catholic
  • Pingback: Snipers and Riot Police Confront Tea Party Protesters « Houston Grind
  • Personally I think Arizona’s new law is a great law. We all recognize that we need to allow a better path to citizenship, but since the state can’t grant the citizenship the only way we can protect ourselves is to enforce harsher penalties against all illegal immigrants. We can’t sort the good and the bad until the Federal government acts. Instead of protesting our actions people should be petitioning their congressmen to reform immigration laws. We just want to keep the criminals and drug dealers out of our state.

  • Pingback: Illegal Aliens Boycott Arizona « The American Catholic
  • Most people in America aren’t against immigration; they’re just against illegal immigration. For example, like most of our ancestors, my mother’s parents were immigrants. They came through Ellis Island and followed the various legal steps required in order to establish themselves as true citizens of this country. The immigrants crossing the Mexican border, however, have absolutely no interest in following these legal protocols. Once they cross the border, they change their names and/or purchase social security numbers in an effort to conceal their true identities from the law. It is not uncommon for an illegal immigrant to purchase not one, but two or more social security numbers, just in case one is flagged. I have witnessed this crime with my own eyes. (One day, a supposedly legal immigrant was asked to give their social security card to a receptionist for a job application and an interview. When the receptionist happened to ask to see the card a second time, the immigrant mistakenly handed over a different social security card with the same name on it, but with a completely different set of numbers…)

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against Hispanics. I have many Hispanic friends, but they either have green cards to work in the United States or have become legal citizens. They decided to follow the rule of law and work within the boundaries of our legal system. Unfortunately, many immigrants do not, and it is those particular individuals that we are most concerned about.

    Now it seems that those who sympathize with illegal immigrants wish to hijack the discussion of reform by attacking the law recently imposed by the State of Arizona through protests and boycotts; a state mind you, that has been besieged with crime, drugs and an ever-increasing population of illegal immigrants. Don’t allow them this option. Speak out and take action. This is your country… fight for it.

    In closing, I consider myself to be a bleeding-heart liberal: a Democrat. My ancestor, Roger Williams – the founder of Rhode Island and founder of the First Baptist Church in America, was one too; regarding the acceptance of different nationalities, cultures and religions as the vitality and lifeblood of any country. Nevertheless, I think that he would agree with me; that immigrants wishing to become legal citizens have not only the obligation, but the civil and legal responsibility to follow the rules of law established by any country in which they wish to become authentic citizens, just as our ancestors – both yours and mine – struggled so arduously and righteously to achieve.

35 Responses to Catholic Worker View of NAFTA/Immigration

  • Thank you for posting this. God help us.

  • EXCELLENT post! When NAFTA was passed, there were Americans who warned against this very possibility–but they were denounced as alarmists. Supposedly industry migrating to Mexico would provide jobs for all the displaced agricultural laborers. As it turned out, the only opportunities available in adequate numbers were across the border, and Americans at the time were definitely hiring. (Quite a different picture from the one the nativists paint: the one that features hordes of swarthy drug-dealer types bent on satisfying their greed by infiltrating our cities.)

  • NAFTA and Bush destroyed the rural economy in Mexico and points south.

    We daily read and see horrific reports of famine, mass starvation, and pestilence. It’s the Irish Potato Famine being re-played (in HD) in front of our eyes!

    Their cultures, economies and nations are ruined. Let’s wreck the US and our way of life in expiation of our sins!

    Peace and justice! The common good!!!

  • If you want to see how agribusiness has driven them off their land with GM corn, see the last 10 minutes of “The World According to Monsanto”:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6262083407501596844#

    Move the player slider to 1:25:00

  • The proportion of the labor force engaged in agriculture declines as a matter of course in the process of economic development

  • This certainly does a good job of putting human faces on the process of modernization.

    A couple point, though, at the risk of seeming heartlessly capitalist:

    – Although the constitutional reform which allowed ejido privatization was put through around the same time as NAFTA, it wasn’t actually a part of NAFTA, so much at it was part of a broader effort at economic development on the part of Mexico of which NAFTA was also a part.

    – Perverse as it may seem, one of the points of the ejido reform was precisely what is described here: reducing the number of workers employed in agriculture in Mexico. (see this brief piece from 1992 about ejido reform, written by the San Francisco Federal Reserve) Prior to the reform, as the Catholic Worker article also states, 26% of Mexican workers were agricultural workers. However, as the SF Fed article points out, agriculture was responsible for less than 10% of the Mexican GDP. In other words, farmers were among Mexico’s poorer and less productive workers. The belief was that this was that the small plots on communal land of the ejidos caused low productivity and lack of capital investment in improving the land. Mexican authorities believed that allowing privatization and selling or leasing of ejido land would allow larger farms to be established, productivity to increase, and large numbers of former farm workers to go into more productive industries. Usually, having a small percentage of your population engaged in agriculture (while having a large agricultural output) is actually a good thing for your country. For instance, the US has seen steadily increasing agricultural output from 1945 to the present, but has seen the percentage of the population working an agriculture drop from 16% to 2%.

    – Although, as the Catholic Worker article points out, the percentage of Mexican workers employed in agriculture has dropped from 26% to 16% in 20 years, the total agricultural output of Mexico has actually increased steadily throughout that period. That actually means more food, less hunger, and overall improved conditions for Mexicans overall.

    – This kind of drastic societal change always comes at a significant personal cost for those affected. The US went through this same period of increasing agricultural output, but rapidly dropping rural population. We did the 26% to 16% change between 1925 and 1945 — a period which isn’t really remembered fondly. My dad’s mother and her family were directly effected by the US version of this dislocation. They lost their farm in Ryan, Iowa, piled everyone into the Ford, and drove out to California in search of work in the early 30s. Given that Ryan now has a population of only 400, and an average income well under the national average, that may have worked out well in the end. But it was far from fun for the first decade.

  • We did the 26% to 16% change between 1925 and 1945 — a period which isn’t really remembered fondly.

    The banking crises and associated contraction in output during the period running from the fall of 1929 through the spring of 1933 and the aftereffects thereof are why the period is not remembered fondly. These were not a necessary component of the shift from agricultural to non-agricultural employment. (One of the previous generation in my household quit farming in 1949; I cannot recall he ever said it was a wrenching experience).

  • Certainly, the rapid shift from agricultural to city labor wasn’t the only thing going on during the depression, but for a lot of families that “lost the farm” that dislocation was a major part of the story. We even got Grapes of Wrath out of it, for all that’s worth.

    It was also the motive behind some of FDR’s more idiotic policies — like destroying large quantities of food in order to keep prices up.

    After all, for rural banks, one of the main sources of bank failures was when heavily leveraged farmers got hit with falling prices and the dust bowl at the same time, and so starting defaulting on their mortgages and heading out for the coasts. (What made it a lot easier on them than Mexican peasants, however, is that they mostly had at least an 8th grade education, which amounts to rather more than a high school education these days. And they spoke the language.)

  • Darwin,

    You make excellent points. Part of the limits of human understanding is the consequences our actions will produce. Often the consequences are not what we expected and can frequently be for the worse (I think Health Care Reform will be an excellent example.) But one also has to look at what NAFTA has accomplished. There has been a human cost but also a human gain. The whole truth needs to be looked at so that it can be objectively assessed and good maintained and the bad corrected.
    I think such an approach is consistent with Catholic Social teaching. As Benedict XVI noted in Caritas in Veritate, charity must be in accord with the truth. Otherwise it becomes mere sentimentalism. So a detailed, economic analysis of NAFTA along with the personal stories is required by CST so that the truth can lead charity.

  • Yes, and if it wasn’t clear from what I wrote above: I am in favor of NAFTA (and the changes to the Mexican constitution allowing for the privitization of the ejidos) because I think that it will, in the end, be to the common good of Mexicans.

    A demand that people be allowed to remain subsistance farmers has a certain romance for moral tourists, but it’s notable that none of us choose to go be subsistance farmers. The intermediate stages may be misable, and the suffering of people who find themselves displaced against their will is real, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not in fact a road to a better situation. My grandmother’s family, for instance, was much better off as a result of losing the family farm and having to move to California. It took a good ten years or more for them to be better off, but in the end they were — and certainly their descendants are.

  • Three of my four grandparents came here from Mexico. It was very rough in the beginning. My maternal grandparents raised 13 children through the depression. All my aunts and uncles are doing exceptionally well in America. Much better than relatives who stayed in Mexico. Disruptions is sometimes painful, but in the long-term helpful.

  • “Usually, having a small percentage of your population engaged in agriculture (while having a large agricultural output) is actually a good thing for your country.”

    As Peter Maurin put so well, a child is an asset on the land, but a liability in the city. It would be far better if most of us lived on the land, farming and making crafts, engaged in a distributist economy that put people before profits.

  • A child is a gift anywhere.

  • Like most people I’m perfectly willing to go along with Nate’s vision as long as I’m not one of the “most” engaged in farming and craft-making.

  • Not so much into basket weaving, eh? 🙂

  • Well, yeah. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk by putting this so bluntly, but if Maurin was right, why is it that even the vast majority of those involved in the Catholic Worker movement do not in fact live on the land farming and making crafts? I would assume that if this was clearly preferable at a human level, more people would be doing it.

  • Darwin,
    It is, of course, because “other people” should be doing it. It always is. People with advanced degrees in social work, philosophy, etc have more refined vocations, such as organizing and leading a society that successfully requires “most people” to engage in land farming and craft-making, for their own good of course.

  • As Peter Maurin put so well, a child is an asset on the land, but a liability in the city. It would be far better if most of us lived on the land, farming and making crafts, engaged in a distributist economy that put people before profits.

    A child is an asset when there are no child labor laws or Social Security, and a liability when there is (which is not to say that we should do away with Social Security or laws against child labor; it’s just to note that it is those laws, rather than the geographical location in which a child grows up, that are responsible for children being an economic liability vs. an economic asset).

  • I reject what my fiancee and I affectionately call “Shire” Distributism – this reactionary view that we’re all going to go back to the land and till the soil for the good of our souls.

    I support anyone who wants to do that but realistically it is never going to become the dominant economy ever again.

    There’s a reason why the Papacy never advocated such a return to the land either. The Papal view of Distributism is much more realistic, it talks about how the idea can be applied in modern society, in modern businesses and modern economies.

  • @Mike,

    lol, yeah – I think Pol Pot was one of those people.

  • I reject what my fiancee and I affectionately call “Shire” Distributism – this reactionary view that we’re all going to go back to the land and till the soil for the good of our souls.

    Shire Distributism. I may have to steal that.

  • To be fair, Maurin did in fact live on the agricultural Catholic Worker communes, so at least he followed his own advice. But though I’m not deeply read in Catholic Worker history, it doesn’t seem to have been an overall good for many families. I recall reading an interview a while back where Dorothy Day’s daughter talked about how intense trying to live up to that rural ideal was, and said that it was one of the reasons why she’s no longer practicing her faith.

  • Well, friends, there are many Catholic Worker farms, and the Catholic Worker movement is still in its infancy – barely 75 years since its founding. Most Catholic Workers that I know do not have advanced degrees, and try to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. Of course, there are elements of every movement that do not adhere to its founding vision, but those elements will not last.

    Shire Distributism! I will have to use that phrase. But Joe, have you considered that the dominant economy, that of capitalistic industrialism, will collapse one day? I am convinced that it will. And what then?

  • Peter Maurin used a great phrase too – Agronomic Universities – a place where scholars could be workers, and workers could be scholars. Like living in the Shire, but with a great many books and a great many vocations! Love it! Someone want to donate me some land in Missouri?

  • Actually, I think the brilliant thing about “Shire Distributism” is that both proponents and opponents would like the term.

    To me, I think the thing it points out is that Tolkien’s shire was knowingly an idealized place — one which Tolkien wasn’t trying to write about as a realistic society. Tolkien was evoking an image of the English countryside which even to him was just a distant childhood memory. And so he’s not worrying about topics like: If a farmer has four sons, and just the right amount of land to support the family well, which of his sons gets to marry and have a family and inherit the farm, and which three need to work as unmarried laborer or else go find non-family land somewhere else?

