Making America un-American
Friends sometimes ask me what I think about illegal immigration. I figure I get the question because at one time or another, I told them about my mother. She was a Polish immigrant, coming to America in 1948 after liberation from the Nazis.
My standard answer goes pretty much as “My mother had to fill out the paperwork to get in, why can’t everyone?”
It’s a notoriously simplistic answer to a complicated question. I know that. It’s a response masking the obvious — like Bush wanting to build a wall at our southern border or the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal advocating an open border.
Like a lot of Americans, I’m torn by the immigration issue. We know there’s no simple answer — despite what the politicians say. Given the current economic situation, both here and in Mexico, or Central America, or Africa or parts of Europe, building a wall or just opening the borders, and doing nothing else, won’t solve the problem of illegal immigration.
Immigration is in the human DNA. It’s an element of the basic “fight or flee” response to survival. Overwhelmingly, people who immigrate leave their home to escape their suffering. It’s that simple. That suffering could be in form of overt oppression and genocide, or economic destitution. In many situations, it’s both — a totalitarian regime or domineering inequitable social system exploiting the many for the benefit of a few, in turn offering few economic avenues toward improving one’s life.
The people streaming across our southern border are economic refugees. The jobs are here, meaning money can be made here — not in their home country.
Open border advocates like to invoke a kind of EU model, where many nationalities and many languages co-exist for broad economic improvement for the majority under the banner of free trade and a common currency. They say it could happen in the Americas, with Canada, the US and Mexico showing the way under what David Howard calls in an April 26, 2006 column in Political Affairs magazine (http://politicalaffairs.net/article/view/3306/1/163) “a similar road to borderless unification.”
Howard is astute to know that success of such a proposal would demand a sort of Marshall Plan to aid Mexico. He adds that if we’re actually doing such a thing in Iraq “to wage war and remake Iraq in our image, why not find the funds for waging peace and providing health, education and social welfare for our fellow inhabitants of North America?”
Still, such a plan — even if accepted by the American people and actively espoused by the political leadership — would have to be something more than a remake of NAFTA or FTAA agreements, both of which mainly benefit corporations. One could argue that illegal immigration to the US has increased since the passage of NAFTA and corporations just move their factories to Southeast Asia or China when pushed to increase local wages or improve working conditions.
At least Howard seems to think critically while advocating an open borders approach. Other advocates spout statements like “The repeal of immigration laws would also result in a more prosperous society.” (Jacob G. Hornberger writing for The Future of Freedom Foundation) Even more ridiculous is Richard M. Ebeling with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy equating the welcoming of new customers by private enterprises — in this case Krogers — because it means more sales and more profit, with government. For Ebeling, if the country experiences falling wages and a strain on its infrastructure and social services, “the fault is with government control of their provision, not with immigration.”
Ebeling’s libertarian view has the magic of the marketplace solving all the negative issues accompanying illegal immigration. A notion on par with building a border wall in its witless conclusions.
Teresa Hayter writes in her book Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls that immigration controls do not work, and they lead to suffering, abuse of human rights and help legitimate racism. To me, her moral argument for an open border is more compelling. I know that if I went to the southern border and stared at a wall surrounding my country, I could no longer feel proud of, or safe in, the United States.
Still, it appears the majority of Americans want immigration control. But my feeling it’s more along the lines of “just enforcing the laws” on the books rather than spending billions to build an eventual embarrassment along our border with Mexico.
Michelle Malkin, a conservative columnist I rarely read much less agree with, wrote in a March 25, 2006 column (http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004848.htm) that we are not a nation of immigrants but rather all “descendants of immigrants.” For once, I agree with her.
Malkin also chides liberals for supporting a guest worker program that “is a conscious policy of creating poverty in the United States while relieving it in Mexico…(and) support(ing) a program that worsens poverty and inequality.” The economic data, from lower wages to the slow assimilation rate of the mostly poor and undereducated illegal immigrants, seem to support Malkin’s assertion.
She also attacks business organizations that “like cheap labor and ignore the social consequences.”
My mother worked very hard to become an American, and while doing so never forgot her home country. She could have moved back to Poland after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I’m sure it passed her mind many times.
But she loved this country while distrusting its politicians. Her belief in the country’s greatness resided in its principles of freedom and opportunity. Building a wall chokes off that belief and is patently un-American.
Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.
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