A rebuttal on Illegal Immigration

by Sal on April 4, 2006

in Politics

Immigration has been a hot topic over the past several weeks. Cannon over at The Pancake Breakfast recently wrote an article on Illegal Immigration, which while very thoughtful, I thought was flawed in its arguments. Since the post was from a week ago, and I have much to say on the subject, I thought it best to respond to it in the forum of my own post to both refute his arguments and present my own. The original post can be found here.

  1. Illegals Broke the Law: Cannon points out that we all break the law, whether it be traffic violations, or downloading of MP3s. While this may be true, it does not stop the government from enforcing the law. We are a nation of laws and those laws must be respected, upheld, and enforced. One of the problems we as a nation face today is that the laws of this country are enforced and interpreted so loosely as to devalue their meaning. Sure, most of us have violated the speed limit. But would it be better to then say that we will remove the speed limit law and allow people to drive as fast as they want? Should we stop handing out speeding tickets? The law is the law for a reason. Should those who violate it be punished according to the law? Certainly. Should the law be changed? That is the matter for this debate. But until the law is changed, the law should be enforced as it is written.
  2. Going easy on illegals is unfair to immigrants who entered the country: legally: I think this quotation doesn’t really reflect the argument precisely. The argument, as I see it, is that going easy on illegals is unfair to those foreign nationals who are waiting for permission to come here. Why should Mexicans have an advantage to come here over Asians, Europeans, Africans, and others, just because they are across the Southern border? It is unfair to allow people to come here and violate the process that was set up to provide a fair opportunity for people all over the world.
  3. With over 11 million illegals in the US, it is impossible to deport them all: I agree with Cannon on this point, so I will only reiterate that I think the number is greatly exaggerated. I also agree with his point on leadership. Great leaders never say “Can’t.” How many people said WWII was unwinnable? How many people thought we could not land a man on the moon? How many people scoffed at President Reagan for saying that we could defeat Communism? Great leaders defy the word “Can’t.” If you’re against enforcing the borders, argue on the merits. Don’t say we “Can’t” do it.
  4. Border security is a necessary part of national security: Cannon’s point on the 700 mile fence here is essentially true. I don’t know how effective it would be, but it would help, especially in the “Hot spots”. I also think we need a much greater presence on the border. We need to be vigilant to protect against possible terrorists crossing the border.

Finally, I think there is a flaw in the comparison between the flood of illegal immigrants today and the immigrants who came here legally through Ellis Island. Most American’s come from immigrant roots. I myself have roots from France, Ireland, Poland, and Canada. There were two major differences between those who came through Ellis Island and those coming today:

  1. Those coming through Ellis Island came here through legal means.
  2. Those coming through Ellis Island assimilated into American Culture, adding their own flavor from their own cultural heritage, but also embracing the American Culture and values.

The second point is more important than one might think, and I’m going to delve into the realm of the politically incorrect (as if that is anything new for me). It is vital that we maintain our American Heritage and Culture. I do not say this from jingoism or from a disrespect of other cultures or a sense of superiority. I say it more from the point of a historical perspective on culture. Culture is a much more important part of civilization than people give credit for. In fact, the fall of most civilizations often has to do with either the conquering of a people and infusion of another culture, or a slow-drip approach where a culture is watered down and made impotent through the slow influx of immigrants who have no regard for the culture in which they are entering. From Babylon, to Egypt, to Rome, this problem is historically common. We can see it today in France, a country with a complete open border policy. In the past, immigrants came to this country, were required to learn English, study our cultural values, and pledge allegiance. Mrs. Sal recounts how her Grandmother, growing up as the daughter of Irish immigrats, impressed on her children that they were Americans. Seeing the protests of the past week, with the disrespect of the American Flag, and the prominence of the Mexican flag, does not inspire the confidence that this has been achieved with the current crop of illegal immigrants.