    And indeed, I think the disagreement over Shire Distributism is very much one between idealism and practicality.

  • “I reject what my fiancee and I affectionately call “Shire” Distributism – this reactionary view that we’re all going to go back to the land and till the soil for the good of our souls.”

    Having done a fair amount of agricultural labor in my pre-lawyer incarnation I can guarantee that most people would truly hate earning their living by “working the land”. Additionally there simply wouldn’t be enough land for “city-folk” to make a living doing it, even if they adopted an Amish life style.

    I am pretty familiar with the Amish here in Illinois.

    http://www.amishillinois.com/towns/arcola.htm

    I admire their way of life, but it is definitely only a way of life for a highly disciplined, extremely hardworking and tightly knit group.

  • “Someone what to donate me some land in Missouri?”

    Work hard for many years. Then buy it yourself. 😉

  • Peter Maurin used a great phrase too – Agronomic Universities – a place where scholars could be workers, and workers could be scholars. Like living in the Shire, but with a great many books and a great many vocations!

    Whenever I hear ideas like this I can’t help but be reminded of Mao’s line about how “knowledgable youth should go to the country, to be educated from living in rural poverty.” Of course Maurin was a fundamentally decent man, and never would have used the methods Mao used to bring his vision about (which may partly explain why Maurin’s views were never put into practice on a large scale).

  • I like the article linked below on shire economics:

    “Take the idea of the Shire as an ideal community. When I first read the book, I thought the Shire was the most realistic part, and that Minas Tirith, a sort of cross between Camelot and Rome on its seven hills, was artificial. But the Shire is a complete fantasy; no subsistence farming community (and as the hobbits don’t manufacture or trade much, they have to be classed as subsistence) have among their ranks people like Frodo or Bilbo. The Shire is a farming community without farmers. Frodo, Bilbo, Pippin, Merry and even the Sackville-Bagginses are all middle class, and middle classes don’t occur in close-knit farming communities. The middle class is a result of trade, surplus, commerce and an administration that needs well-educated people to run it. Middle classes are an urban phenomena.

    Even Sam is not a farmer, he is a gardener; there is a big difference, farmers grow crops, gardeners grow flowers.

    To cite the Shire, therefore, as a model community to counter the ills of modernism is very unwise. Even in the book, Frodo is regarded by the hobbits are eccentric. In a real Shire, he might be driven out as a witch for knowing Elvish. And without Frodo, would we really want to be like the Daddy Two-foots and Ted Sandymans? A community that is close-knit and anti-authoritarian can also be claustrophic and backward.

    The greatest casualty of modernity is the environment, and Tolkien and his writing appeal strongly to people who wish desperately to preserve the natural world. As Tony Shell says, Tolkien can ‘provide an extraordinarily sublime feeling of immanence and essential vitality to the natural world..’

    But would we all want to do without the trappings of modernity, even to save the natural world? I would do without a car, gladly. Even the washing machine, although beating out clothes on the river bank while exchanging gossip with the other village maidens is not really my thing.

    But doing without medicine, basic healthcare, street lighting, accessible education, juries, pcs, cinemas, freedom of speech, that is another. But these, as well as the destruction of the enviroment, are trappings of modernity. My own grandfather was a ploughman in one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland. But he died within 24 hours of pneumonia from sleeping in a damp, if picturesque, cottage. People who advocate such a return to traditional communities and ways of life are often city folk who forget that such an existence was described as ‘nasty, brutish and short’. because it was.”

    http://lotrscrapbook.bookloaf.net/essay/varda/contents/varda_paradise.html

  • The Shire isn’t exactly a rural society — it’s more an idealized English country village. Think the Highbury of Jane Austen’s Emma. But even more so than in Emma, we only see the members of the essentially idle class. Bilbo (and Frodo later) never had a Baggins estate so far as we can tell, where actual tennant farmers raise crops to produce income. Nor does one get the impression that one can make all one’s money off investments in the Shire (as the Mr. Woodhouse in Emma apparently does) — it’s a country village, with a country village’s upper class, but not London to provide more complex investment for those not actively running an estate or business.

    I’d say that’s probably because Tolkien isn’t attempting to be realistic in his portrayal of the Shire. Minas Tirith and Rohan are portrayed (in the book — unlike in the movie where these cities sit in the middle of totally empty plains) as fairly realistic pre-industrial cities with outlying farmlands and villages. But the Shire (perhaps in part because it very much dates back to The Hobbit, which is more a children’s book in its atmospher; partly because it is an intentional evocation of Tolkien’s childhood memories) isn’t thought out in traditional social structures so much as it draws on traditional characters and institutions without giving much thought to how they’d fit together.

  • Wow look what I started!

    “I’d say that’s probably because Tolkien isn’t attempting to be realistic in his portrayal of the Shire.”

    And neither are some Distributists in their view of politics and economics.

    Nate,

    “But Joe, have you considered that the dominant economy, that of capitalistic industrialism, will collapse one day? I am convinced that it will. And what then?”

    Well, I’m not so sure industry itself will collapse.

    The civilization we have now may very well collapse, though.

    And so I fully support people who want to learn basic survival skills, basic farming skills. I think we should all have some knowledge of these things because we may need them in the future.

    But we should also try to preserve the civilization we have and not give in totally to fatalism. Of course everyone has to make calculations based on what they think the future will hold.

  • Pingback: Illegal Aliens Boycott Arizona « The American Catholic
  • Hello can I quote some of the content from this post if I link back to you?

  • To Lanelle- you have my permission

  • hey adminstrator , i read w/ u blog. Do Your type this posting by your self ? Best regards Admin of http://www.siouxsiesioux.com n http://dusanko.net

Mexifornia: A State of Becoming

Tuesday, April 27, AD 2010

Immigration seems to be a hot topic these days at American Catholic.  The author who best represents my views is Victor Davis Hanson, one of my favorite living historians,  in his book Mexifornia:  A State of Becoming.  In that book Hanson turned his gaze to a subject he is personally familiar with: the transformation of his native California by massive illegal immigration from Mexico. Hanson is not anti-Mexican. He has several Mexican relatives, his daughters are dating Mexican-Americans and most of the people he grew up with are Mexican-American or Mexican. What Hanson is opposed to is our feckless non-policy on immigration which allows steady waves of illegals to flood our border states and does not give us time to allow us to assimilate the Mexican immigrants here. Hanson believes strongly that the vast majority of immigrants, given time and opportunity, will assimilate and become good citizens.   That is my view also.   However it is impossible for this to be accomplished unless we gain control of our southern border and curb most illegal immigration.   A good book on a major issue that both the Republican and Democrat parties have steadfastly ignored, until the passage of the Arizona law. 

 Mexifornia came out in 2003.  Hanson wrote an article in 2007 for City Journal reviewing what had happened in the intervening years, which may be read here.  I find his class analysis of the immigration question interesting:

Since Mexifornia appeared, the debate also no longer splits along liberal/conservative, Republican/Democrat, or even white/brown fault lines. Instead, class considerations more often divide Americans on the issue. The majority of middle-class and poor whites, Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics wish to close the borders. They see few advantages to cheap service labor, since they are not so likely to need it to mow their lawns, watch their kids, or clean their houses. Because the less well-off eat out less often, use hotels infrequently, and don’t periodically remodel their homes, the advantages to the economy of inexpensive, off-the-books illegal-alien labor again are not so apparent.

But the downside surely is apparent. Truck drivers, carpenters, janitors, and gardeners— unlike lawyers, doctors, actors, writers, and professors—correctly feel that their jobs are threatened, or at least their wages lowered, by cheaper rival workers from Oaxaca or Jalisco. And Americans who live in communities where thousands of illegal aliens have arrived en masse more likely lack the money to move when Spanish-speaking students flood the schools and gangs proliferate. Poorer Americans of all ethnic backgrounds take for granted that poverty provides no exemption from mastering English, so they wonder why the same is not true for incoming Mexican nationals. Less than a mile from my home is a former farmhouse whose new owner moved in several stationary Winnebagos, propane tanks, and outdoor cooking facilities—and apparently four or five entire families rent such facilities right outside his back door. Dozens live where a single family used to—a common sight in rural California that reifies illegal immigration in a way that books and essays do not.

The problem with all this is that our now-spurned laws were originally intended to ensure an (admittedly thin) veneer of civilization over innate chaos—roads full of drivers who have passed a minimum test to ensure that they are not a threat to others; single-family residence zoning to ensure that there are adequate sewer, garbage, and water services for all; periodic county inspections to ensure that untethered dogs are licensed and free of disease and that housing is wired and plumbed properly to prevent mayhem; and a consensus on school taxes to ensure that there are enough teachers and classrooms for such sudden spikes in student populations.

All these now-neglected or forgotten rules proved costly to the taxpayer. In my own experience, the slow progress made in rural California since the 1950s of my youth—in which the county inspected our farm’s rural dwellings, eliminated the once-ubiquitous rural outhouse, shut down substandard housing, and fined violators in hopes of providing a uniform humane standard of residence for all rural residents—has been abandoned in just a few years of laissez-faire policy toward illegal aliens. My own neighborhood is reverting to conditions common about 1950, but with the insult of far higher tax rates added to the injury of nonexistent enforcement of once-comprehensive statutes. The government’s attitude at all levels is to punish the dutiful citizen’s misdemeanors while ignoring the alien’s felony, on the logic that the former will at least comply while the latter either cannot or will not.

Fairness about who is allowed into the United States is another issue that reflects class divides—especially when almost 70 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive from Mexico alone. Asians, for example, are puzzled as to why their relatives wait years for official approval to enter the United States, while Mexican nationals come across the border illegally, counting on serial amnesties to obtain citizenship.

These class divisions cut both ways, and they help explain the anomaly of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page mandarins echoing the arguments of the elite Chicano studies professors. Both tend to ridicule the far less affluent Minutemen and English-only activists, in part because they do not experience firsthand the problems associated with illegal immigration but instead find millions of aliens grist for their own contrasting agendas. Indeed, every time an alien crosses the border legally, fluent in English and with a high school diploma, the La Raza industry and the corporate farm or construction company alike most likely lose a constituent.

Continue reading...

38 Responses to Mexifornia: A State of Becoming

  • Perhaps some. My parents, whose parents came from Mexico, are native Californians. They have live in the same house for 50 years and added one room and remodeled the kitchen once during those years. My father was always a blue collar worker and my mother a stay-at-home mom. We were poor. They are not pleased by illegal immigration especially their perceived drain on Califoria’s resources by illegals.
    When I was in college, I had first hand experience with La Raza. Most were third generation Mexican Americans like myself. They were very well educated and living the life at an Ivy League school. They were also quite pro-illegal immigration, in favor of large govt. entitlements to illegal immigrants and against any restrictions on immigration.
    I think there is a real divide amongh Hispanics on illegal immigration that is in part influenced by socio-economic status. Don’t know about other groups.

  • One of my roommates in College was the son of Mexicans who initially came into the country illegally. He used to tell me that the biggest problem for upward mobility in his neighborhood were the new illegals who could be hired for a song by employers.

  • This wouldn’t be a problem except that liberal progressive Catholics have encouraged this situation. To them, it is against social justice NOT to welcome the illgeal alien, and many bishops and priests feel the same way. This kind of nonsense liberal thinking has to be purged. BTW, it’s the rich, well-off liberals like liberal Catholic Nancy Pelosi who encourage this sort of thing.

  • Donald- I believe the 800 lb. gorilla in this debate is “it’s the economy, stupid”, more so than “it’s the unsecured borders, stupid”. But it is a both/and deal to a large degree with these two major factors figuring strongly.

