I’ve been teasing you with a post about immigration for a while now. Well, the time has come. There have been a few developments in the immigration debate lately.
The President has issued an executive order to remove deportation proceedings from student aliens.
Romney has been incredibly silent on an issue he knows can only hurt him.
And…the Supreme Court has issued a ruling on the Arizona “We don’t like Mexicans” law. (Yes, that’s what I call it. You’ll live)
Let’s start with a continuation of the entitlement issue. If you’ve read my previous posts on entitlement, you know how I feel about people feeling that they have rights that others don’t. This applies, in part, to immigration as well. I hear a lot of people use the fact that an alien is unregistered as an excuse for them having no rights. Let me respond to this with a huge, resounding, “YOU DON”T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.” It would appear that those of you who say this have never actually read the Constitution. Let me enlighten you…section one of the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States says:
“No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”
There is not a lot of ambiguity there. The founding fathers wrote this amendment and used the term “citizen” in it five times. They specifically chose not to use the term citizen in this sentence for a reason. They knew that everyone needed protection of the law in the United States. They did not make any exceptions for immigration status, country of origin, or color of skin.
So what are your other arguments? The economic burden? I won’t argue that point with you because I don’t disagree. I do believe that there is an economic burden with unregistered aliens. It’s the same problem I have with anyone working off the books and not paying taxes. There’s just nothing we can do about it at this time. Of course, that healthcare reform so many of you are complaining about will help when they are all required to carry insurance. This will ease the burden on our healthcare system and reduce the cost of healthcare for the rest of us. But that’s another blog entirely.
So the other argument is crime. Let’s look at the actual impact of immigration on crime (which is really an impossible statistic to measure.) To do this, we need to look at the overall crime rate. The FBI reports on the cities with the highest crime rate relative to the national rate to create a list of the most dangerous cities. They have only released the preliminary report for 2011 so we will use the data from 2010 and earlier. Based on an analysis Onboard Informatics did of the last seven years of data the most dangerous cities are:
1. St. Louis (34)
2. Atlanta (7)
3. Birmingham Alabama (tie) (31)
3. Orlando (tie) (5)
5. Detroit (16)
6. Memphis (22)
7. Miami (5)
8. Baltimore (19)
9. Kansas City, Missouri (34)
10. Minneapolis (tie) (18)
10. Cleveland (tie) (26)
Look over that list again. See the numbers in parentheses? Those are the rankings for the estimated number of illegal immigrants in the states. Do you see a glaring and obvious problem with the crime argument yet? Only three of the top 11 dangerous cities are even in the top 10 states for illegal immigrant population. Arizona’s not even on the list! I’m not a statistician, but I have done some statistics study in my educational career, but I don’t even need to use my meager skills to say, with confidence, that there is not a relationship with the overall rate of crime and the number of illegal immigrants in a state. Before you ask – these statistics took into consideration incidents of property crime, such burglary and motor vehicle theft, as well as violent crime, like murder and robbery. So pretty much all areas of criminal activity were with the exception of financial crimes, but that would only make Wall Street number one and Washington D.C. number two on the list.
The fact that people are so upset over this issue is just another facet of the entitlement diamond that so many American’s (meaning U.S. citizens) have been wearing lately. We live in a country with the 12th highest per capita GDP in the world. Our poverty level is higher than the per capita GDP of over 120 nations. Do we really expect that people will not want to come to our country to try to form a life for their family? What would you do if you lived in Mexico, only miles from a land where the per capita GDP was three times your country’s? When you had to feed your family or watch them starve, I’m betting you would run across that border…rules be damned. Am I saying that illegal immigration is okay? No. I don’t agree with it…I don’t like it. However, if we want to live in a country as well off as the United States, then we had damn well better get used to it.
That being said, I do think something should be done about it. I’m actually a proponent of building a huge wall at the Mexican border. I think it would help reduce the illegal immigration into the United States, and put a lot of people to work for a while at a time when people are begging for jobs. You like that idea, don’t you? Here’s the rub…it has to be paid for. It is an expensive concept. The money will have to come from somewhere. In our society, somewhere means taxpayers. So if you want the problem solved, you will have to pony up the dough. I also believe that, since the border states are the ones that will be benefiting from the wall, they should be shouldering the vast majority of the cost. Don’t ask for the government to fix a problem for you if you aren’t willing to pay for the fix. But put this proposal in front of the people of Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and California and see how quickly their sense of entitlement starts them screaming about raised taxes.