This nationalism, while vital, can also become dangerous if not tempered with kindness and a concern for humanity. Nazi Germany is a perfect example of nationalism run amok. A healthy nationalism, however, is vital for the survival of a civilization. This does not mean that the culture of immigrants is insignificant or unimportant. Much cultural value has been added by the immigrants of days past. The cultural festivals in New York City, the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, the various foods and cultural traditions that have been maintained by many immigrants only add to the richness of American Culture, which earned us the “Melting Pot” designator. This nationalism must be maintained and cultivated, and education on American Culture must be at the forefront of any immigration process. This is another reason why an undocumented illegal immigration process is dangerous.

Finally, a word about economics. My sister, MSally, made a great point in a comment yesterday. She pointed out that as soon as these illegals are regularized, they will lose their appeal to the workforce. The appeal now is that they are tax-free, cheap labor. The argument that they do the jobs that American’s don’t want is foolish. The economics of the situation are that there are many people who would gladly do the work. An example of this is in Construction, in which there is a high white and African-American unemployment rate comparable to the rest of the population, while the construction industry is booming. Once these illegals are regularized, their appeal will drop, and many of them will join the welfare system and become a drain on the economy, not a help.

To conclude what I think is my longest post on record, the Immigration problem is serious and wide reaching. None of the arguments above should be overlooked when discussing the problem. Too often, people want to focus just on culture, just on security, or just on economics. In reality, all those topics are relevant to the discussion, and should not be overlooked. One thing is clear, however. The process needs to be done in a more orderly and consistent way to preserve our economy, our culture, and our national security.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Cannon April 4, 2006 at 8:34 pm

Great post, Sal. I hope you don’t misunderstand the point of my original post, though.

First, pointing out those four arguments was not intended to reveal any personal opinion I may have, but merely to expose the weaknesses that both sides have. With regard to (1), my point is that action is not wrong MERELY because it is legal. If you want to make policy arguments against this type of border jumping, go right ahead. You pointed out that many laws in this country have been devalued of their meaning. Part of the reason for this devaluation is the excessive regulation of conduct that we now experience, and loose enforcement is more an effect of this excessive regulation.

I am still not sold on this “fairness” argument. By virtue of their geographic proximity, all Mexicans have an advantage in immigrating to this country (be it legally or illegal) over Asians, Europeans, et al.

As for the national security point, I simply do not like “pretext” arguments. If someone does not like Mexicans climbing fences to enter this country, that is fine. But one should not evoke the memory of 9/11 as a pretext to argue for something that would be argued anyway.

I understand that the immigrants of old came to this country legally, but see my earlier point. My point here is that U.S. immigration law was much more permissive a century ago than it is now. I am suggesting that we have a more open door to LEGAL immigration that is more akin to Ellis Island of old. That way, we can effectively separate the people here to make a better life (like our ancestors did), and those here for less virtuous purposes.

Your point about culture is well taken. However, to the extent that Mexican immigrants are not assimilating, there is a policy choice that Americans are making to allow this. Our ancestors had to learn English, and look, act, etc. like Americans largely because there were consequences for not doing so. Perhaps this current wave of immigration similarly needs motivation.

Also, I would argue that our current immigration policy has a hand in preventing assimilation. Many of our illegal immigrants are not really immigrants at all, but are guest workers. These types work up here to support their families back home, and as a result, they have no real ties to this country. Given the potential consequences of illegal immigration, it is understandable that women, children, and the elderly would often not risk jumping the border. By contrast, our ancestors largely cut the cord to their homeland, and either started a family here or brought their existing family here. If we allowed more legal immigrants (as was the case a century ago) we would see more ties to this country, and probably more assimilation.

In conclusion, I agree that immigration needs to be handled in a more orderly and consistent way. If we were more permissive of legal immigrants, then we could more effectively and convincingly deal with the illegals.

Reply

Sal April 5, 2006 at 11:36 am

Cannon,

I don’t think I misunderstand your original post, I thought the issues you brought up with the weaknesses of some of the arguments were essentially correct, but I wanted to respond to each one of those points. You and I have had this debate before, and as you know, I always love a good political fight! :)

On a few of your point: Mexicans do not really have an advantage in legal immigration because of their proximity. Historically, proximity of a country has not had an effect on the number of immigrants permitted into the country. In fact, during the time of Ellis Island, people were on waiting lists to come here. You could not just show up to Ellis Island and expect to be catalogued and walk right in.. There was an application process, sometimes it was rather brutal, and people were sent back all the time. The immigration policy at the time had quotas on how many people per year from each country could immigrate to the U.S., and we still do to some degree today. I’m all for expanding legal immigration, but I don’t think we should reward the people who broke the law with the first spot in line. If we decide that the Mexican people should have a higher percentage of immigration than other countries, so be it. That, however, is not a given in a legal immigration system.

