Sunday, May 11, 2008

Crossing the Firing Line

I recently forwarded this picture to several friends. This is Ted Kennedy explaining why he supports amnesty for illegals crossing the Rio Grande. I thought it was hilarious, but it did touch a raw nerve somewhere. One of my responses was as follows: "Tell all your bigot Arizonan friends that we're just reclaiming the land stolen from us and if they have a problem they should just commiserate with all the Native Americans displaced when all THOSE "illegal aliens" moved onto THEIR land.”

I haven't formally stepped into the immigration debate before because I have really mixed emotions on the whole issue and am still developing and refining my views. For some reason, responding to this email made me feel compelled to finally join the debate.

My response:

The land wasn't "stolen" it was won in a declared war between two nations. At the conclusion of the war the conquering party offered to buy the land. I will concede that the U.S. was "making an offer that couldn't be refused", but since they had won the war and were already occupying these territories anyway, they didn't have to offer ANY compensation. As part of the treaty, the Mexicans that were living in the occupied territories got to stay there and became American citizens. When you consider all the crap that kept going on in Mexico afterwards, this was a pretty sweet bargain for them. Later on we purchased another chunk of land in a negotiated treaty with the Mexicans. We didn't have a pistol to their heads that time, they just sold us the land. The only thing that changed was the location of the border. Nobody was displaced or run out, and for several decades afterwards people went back and forth across the border freely.

As for the Indians, yep, they got the short end of the stick any way you slice it. Here in the southwest the Spaniards plundered them, then the Mexicans fought with them, and finally the Americans came and despoiled what was left. This chapter of history is just plain ugly, and is a separate issue that can be debated at another time and place.

All of this being true, the current citizens of this nation are not personally guilty of any of these historical injustices to these "wronged people". I am not reaping my "just desserts" because I haven't done anything to injure anyone. As a citizen of the United States I am, however, being wronged by many of the consequences of illegal immigration. I am punished in the form of astronomically higher healthcare costs when they visit emergency rooms and don't pay their bills. The children of this state get a lousy education when their progress is held back because some kids in their classroom still need to learn English. When one of them committs a crime, I get to pay for their attorney and/or the lawsuits that they file because getting caught committing a crime is somehow a form of racist discrimination. I run a much higher risk of my SS# being used fraudulently by someone who is "just looking for work", and my city's inner core is decaying due to the imported crime and lack of concern over the dillapidated state of their homes.

Large groups of these individuals loiter around private businesses while they wait for someone to hire them for the day, driving off potential customers and making it difficult for business owners to make ends meet.

When I am in Mexico, I have to conduct my business in Spanish. Is it too much to ask them to speak English when they are here? Apparently, because I have to pay for all government documents to be printed in English and Spanish. Among the more ludicrous examples of this is voting materials and instructions printed in Spanish. Being able to read and write English is a requirement for citizenship and only citizens can vote. What the heck is going on here?

Last, but certainly not least, I am sick and tired of their marches and lawsuits claiming that they have a "right" to be here. People that aren't born here don't have that "right" until they have gone through the process of becoming a citizen. The hypocrisy of this claim is breathtaking. We all know that any foreigner that tried this type of protest in Mexico would be detained, jailed, and then deported in a New York minute. (I have also seen firsthand how Mexico treats foreign nationals it is about to deport. It is ugly and inhumane.)

The negative consequences of illegal immigration are not only felt in the United States. Mexico also suffers. It is never forced to face its problems because of the escape valve of immigration. It is exporting an innordinate amount of its most ambitious and hard working citizens, and families are being raised without the benefit of both parents in the home. This last fact alone undermines the future possibilities of the country, because a country will never rise above the strength of its families.

Because we have lost control over the number and type of people that are entering the United States our infrastructure is being stretched past the breaking point. (For example - California has to build a new school each day just to keep up with the rising number of students - mostly due to illegal immigration.)

Our schizophrenic approach to border enforcement has only exacerbated the problem in the US by contributing to the creation of a sub-culture of people who live in the shadows of society. They do not fully integrate into the community and create a hole in our social fabric characterized by suspicion and jealousy.

Just because we are the strong nation we are does not mean we are able to solve all of the world's problems by bringing them here. Continuing with things the way they are does not lift up Mexico or any other nation that is sending us its people, all it is doing is dragging the U.S. down. How exactly would that help anyone? (Besides, that kind of argument illustrates the practical effects of communism - Don't lift everyone up, drag the successful ones down to the lowest common denominator.)

I am not a racist. I am grateful for the lottery I won by having citizenship in both the United States and Mexico. I am blessed, and I wish that all people could be equally blessed. But we all know that this is not possible in the world we live in. No country is that big or that rich. Calling people "racists" or "bigots" just because they want their laws respected doesn't further the debate about the changes in our laws that need to be made.

Are some people racists and bigots? Absolutely! But these people come from both camps, they are not exclusively from the "border enforcement" crowd. The vast majority are just people who have seen some alarming trends as a result of this influx of people and want to stop it before the damage done is irreversible.

There are many reasons that the United States needs to get control of its borders, the most compelling being security risks in a post 9-11 world. There are an equal number of arguments that can be made for the need to reform our current immigration system. America needs immigrants and it needs security, and that is where the debate needs to be focused. And, as selfish as this sounds, the debate needs to be couched in terms of what is in the best interests of American citizens. It would be great if we could solve the world's problems by simply bringing them all here, but that is not possible. And, even if it were, wouldn't it be better for people to solve their own problems where they are so that every land is a land of opportunity? If each nation took responsibility for the good of its own citizens first instead of looking for someone else to fix things, we would have less problems in the world.

Is it fair that some of us were born with the great blessing of US citizenship and others weren't? No, probably not, but that is the way it is. Crying foul about this won't change anything, and the sooner these people stop running around yelling that they were robbed, the sooner they can get on with solving their problems.
Finally, it is time that some civility became part of this discussion. People who want immigration reform are not "traitors", and people who want our laws enforced are not "bigots". Until we can get past the name calling we will never be able to resolve this issue by bringing fair minded people to the table for a free and open debate about what should be done.