    I know Joe H. has agreed with me that NAFTA needs to be immediately rehauled- my own social doctrine-inspired view is that market theory cannot stand alone, there is a need for direction and intervention on the part of the political authorities to ensure the common good. The proof that NAFTA as currently configured is a bust, is found in the pudding of extreme circumstances of so many Mexicans leaving home to find opportunities as illegal entrants into the U.S. As it is said- the Mexican people have voted on NAFTA with their feet.

    This is my beef with the non-racist “conservatives” when discussion of the problem of illegal immigration comes up- they don’t or won’t acknowledge the huge role that economics has played- and the shared responsibility for this that both the Mexican and the American establishment powers has played in creating such terrible conditions of life for average folk south of the border for the most part. NAFTA was sold to the masses as the cure for illegal immigration pressures- facts on the ground suggest that the problems have grown exponentially since NAFTA.

    Now if we effectively seal the borders and do nothing about the economic relationship between us and Mexico, I would predict some dramatic upheaval to take place inside Mexico- violence, destabilization, perhaps revolution- these could be ultimately curative, but I would like to try to ease out of the crisis with substantial reforms along economic development lines as my first-stroke strategy- if there is a sense of hope that the Mexican-U.S. establishments are going to be working for real on a development model akin to post-war building up of physical infrastructure, ready access to affordable education- all the way through college levels, and family subsidies to make up the short-term difference between what the market supplies as wages, and what people actually require to keep their families intact and progressing by the generations- (I will provide some social doctrine backing for this bit in a later post devoted to freeing ourselves from ideologies part 2).

    In conclusion- we could devote several billion dollars to building up an air-tight, Israel-style wall and checkpoint system for border security- and then sit back and watch the Mexicans tear themselves up for awhile and maybe get sorted out in a way that meets the demands of the majority of families within- or we can be proactive now, admit that the economic relationship and trade agreement is flawed and failing- and re-visit all of it- inviting all the major interests- not just the largest corporate ones- to be part of a transparent process of negotiation- plenty of media openness to ensure the general public in all countries affected- of course Canada is to be included in all this as well- everyone who cares to know will know what is going on and could then take on more trust that the system will be looking out for the common good, and not just the interests of the few in the high-end financial sectors- recall that right after NAFTA passed a really huge bail-out took place to cover the losses of those high-ender speculators who first pumped NAFTA up into a bubble investment, and then begged for and got a massive public bail-out when the bubble predictably burst- sound familiar?

  • That is just economic nonsense. The thread of Mexican prosperity does not hang on an 8% excise on imports.

  • Tim:

    Please make your case: What exactly changed in the law as the result of NAFTA, and by what causative mechanism did these changes make the situation in Mexico worse?

    It seems to me that this connection is largely assumed in your previous post: Not to say that you aren’t correct, but only that the case isn’t made and, as the fellow who brought it up, you ought to make it.

  • To Art Deco- if NAFTA has such a small effect on things- why has everyone made such a big fuss about it- those who advocated it and pushed for it made all sorts of broad claims about how much improvement would come to all with the passage of this trade agreement. I’m not saying that Art Deco was making this claim- but I recall the debate prior to the passage of NAFTA, and I have stood in front of a U.S. Senator a couple of years ago and stated that NAFTA was a failure and needed to be re-negotiated and he unleashed a stream of the highest sounding praise for the NAFTA trade pact- giving it all manner of credit for being one of the greatest things out there- so I’m not sure what to believe when the establishment powers have always been making bold claims as to the power for good that NAFTA held out- and now I’m told by Art Deco that it is pretty insignificant- I know that the bail-out of investors after NAFTA was not insignificant- so I tend to believe that NAFTA has been a powerful shaper of economic conditions- but I’m open to further discussion on that- and even if NAFTA is more small potatoes than I imagined it to be- there is a corresponding relationship between the U.S. and Mexico on economic matters whereupon Mexican prosperity and solidity is important for our border security and for economic and moral considerations. Rich countries can never be smug or self-contented especially with a poor country camped out just outside the gate- think of Lazarus the begger and the rich man parable.

  • Hanson is probably right about the class divide on this issue among whites and blacks but he’s wrong in his belief that it applies also to Asians and Hispanics.

    The best way to determine an Asian or Hispanic’s stance on this issue is to ask whether he has friends and relatives in his native country. That’s a greater divide. It’s an empathy divide. It’s easier to be an America Firster if you aren’t supporting your mother back in Mexico.

    Fairness about who is allowed into the United States is another issue that reflects class divides—especially when almost 70 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive from Mexico alone. Asians, for example, are puzzled as to why their relatives wait years for official approval to enter the United States, while Mexican nationals come across the border illegally, counting on serial amnesties to obtain citizenship.

    There’s no puzzle. Poor Asians come illegally. Wealthier Asians aren’t willing to wash dishes so they wait to come legally so they can work for Google or open a business. If you hand immigration policy over to any non-political subgroup of Asians, they’ll throw the doors open. Except maybe poor third and fourth generation Asians working in landscaping. All 3 of them.

  • if NAFTA has such a small effect on things- why has everyone made such a big fuss about it

    If Obama was born in the US, why has everyone made such a big fuss about it? The answer to both questions: Willful ignorance.

  • “A good book on a major issue that both the Republican and Democrat parties have steadfastly ignored, until the passage of the Arizona law.”

    I have to say after living through 2006 and especially 2007 the issue was not ignored I will tell you that

  • From Victor’s article

    ““Anti-immigrant” is also a lie peddled in service to open borders — a lie by virtue that it deliberately blends “immigrant” with “illegal immigrant” to suggest opposition to all legal immigration.”

    I think he undercuts his case complaing about the term anti Immigrant when he uses the term “open borders” which is a term that misused way too much

    Furhter some of the LEAFING VOICES in this debate and one we see on the TV and in fact at the National Review itself are very very anti legal immigration. That is in the mix too

  • Just curious: who at NR is anti-legal immigration?

  • I think that he is right that there is a class divide on support for more immigration — though I don’t think it’s primarily because of the more well-off having illegal immigrant gardeners and maids.

    It’s easier for those who have “made it” to say, “It’s a land of opportunity, we should let more people in like my ancestors were and give them the chance to make it to.” Those who are much less economically secure are more likely to see any influx of additional labor simply as competition — and people who will make the neighborhood seem messier and more chaotic.

  • “Just curious: who at NR is anti-legal immigration?”

    Mark Krikorian is the mnain immigration guy over at the Corner. He belongs and has worked for various John Tanton groups that are all related and basically want to halt legal immigration to a trickle

    For them illegal aliens are a sad issue.

  • Just curious: who at NR is anti-legal immigration?

    Mark Krikorian wrote a book called The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. Does that count?

  • Ramesh Ponnuru has also argued that problems associated with illegal immigration also apply to legal immigration.

  • Tim,

    It’s hard for me to see how NAFTA is the primary villain in this (or to be honest, even much of a peripheral villain) given that it wasn’t even passed until 1994. At least from a Southern California perspective, there was already a massive illegal immigration from Mexico problem in the 80s and early 90s, before NAFTA was even passed. Nor was Mexico previously in good shape which NAFTA somehow destroyed — it’s been gradually improving over the years, but the main problem is that has been economically far behind the US for 150 years or more.

    NAFTA repealed US tariffs which previously applied to about 50% of Mexican exports to the US and Mexican tariffs which previously applied to about 30% of US exports to Mexico. It also made cross-border investment and business ownership easier. (Which is why, for instance, my current employer is in the midst of closing factories in central Texas and opening factories in Juarez.)

    As for why it’s been so controversial… Honestly, I don’t know, other than that it’s a convenient peg on which to hang one’s opinions about free trade and Mexico, whether one is for or against.

  • “I have to say after living through 2006 and especially 2007 the issue was not ignored I will tell you that”

    Ingnored jh in actually attempting to do something effective about the problem. I think one aspect of the hullabaloo that has arisen in regard to the Arizona law is the fear on one side, and the hope on the other, that this law might prove effective in combating illegal immigration. Attempts to block it in court will of course be fierce, and may be successful, but if it is ever allowed to be implemented, and if it does prove effective, watch it being replicated in quite a few states.

  • Krikorian also borders on being an anti-Catholic bigot:

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MWIzNDcwY2RlMzcyNzA4YWQ1ODVmMzgwYjY2NWJhMjU=

    Whenever someone starts a sentence with “Unlike this guy, I am not a Catholic-basher” after having quoted said “guy” in suppport of his premise, odds are that he is, indeed, a “Catholic basher”.

  • I think one aspect of the hullabaloo that has arisen in regard to the Arizona law is the fear on one side, and the hope on the other, that this law might prove effective in combating illegal immigration.

    That, or we’re just escalating from sticking our metaphorical finger in the hole in the dike to shoving our head in.

  • NAFTA phased out a lot of the ag restrictions. Mexico was flooded with US corn, and Mexico’s farmers couldn’t compete. A lot of the recent illegal immigrants are former corn farmers.

    http://migration.ucdavis.edu/mn/more.php?id=2025_0_2_0

  • Donald I think the proposals given in 2006 and 2007 in fact were a good way of doing something about it.

    However it appears various factions in this debate on the left and right will not move a inch. In fact they raise holy heck if anyone shows moving a inch.

    Doing something about it is the need to address all the issues here. THe problem is just focusing on Enforcement or just focusing on citizenship and a pathway to it causes problems.

    We have millions of children of illegal aliens that are American citizens right now. What happens to them when all these mass deportations occur? Someone has to take care of them. Does the fact that their parents live in the shawdows in fact causing major future problems for us. I suspect it is. Do they fit in the ewquation anywhere? Or are they acceptable collateral damage that perhaps will come back to haunt us big time in the future

    Now that does not give every illegal with a child a free pass. Under proposals those same folks would have to meet certain requirements to stay and no doubt many would mmet the mark. But at least it will make the afteraffects less severe on the whole.

  • It looks like in regards to agriculture, trade in both directions has more than tripled since 1993, and the US has maintained a $1B trade surplus throughout:

    a brief PDF with government data on the topic

    Primary increases in US agricultural exports to Mexico have been in commodities which the US produces very efficiently in very high volumes: beef and corn.

    The big increases in Mexican exports to the US have been products which can’t be grown in the US or have different growing seasons farther south: coffee, cocoa, fresh vegetable, fresh fruit.

  • There is of course a huge divide between how Mexico wants America to treat its immigrants and how they treat their own:

    http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=14632

  • But Phillip that’s different! (Unless you are talking to Central Americans of course.)

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/05/01/20080501mexico-immig0501-ON.html

  • There is of course a huge divide between how Mexico wants America to treat its immigrants and how they treat their own

    I’m not sure we should be using Mexico as a guide for how our laws should be.

  • Tim:

    No argument that the better off Mexico is internally, the better for everyone.

    Perhaps NAFTA is the disaster you may think it is, perhaps not, perhaps it is indifferent. Without accurate information, changes or overhauls could make things unintentionally worse. Of course, accurate info on just about anything of that nature (legislative/governmental impacts on economics) is hard to come by.

  • Not a guide. Just perspective. I suspect immigrants (illegal or otherwise) to this country will find Arizona’s recent law enlightened compared to most other countries laws on immigration.

  • I read an interesting book a couple of years ago- Global Class War by Jeff Faux- it really tore into the backstory of NAFTA and the bailout that followed- anyone here read the same? I would like to think that Catholic commerce networks could be established to develop fair trade avenues for producers and consumers- I’ve had Catholic Relief Service reps out to my classes to present on their Fair Trade programs and promotions- I like the notion of Catholics linking up across borders and being conscious of the morality bound up in our economic relationships between those who are doing ok and those not. This way we don’t have to rely on big Gov or big corporate interests all the time.

  • That is true. I think Benedict XVI says very much the same thing in Caritas in Veritate.

