Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Final Thoughts on Illegal Immigration

I recently wrote here and elsewhere about illegal immigration. When I look now at what I wrote then, I regret that I allowed frustration and anger to shape so much of the content and spirit of my words. I haven’t joined one of the many groups opposing illegal immigration precisely because I don’t share the reactionary political, social, and religious views and agendas they espouse. Yet, my previous words on the issue of illegal immigration sounded pretty reactionary in their own right, and they were. They were reactionary in the literal sense of reacting with frustration and anger to the demonstrations and their aftermath that occurred last month.

I believed then just as I believe now that illegal immigration is wrong and that we should stop it. For, contrary to what demonstrators last month and yesterday seem to be saying, I don’t believe that “borders are fallacies” and that nations don’t have the right to regulate who crosses their borders to visit, work, and live in them. I acknowledge that people in Mexico and other countries live desperate lives of crushing poverty from which they have every reason to want and try to escape, but I still don’t believe that this gives them the “right” they insist that they have to defy our laws in coming here to work and live or to stay here if they came illegally just because they have worked and lived here a long time and put down roots. If our country wants to let some of them stay and others come here, this should be seen as the gracious extending of a PRIVILEGE and not as acquiescence to a “right” to which they are automatically entitled. I think what bothers me most about the demonstrations last month and yesterday is that those participating in them seem to believe that it is their RIGHT to disrespect and defy our laws, and to leave their jobs and their schools to support this so-called right and to encourage others to exploit it

I’m sorry if this makes me come off as sounding like some kind of
blue-memed simpleton who says “the law’s the law and we should obey it just because it is the law” but I don’t say we should enforce immigration laws just because they exist. I say we should enforce them because we can’t afford to let everyone live and work here who wants to and let them receive financial and medical assistance when we can’t even provide enough financial and medical assistance to American citizens and legal residents as it is. Our first responsibility as a nation is to American citizens and legal residents, not to the world-at large, just as every nation’s primary responsibility is to its own citizens and to others who legally reside within it.

Of course, I realize that no country exists in a vacuum, and certainly this one doesn’t. We interact with countless nations and impact and are impacted by them. And we share a porous border with a country with notoriously corrupt government, squandered resources, and impoverished people. We as a nation should be doing more to encourage Mexico to clean up its act so that its people can build good lives for themselves there instead of needing to come here to survive and prosper. But our greatest responsibility as a nation is still to provide for its own, and it should do this before trying to provide for everyone else. And I would add that the greatest responsibility of illegal immigrants here is to work together to improve conditions in their own countries instead of coming here and trying to bring all of their relatives here and insisting that they have this “right” while they wave the Mexican flag and thumb their noses at our laws and people.

If I sound like I’m getting angry again, I guess maybe I am a little as I recall the scenes from yesterday’s demonstrations and the strident words of spokespeople for the demonstrators insisting on their “rights.” But I’m going to take some deep breaths, relax, and try to open my mind to the full complexity of the situation, and open my heart to the desire that we all have as human beings to provide healthy, happy lives for ourselves and our families.

There is no perfect solution to this problem. But I hope that we can mindfully work together to forge the best solution possible. And that’s enough of my rambling on the issue of illegal immigration for the time being.

4 comments:

Tom said...

Nagarjuna,

Are you, then, comfortable with Kennedy-McCain? This is the liberal bill -- hardly squishy soft.

Here are its provisions, taken as subject-lines from a bulletted list of the bill, as detailed at Kennedy's website:

• Doubled Border Patrol
• Doubled Interior Enforcement
• New Security Perimeter—creates "virtual fence"
• Tightened Controls--expands security system at land borders and airports.
• Construction of Barriers- road and vehicle barriers
• Construction of Fences—provides additional border fences
• New Checkpoints
• New Ports of Entry
• Increased DHS Resources for Transporting Aliens
• New Criminal Penalties for Tunnels
• New Criminal Penalties for Evading Immigration Officers
• New Criminal Penalties for Money Laundering
• Comprehensive Surveillance Plan
• Expanded Anti-Smuggling Efforts
• Improved inter-agency coordination on alien smuggling
• Increased Document Fraud Detection
• Biometric Identifiers--new fraud-proof immigration documents
• Expanded Detention Authority
• Increased Detention Facilities
• Expanded Terrorist Removal Grounds-- expands authority to remove suspected terrorists.
• Expanded Aggravated Felony Definition
• Increased Criminal Penalties for Gangs
• Faster Removal—tightens removal period
• Increased Criminal Sentences
• New Removal Grounds—adds new passport and fraud offenses as ground for removal.
• Removal of Criminals Prior to Release
• State and Local Police Authority—authorizes state and local law enforcement officers to investigate, apprehend, arrest, detain or transfer to aliens to federal custody.
• Immigration Status in NCIC Database—requires inclusion of information about immigration status violators in NCIC database
• Prohibits Time Limits on Background Checks
• Criminal Penalties for Aid to Undocumented {except humanitarian)
• Assistance to States

The bill requires immigrants to prove their previous presence and work history, and then it requires them to take significant additional steps. Under Ken-McC, undocumented immigrants would have to do all of the following to earn legal status:

(1) Must have entered and continuously resided in the US before January 2004;
(2) Must remain continuously employed;
(3) Must pay $2,000 in penalties;
(4) Must pass security background checks;
(5) Must pass a medical exam;
(6) Must learn English
(7) Must learn U.S. history and government;
(8) Must pay all back taxes;
(9) Must get to the "back of line" behind all applicants waiting for green cards; and wait at least 6 years,
(10) After obtaining green card, must wait another 5 years before becoming eligible to apply for naturalization.

Nagarjuna said...

Hi, Tom. Thanks for the synopsis of Kennedy-McCain. I find a lot of it agreeable, although it seems to me that if effective ways were developed for preventing illegals from working here, they wouldn't stay or come here in the first place, and many of the enforcement measures in the Kennedy-McCain bill would be unnecessary. I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to require all American citizens and other legal residents to have national ID cards and to require every employee or applicant for employment to show theirs. Severe sanctions could then be enforced against employers who violated this requirement.

Namaste,
Steve

Jess said...

I did go to one of the protests on Monday and all I heard was it is our right to be here, if it wasn't for us this country wouldn't be the country it is. I made the comment to someone after she told me it was her 1st amendment right to protest, and no she was not a legal citizen, that she had no rights. The only people that are protected by that right are the people here either from birth or naturalised citizens. It did not please her or the group she was with.
I like the idea of a national ID card, one that would be difficult to counterfeit and a fine or jail time for the people that employ illegals. That would do a lot to keep them from coming here in the first place if they could not get work.
One thing though, I don't know what a meme is. Would you be willing to send me an e-mail describing that, because I saw it on the one blog you gave me a link to and it looked interesting.

Nagarjuna said...

Jess, they may think it's their right to break our laws, but I hope our politicians will have the courage to stand up to them and show them in no uncertain terms that it isn't.

Namaste,
Steve