Stop the Attack on America's Culture

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff toured parts of the U.S.-Mexican border this morning with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), which was "in no way meant to signal an endorsement" of the legislators' so-called compromise bill on immigration, according to The Washington Post. Chertoff talked about the drop in apprehensions -- though not acknowledging the possibility that enforcement policies are not deterring migrants but rather that migrants are evading apprehension.

However, part of what Chertoff said during his visit, as quoted in The New York Times, helps clarify some of the damage done by anti-immigration reductivism:

"'Let’s register them; let’s track them,' Mr. Chertoff said of the immigrants. 'Let’s collect taxes from them, and let’s just be sure that we know who they are because they have secure identification.'"

Listening to official rhetoric and perusing online forums, I've seen that people have very different understandings of the term "open borders". Some see such borders as ones through which anyone can pass at any time, without documentation, without even handing over a passport for scanning by customs officials. Others might see them as borders which allow a relatively free but monitored flow of people in both directions. Very few people really want open borders of the former definition -- and no one in government has advocated that. However, proliferation of that term -- like the overuse and criminalization of the word "amnesty" -- has created what seems to be a large population that cries foul at any policy that would let anyone in, even through a legal process. These people either refuse to read the legal proposals or simply refuse to believe them: They want to see this as a battle between security (closed borders) and anarchy (open borders). Yet again, this epidemic of black-and-white thinking rots the American brain and threatens to destroy any chance for genuine debate and genuine reform.

What makes the most sense is the second definition of "open borders". Enforcement, in this sense, has resulted only in deaths, millions of dollars in costs to U.S. taxpayers, and a failure to stop the growth of the undocumented population here. But, of course we should have regulated points of entry, where people show their passports and visas -- just like we do at, say, JFK or Regan National or Logan. No mainstream proposals advocate turning a blind eye to the border with any country; however, many advocate a more accepting legal standard that makes rational sense for the real situation in front of us -- and not the imaginary one conjured up by fear, selfishness, and bigotry.

If we increase the ability for people to enter the country legally, we will have established a sort of self-straining method that will automatically weed out whatever terrorist or drug threats exist. Again, most people crossing without documents don't do it because they're naturally bad people who enjoy breaking laws. They do it because no legal venue exists for them. If we provided a better legal venue, they would enter legally. This would, theoretically, eliminate objections from those folks who say they don't dislike immigrants but just want them to come legally. (And if they kept complaining after that, they'd have exposed themselves as liars and xenophobes.)

Under this proposal, only those who pose a real threat would be sneaking across the border in the dead of night. That means fewer mere migrants would die or suffer time in prison (on taxpayer dollars) and fewer U.S. resources would be wasted on patrolling for, apprehending, processing, detaining, and deporting people who really pose no threat to this country. It would serve as boon to all those who complain about the monetary cost of immigration and of the Senate bill in particular. (Why aren't more of those people up in arms about members of the House using their taxpayer dollars for campaign stops masquerading as hearings about immigration? The House has and plans to hold these "hearings" only in places where Republicans face tough races in November -- and in Iowa and New Hampshire, the key primary states -- and only for crowds that already agree with the enforcement-only theory.)

It would also mean we'd know exactly who was entering the country on a much larger scale, rather than the current system, which forces people to skirt detection and hence enter without a screening process. And it could eliminate the human smuggling industry across the USA-Mexico border.

Reducing the debate to merely a question of "open borders" or not, "amnesty" or not, ignores the realities of the situation and proves only several things about the anti-immigration folks who spew these terms every time the second hand ticks across the clock: They really only care about the issue as far as it can win them an election; and/or they want to horde the bounties of America all for themselves; and/or they just don't like people from other countries. And that's decidedly un-American.

For, those who fight against tolerance towards all people, generosity of spirit, and liberty for others while claiming to defend "American culture" prove themselves hypocrites and worse. What has made the USA such a beacon for the world is that its culture is not contained in one type of folk dance or one religion or one language. The culture of the United States of America consists of our creeds, our principals, and our liberties. Immigration doesn't threaten to destroy American culture. We do.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read a lot of baloney but this is top lunchmeat

1:08 PM, September 28, 2006  

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