  • We have immingration laws and regardless of where the illegal entry person is from, they need to be enforced. Many current citizens are children of past immingrants from many different countries who came here became citizens and followed the law and many still do. They assimilated into US society and norms while still holding their cultural backgorund which has made the country great. To see the group of protesters and many illegals and their approach to demonizing the USA is sickening. The refrain from politicians who support these illegals and who are only looking for a vote is also sickening as if they are above the law for strictly a political means. To allow an amnesty is wrong as it would only cause another problem in the future if all illegals are allowed now. They should have to register and be sent back to their homeland and even if it takes ten years for legal entry so be it. Enployers and all others who harbour or utilize illegals for any purpose should face a mandatory very high fine. The people in Arizona were forced to act as our government has not due to politics. If the IRS has records of illegals here or SSN or any shelter with employers of any kind , they should be giving the information to Imingration officials and these persons also face a very steep finanical fine til the lure of employment here and the fact enforcement will be swift and sure would do more than building fences or barriers. If they then still try to enter illegaly , they will be denied legal entry in the future for any reason. They now know they once they get in , if they lay low and keep a quiet profile, they will be able to stay, as laws are being enforced.

  • “Both tend to ridicule the far less affluent Minutemen and English-only activists, in part because they do not experience firsthand the problems associated with illegal immigration but instead find millions of aliens grist for their own contrasting agendas.”

    And that’s why both will be ignored and ultimately rendered irrelevant.

  • This is my beef with the non-racist “conservatives” when discussion of the problem of illegal immigration comes up- they don’t or won’t acknowledge the huge role that economics has played- and the shared responsibility for this that both the Mexican and the American establishment powers has played in creating such terrible conditions of life for average folk south of the border for the most part. NAFTA was sold to the masses as the cure for illegal immigration pressures- facts on the ground suggest that the problems have grown exponentially since NAFTA.

    The liberalization of trade induces small improvements in aggregate welfare and appears to have positive effects on economic dynamism as well. The benefits are general but not necessarily equal between the parties. There may be effects on income distribution within particular parties that are disagreeable and of course there are transition costs. IIRC, Mancur Olson floated a thesis many years ago that there are benefits not captured in econometric models and which might derive from the disruption of domestic cartels. I am not sure if anyone else developmed or tested that idea.

    The NAFTA treaty concerns the regime governing cross-border merchandise trade. There is a section which concerns the regulation of financial services. Mexico did experience a currency crisis some months after the NAFTA treaty was ratified. I suppose it could be Jeff Faux’ thesis that the liberalization in cross-border branch banking somehow exacerbated the currency crisis. I couldn’t tell you as I have not read the book. (I do not think that is the usual diagnosis in cases of financial crisis). It seems to me if you are concerned about the effect of hot money you could address that separately from the question of how to govern trade in merchandise or non-factor services.

    Latin America has some signature problems (dysfunctional labor markets and wretchedly skewed income distribution among them). However, Latin American countries are not, when measured on a global scale, peculiarly impoverished; they are about average, and more affluent than they were a generation ago. I do not know why you should regard it as anomalous that Mexico has not had an experience of economic development like that of South Korea – five decades of smokin’ economic growth which largely erases the difference in standards of living between the country in question and Switzerland. There are only about a half-dozen non-European countries who have managed that since the War.

  • The sales pitches of politicians often turn out to be…imprecise. You expected something else?

  • Pingback: Illegal Immigration: A Winning Issue for Democrats? « The American Catholic
  • Pingback: Snipers and Riot Police Confront Tea Party Protesters in Quincy « The American Catholic
  • Pingback: Snipers and Riot Police Confront Tea Party Protesters « Houston Grind
  • Pingback: Illegal Aliens Boycott Arizona « The American Catholic

Arizona, Immigration, and Moral Panic

Monday, April 26, AD 2010

When I first heard of the controversy swirling around Arizona’s “draconian” new immigration law, I’ll admit I was skeptical. It’s not that I thought I would approve of the Arizona law (I tend to be of the view that immigration is a net benefit to America). But hyperbole is an all too common feature of political discourse, and I had to wonder whether the bill was really as harsh and wrongheaded as its critics were making out.

After reading the text of the bill, however, I have to say that, yes, it really is that bad. The bill would criminalize charitable activities directed at illegal immigrants, would making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to try to get a legitimate job, and, in an Orwellian twist, would make illegal immigrants guilty of trespassing for being on private property even with the owner’s permission.

The law also requires state officials to enforce federal immigration laws, effectively turning every Arizona cop into a part time border patrol agent. Arizona’s politicians may like the idea of having cops enforce the immigration code because it makes them look tough, but actual police tend to hate the idea, as it makes their job more difficult and forces them to take resources away from actual police work. (During the debate on the Bush immigration bill back in 2006, for example, the Major Cities Chiefs Associations came out against a requirement for state police to enforce immigration laws, arguing that doing so “undermines trust and cooperation with immigrant communities, which are essential elements of community oriented policing,” and would require scarce resources to be devoted to immigration enforcement rather than other, higher priorities).

Continue reading...

0 Responses to Arizona, Immigration, and Moral Panic

  • Under the law, any citizen who feels the state or locality isn’t fully enforcing the immigration laws (perhaps because they are spending to much time trying to solve murders instead of raiding soup kitchens)

    Just out of curiousity, do you have an idea of what share of a typical departments man-hours are actually devoted to investigating homicides, and at what point the marginal utility of adding additional officers to such detail falls to zero?

  • The cops in Central Illinois, in my experience as a Defense Attorney, seem to have quite a bit of time to devote to such subjects as low level cannabis arrests, not wearing seat belt arrests, domestic battery arrests where no blows are exchanged, overweight trucks, cars with windows that are tinted too dark, etc. I doubt if checking on the immigrant status of people would take much time away from murders, etc.

  • I don’t think the argument used to justify the law was that the police don’t have anything better to do than look for illegal immigrants.

  • It seems to me that the article from American Conservative basically proves that crime rates for Hispanics, while higher than those for whites, are really close. I don’t really understand how that translates, “illegal aliens don’t break the law.” You do understand our problem isn’t with Hispanics?
    Also, you state “And, mind you, the law doesn’t just empower state officials to enforce immigration laws. It mandates that they do so.” A law that mandates police enforce the law does not fill me with righteous anger.

  • “I don’t think the argument used to justify the law was that the police don’t have anything better to do than look for illegal immigrants.”

    One of your attacks on the law did appear to be BA that it would divert the police from more important functions. I doubt very seriously if this would be the case.

    I think the main arguments in favor of the law would be that Arizona would be better off by stopping or slowing the flow of illegal aliens and that the Federal government has proven both inept and uninterested in stopping illegal border crossings. I have a feeling that the main effect of the law might be that it will cause illegal aliens to head for states that are considered illegal alien friendly like California. I suspect that result will bring broad smiles to the faces of most Arizonans.

  • The cops in Central Illinois, in my experience as a Defense Attorney..

    Well, but you only see the cases that are actually charged. That could represent a small percentage of the activity of the police; also, it could be that Central Illinois law enforcement has different priorities and staffing than Arizona law enforcement; or, it could be that the levels of criminal activity are different between the states. It is instructive, however, that the police in the situation are concerned about these issues, and have said so publicly.

    Even if they are wrong, I don’t think the law should criminalize charitable activities or charge invited guests for trespassing (a law which, one suspects, will simply increase the level of crime appearing in statistics on illegal immigration).

  • “Well, but you only see the cases that are actually charged.”

    Yep. I know that cops waste far more time on inconsequential offenses that are never charged.

    “It is instructive, however, that the police in the situation are concerned about these issues, and have said so publicly.”

    Major City Chiefs tend to be political appointees who are usually far more concerned about politics than policing in my experience and often take stances that bear no relationship to the attitudes expressed by the cops who actually enforce the laws.

  • I think CA Prop 187 is about was far as I’m willing to go on the “I’m peeved the Feds don’t enforce the immigration laws” tack. This seems to me to be going very much too far.

  • Prop 187 made a lot of sense, so naturally a federal judge found it to be unconstitutional:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_187_(1994)

  • One of your attacks on the law did appear to be BA that it would divert the police from more important functions.

    Well I do think that. However, the law has been justified by some pretty apocalyptic language, invoking drug gangs, murders, kidnappings, etc. If it turns out that crime in Arizona is more akin to the Central Illinois town where you work, then I’d say the bill was passed under false pretenses (what is the murder rate for your town, btw?)

  • A law that mandates police enforce the law does not fill me with righteous anger.

    In that case perhaps we should mandate cops spend their time doing audits for the IRS or spot inspections for the EPA. After all, they’d just be enforcing the law. Which is their job, right?

  • BA,

    Here is one reading of the law: http://legalinsurrection.blogspot.com/2010/04/saturday-night-card-game-arizona.html.

    You note the law would:

    1. Criminalize charitable activities directed at illegal immigrants

    2. Make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to try to get a legitimate job

    3. Make illegal immigrants guilty of trespassing for being on private property even with the owner’s permission.

    4. Require state officials to enforce federal immigration laws.

    Some notes of mine:

    1. Any such identification must be made pursuant to an otherwise lawful incident (in other words, no searching / stopping / arresting based on suspicion of status alone).

    2. If the US Government gives an indication that such a person is illegal, the AZ police then turn the person over to Federal custody. The Federal law does not give exclusive right to enforcement of Federal law to Federal officers, I do not think, or at the very least, does not prevent state officers who have been informed that an individual is violating Federal law from taking such an individual into custody.

    3. It is already illegal under Federal law for an employer to hire illegal immigrants. Why are you concerned that this law makes it illegal for an illegal immigrant to be hired, when the Federal law does so already?

    4. What charitable functions do you think are affected by this law, and what sections support your claim?

  • Pingback: Arizona, Immigration, and Moral Panic | Rocket Articles
  • “(what is the murder rate for your town, btw?)”

    Shockingly high for a town of 4000 actually. In 2002 in a case in which I was involved two kids were murdered by their father, for example. My former partner’s great,great grand father was the first recorded murder victim in Dwight. The richest man in town was gunned down in broad daylight by Chicago gangsters in 1933, the rumor in town being that he was keeping time with a mob boss’ moll. I’d say that the town has averaged about one murder every other year since I arrived in town in 85.

  • “In that case perhaps we should mandate cops spend their time doing audits for the IRS…”

    When tax-cheats engage in human trafficking, drug smuggling, murder and mayhem in the streets and in the countryside, then maybe we should.

  • Any such identification must be made pursuant to an otherwise lawful incident (in other words, no searching / stopping / arresting based on suspicion of status alone).

    Outside of traffic stops the police can pretty much always come up and talk to you if they wish, and often they have to in order to do their job. Suppose, for example, that a woman is raped and the police are canvassing the neighborhood to see if their are any witnesses. Everyone they talk to will be via a lawful contact and, under the law, they will have to verify the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect might be an illegal immigrant. Of course if they do that, then illegals won’t ever talk to the police, which will make it more difficult for the police to solve the crime (obviously this is purely hypothetical, as cops in Arizona don’t do anything but arrest people for not wearing seat belts).

    It is already illegal under Federal law for an employer to hire illegal immigrants. Why are you concerned that this law makes it illegal for an illegal immigrant to be hired, when the Federal law does so already?

    I don’t think it makes it a criminal offense to do so.

    What charitable functions do you think are affected by this law, and what sections support your claim?

    Section 13-2929(A)(2). A friend of mine used to work at a homeless shelter in El Paso. Most of the folks there were illegal immigrants. I suspect that this is true for most social services in border areas (fwiw, the local INS head had an agreement with the head of the homeless shelter that he would leave them alone as he didn’t want to interfere with the provision of charitable services; if a state official in Arizona followed a similar course he could be fined $5,000 a day).

  • Btw, Jonathan, the blog post you link to is explicitly limited to arguing that the Arizona law isn’t racist:

    If you want to argue that the law is not sound on civil liberties grounds, do so. If you want to argue that as a matter of public policy local governments should not enforce the immigration laws, then make that argument.

    But the one argument which is not legitimate is that the law is racist.