Increasing the legal immigration to allow for those trying to make a better life is a good thing, and I’m all for it. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should and even can just open the floodgates. Our system, our infrastructure couldn’t support it if everyone who wanted to come to the U.S. came. There needs to be an orderly yet thorough process to coming to this country, and people who come and get involved with crime, drugs, or just drain the system should be asked to leave.

On the culture front, it is not a policy issue but an enforcement issue. If one comes to this country, and wants to become a citizen, they must learn English, learn our culture, and pledge allegiance to us. That is the way it was in 1900, and the way it is today. The problem today is that people aren’t coming here legally, and so we can’t enforce the path to citzenship.

On the security issue, I think it is a legitimate argument for enforcement of the borders. You can have additional arguments that add to an argument that would be argued anyways. In 2000, I would have argued just as furiously on Immigration for cultural, societal, and economic reasons. After 2001, I feel there is even a greater urgency to protect the borders and know who is coming into this country, to help protect national security. I don’t look at it as a “pretext” argument but rather as a new development that adds to the reasons on why the border needs to be secured, and a rather urgent one at that.

Reply

The Iconoclast April 5, 2006 at 3:16 pm

Nice debate all around. I’m just not sure why this is an issue. I understand Sally’s concern about cultural issues, but I’m not seeing a culture war. Actually, I think that the opposite is happening. Latinos are adjusting and integrating into American society in a way that’s pretty similar to way that the Irish and Italian immigrants did.

As for the security argument, I don’t think that one holds much water. None of the hijackers are September 11th came into our country by crossing a desert with a backpack. They came in legally. I think that the focus on a fenced-in border takes the focus away from where we should be looking.

Overall Sal, you did an excellent job of putting forth a coherent and compelling argument. Give yourself a high-five.

Reply

Cannon April 6, 2006 at 11:27 am

In the end, Sally, we are much closer than we perhaps realized at first.

More than almost anything else, I am a free market guy. My problem with the “Enforcement First” argument is that it sounds too much like the ole’ “America First,” which was just repackaged economic protectionism. Not only does economic protectionism produce inefficiency, it is extremely destructive to an economy (see, e.g., the Great Depression).

Instead, I would strongly support an “Enforcement Second” approach. The first thing that should be done is to streamline immigration bureaucracy and make it easier for otherwise law-abiding people to enter this country. As conservatives, I think we can all agree that reducing regulation and red tape is generally a good thing. Once we curb regulation, then we can aggressively go after violators (thus, enforcement second).

In the alternative, I would propose that we annex Mexico. This solves about half a dozen problems at once, including illegal immigration, drug trafficking, energy shortages, and poverty and security problems in Mexico.

Reply

Mike April 10, 2006 at 4:44 pm

Hey Cannon:

Good points. This is obviously a complex issue. Many times people will focus on just the economic argument, or just the security point or just the enforcement point, etc.

With that said, I’d just like to disagree with your point about pretext. Invoking 9-11 is not necessarily a pretext for other concerns though I admit it certainly can be.

A pourous border with lax enforcement is an open invitation to those who would like to harm the U.S. The ease of entry would be attractive to those trying to avoid the metaphorical “hot weather” spots where security deters entry.

It was noted that the 9-11 hijackers didn’t enter the country illegally, but that fact does not preclude the possibility that it could occur in the future. After all, 9-11 wasn’t exactly foreseeable. Taking advantage of our borders is less likely to occur if illegal entrants are met with obstacles.

I think the likelihood of someone illegally entering the country for the purpose of attack is debatable, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a pretext. Although those with racial motives can use 9-11 as a convenient pretext for their diadain of others, post 9-11 security concerns have a place in the debate. In fact, it’s probably the most legitimate concern even if the merits are open to debate.

Send Lisa my congratulations on her residency by the way.

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