Now on to the political realm…
We’ll start with Obama’s easing of the deportation rules for students who entered the U.S. illegally as children. First, it’s not the child’s fault that their parents entered the U.S. illegally and brought them. They are children. What should they have done, gone to the immigration office and told them that their parents brought them here illegally? Let’s not be stupid. So, when these children grow up and become successful students they are suddenly faced with deportation. Never mind the fact that they are positively contributing to a society that they have become a part of over most of their lives. Many of them were so young when they came that they don’t even remember anything else. Why would we want to send educated people, who are contributing to our society, away? Because of something their parents did? Do you have to answer for the crimes of your parents? So I say, good for Obama. I’m glad he stood and made a statement to a Congress that has actually come out and said that their goal was to do everything in their power to stop the Obama administration from doing anything over the last two years. I hope to see more executive orders over the end of his term (whether that is months or years) to show Congress that their refusal to work together will not be tolerated.
Mitt Romney’s response to the immigration issue….silence. He barely utters a word about immigration. Why? Because he knows that anything he says will hurt him. He is in a party built primarily by, and for, upper class white men. If he supports any immigration leniency, he is going against his party. If he comes out against any leniency, he is going to be blasted by moderates, independents, and minorities. He is doing the only thing a man in a monotone party can do…shutting up. I just wish he would employ this tactic on all of the other issues.
Finally, to the Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona’s immigration law. I have three things to say…well done, shame on you, and well done. First, well done on striking down most of the garbage in those laws. Article VI of the Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, places the laws and treaties of the federal government over the state laws. In this case, the federal government has been the established source of laws, policies, and procedures regarding immigration and deportation. A state cannot interfere with the execution of the federal government’s authority in this area. Basically, Arizona can’t just get pissed about how immigration is being handled and decide to take care of it themselves. As the Opinion of the Court describes, it takes a lot of training for a federal immigration agent to be able to determine who is eligible to be detained for deportation proceedings. (Yes, I did read the Opinion of the Court – I don’t rely on political analysts to tell me about these decisions). Some people are detained while some are simply issued a notice to appear. A state cannot override this protocol by making a law that they can detain anyone they suspect is an illegal immigrant. This leads to the next problem.
Racial profiling. It is a fact. It can be a problem. Most of us don’t know what that feels like. That’s because the majority of us have never been profiled based on the color of our skin. Unfortunately, many people have. The one part of this law that was not stricken down was the piece that allows officers to verify citizenship for anyone they have a suspicion is here illegally, providing that they have already stopped them for another reason. This law should really read, “Officers can detain any Hispanic so that they can verify their citizenship.” Let’s be honest…officers will look for any reason to stop someone and question them. There is always a reason to stop someone – speeding, a rolling stop, a burned out tail light, jaywalking, suspicious activity, etc. They can now ask people to prove their citizenship. Let’s say that you are a Hispanic person who was born in the U.S. You are a citizen, but you are walking (because you don’t like driving), and you are stopped for jaywalking. While you are issued a warning or a ticket, the officer looks at you and asks you to prove your citizenship. You don’t have your ID because you don’t need it and you don’t have immigration papers because you are a natural born citizen. What happens next? They can’t legally detain you. Fortunately, the Supreme Court issued guidelines along with their ruling that officers can’t detain people for longer than it would reasonably take to handle the original reason for being stopped.
But, why did the officer ask you to prove that you are a citizen? You weren’t committing any action that would lead him to believe that you were in the country illegally. So he just based it on the color of your skin and your appearance. You know, we used to do something similar to people. We looked at them and told them that they didn’t have the same freedoms as the rest of us because they were black. They were harassed and segregated from the rest of us. It took a long long time for us to get over our stupidity concerning civil rights. Oh, wait. We haven’t. We are now just disguising it as immigration policy. The great thing about the ruling is that the Supreme Court specifically said that the only reason they didn’t strike down this part of the legislation was that it had not yet been enforced. They said they couldn’t determine that this is what would happen, but that it would be left open to legal challenges if it did happen. That is a bright, shining star in the future of living without this kind of discrimination and profiling. They left the door open for us to get there; we just have to walk through.
With all of that said, it is very easy to fall into the trap of hate. Our economy is struggling so we want to find someone that is causing the problems. We still have crime so we want someone to be responsible. Who can we blame? It’s no longer okay to blame the Irish, the Italians, or African-Americans. So who is next on the list? How about the fastest growing racial demographic in the country: Hispanics. A number of them are even here illegally so let’s use that as a mask for our anger and fear. Then we can just say that we are being patriotic. We can even make it a political argument because someone hasn’t solved all of the problems that have existed for decades within four years. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d much rather accept people as they are, welcome them to our nation, and increase diversity so that my children can live in a more intelligent, diverse, and prosperous country at my age. Like the man said, “I have a dream…”