    As I didn’t argue that the law was racist, I don’t see how the blog post is relevant.

  • Prop 187 made a lot of sense, so naturally a federal judge found it to be unconstitutional

    I think that 187 did indeed make a lot of sense. (I was a Californie at the time, so I was right in the middle of it.) No thanks to the Feds on that one.

    However, I think this law sounds rather overboard.

  • “Everyone they talk to will be via a lawful contact and, under the law, they will have to verify the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect might be an illegal immigrant.”

    They will have to make a reasonable attempt, “when practicable,” to verify immigration status. In the course of an investigation, it would seem to be up to the officer’s discretion as to whether it is practicable at that point to do so.

    It also does not appear that the immigrant may be taken into custody purely on that status alone. There must be some other reason for assessment of criminal status.

    So, you’re more concerned with the criminal status than with the actual illegality of the job seeking? It did not seem so in your original post.

    Finally, section 13-2929(A)(2) states that it is illegal to “conceal…in violation of law” when the person doing the concealment “is in violation of a criminal offense.” So, it would have to mean that the person running the homeless shelter is already committing or has committed some criminal offense, and is attempting to harbor or conceal illegal immigrants in addition. If it were general, the wording would have to be “it is unlawful for a person to:…conceal” without the addition “in violation of a criminal offense.”

  • BA,

    The post I linked to also does a good job analyzing and clarifying some of the things (such as enforcement of federal laws) that you raise as concerns. I was not worried about the consideration of the racist part, as such.

    -J.

  • BTW,

    It appears that much of this bill is repeating Federal law in places. For instance, a much more intense version of this bill’s language is found at 8 USC 1324 – http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode08/usc_sec_08_00001324—-000-.html

  • BA,
    Really, really, bad example. That shelter was not a homeless shelter so much as it was the Catholic Diocese of El Paso’s whistle stop on the underground railroad up to Chicago and other points, north. If you didn’t know, they had facilities on both sides of the border (meaning in what is now the war zone of Juarez)and worked primarily for the purpose of frustrating the enforcement of US immigration law. I don’t know if they are still there, but if they are, they are surely more about violating our immigration law than they are about caring for the needs of the homeless in the community; of which we have plenty.
    As a former officer of the US government, I doubt the local INS chief had the authority to agree not to do his job.

  • I’m not sure why anyone would want to cite Prop 187 as a precedent here. After all, the law (1) did serious damage to the Republican party in California (and, by extension, the nation), and (2) never went into effect. So even if you think the law sounded good in theory, in practice all it did was hurt the Republican party, literally.

    In the other thread Donald cited an article arguing that what happened in California wouldn’t happen in Arizona because voter turnout among Hispanics is low in Arizona. Er, is it not possible that the passage of this bill might change that? As I reflect on the matter, it is increasingly clear to me that this law will never go into effect (there are serious preemption and 4th Amendment problems with it, to say the least). So if there is a backlash and the Dems get another 10 sure thing electoral votes, you won’t even be able to say “well, at least we stuck it to the illegals.”

  • Arizona isn’t California BA just like Texas isn’t California. The demographics and the politics are completely different. Additionally the Democrat dream is that Hispanics will give them a permanent electoral majority, especially if this country continues to essentially have a “Y’all come!” policy to illegal immigration from Mexico. The politics are not so simple. Stop illegal immigration, or simply substantially reduce it, and assimilation and time will lessen the Democrat advantage among Hispanics. Political suicide for the Republicans is to continue to sit by and allow the Federal government to do nothing to stem the flow of illegal aliens.

  • FWIW, I don’t think that 187 hurt the GOP in California particularly. Indeed, 187 was one of the first high profile cases of the California GOP getting behind what proved to be fairly popular populist ballot measures.

    What’s crippled the GOP in California has been a combination of:

    1) The state becoming one of the most liberal in the nation in regards to polled opinion, with much of this centering around the LA and SanFran metropolitan areas (which have seen a huge influx of highly educated urban elite demographics over the last 30 years).

    2) The split within the California GOP between fairly liberal Republicans (as typified by Pete Wilson, Arnold, Meg Whitman, etc.) and hard right candidates from the more rural parts of the state and a few of the affluent suburbs. The state party is pretty well split between those two factions, each one of which is willing to refuse to support candidates put forward by the other.

    3) Some of the strongest public sector unions in the country.

    The state politics of California have become increasingly self-destructive on both sides of the aisle, but I don’t think it accurately reflects the history there to argue that 187 was a key turning point against the GOP. If anything, it underlined the ability of conservative ballot measures to do significantly better than GOP state candidates usually do at the polls. Further examples including the marriage ballot initiative, the marriage amendment, and the Grey Davis recall.

  • That said, while I don’t claim to know anything about the internal political dynamics in Arizona, it’s hard for me to imagine that this kind of stunt (which seems far more punitive and impractical than 187) will do the GOP any good. Even if it’s locally popular, it seems to reinforce an impractical reactionary streak which makes the GOP a bad governing party no matter how good it may be for campaigning.

  • This unmatched chaos caused by decades of unimportance as seen by both political parties over illegal immigration. In this firestorm of an issue we need to enact immediately the following measures to stabilize our nation’s immigration enforcement. This is specifically come to the surface after the bloody murder of Robert Krentz, rancher and landowner, with the upsurge in deaths of border Patrol agents and illegal aliens. 1. Deploy the National Guard permanently–fully armed along the border from San Diego, CA to Brownville, Texas. 2. Make it a felony with prison time for any employer not using the computer application E-Verify, to identify all workers on the payroll. This program will improve nationwide impact of self-deportation by ATTRITION, over the coming years for unlawful labor. 3. To terminate decades of unprecedented billions of dollars of debt for support of illegal immigrants on taxpayers. Read what Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has to say about what taxpayers are forced to pay for 20 to 30 million illegal immigrants at–THE DAILY CALLER WEBSITE.

    Reestablish the legality of instant citizenship to babies born to an illegal parent or parents in federal court. 4. Make absolutely sure that any incumbent of both parties, starting with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is thrown out of office this year. Send this searing message to–ALL–pro illegal immigrant, Pro-amnesty politicians that America will not stand any longer lawmakers that are for sale to the highest bidder. 5. Those elected will re-fence the border as two separate barriers, with an open tracking area in between for the movement of National Guardsman accompanying the US Border patrol with full funding. That lawmakers who are supposedly there to represent every citizen and permanent resident possessing a green card, appropriate the money to seal the border from illegal entry. That these same elected officials have already spent $445 Billion dollars in taxpayer’s money in supporting some distant foreign government in Afghanistan; they therefore can easily appropriate funds for the correctly designed border fence.

    As a patriotic people we will voice our vehemence that we will join the war against any type of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. That contains in any shape or form a citizenship path, for those who stole into America. THERE WILL BE NO AMNESTY–NO PARDON FOR CRIMINALS WHO IGNORE OUR LAWS. We are not the financial, free-handout for foreign labor, which cannot support those entering America illegally. Arizona is the first state with a backbone that has been financial crippled by welfare payments to illegal alien families. Its undercurrent caused by the rising crime rate never seen to this extent before. Violence on a grand scale has flowed across the Rio Grande from the illicit drug industry. Exhaustion of the local police in Phoenix and other communities unable to handle the daily homicides, kidnappings, home invasions, predatory smuggling people and the narcotics trade.

    Any state, county city, town or public servant that boycotts the exceptional state of Arizona, should be black-listed. Hopefully–Americans will donate (however small) money to Arizona if the Governor Jan brewer gets sued. Perhaps a good patriotic American will arrange a website for everybody to give money in the immediate future? If and when it happens my check will be waiting…? If that happens Americans will boycott companies that hire illegal immigrants and that I will add–ONE–company hiring foreign labor to my blogs.

    NUMBERSUSA–is the website for the legal people of this country, so you can fight this illegal immigrant epidemic–with over a MILLION–members. We are here to tell the–TRUTH–not lies or well-honed rhetoric as the Far-Left liberals, hidden inside the Democratic Party, not from the Liberal editors of national press at the, Huffington Post, New York Times or the Los Angeles Times and others.

  • An impractical reactionary policy Darwin is thinking that the current policy of de facto open borders with Mexico can continue. This nation cannot continue being a safety valve forever for the failure of Mexican elites to reform their economy to provide economic growth for their citizens. I think most of the country agrees which is why Rasmussen is showing 60% support for the law across the nation.

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/immigration/nationally_60_favor_letting_local_police_stop_and_verify_immigration_status

    As for being a bad governing party, the saving grace for Republicans is that they get to run against Democrats who have amply demonstrated this election cycle just how bad a governing party can be.

  • Joe Hargrave continues to mistakenly believe this law does something to fight drug violence.

    Jonathan,

    It also does not appear that the immigrant may be taken into custody purely on that status alone. There must be some other reason for assessment of criminal status.

    The law also makes presence in the state a crime.

    13-2929(A) uses some curious phrasing. So I can harbor illegal immigrants but not if I didn’t pay my taxes?

  • The Rasmussen poll is interesting. Most believe the law will violate civil rights but most still support it.

  • As for being a bad governing party, the saving grace for Republicans is that they get to run against Democrats who have amply demonstrated this election cycle just how bad a governing party can be.

    No disagreement from me there.

    I also agree that tough immigration enforcement is broadly popular, at least in concept, throughout the country. And I think that whatever laws we have, we should enforce — though I’d like to see higher immigration quotas and a much simpler immigration process.

    However, at the same time, I think the extent to which heavy immigration from Mexico is hurting the US is in most cases overplayed. The fact that lots of people eager to work are coming into the US and working or starting businesses tends to help us and hurt Mexico, not the other way around.

    It is certainly a big problem when we have cross-border gangs and other criminal organizations — but I’m not clear that’s related to the issue of people simply wanting to come here to work.

  • If Tom Tancredo thinks the law goes too far, it probably goes too far.

  • In 2008, there were candidates that ran for offices in places like Arizona that ran as restrictionists and lost. Immigration polling suffers from a lot of issues polling in that it measures sentiment and not depth. Consensus was that being restrictionist wouldn’t preclude someone from election, but it wasn’t enough to secure them power.

    Right now, there isn’t any real institutional support for Arizona’s law, so it will become more unpopular over time. (As a note, I haven’t reviewed the bill itself.) As for the politics, who know? I know, a rare admission of modesty on my part. I imagine Arizonians aren’t in the habit of sending people to the statehouse to address immigration, so I’m thinking they won’t be evaluated too strongly on that matter. Arizona’s staggering budget deficit and massive cuts to public schools will likely be issues that have an impact.

  • “As I reflect on the matter, it is increasingly clear to me that this law will never go into effect (there are serious preemption and 4th Amendment problems with it, to say the least). So if there is a backlash and the Dems get another 10 sure thing electoral votes, you won’t even be able to say “well, at least we stuck it to the illegals.”

    The real poltical backlash and how it will delay real immigration reform often gets overlooked

  • “that the Federal government has proven both inept and uninterested in stopping illegal border crossings.”

    I think this is a little too braod. Once can say LOOK STATE and Local Govt don’t care about Druck Drivers because they are still on the road

    There has been a lot of effort at the border and some immigration folks are screaming at Obama at the high level of deportations

    The fact is it is not so mucha failure of Federal Govt but a failure of the American people to quit letting the extrmes on either side that want move a inch define the debate and the solutions

    Till that cahnges nothing will happen.

  • However, at the same time, I think the extent to which heavy immigration from Mexico is hurting the US is in most cases overplayed. The fact that lots of people eager to work are coming into the US and working or starting businesses tends to help us and hurt Mexico, not the other way around.

    Common theoretical exercises of the sort published in textbooks tend to demonstrate that trade in factors of production (e.g. labor as manifested in immigration) are beneficial economically. If I am not mistaken, this has been empirically verified, but the benefits are small and collared for the most part by the immigrant populations themselves. The benefit to the extant population is tiny (IIRC, one study put it at <0.1% of domestic product per annum) and sensitive to the public benefits regime (which the judiciary fancies they ought to have discretion over, natch).

    Immigration streams are regulated by a famously incompetent bureaucracy, are in their source severely maldistributed, are modally from a country suffering severe social pathologies at this point in time, are arriving in a society where the dominant faction of the elite is dedicated to the fostering of unassimilable subcultures for its own self-aggrandizement, and tend (to a small degree) to damage the employment prospect of the lower strata of the labor force. In short, mass immigration is a loser as a social (not economic) proposition.

    The thing is, immigration cannot be conducted according to public policy if it is not controlled. It is not controlled if you do not enforce the law. It is not terribly credible that that cannot be done, which makes much discussion of immigration regimes rather exasperating.

  • “There has been a lot of effort at the border and some immigration folks are screaming at Obama at the high level of deportations”

    I disagree jh. What enforcement there is tends to be for show. That is why we have such absurdities as a return to “catch and release”,

    http://myvisausa.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/immigration-enforcement-agents-drive-illegal-aliens-to-work/

    and the abandonment of the virtual fence along the southern border.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/us/17fence.html

    The Obama administration is as serious about curbing illegal immigration as it is about curbing government spending.

  • I am against any law that attempts to stop Mexican Gangs from racially profiling their victims.

  • “13-2929(A) uses some curious phrasing. So I can harbor illegal immigrants but not if I didn’t pay my taxes?”

    As noted over on Volokh, that is one of the ambiguities of the law. However, I suspect that will be worked out in the courts and in further revisions.

  • Here’s an example of moral panic. Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote in a blog post, “I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques.”

    Failed words from a failed prelate.

  • UPDATE: It appears that I may have linked to the wrong version of the bill text (at least, that’s according to Mark Krikorian at the Corner). The actual version of the bill that was passed does not appear to include the provision making it trespassing for an illegal immigrant to be on private property with the owner’s permission, but otherwise appears to the objectionable features of the Senate version. Indeed in at least one case it appears to be worse. Commenter Jonathan, for example, had argued that the bill would not criminalize the provision of charitable services to illegal immigrants because the anti-harboring provision said that it was illegal to “conceal…in violation of law” rather than simply saying “it is unlawful for a person to:…conceal.” The final version of the bill says the latter.

    I apologize for the error.

  • This is funny. Mark Krikorian links to the wrong bill too! It took me a while to track the final final bill down. http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/Chapter_Laws/2010/49th_legislature_2nd_regular_session/CH_113.pdf

    The trespassing language is gone but doesn’t really make a difference. “Trespassing” is replaced with “willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document.” So illegal immigrants can be in the state but not without papers which means they can’t be in the state. Same thing.

    The harboring ambiguity is back. A court looking at the legislative history can’t read the qualifier out since it was removed by the House at one point then put back in. A very good case can be made for voiding the entire section.

  • Don, you may recall that when the mandatory seat belt laws took effect in Illinois everyone was repeatedly assured that police were not going to stop anyone “just” for not wearing a seat belt — they would only ticket if you were caught doing something else like speeding and they noticed that you also were not buckled up. Well, that isn’t the case anymore — seat belt violations can now be treated as a “primary offense.” Plus, we also have the periodic “roadside safety checks” where everyone is stopped and asked for their license, insurance cards, etc.

    Now, if the intent of the law in Arizona is to allow or encourage local police who stop or arrest a suspect on probable cause for ANOTHER crime to also check the suspect’s immigration status while they are at it, that would not be so bad. However, given what has happened with seatbelt laws, drunk driving, insurance laws, etc. I fear that the law as written could very easily devolve into a situation in which either 1) people start getting pulled over for “driving while Hispanic” or 2) in reaction to 1), police start demanding some kind of citizenship documentation from everyone they arrest, including Anglos, to prove that they are not “profiling.”

  • I certainly do remember that Elaine! I recently had a conversation with one of my judge friends where he told me about a jury trial he had over a seat belt case. He was pretty ticked that the State was wasting his time with a prosecution on just a seat belt.

    You raise a legitimate concern in that there can always be overreaching by the police. However, aliens in this country are already required I believe to have their papers allowing them to be in the country on their person at all times. My mother, before she became a naturalized citizen, always kept her papers in her purse. In regard to people who are already citizens, most people I assume would have documents on them to establish citizenship. Looking in my wallet I have my voter registration card, my attorney registration card and various other forms of identification. I wouldn’t consider showing these to the police any more onerous than the showing to them of my driver’s license.

  • I don’t see why leftwingers are getting so angry by this new law. All it does is give police the right to ask people to present their immigration documents. In nearly all places on earth that is thoroughly fine. Why is that some outrage in The USA?

  • OH YEA, GIVE THEM ALL THEIR RIGHTS AS HUMANS, GIVE THEM THE MASS IN THEIR LANGUAGE AND GIVE THEM THE TRAINING AND THE JOBS BUT ME A US CITIZEN WHO ONLY SPEAKS ENGLISH AND IS UNEMPLOYED FOR THE FIRST TIME AT THE AGE OF 57 CAN’T GET A JOB BECAUSE I DO NOT SPEAK SPANISH AND ENGLISH . SO BY NOT MAKING IT A LAW TO LEARN ENGLISH AND SPEAK ENGLISH, THE PERSON WHO WORKS IN THE DOCTORS OFFICE HAS TO SPEAK BOTH LANGUAGES TO TAKE CARE OF FREE OF CHARGE OR CHARGE THE GOV. FOR THEIR HEALTH, THEIR HOUSING, THEIR EDUCATION, THEIR FOOD STAMPS, AND THEN THEY DRIVE AROUND WITHOUT LICENSES AND INSURANCE. BUT THAT IS OK, WE ARE SUPPOSE TO TAKE CARE OF ALL THE POOR, BUUL CRAP…IT IS A SYSTEM GONE WRONG AND CHRIST HIMSELF WOULD TELL YOU THE SAME THING. THESE PEOPLE COME HERE BECAUSE WE GIVE THEM EVERYTHING AND WE WON’T HAVE ANY MONEY LEFT TOTAKE CARE OF THEM MUCH LESS OURSELVES. SO KEEP IT UP..THE BISHOPS CAN TAKE THEM IN THEIR HOMES.

  • Pingback: Snipers and Riot Police Confront Tea Party Protesters in Quincy « The American Catholic
  • Pingback: Snipers and Riot Police Confront Tea Party Protesters « Houston Grind
  • Pingback: Illegal Aliens Boycott Arizona « The American Catholic
  • Pingback: How the Drug War Leads to Actual War « The American Catholic

Obama to Push Immigration Reform

Wednesday, April 8, AD 2009

This is good news, and probably smart politics:

While acknowledging that the recession makes the political battle more difficult, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama plans to speak publicly about the issue in May, administration officials said, and over the summer he will convene working groups, including lawmakers from both parties and a range of immigration groups, to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall.

Continue reading...

52 Responses to Obama to Push Immigration Reform

  • Oh dear, I know you’re going to take a lot of heat for this one so let me be the first to say I completely agree with you!

    There is no conflict between welcoming the stranger and upholding the law. Let the punishment fit the “crime”, if risking one’s life to feed one’s family can ever really be considered a “crime” by anyone with an ounce of Christian mercy in them.

    I don’t hate or get angry with people who always bash the immigrants; I feel sorry for them, that they can’t see Christ in them and treat them accordingly.

  • I don’t hate or get angry with people who always bash the immigrants;

    If you equate wanting to uphold immigration laws with immigrant bashing, then the person to be pitied is you.

  • It is a difficult issue precisely because the remedy may be worse than the sickness. I assure you that a “political push” for mass legalization will do no more good for our country than the last two (IRCA in 1986 and the early 1990s with section 241[i]).

    More to the point, I have yet to see any valid statistics or even a statistical model that suggests that there are only 12 million or so persons unlawfully present in the US. Immigration practitioners suggest the number to be nearer to 15 million and immigration authorities put the number closer to 25 million.

    It matters because the agencies that would oversee the legalization of these persons has to be prepared and funded sufficiently to deal with the change without causing massive harm to those persons LAWFULLY present who are seeking or will seek status.

    So, before you jump on the “Justice for the People Without Status” bandwagon, wouldn’t it be smart to insist that Congress do some investigating?

    How can you advocate for a “sane” immigration system without first advocating for a public investigation of the subject?

  • Actually I rather think that Obama will largely solve the illegal alien, as the son of a legal alien I became familiar with the proper legal terms rather early in life, problem but not by immigration reform which I doubt will get through Congress since more than a few Blue Dog Democrats are getting increasingly nervous and won’t want to touch this. I think as the economy completely tanks under his ministrations the problem will largely resolve itself.

    The process appears to be underway.

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/12/10/20081210goinghome1210.html

  • Instead of pietistic phrases, I would like to see a reasoned argument why current immigration laws are unjust. Catholic social teaching shows that we must be open to immigrants and welcome them. But it also teaches that a country has a right to limit immigration for varied reasons and that immigrants must observe the laws of their home country (something implicitly violated in illegal immigration.) In addition it teaches that a country may return immigrants if they violate their adopted countries laws.

    They may already be such arguments out there. I just haven’t come across them.

  • I have yet to see any valid statistics or even a statistical model that suggests that there are only 12 million or so persons unlawfully present in the US. Immigration practitioners suggest the number to be nearer to 15 million and immigration authorities put the number closer to 25 million.

    What you’re describing is a range of estimates; I am not sure what type of model would be sufficient for you. By definition, it’s very difficult to count people who avoid showing up in official records.

    It matters because the agencies that would oversee the legalization of these persons has to be prepared and funded sufficiently to deal with the change without causing massive harm to those persons LAWFULLY present who are seeking or will seek status.

    I agree this is a serious problem. Adding 12-25 million to basic social service programs is bound to be expensive, and there is likely to be an influx of immigrants into the United States if an immigration policy is announced (the U.S. isn’t Europe, but it certainly has a better safety net than Mexico).

    Some of this cost may be offset because the immigrants will now be able to pay into the system, but they are likely to be part of the 40%-50% who don’t pay income taxes. This can be mitigated to a certain extent by how the program for naturalization is designed; waiting periods, work permits, work history requirements, criminal background checks etc., can help screen out the most problematic cases. In the long-term, I think it will be a benefit to the U.S., as having more citizens is generally a prerequisite to national prosperity.

    I’m not saying it’s an easy question, and I tried to acknowledge some of the concerns in the post. But currently illegal immigrants are vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation and abuse, they are a drain on hospitals and schools that they do not support with taxes, and their presence undermines the rule of law.

    I think allowing them to become legal participants in the economy in some manner, through temporary work permits that lead to citizenship over time or some other mechanism can help address these problems. Were I in their place I would have few scruples about coming to the United States to provide for my family. It’s often argued that these programs are unfair because they favor Mexicans who just happen to live next to the U.S. over other groups. I think that argument goes both ways – U.S. citizenship is determined by the exact same mechanism (physical presence in the country at the time of birth) that determines Mexican citizenship. Creating a path to citizenship won’t necessarily be inexpensive, but I think it would be a step towards a more reasonable immigration strategy.

  • But is there more to citizenship than just being born in a country? If so, are immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, living up to the nature of citizenship?

  • I don’t know whether it’s smart politics or not, but it would be a good move.

  • Phillip,

    You ask for an argument as to why the current laws are unjust. Catholic Social Teaching recognizes a right of people to immigrate in order to seek a better life for themselves and their families. True, like most rights recognized by CST, the right to immigrate can be restricted if restrictions serve the common good. Almost all economists, however, believe that immigration is a net benefit for the economy, and I fail to see any other compelling reason why the laws have to be as restrictive as they are.

  • If there is a range of 12 – 25 million illegal immigrants in the US and this is appropriate, how many more could be allowed in and not negatively affect the common good? Given that the world is filled with poverty, equal if not greater than that in Mexico, how many spots should be opened for people from Ghana and Zimbabwe?

  • Phillip,

    The question right now isn’t how many more to let in; it’s how to best address the fact that about 12 million are already here consonant with their human dignity and the common good. Regarding Ghana and Zimbabwe, as I said above, citizenship is determined by birth. U.S. citizenship v. Ghana citizenship is just as arbitrary as Mexican citizenship v. Ghana citizenship. By your logic, we should allow any citizen of any country to have U.S. citizenship. Furthermore, the fact that they are already present in the country is also a reasonable grounds for differentiating between those in the U.S. and those in Zimbabwe.

  • But the question is relevant to changing US Immigration law. How many more should we in justice allow the law to permit in.

    You don’t answer the question though. Isn’t there more to citizenship than birth?

  • You don’t answer the question though. Isn’t there more to citizenship than birth?

    I was granted citizenship just by virtue of being born here, as were my children. Generally the bar is a bit higher if you were not born here, and that’s necessary for a number of reasons. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t set up work licensing programs and paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants who often are trying to escape crushing poverty.

  • John Henry,

    I find the expression “path to citizenship” to be troubling in this context because it suggests that one is not in place already.

    There are numerous avenues for those who are lawfully present as non-immigrants to obtain immigrant status and, thereafter, citizenship. So too, there are several avenues for those unlawfully present to regularize their status and, thereafter, apply for citizenship.

    We aren’t really talking about how to get this unknown number of persons that are unlawfully present to the point where they are citizens but how to get them lawful status.

    There have been three broad-based attempts to legalize those unlawfully present in the US:

    I. Section 249 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for those who entered prior to January 01, 1972 to register as Lawfully Admitted Permanent Residents (LAPRs) so long as they are 1) persons of good moral character (GMC), 2) not ineligible for citizenship, 3) not deportable, and 4) have had continuous residence in the US since entry.

    II. A range of Legalization Acts in 1982-1986, providing for those who were physically present in the US for specific numbers of years, worked for specific industries, and demonstrated a future competency to become citizens.

    III. Section 245(i) of the INA, providing a waiver for fee of the requirement that one be in status as a non-immigrant in order to apply for immigrant status.

    Section 245(i) charged around $1000 to cure the “defect” of unlawful entry or presence. The up-side was that the costs of administering the program were off-set by the fee and it provided a remedy for those who were unlawfully present but otherwise eligible for Adjustment of Status to that of an LAPR. (245[i] left intact the other requirements of Adjustment like prohibitions against fraud, other criminality, etc.) The down-side was that the number of persons who had entered through fraud or previously sought LAPR status through fraud was extremely high. Since it was the only cure for the aforementioned defect, the amount of resources the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and, after the abolition of the INS, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) were forced to apply to address the fraud was greater than the income generated. These costs were bourn by the legal immigrants through increased fees across the board (hardly seemed fair to me). So too, the not-so-subtle message was that one could “buy one’s way into the US” – that the INA itself was invalid. It, in my opinion, undermined the rule of law by creating a remedy that was based upon money rather than an acknowledgement that it is fundamentally wrong to violate even regulatory laws. From an administrative point of view, it was a train-wreck. Application receipts jumped and dove month to month, making forecasting of resources all but impossible. The result was a “backlog” of all application types (legal and illegal applicants) that drove the processing times from an average of under six months to two years or more in some locations.

    Legalization in the 1980s was worse.

    Congress UTTERLY failed to fund or provide a workable system for administering the process of legalizing millions of unlawfully present aliens. The INS was inundated with fraudulent work letters, proof of residency, and the like that applicants submitted to meet the rigid residency and work requirements of the INA. INS Special Agents went from farm to factory all over the country, proving that the thousands of letters submitted from a particular location were fraudulent. However, since Congress stupidly put a prohibition in the law itself against the use of any finding for any purpose other than the adjudication of the application itself, all of that work (literally tens of thousands of man-hours) was wasted. Unwilling to approve what were proven to be fraudulent applications, thousands and thousands remained unadjudicated for nearly a decade since the US Attorney’s Office would not prosecute them and INS couldn’t, in good conscience, approve them. The result was a decision by the Clinton Administration to approve every single Legalization Application that was still open.

    Talk about undermining the rule of law, eh?

    My point is this, ONLY Section 249 has worked. It is simple and direct. Either you were here before January 1, 1972 or you were not. Everything else in the INA remains the same.

    Obviously, the world is a very different place now and merely updating the date would bring too many applications out of the woodwork to be workable. But, the key to successful regularizing of immigration status for masses of people must rest in a simple, direct approach and, therefore, on good numbers.

    It simply CANNOT be true that there are 12 million unlawfully present persons in the US in 2009 when Congress reported the same numbers in 1995. Until Congress does the kind of research and case-building that is required to know how many people there are, no one should be jumping on the band-wagon to come up with a “remedy.”

    Let them make the case. Force them to do the research and present it publicly. Otherwise, we will have another replay of Legalization with the newly attendant risk of being blown up by a terrorist that slipped through in the chaos.

  • John Henry,

    Not to quibble, but you and your children were not “granted citizenship just by virtue of being born here” any more than you were “granted” status as male or your ethnicity.

    “Citizenship” is a red-herring in this context since I am not aware of any proposal before Congress to grant citizenship to those now lawfully present. The distinction matters because, if you are talking about how to bring those without lawful status to the point that they have lawful status, the justice equation is different. It is not about whether or not the US ultimately grants them citizenship but whether they can remain in the US without fear of removal.

  • G-Veg,

    Thank you for the background on the dysfunctional administration of previous immigration reform legislation. I can only imagine how the next plan will look with architects like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, although I still believe it may be worth accepting the inevitable inefficiencies.

    It is not about whether or not the US ultimately grants them citizenship but whether they can remain in the US without fear of removal.

    Sorry, I should have been clearer about that. I mentioned temporary worker permits above, and you are right, of course, that there are many ways to be legally in a country even without citizenship. I’ve been in about 15-20 legally, but only a citizen of one.

  • John Henry,

    I should have asked this earlier.

    Assuming that the Census is not a fraud (a big IF with Rahm warming up to it), why now? Why not wait for immigration reform until after the census? Surely those would be numbers that Congress could, in good conscience, rely on?

    Why should we, as a matter of justice, hurredly carp something together rather than waiting until 2011 or 12? Is there some injustice that Catholics should resist that attaches to deliberate lawmaking?

  • If there is a range of 12 – 25 million illegal immigrants in the US and this is appropriate, how many more could be allowed in and not negatively affect the common good?

    I have no idea. All I know is that it’s more than we let in now.

  • I think its not.

  • Why should we, as a matter of justice, hurredly carp something together rather than waiting until 2011 or 12? Is there some injustice that Catholics should resist that attaches to deliberate lawmaking?

    Well, sure, I think the timing is opportunistic. Republicans will assume their time-honored role as xenophobic bigots to alienate hispanic voters shortly prior to the 2010 mid-terms, and the Democrats will hold on to some of their seats. But, as with any other political question, if something is worth doing, we should be happy that it’s being done. Waiting for the perfect timing and ideal administration is a recipe for preserving the status quo rather than improving it. Not to be unkind, but is your concern about administrative timing influenced by a belief that change is not really necessary?

  • But its not xenophobic bigotry to ask that people follow laws and assimilate into the culture.

  • Phillip – sorry to be unclear. I don’t think people who oppose immigration reform are xenophobic bigots; I was referring to a popular caricature of Republican positions, which democratic strategists will rely on to characterize immigration reform opponents. Certainly, there is some bigotry in the U.S., and bigots are likely to oppose immigration reform, but I think it’s entirely unfair to call anyone who opposes immigration reform xenophobic. There is room for good faith disagreement in this area, although I think CST and concern for the common good favor immigration reform.

  • John Henry,

    No, I am not particularly concerned about the timing from a political viewpoint.

    I am concerned about the process.

    Congress has a responsibility to use its powers to collect and interpret information before crafting law. What shareholders would accept less from a board or directors than that? Why should we accept less than that from Congress?

    So, I am not particularly impressed by the urgency to badly cure a 20-year old complaint immediately if it means damaging what IS working now.

  • Thanks. I thought that’s what you meant. But that’s my problem with these issues. People will pull out terms such and “bigotry” or “not following the teachings of Christ” to paint their opponents in a negative light. That’s why I ask such questions. Because if there’s not more than “that’s what I think” kind of answer then you’re open to being called a bigot or unfaithful. Or being able to call others bigots and unfaithful.

  • I think its not.

    Give a reason.

  • I’m the one asking. You give a reason the quotas aren’t high enough.

  • Excellent post!

    I know, however, that manyRepublicans think they smell blood in regards to this possible development.

    The xenophobia they worked up, even over Bush’s attempts, was simply disgraceful and downright ugly. They will now want to turn this into a first major loss for Obama.

    I already saw Pat Buchanan salivating at the mouth, this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  • “The xenophobia they worked up, even over Bush’s attempts, was simply disgraceful and downright ugly. They will now want to turn this into a first major loss for Obama.”

    Point made.

  • I’m the one asking. You give a reason the quotas aren’t high enough.

    People have the right to immigrate. To overcome that, one has to posit some compelling reason why the restrictions are necessary for the common good. You are asking me to prove a negative.

  • Yes… The infamous “They.”

    WE, those of us who energetically opposed immigration reform under President Bush, opposed the reform for a host of reasons. Sure there were bigots and such. There always are. But there were also a host of principled persons who opposed that dreadful, bloated, hasty bill. Frankly, those who reflexively supported it have nothing to crow about since its passing would have been a disaster that made previous immigration reform look organized and reasonable.

    I appreciate the sentiment that those “in the shadows,” whose life-choices included violating our nation’s laws, deserve some sort of a second chance. When we add a human face to the problem, it is easy to see that most of the people in such a position are no great danger to our way of life.

    However, your characterization of those who disagree is itself disagreeable.

    You assume that only a cold-hearted xenophobe or bigot could remain unmoved by the image of the desperate family that comes to the US in search of opportunity. You assume that we who oppose poorly crafted legislation that will encourage unlawful immigration and do little to restore the rule of law to our border policies oppose such legislation because we are more anxious to see President Obama fail than to see our Country succeed.

    You do us a great disservice and betray your own prejudices and irrationality in the argument.

    It was true before and it is true now that opposition to the party in power and its policies is NOT traitorous. Principled disagreements MUST have a place in our public discourse and your tarring everyone who disagrees with you with the brush of hatred, prejudice, and bigotry reveals more about you than it does about us.

  • The right is not absolute. A nation has the right to limit immigration for the common good. There are at least 12 million illegal immigrants in the country in addition to 10 million who legally came in the 90’s. Given that now approximately 10% of Americans are foreign born, there is potentially a significant problem in assimilating such numbers. Especially those who are illegal immigrants.

    You must have some reason why more is for the common good.

  • The difficulty with immigration reform is that while nearly all experts can agree that the current immigration quotas are very low, any move to legalize the illegal immigrants already here simply incents more people to come in illegally on the theory it will eventually work out for them too. So if you include legalization as part of any refrom bill, you incent people to ignore all of the actual restrictions you put in — and yet there’s really no practical and human way to remove all the illegal immigrants even if that was a good idea in the first place.

    Personally, I’d be in favor of returning to a 19th century style immigration policy and basically letting in anyone without a criminal record or epidemic disease. However, I don’t think that most immigration proponents are actually wanting to deal with the sort of laisse faire would which would result from truly free immigration. When you let people who back home make $2/day into the country, you probably do both them and your own country’s economy a lot of good, but you can hardly be surprised if they consider working for $5/hr for twelve hours a day a very good deal.

  • Depending on who you want to believe the total number of immigrants, legal and illegal may be as high as 16% of the population.

  • Darwin Catholic,

    Forgive me for drawing from your comment a new thread.

    We are assuming that the immigration “problem” is one that can be “solved.”

    As you astutely noted, there may be more persons here than CAN be removed and I would suggest that it may also be true that there are more persons here unlawfully than can be legalized through any efficient system. What harm then is there in leaving the system the way it is?

    Perhaps the only reasonable course is to worry only about those lawfully present. Make THAT system incredibly efficient, thereby creating an incentive to legal immigration. Those who placed themselves in a disfavored position would then reap the consequences of their choices the same as any other regulatory violator.

    To analogize, many townships don’t aggressively enforce building codes. Lots of people play light and loose with the code – expanding and screening in porches, moving interior walls, moving fences, even building out-buildings. Violators have no just cause for complaint if the township abruptly chooses to enforce the law, pulls the plats, and either fines or orders removal of any construction in violation of the code.

    Doesn’t the same reasoning apply to immigration? Shouldn’t the same principles of justice apply?

  • The amount of good that the US is capable of doing for it’s citizens and the rest of the world is directly proportional to the state of it’s economy. A healthy economy is one that is good for both business profitability and worker quality of life. If you increase the number of workers you will necessarily drive down the pay rates and/or other quality of life factors for workers, ultimately that will damage the economy, reducing the good we do in the world through private charity and public aid.

    Immigration has to have limits.

  • If you increase the number of workers you will necessarily drive down the pay rates and/or other quality of life factors for workers

    This isn’t true. The number of workers in the U.S., for example, is several times what it was a hundred or even 50 years ago, yet both pay and quality of life are much higher now than they were back then.

  • blackadderiv,

    This isn’t true. The number of workers in the U.S., for example, is several times what it was a hundred or even 50 years ago, yet both pay and quality of life are much higher now than they were back then.

    I should clarify, that this would be the case if the new workers are brought in too quickly, and especially if they are predominantly unskilled.

  • I guess the operative question is: how quickly is “too quickly” for an economy to adjust.

    If the result was that instead of US companies building factories (or contracting with other companies) in the third world which payed $0.5/hr, we instead let third world immigrants in and let the companies build better, more productive factories here that payed those immigrants $4/hr — everyone would be better off in the long run.

    The question is: would it work that way, or would we let lots of unskilled people in, but then pass labor regulations that made it almost impossible for them to get legal work?

  • DC,

    I guess the operative question is: how quickly is “too quickly” for an economy to adjust.

    Absolutely. Thus unregulated immigration is a serious problem. This is not like the prior centuries where the immigrants could take a piece of unused arable and start farming on it. Even some of the immigration surges from Europe caused much disorder in the US, and those were mostly skilled workers.

    If the result was that instead of US companies building factories (or contracting with other companies) in the third world which payed $0.5/hr, we instead let third world immigrants in and let the companies build better, more productive factories here that payed those immigrants $4/hr — everyone would be better off in the long run.

    Not necessarily, while $.50/hr may give someone a reasonable living in Bangladesh, it certainly doesn’t provide that in the US unless you factor in all of the government aid that such a low-income worker would depend on. Who pays for that aid? Big drain on the economy. Not to mention it will drive down the wages of those making more money now.

  • “A nation has the right to limit immigration for the common good.”

    The common good includes everyone.

    Here are some basic facts from the US Immigration Support website:

    “The average Mexican wage is about $4.15 an hour and those in the agricultural industry make even less. While an individual may be able to survive on that wage alone, it becomes more difficult for those with families. Currently about 40% of the Mexican population is below the poverty line. Unemployment is about 4% but it is estimated that nearly 25% of those working are classified as underemployed.

    Even when jobs are created, in many instances they are not sufficient to meet the growing demand of the Mexican people. Their pay may be so low that they cannot afford to cover even the most basic necessities. Thus, many Mexicans from both small and big cities find the neighboring United States to be extremely attractive.”

    Extremely attractive, to say the least. The journey north is not a pleasure cruise, its a life or death decision. Any “law” that cannot or will not take that into account is not a just law at all.

    No matter what difficulties we here face, our duty as Christians is clear – to welcome the stranger and especially the hungry stranger. Our society does not have to collapse because we do this. At most it might mean that we don’t get to live like a nation of aristocrats while the rest of the world trudges onward. On this point, John Paul II was quite clear:

    ” This is the culture which is hoped for, one which fosters trust in the human potential of the poor, and consequently in their ability to improve their condition through work or to make a positive contribution to economic prosperity. But to accomplish this, the poor — be they individuals or nations — need to be provided with realistic opportunities. Creating such conditions calls for a concerted worldwide effort to promote development, an effort which also involves sacrificing the positions of income and of power enjoyed by the more developed economies.

    This may mean making important changes in established life-styles, in order to limit the waste of environmental and human resources, thus enabling every individual and all the peoples of the earth to have a sufficient share of those resources. In addition, the new material and spiritual resources must be utilized which are the result of the work and culture of peoples who today are on the margins of the international community, so as to obtain an overall human enrichment of the family of nations.”

    I guarantee you that it wasn’t the lifestyles of the people in Mexico he had in mind.

  • Joe,

    do you honestly believe that if we opened the borders up and just allow in everybody who wants to everything would be hunky-dory? There is something different about the US that allows it to be successful. It is not it’s geographic location, or some magic air that makes anybody that comes here productive.

    If every Mexican moved to the US next week it would be utter chaos, the problems would be innumerable. Ultimately the US would no longer be the US, it would be North-Mexico, with ALL of the problems that Mexico has. The only way for us to help those poor Mexicans is to let them come here at a rate which allows them to assimilate into the society so that they can be productive, the rate is not infinite, it’s limited.

    Furthermore, why do we give huge preference to the Mexicans because they can walk here? What about Africans? Eastern Europeans? I guess not only do we open up the borders we’ll have to send planes and ships to the 4 corners to bring ALL of the poor oppressed people here…

    We do much more good by exporting good than importing people.

  • do you honestly believe that if we opened the borders up and just allow in everybody who wants to everything would be hunky-dory?

    So those are the only options? Keep immigration at its current level or have open borders? What about allowing more immigration than we have currently, but keeping some restrictions?

  • Yes the common good includes everyone. Everyone in the world. Including the people in a given country. And Catholic social teaching shows that there are rights. And it also teaches that there are responsibilities. America is called to respect the rights of immigrants. Immigrants are also called to be responsibele in that they obey the laws of their new country and seek to integrate themselves in the culture of the new country.

    America also has rights. One is to ensure that immigration does not cause compromise to its common good. One thing I fear is that if 16% of the country are foreign born, that 1 million new immigrants are coming into the country legally every year and that 500k to 1 million illegal immigrants may come into the country every year, that the common good may be compromised. Thus an argument, in very basic form at this time and from Catholic Social Teaching, that we are at reasonable immigration rates at this time.

  • “do you honestly believe that if we opened the borders up and just allow in everybody who wants to everything would be hunky-dory?”

    That alone, no. That, combined with restructuring our lifestyles as Pope John Paul II suggested – making better use of fewer resources, instead of living like pagans and rushing to the vomitorium sick from our excess consumption – I do think would make things better, if not “hunky-dory”.

    We see immigration as a threat to a way of life that has no justification, that is based on the labor of slaves and near-slaves in other countries and the threat of military, political or economic reprisal against countries that fail to play along by our rules, to our advantage.

    If all business in America, and between American and other countries were conducted on perfectly ethical grounds, then we wouldn’t have as much wealth, fewer people would want to come here, and we would all still be living relatively comfortable lives. As it is, when your country sucks up the worlds wealth as if it were sucking up dirt with a vacuum cleaner, that is where the people will go to.

    If they don’t have a right to come here, why do we have a right to live the way we do, with practically the whole world producing for our benefit?

  • Joe,

    I think it’s unhelpful to phrase arguments conditioned on assuming away central aspects of the human condition. Sure, if people were no longer selfish, stupid and inclined towards evil, everything would be great; communism would work, socialism would work, capitalism would work, any system would work. The question here, as always, is how to do the best we can given the realities of the human condition.

    Arguments for policies that begin with “if all business…were conducted on perfectly ethical grounds,” or the idea that Americans en masse will recognize some ideal of non-selfishness, assume away the most difficult and intractable part of the problem: people.

  • Joe,

    “do you honestly believe that if we opened the borders up and just allow in everybody who wants to everything would be hunky-dory?”

    That alone, no. That, combined with restructuring our lifestyles as Pope John Paul II suggested – making better use of fewer resources, instead of living like pagans and rushing to the vomitorium sick from our excess consumption – I do think would make things better, if not “hunky-dory”.

    If that were true then the chaos would be here and we’d be fleeing to Mexico. I’m sorry, your proposal is Utopian. You’re talking about 300 Million people suddenly becoming authentically Catholic and embracing your own interpretation of the social teachings, then all the 200 Million immigrants doing the same thing in perfect harmony.

  • I don’t actually think that if people were no longer selfish communism and socialism would work (nor do I think that the reason the U.S. is wealthy is because it “sucks up the worlds wealth as if it were sucking up dirt with a vacuum cleaner”). But these are arguments perhaps best left for another day.

  • I’d agree it’s best for another day, if at all. That type of discussion could only be based on competing ideologies, no? You would say even sinless people wouldn’t have sufficient information to make decisions which would result in a just society; I would say, yes, sinless people would be able to exchange and rely on information in a way that could result in a just society. And there we’d stay, I think…but if you think there’s more to discuss there maybe it would be interesting at some point.

  • I agree with you BA. Finally.

  • Matt,

    Perhaps there is some confusion here.

    No one is suggesting that the entire population of Mexico could or should be transplanted to the US. If that’s what you make of my arguments or anyone else’s, that’s just crazy and wrong.

    John Henry,

    “I think it’s unhelpful to phrase arguments conditioned on assuming away central aspects of the human condition. ”

    Then why have ethics and morals at all? Why not just adapt a purely pragmatic philosophy? The Church doesn’t do this.

    In any case, I don’t really “assume them away”; the real point here is to highlight that the unethical foundations, not to mention goals, of our economy hardly give us a right to then turn around and condemn people as criminals who are simply trying to survive.

    IF we were doing all of the right things, THEN would we have serious grounds to be upset with what others are doing. But as it is, we believe we have a divine right to a lifestyle far above subsistence level while, right next door, people can barely earn enough to survive. Nothing in the Catholic social teaching even remotely suggests that we have this right while our neighbor goes hungry.

    An unethical world, a fallen nature – maybe so. But we are Christians! If we don’t strive to become better, even as Christ commanded, “perfect” then we are wasting our time. We may as well become atheists. Invoking our fallen nature is never a way to escape the demands of justice and charity made upon us. What the Church teaches about society is valid for all people, and she teaches with authority on these matters.

  • Joe,

    Well, we’re going to transition into Triduum blogging soon, I think we’re talking past each other, and this is a large subject, so I’ll just offer a few brief comments that we could develop further in the future:

    1) Observing that people are sinful presupposes rather than ignores ethics;

    2) This observation has important policy implications; it is imprudent to develop policies based on the premise that people aren’t sinful;

    3) This is not in any way the same as saying our fallen nature allows us to escape the demands of justice;

    4) I am unclear on what specific policy you are claiming the Church has taught with authority. Certainly I think trying to explore legal options to improve the lives of illegal immigrants is the best application of CST here, but you seem to be pushing for a lot more than that. But there will probably be plenty of opportunities to go over those other policies in future posts.

  • “2) This observation has important policy implications; it is imprudent to develop policies based on the premise that people aren’t sinful;”

    I wasn’t saying we should; what I am saying is that we are sinful in ways that ought to make us think twice before shutting the doors to undocumented workers. I believe that immigration wouldn’t be perceived as the problem that it is if we were willing to make the sort of adjustments, as individuals and a nation, that JP II mentioned, and that really the whole Christian tradition implores us to.

    As it is, I think we see immigrants as threat to a lifestyle that has no inherent right to exist. That’s all for now, I’m sure, like you say, we can discuss it more in the future.